Our Venerable Congress

Make no mistake—I appreciate the type of government our Constitution created. I do believe in representation. Never would I opt for any kind of one-man rule from the top. Yet what if our system of representation gets so skewed that it’s no different than a top-down tyranny?

We’ve had glimpses of tyranny at times: Woodrow Wilson during World War I; FDR’s New Deal; LBJ’s Great Society. We’re working on a new version in our day. As a historian, I can point out the times that Congress has spun out of control. Our current Congress, though, may be able to claim the prize as the most over-the-edge of all.

While we concentrate on the black “ink” in the Gulf, there’s a greater threat spreading throughout the entire nation. Congress needs to see the connection.

You will hear a lot of howling from the majority party in Congress about fiscal responsibility, but their actions make a lie of their professed concern. For instance, the proposed bill to regulate the banks, etc., seems to have one glaring omission.

In case you need a reminder, it was the government entities Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that started this downward economic spiral. Of course, what led them to do so were the government mandates on who should be allowed to obtain loans. We stopped caring about fiscal responsibility in the housing sector as soon as we decided that everyone should own a home regardless of ability to pay.

Yet the congressional solution to all economic woes never seems to be tilted toward the free market. Control has become the watchword.

Farfetched, you say? Well, isn’t it now illegal to decide not to have health insurance? Congress is very concerned about that type of illegality—not so much about illegal immigration, though.

Is it any wonder approval ratings for Congress are in the tank?

While we can make fun of the current state of affairs, it’s a sad testimony for what was supposed to be a model of representative government. I still believe in the model. I continue to hope that Congress can redeem itself. In order to accomplish that, however, new people will have to be in charge.

Remember November.

The Production of Wealth

President Obama to Wall Street this week: “I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money.”

I always want to approach the topic of wealth from as Biblical a viewpoint as possible. First, I recall a couple of verses in Deuteronomy 8, where we are told, “You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth.”

From this passage, I extract two concepts: first, no one should be haughty about their wealth—pride is condemned; second, God is the one who set it up so that we are able to produce wealth. There’s no indication that He hates the wealthy—rather, He makes it possible for people to create wealth.

We’re always admonished to use our wealth for God’s purposes, but there is really no limit placed on individuals with respect to how much they can earn. If they keep their hearts right before God, they will use their wealth to help others and grow His kingdom on earth.

It’s rather arbitrary, isn’t it, for Obama to declare that there is a limit to what a person should earn? Who, by the way, is going to determine what that limit might be? Why, the government of course.

Where is that found in the Constitution?

The president earned more than $5 million last year. Did he earn too much? That’s certainly more than I’ll see over quite a number of years. Maybe I should protest the “unfairness” of it all.

Let’s be serious. Obama is not opposed to wealth per se; he just wants to control it and direct it to his friends.

He will criticize others while doing the same himself. I think that’s called hypocrisy.

Then he directs businesses to get the economy moving again, but makes it difficult for them.

Congress is going to need more money to cover all the costs of its programs, so the wealth of the nation needs to be redirected—otherwise known as redistributed—to meet the needs of a voracious central government.

The hypocrisy runs rampant. Then they try to tell us that things really are getting better. In order to come to this conclusion, some redefinition of terms is required.

Have you noticed the similarity between that cartoon and the explanations we’re always given as the economy continues to decline? Well, the rate of decline is not as steep, we’re told.

There is one success story, though, in the midst of the bleakness on the job front.

God gave the ability to produce wealth. I believe He wants individuals to learn how to use it according to His precepts. The wealth belongs to those individuals, not to the government.

He's Back

Bill Clinton apparently hasn’t changed his mind. The Oklahoma City bombing was 15 years ago yesterday. At that time, President Clinton blamed talk radio [read: Rush Limbaugh] for the atmosphere that created the bombing.

It was ludicrous then; it remains so today. Why? Rush was in no way associated, in person or in philosophy, with Timothy McVeigh. But Clinton made the connection anyway. It served his political purposes.

This week he has spoken up again, now claiming that the Tea Party movement’s rhetoric is fashioning a climate for another Oklahoma City tragedy. Careful what you say, Mr. Ex-President. By the same logic, couldn’t your words be used as a rationale for someone who is on the edge—wondering whether to go forward with a mad scheme?

