A national inheritance squandered
That phrase means to me the extraordinary, delicately balanced system our founders labored to establish and pass on to us to govern ourselves, a radical concept at the time. Our inheritance was a priceless gift, one that called for every generation’s full devotion to nurture and defend.
I used the past tense because we have squandered that inheritance.
Our federal government routinely tramples Constitutional limits while gorging on ever-more of our money in glutinous excess to feed its bloated and growing self while pushing its snout into every corner of our lives.
That we allowed this to happen to ourselves is our own badge of shame. That our federal government borrows 46 cents of every dollar it spends is a betrayal of our children as we saddle them with debt to pay for our daily consumption, as if they should pay for their own appetite and ours as well.
Even though we know the Fed is strangling us with debt, the extreme spending, duplication and waste continues apace. Any attempt to slow down the fiscal orgy is met with squeals worse than Ned Beatty’s character in the movie “Deliverance.”
I don’t blame Obama; there have always been extremists on the left and right. It is our own fault, having raised two or three generations without adequately teaching them the blessings of capitalism and the dangerous appeal of socialism. And now there are too many pop culture minds who, having witnessed four years of Obama, voted to re-elect him anyway. We did it to ourselves.
Just after the election we heard a little chatter about secession, a bit like the sound of sour grapes from the losing side. But maybe thinking through secession isn’t so crazy.
If you are willing to take a risk in your thinking, if you can unshackle your mind and let it drift free of the impossibilities of seceding from the union, if you allow yourself to consider the opportunities secession could bring, maybe that thinking will illuminate just how egregiously we have failed to keep our republic.
Let’s play pretend. Imagine that Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and North Carolina banded together and said, “We quit! We’re done with the federal government in Washington. We’ll create our own country of New America with our federal government in a small town to discourage permanent residence and keep politicians closer to real people.”
Disregard all the sound reasons that will never happen and consider the magic of a fresh start.
We could recommit ourselves to the Constitutional principles the founders intended, limiting our new federal government to ONLY the powers enumerated in the Constitution, reserving all other powers to the states and the people.
We could make a few very cautious amendments to the Constitution to make it more resilient. Here are a few ideas.
1. Create a fourth branch of government, initially limited to five people, with the sole function of monitoring the other branches for compliance with the Constitution, and bringing immediate violation cases to the Supreme Court for emergency review. Empower the Supreme Court to enact immediate dismissal from elected or appointed office for non-compliance with the Constitution.
2. Executive departments, like EPA and Education, are intended to be small and advisory, and may not create regulations without Congressional approval.
3. Implement a flat or “Fair Tax” rate in which everybody pays based on consumption above a base subsistence level. A prompt approving vote by Congress, AND by two-thirds of the states, would be required to change the tax rate.
4. Require the federal government to live within a balanced budget every year without fail. Emergency spending like disaster relief or a war would result in an immediate vote to increase the tax rate to pay for what we spend. If not approved, we don’t spend it. Our politicians would be required to work out differences in priorities because voters would tolerate only so much in tax increases.
Budget scarcity would be its own limiting factor on spreading American tax dollars around the world; would tend to constrain the natural urge of government to grow; would give Congressmen and Senators a tiny budget instead of a large staff; and would tend to starve out waste and duplication while voter pressure continued to keep the tax rate low.
These same budget pressures would tend to limit public largess for people who need temporary assistance in food stamps, disability, housing subsidies and outright welfare, and those programs would tend to limit the term of aid and encourage recovery to self-reliance in order to make best use of their limited funds.
5. Welcome immigrants with open arms, within established limited numbers, so long as they comply with the process and agree to learn our language and assimilate. Establish an appropriate waiting period before new immigrants become eligible for safety net public assistance in any form. Secure the borders with lethal force.
6. Set term limits of two consecutive terms in the federal government, then allow a new run for election after two terms out of office. The break in power and influence would be intended to prevent the re-establishment of the present political mafia.
7. Clarify that the Department of Commerce is restricted ONLY to matters of commerce between states, and that no other part of the Constitution shall be used as a fig leaf cover for federal intrusion into the province of states or the people.
8. Clarify that the federal and state and local governments shall refrain from infringing on the right of adult citizens to bear arms in the form of rifles and pistols so long as they are not automatic, without interference or registration, with restrictions limited to persons who are dangerous felons or otherwise determined by a court to be a danger to society or themselves. Guns with cosmetic similarity to military weapons, but without the primary military characteristic of automatic fire, shall not be restricted.
9. Clarify that the federal and state governments shall not establish any official religion, but displays of religious significance are allowed on government property so long as other religions are permitted as well.
10. To make abortion available but less prolific, require counseling before a woman makes her own abortion decision to make her fully aware of the consequence. Provide the choice of counseling by physician and/or minister, inform her of adoption opportunities, offer support during pregnancy and delivery, and offer post-abortion counseling if she decides to abort. Male politicians and officials should stay out of this issue and leave it to women who bear the risk and burden.
11. All citizens shall be treated equally, with discrimination not allowed, especially by government sanctioned programs like affirmative action.
12. Every new law introduced in Congress must propose the abolition of at least one specific old law.
13. Require ALL our young people to serve the country in the military or alternative capacity for two years, contributing while learning the value of serving something greater than themselves.
We could argue and debate these and other ideas, but the real point is the splendid opportunity a second chance would bring. Do you see what powerful results could come from such changes if only we could press a reset button now to start over in Washington? Of course we cannot, the federal beast has grown too large and hungry and powerful to even consider such change.
Violating the Constitution has become routine. The Commerce Clause has been used innumerable times to justify federal intrusion into our lives on matters having nothing whatever to do with inter-state commerce. Our President and Attorney General have decided they will not defend the Defense of Marriage Act and now take steps to actively oppose it on behalf of the gay marriage agenda.
I’ll digress here to confess that I, too, would favor allowing same-sex marriage even though I am conservative and uncomfortable with homosexual behavior. But I believe it to be a matter of liberty and privacy to permit same-sex couples to marry if they wish, why shouldn’t they be as miserable as the rest of us? (Just kidding, dear!)
Unlike me, our President and Attorney General don’t have the luxury of ignoring the law they have a Constitutional duty to enforce. They are in violation of their oaths of office.
Our President has ordered immigration officials NOT to enforce immigration law, but to conduct their business as if Congress had passed different laws, which they did not, a clear violation of the Constitution.
In the current gun control debate, I would call your attention to an important but ignored issue. The feds are taking advantage of a highly emotional tragedy, and public misunderstanding of automatic vs semi-automatic guns, to push through ever more federal control.
But ask yourself whether the feds should even be involved in responding to the Newtown, Conn., tragedy? If you really care about the Constitution, protecting children in Connecticut is not the province of the federal government at all. There is certainly a “serve and protect” function for state and local authorities, but the federal government has no business getting involved in local issues.
And yet we not only allow such federal intrusion, it is so routine we now expect the federal government to take care of us and solve our problems from cradle to grave, a drastic departure from the intent of the founders.
Will secession ever happen again? I hope it does not. But it is too bad America doesn’t come with a “reset” button that would permit us to recover the treasure we have squandered and begin anew, more wise and cautious with our second chance. If only.
[Terry Garlock of Peachtree City occasionally contributes a column to The Citizen. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.]