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Many of us look at our country today and wonder where the experiment in self-government went wrong. With the President’s approval rating as of an April 2014 Gallup poll of 43% and Congress’s approval rating hovering around 12% to 14%, more and more Americans are feeling disenfranchised and want to blame the Constitution as the source of the problems saying its outdated, needs changing or should just be eliminated altogether as some die hard socialists and communists advocate. The truth however is not that the Constitution does not work, it’s that all too often it’s just ignored or bypassed as a matter, the politicians claim, of practicality. The passing of the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare is a good example of this bypassing of the founders intent. Art. I, Sec. 7 part 1 of the US Constitution states
“All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other bills.”.
Known as the Origination Clause, it basically means that all bills proposed related to taxing the people shall originate in the House of Representatives. The thinking behind this was to create an institutional protection against repressive taxation since members of the House of Representatives faced the shortest terms in office and they would, in theory, be more accountable to the people. The powers of the purse strings were given to the House, however over the years the Senate has taken on this role through a process called gut and replace bypassing the original intent of the Constitution. The Senate by law can only propose changes or agree to existing house bills related to taxation. Where the perversion of this law takes place is when the Senate takes a House originated bill, guts all of the language out of the bill but keeps the bill number thus staying in compliance with the Origination clause’s technical meaning while rejecting its intent of allowing the body of Congress closest to the people to have control of the purse strings. The Affordable Care Act started out as H.R. 3590 “Service Members Home Ownership Tax Act.” It was unanimously passed by the House in 2009 and provided tax cuts and breaks to veterans. The language of the bill upon arrival in the Senate however was completely gutted out and replaced with Senator Harry Reid’s Heath Care bill which included many revenue (taxation) provisions and the health care mandate which the Supreme Court would later rule as a tax. The house bill number was retained in order to stay in compliance with the Origination Clause. The Democrat controlled House rather than object to the revenue bill produced by the Senate which they could have, instead passed it without a single Republican voting for it. On March 23, 2010 President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law. There are numerous cases being heard across the country right now challenging the authority of the Affordable Care Act and among some of the arguments being presented to throw out Obamacare was the manner in which it was passed using gut and replace. This is but one poignant example of how our Constitution is being perverted and circumnavigated by supposed representatives of the people. The hard truth is that the country is more divided politically now than it has for many, many decades. We have two major political groups vying for control of the hearts and minds of Americans. The Democrats, who reject many parts of the Constitution in principle and in actions when they are able, and want to make government the sole sovereign in this country. They do not believe that individuals can know what is best for them. They believe only trained experts can properly guide the population and provide happiness. We also have mainstream Republicans who like the principle of limited government when it eliminates burdensome regulation but has no problem using government to eliminate competition and provide them with subsidies often at the expense of their fellow countrymen.
Democrat politicians want to stay in power so they promise to give the people what they desire, “free” stuff, which is not really free, but to the recipients of government charity ie social security, welfare, grants, healthcare, unemployment benefits, etc it appears to be free. They’re not paying for it so it must be free. They ignore the fact that in order for the government to give a person anything, it has to take it from someone else. This class of people think government owes them happiness and must really believe either that government is this separate entity that has endless funds to provide anything its citizens wants, or they must think it is totally appropriate to take from other people’s wealth and redistribute it to less wealthy. Who gets to decide how much is taken and who it’s taken from is left to their “experts” whoever they are. The politicians that represent this class of “American” know that as long as they continue to provide more goodies and protect the existing goodies they will continue to receive votes and be able to stay in power. These Americans will continue to vote for them and vehemently oppose any party or individuals that would threaten to take their goodies away. This I think is also why there has never been a hard push for immigration reform by the Democrat party. As more and more unskilled, poor, and needy people enter this country each year desiring the same “free” stuff the Democrats promise, the more these politicians will have a growing dependent constituency.
Mainstream Republican politicians also want to stay in power and promise to use government as a tool and provide goodies too. Government can be useful eliminating competition factors making the potential for profit greater. Government can also provide subsidies to certain businesses and industries. It can force foreign governments to open trade opportunities and use our military to ensure they remain open. It can also give tax breaks to certain entities. If mainstream Republicans were truly interested in protecting the Constitution why do they view the Tea Party political grass roots movement, which embodies the founding father’s principles, with such disdain? Could it be that the principles of limited government interfere with their use of government as a tool and source for goodies? I am certain of it. The idea that government was somehow created to provide for its citizens “goodies” is poison to our country and society . Take a moment to notice the words enshrined in one of our founding documents, the Declaration of Independence. It says our founders believed that people have a right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. Note it does not say we guarantee happiness or outcomes, but instead the pursuit of happiness and to be what you want to be free from government prejudices, state religion, and class nobility restrictions. Nowhere does the Declaration of Independence or the US Constitution guarantee that people will not go hungry, will have clothing, shelter, TV’s, no competition in business, health insurance, social security, etc… Individual responsibility for your lot in life was left up to you not some benevolent government, single sovereign or the greased palm of a politician.