What are the Tea Partiers saying that’s so harmful? They are merely criticizing the government [a praiseworthy activity when a Republican is in office] and calling the nation back to its founding principles.

Since when is it inflammatory to say we should follow the Constitution? Where’s the “danger” in reminding citizens that the Tenth Amendment declares that if the Constitution doesn’t give a certain authority to the federal government . . . it doesn’t have that authority. Instead, the authority goes back to the states and/or the people. Those words were written by historic flamethrowers such as James Madison. Strange . . . I thought he was supposed to be an admirable example.

Let’s compare a minute. When’s the last time you heard George W. Bush or his father, George H. W. Bush, make statements along the same line as Bill Clinton? When’s the last time either of the Bushes intruded themselves into a current public policy debate?

Yet Clinton [and Carter would have to be inserted here as well] is constantly offering his views and trying to frame the debate. Is that the place of an ex-president [emphasis on ex]?

I believe this cartoon captures quite accurately the substance of his advice—as well as its value.

Government Controlling Itself?

I don’t have a problem with government. I believe it is a God-ordained institution that is to protect citizens of a nation. Whenever it stays within those boundaries, it is a servant of God.

What I do have a problem with is government out of control.

James Madison, the Father of the Constitution and one of the principal authors of the Federalist Papers, in discussing the reason for the checks and balances incorporated into the federal government, noted in Federalist 51:

It may be a reflection on human nature that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.

Most governments have never had trouble controlling the governed, but they nearly all struggle with the second half of the equation—controlling themselves. That’s the problem when you have people running them; angels would be a better option. However, that’s not going to happen.

What we’re experiencing now is the fear Madison expressed in that quote: the government no longer controls itself. Beginning with Woodrow Wilson, then FDR, followed later by LBJ, we have taken one step after another toward potential tyranny. It is becoming ever more blatant.

The waste has become an epidemic. What will the current Congress do about it?

That’s about what I would expect.

So what are we going to do about it? There is a way to get a new Congress. November can’t come too soon.

Party of Which People?

I’ve always found it somewhat comical that the Democratic party refers to itself as the party of the people. Historically, it has been the Democrats who have pushed the idea that the government, not individuals, knows best.

It started with Woodrow Wilson. He was devoted to the idea that the Constitution was a “living” document that politicians and judges could alter at will. During WWI, Wilson took almost complete control of the American economy, even to the point of nationalizing the railroads. He had little patience with anyone who disagreed with him, surrounding himself with “yes men” who would always do what he said. 

FDR, in the 1930s, had the golden opportunity to put progressive policies into action during the Great Depression. On the surface, they were carried out for the “common man,” but in reality, they stifled economic recovery, thereby hurting everyone, including all the “little people.”

LBJ, after the assassination of JFK, had a Congress that would do almost anything he asked. Again, in the name of the people, he embarked upon what he termed the “Great Society.” Its greatest accomplishment was the creation of a permanent dependent class. Of course, for some, that is the goal: if people depend on the government for their subsistence, they will continue to vote the party in power that promises to keep the goodies flowing.

FDR and JFK were independently wealthy. They never worked a day in their lives. Wilson was part of the intellectual elite, having served as president of Princeton. LBJ practically ran the state of Texas. All politics was subservient to him. These are hardly men who are part of any proletarian revolution. They were the privileged.

Nothing has changed. Democratic senators like Jay Rockefeller and Herb Kohl are the wealthiest of the wealthy. The media always connects the Republicans with Wall Street, but in fact, Wall Streeters donate more to the Democrats than Republicans.

Party of the people?

The Tea Party movement gains strength, and the so-called party of the people doesn’t know what to do with the people. As they sit in their seats of power, looking down on the rabble, what do they think?

In the space of a little more than 200 years, perceptions have changed tremendously.

If they are the party of the people, someone should ask just which people they mean.

Constitutional Renewal

In case you’re wondering, the document above should read “We the People.” How things can change. I agree with President Obama on one point: history was made this week. I disagree on the nature of that historic moment.

