from the Congress Action newsletter

No Constitution Remains

by: Kim Weissman
January 25, 2004

Of all those who have weighed in on President Bush’s recent proposal on illegal immigration, nobody (except perhaps Mexican President Vicente Fox) is happy.

Pat Buchanan says the plan will turn America into “Mexamerica” because “if we no longer worship the same God, honor the same heroes, speak the same language, study the same history, love the same literature or even agree about what is right and wrong, how do we remain one nation and one people? What do we have in common anymore? …the old America we knew will be nothing more than a global hiring hall and what Teddy Roosevelt called a ‘polyglot boarding house for the world.’”

James Pinkerton says that Bush “didn't have much of a choice. Political, economic, social and cultural imperatives have forced the creation of a guest-worker program”. In any event, “a young country is a dynamic country…America doesn’t want to end up like Japan, where falling birth rates and rising longevity have grayed the society.” This is particularly relevant as our entitlement spending on the elderly explodes and the base of taxpayers who support that spending shrinks.

Tamar Jacoby of the Manhattan Institute contends that “the broken status quo is bad for all Americans, immigrant and native-born.” Others have made the same basic point – the current system is dysfunctional, it has been for decades, and at least Bush is trying to do something to fix it.

From the left, The National Council of La Raza is “extremely disappointed” because “Immigrants would be asked to sign up for what is likely to be second-class status in the American workforce, which could lead to their removal when their status expires or is terminated”. La Raza demands reform that puts “immigrants [illegal or otherwise, apparently] on a path to permanent status”. The American Prospect magazine believes the plan is “a cynical political ploy to attract Hispanic votes. The proposal would essentially have undocumented persons in this country sign up for second-class status, only to be removed once their temporary tags expire” creating “a permanent breed of service workers with second-class status”, “quasi-indentured servants”. The democrat candidates for president would grant what is essentially a blanket amnesty for the estimated 10 million illegals now in the country, under varying conditions.

The complaint of many conservatives, while directed at the immigration plan at the moment (before that it was the prescription drug entitlement, and always the massive federal spending on a host of domestic programs), represents a larger dissatisfaction. They want to reclaim the national identity of the country that was born in 1776. Leftists respond, essentially, that the nation of 1776 no longer exists; since the melting-pot idea is an anachronism and the assimilation of immigrants is considered nothing but racism, it is time to accept that we are no longer a nation as that term has been traditionally understood, but we are now simply a multicultural landmass; we have already become Roosevelt’s “polyglot boarding house”. Of the two arguments that of the left, although a bit overblown, is closer to the truth.

But there is a deeper truth here, a far more fundamental reality that we are forced to confront – the limited republic that was created by our Constitution in 1787, for all practical purposes, no longer exists.

That constitutionally limited republic has been replaced by a strong-on-socialism welfare state which, George Will contends, “is here to stay”. The only remaining task is to “come to terms with” that, and republicans need to “prove that they are, or are not, serious about governing it.” The choice is no longer between limited and unlimited government. That choice has been made, and we have chosen to reject the Constitution and live under big, unlimited government. Will writes, “Regarding the post-New Deal role of government, the differences between the parties have narrowed. There shall be an enormous federal role in assuaging the two great fears of life: illness and old age. The arguments are about modalities.”

Unlimited government is here to stay; the only issue is how to manage it. Anyone who looks at our nation in 2004 can hardly disagree. Anyone who listens to the promises of the democrat presidential candidates (or any politician, for that matter, from either political party) explaining what they plan to “give to” and “do for” the American people, must realize that the limitations on government contained in the Constitution never enters into their thinking.

The Constitution, the structure that was designed to limit the reach and power of our national government, is simply no longer a consideration for our political class. James Madison said that “The powers delegated to the federal government are few and defined [and] will be exercised principally on the external objects.” Such thinking is totally foreign to those who inhabit all three branches of our national government today. For those who call themselves libertarians, and some conservatives, it is a depressing thought and an uncomfortable realization that we are loath to acknowledge. It is abundantly clear, however, that neither of our two dominant political parties, and very few members of our national government, in any of the three branches, has much interest in restoring our original constitutional structure. Limited government is simply not in the interest of anyone in the government, because that would mean a limitation on their own power. And expanding their own power, not limiting it, is what their game is all about.