“Today, when a concerted effort is made to obliterate this point, it cannot be repeated too often that the Constitution is a limitation on the government, not on private individuals; that it does not prescribe the conduct of private individuals, only the conduct of the government; that it is not a charter for government power, but a charter of the citizen’s protection against the government.” –Ayn Rand
Just how representative is our representative government?
Before John Adams came to be the 2nd President of the United States, he played a very influential role in shaping the ideas behind Constitutional government. In his “Thoughts on Government” Adams explains, government which “communicates ease, comfort, security, or, in one word, happiness, to the greatest number of persons, and in the greatest degree is the best.” To Adams, influenced by such great English philosophers as John Locke, Embed from Getty Images Republican government was the best form of government.
Adams went on further to say “..In a large society, inhabiting an extensive country, it is impossible that the whole should assemble to make laws. The first necessary step, then, is to depute power from the many to a few of the most wise and good. But by what rules shall you choose your representatives? Agree upon the number and qualifications of persons who shall have the benefit of choosing, or annex this privilege to the inhabitants of a certain extent of ground. The principal difficulty lies, and the greatest care should be employed, in constituting this representative assembly. It should be in miniature an exact portrait of the people at large. It should think, feel, reason, and act like them. That it may be the interest of this assembly to do strict justice at all times, it should be an equal representation, or, in other words, equal interests among the people should have equal interests in it.”
This is a noble idea but in practice it has not always been the case. If we look at today’s make up of Congress I would suggest that a great many of the problems we are experiencing right now are due in no small part to the fact that our representatives do not really represent us. I am not only referring to their demonstrable lack of representation for the will of the people i.e. Obamacare, but their actual demographic make-up.
Here’s some interesting statistics regarding the 113th Congress as of January 2014:
- 93% of House Members and 99% of Senators have at least a bachelor’s degree this compares to roughly just 28% for the general public (US census 2010 data)
- The average age of Members of the House of Representatives is 57 years and of Senators 62 years. As of 2010 the median age of US citizens was 37.2.
- The majority occupations come from just four groups: business, education, law and public service.
- The majority are White and Protestant.
- A record 102 women (18.8% of total membership) serve in the 113th Congress as of December 2013.
- Additionally there are 44 African American Members of Congress (8.1% of the total membership) 37 Hispanic or Latino Members or 6.9% of the total membership and thirteen Asian/Pacific Islander Members (2.4% of the total membership There are also two American Indian (Native American) members.
- According to Measure of America, median earnings for members of Congress are $174,000. According to the 2010 US census however the median income for all Americans over age 25 with earnings was just $32,140.
The US census as of 2010 shows 50.9% of Americans are women, 72.4% of Americans are White, 12,6% are black, 16.4% are Hispanic or Latino, 4.8% Asian, .9% are Native American or Alaskan native and .2% are Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander.
Congress is supposed to represent the people of the United States but just a quick examination of these demographics illustrate clearly, sociologically speaking, women and minorities are not well represented in Congress as compared to the general population of US citizens. Similarly there are great disparities in age, education and income. So how then can we expect Congress to understand us and represent our real interests when they don’t share much in common with us?
According to a January 2014 Gallup poll Congress has a 13% approval rating from the public. That is appalling when you think about it.
So ask yourself what has the Congress done to change that approval. Nothing, it’s still business as usual in Washington. As has been said before by many political commentators and especially Mark Levin, radio host and vocal critic of the current administration, “Congress is not going to fix itself”.
Fundamental changes have to take place. The status quo must be challenged. New ideas need to be proposed and the old ways of doing things rejected. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Want to keep things the same, keep voting for Democrats or Republicans. Want change than look to people who believe that the country is dying and that reversing course is necessary. It looks risky but so is doing the same thing over and over again.
Both houses of Congress and the White House need to have people who believe in true Republican democracy and not crony capitalism or centralized government. One hundred plus years of progressive/socialist ideology needs to be reversed. The fundamental ideals of the Republic like independence need to be rekindled. Elitism too needs to be addressed. The average American needs to have a voice. It has been suggested that term limits be imposed but I do not think that will work. Perhaps another house equal in stature to the Senate and House of Representatives needs to be added to Congress, a house of truly common people. Where plumbers and dock workers and teachers and students are represented, populist in nature it would accurately reflect the demographics of the country and be filled with volunteers who are not compensated and prohibited from receiving any benefits. It could act as another check to power that currently is misrepresented. It’s a crazy thought I know but something has to be done before people start really thinking government is best left to the “experts.”
“It does not take a majority to prevail…but rather an irate tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.” -Samuel Adams