If this legislation is not dumped via either the new Congress after the elections or by the courts, we will see an increase in the government’s involvement in our lives—as if it weren’t intimately involved already. In order to enforce some of the mandates in the bill, such as requiring everyone to buy health insurance or face a penalty, there is a consensus that the IRS will have to be enlarged by about 16,000 new agents.

That, by itself, should cause a higher level of discomfort.

Is it a conspiracy theory to take the following cartoon seriously?

What’s next on the president’s agenda? It appears he’s going to make an all-out push now for amnesty for illegal aliens, thereby adding to the Democratic vote total in future elections. How far will this go?

I recall a photo that made the rounds shortly after the 2008 presidential election. At the time, I hoped it was not prophetic.

I’m still not ready to declare it a done deal. God remains God. People maintain their free will and can choose to repent. There can be a spiritual rebirth that will spark a renewal of constitutional government. It’s up to us to respond to our national woes God’s way—and see what He can do.

What To Do?

Yesterday, President Obama signed the healthcare bill. It was historic. So was Pearl Harbor.

I was asked yesterday if I could catalog all the ills associated with this bill. I really can’t do justice to all the provisions contained within. Instead I would ask those who are interested in all the details to find a site devoted to highlighting them. I’m one person, and my time is limited.

What I can do, though, is talk about the response from those of us who oppose what has happened. Are we to accept this and act as if everything is fine? No way. The key is to find the proper response.

I told someone the other day that the proverbial silver lining in all this is that for the first time in my lifetime, people are understanding the wisdom of the Constitution and the limits it put on governmental authority. To use a cliche that probably needs to be buried someday—this is a teachable moment.

Task #1, in my opinion, is to increase our efforts to educate the American people in constitutionalism. They may finally be open to learning. That is my specific calling, I know.

Those who are in government can add to this. What would it take to repeal this legislation? It would be very difficult, but who says we shouldn’t tackle difficult tasks? The greatest victories are those that appeared impossible at first.

Here’s how hard it will be: not only do opponents need to get the majority in Congress in the next election, but they need a sufficient majority, particularly in the Senate, to be filibuster-proof. Can it happen? Is it impossible to reach that magic 60? Improbable, but not impossible.

Then, even if that is attained, any bill that passes would have to get past Obama’s desk. He holds the veto power, and you can be sure he will use it to stop any attempt to roll back what he has done. Only a 2/3 majority can override the veto.

That’s the political equivalent of conquering Mt. Everest.

The other strategy is already being pursued. Here in Florida, as well as in other states, the attorney general is taking this bill to court. The grounds for challenging it are strong. There is no doubt it is unconstitutional. No authority exists in the Constitution for the federal government to flex its muscles in this way.

So what’s the problem?

The federal bench is filled with judges who have been schooled in case law, which depends on precedent rather than on original intent of the Constitution. And the longer Obama remains in office, the more of them there will be. The challenges need to come before judges who respect the rule of law and who will acknowledge the limited powers of the federal government. We need some providential help with that.

You can be sure whatever decisions are made in the lower courts will eventually end up in the Supreme Court. The sooner the better, before Obama has a chance to replace one of the conservative justices on the Court. Right now the Court is almost evenly divided between those who will judge righteously and those who will disregard the document they have sworn to uphold. Any decision will probably be 5-4, but the direction of that verdict is uncertain.

Things have changed significantly in the past 30 years.

It may take another thirty years to undo what has transpired during this current administration, but the goal is worthy.

I’m reminded of the Separatists in Holland debating whether they should go to the New World. They made a list of all the things that could go wrong and compared it with what could go right. In the end, the majority decided to undertake the voyage. I’m paraphrasing, but their historian, William Bradford, said they concluded that they should do it and expect the blessing of God on their endeavors. Even if they died trying, he commented, at least they were doing what was right in the sight of God.

We now call them the Pilgrims, and we admire their courage.

I’m glad they made that decision. Will we make a similar decision? Will a future generation look back on us and thank us for going forward? Will they call us courageous and be encouraged by us to handle whatever challenges they will face?

The next few years—not weeks or months—will reveal the depth of our commitment.