Certainly, they all pay lip-service to the Constitution (it is the document they swore to uphold, after all), but it is only surface fealty. Take the example of federal judges. The Constitution says that confirmation shall be pursuant to the Advice and Consent (Article II, Sec.2) of a majority (Article I, Sec.5) of the Senate. But voting on the merits of judicial nominees has been blocked by minority filibusters, even though some of the nominees have the support of a majority. And so one judge was appointed pursuant to the recess appointment power (granted by Article II, Sec.2). Democrats denounce the recess appointment, specifically mentioned in the Constitution, as a “procedural maneuver”, while they engage in filibusters which are not specifically mentioned in the Constitution (they are derived from the Article I, Sec.5, whereby each House determines the rules of its own proceedings). Senators follow the Constitution when it suits them, but ignore it when it conflicts with their agenda. This is one of the (few) areas in which members at least pretend to follow the Constitution, but for the most part, they simply ignore it.

Democrats understand that governing is now all about power, and they pretend to be constitutionalists when it suits them and they can fool people into believing it; but republicans still suffer from the illusion that the Constitution is still relevant, which is why they always seem to lose the political battles – they don’t understand that the fight isn’t about the Constitution, its about the exercise of raw power.

Democrats are already setting up the basis to label the 2004 election illegitimate if Bush wins, suggesting a corporate conspiracy to steal the election by the use of computerized voting machines that will discard democrat votes. Howard Dean, quoted by the New York Post, said that they can “have a vote for Al Gore count as a vote for Pat Buchanan”, a transparent bid to stoke hatred among the already hate-filled left by reviving the alleged mistakes by democrat voters in 2000. And when they launch these attacks even if Bush wins in a landslide, republicans will once again be caught flat-footed, wondering what hit them – remember, it’s not about fairness, or truth, or the Constitution, it’s about power.

But we can’t really blame the politicians for pandering – because we are the ones demanding the goodies that they promise, we are the ones demanding all the mandates and the programs they enact, we are the ones demanding that they defy the Constitution – when it suits us. We want the federal government to run our health care, to give us cheap prescription drugs, to create jobs, to raise and educate our children and tell us all what to eat, to dictate how we can use our property, to provide for our retirement, to tell businesses how to run their business; we want the government to force other people to pay for it all; we want, we want…more programs, more regulations, more goodies.

Why is anyone surprised that politicians, to whom their own re-election is always paramount, will promise to give us what we want? Does anyone really think that any politician, of any party, would refuse to give the majority of the public what they want, especially when their own re-election is at stake? If you doubt that, think about this: Imagine a politician pledging to end everything the federal government does that is not specifically provided for in the Constitution. Such a pledge would, first, be met by stares of incomprehension, since most of us haven’t the slightest idea what the Constitution specifically provides. Then, when we figure it out, that politician would be quickly introduced to an early retirement. Because we don’t want our programs, our benefits, our goodies, taken away. We want government to take care of us.

Viewed in the cold light of the reality that our Constitution is no longer a barrier to what our government does, why is anyone surprised that our elections have degenerated into a contest to see which politician can promise to give us more? Why is anyone surprised that politicians will use the power of their office to buy votes with the programs that will get them get re-elected – the programs that we, after all, demand from them? Viewed in this light, with a Constitution that is no longer any kind of barrier, government is all about power. Viewed in this light, elections take on a whole new meaning, and the question we must ask ourselves is, not which politician will be most faithful to the Constitution (since none are), but rather, which political agenda we would like to see imposed on the nation. Politicians – our elected representatives – listen to the demands of those who support them. If we demanded that they obey the Constitution (instead of demanding that they buy us off with goodies) that is what they would do instead. But we don’t.

It has been said that a government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take away everything you have. We are well on the road to proving that truth. In terms of the amount of money spent by our political class to “give” us what we want, (setting aside for the moment the power they exercise over virtually every aspect of our lives), our federal government spends about $5.5 billion every day, over $3 million every minute, and more all the time. Every penny of that money must first be taken from the taxpayers who have earned it.

According to Americans for Tax Reform, even after the Bush tax cuts, the typical family pays more in taxes than on food, clothing, and shelter combined. The average American works nearly 2 hours of every 8 hour workday to pay federal taxes (nearly 3 hours if all other taxes are included). Americans work 181 days of the year to pay taxes and comply with the regulatory costs of government at all levels. It is a sad commentary that 228 years after we won our freedom from the oppression of the British government, we now spend nearly half of our working lives as indentured servants of our own government. There are many in our government, and seeking the presidency, who think that’s still not enough.

Some in this country hope to revive the limited national government created by our Constitution, but let’s think honestly about what that actually means. To begin with, it would mean completely eliminating, at the federal level, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, federal student loans and home loans, the Department of Education, Department of Energy, Department of Labor, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Commerce, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Transportation, the EEOC, the EPA, the Federal Trade Commission, the National Endowments for the Arts and for the Humanities, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, the Small Business Administration…and much more.

Does anyone really think that all of that – that any of that – is even possible, let alone likely?

The above article is the property of Kim Weissman, and is reprinted with his permission.
Contact him prior to reproducing.

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28 jan 2004