Written by Chad Kent
Thursday, March 27, 2014 04:02
Here is the clip of my Constitution Revolution Segment from this weekend:
This one is pretty straight forward. The Constitution only allows Congress to fund the military in two year increments. The purpose of this clause is to give you and me some control over how our military is being used.
Founder Charles Pinckney sums up the idea well:
“It [the power to raise and support armies] is guarded by a declaration that no grants for this purpose shall be longer than two years at a time.”
If you weren’t aware of this provision, that should be a good illustration of why it’s important for all of us to learn about the Constitution. We can’t use this control over our military if we don’t know it exists. Now consider this: if you didn’t know that the Constitution protected you in this way, what other protections might be in there that you don’t know about?
If you heard the first 6 parts of this Lawless Presidency series, it shouldn’t come as a shock to find out that the president doesn’t have the authority to change our nation’s tax policies. It is Congress’s job to create tax laws and the president’s job to execute them. Pretty simple.
However, there is a common misperception that Congress can tax us for any reason it wants. That just isn’t true!
Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution states that Congress has the power to “to lay and collect taxes… to pay the debts and providing for the common defense and general welfare of the United States.”
The first part of this clause explains what Congress has the power to do (lay taxes) and the second part tells us what Congress can use that power for (to pay debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare).
You don’t have to take my word for it, here’s what Justice Joseph Story had to say on the topic:
“In this sense, congress has not an unlimited power of taxation; but it is limited to specific objects, —the payment of the public debts, and providing for the common defense and general welfare. A tax, therefore, laid by congress for neither of these objects, would be unconstitutional, as an excess of its legislative authority.”
This idea is extremely important because it protects you from politicians who want to use the taxing power as a tool to take away aspects of your freedom. But because we allow Congress to ignore this restriction on it’s power, we have completely given up this protection.
Think about it – how did Chief Justice John Roberts justify Obamacare as being Constitutional? As an exercise of the taxing power. That’s why this matters to you. If we still followed this one simple part of the Constitution, we wouldn’t be dealing with the nightmare that is Obamacare and you would still have that big chunk of your freedom that our government stole from you.
That is a very loaded question I ask at the end of the clip – what type of government do we have today?
But let’s look at the facts. Congress passed a health care law that was required to take effect at a specific time and required specific groups of people to have health insurance. Since that time the president has unilaterally chosen to delay Obamacare’s start date for certain groups of people and has decided give other groups of people exemptions from the entire law.
So the law is not the law in this situation. The law is whatever President Obama decides it is.
Again, Thomas Paine taught us that is absolute governments the king is law. But in free governments, the law must be king. Given what we know about how Obamacare is being implemented, ask yourself that question again: Are we moving closer to having a free government… or an absolute government?
This is such a simple concept and one that everyone needs to consider. Requiring our politicians to live under all the laws they pass is the single best protection of your freedom that you can have. John Trenchard makes a similar point in Cato’s Letter #60:
“The only Secret therefore in forming a Free Government, is to make the Interests of the Governors and of the Governed the same, as far as human Policy can contrive. Liberty cannot be preserved any other Way.
How do you keep the interests of the politicians the same as the interests of the people? You make your politicians as much like regular citizens as possible. That means no special “perks” of office – like fancy pensions for example – and it means that politicians must be subject to every law they pass in the same way that average citizens are.
Under those circumstances, a politician can’t do anything to you that he isn’t willing to do to himself first. That means that your representatives can’t take away your freedom unless they take away their own as well. Now THAT’S an effective way to protect your freedom.
I touched a little on where this concept appears in the Constitution here as well.
In this clip I tried to explain the dangers of allowing President Obama to decide to use the military without Congressional approval. It’s possible that you felt it’s not fair to say that it’s possible that this president might use our armed forces for something horrible like a coup. Which is fine – that situation is hard for me to imagine as well.
However, when it comes to government we can’t only think about the present. We always have to think about the precedent we’re setting for the future. Are you sure the next president can be trusted with complete control over the military? What about the one after that?
For people like you and me who have always had a peaceful nation to live in it’s hard to imagine our government doing something horrible to us. But all you have to do is take one look at what is going on in the Ukraine and Venezuela right now to see that it is possible. And we must have the foresight to protect ourselves from those situations before they happen so our country never has to go through something like this:
What’s most interesting about this particular violation of the Constitution is the way it highlights the other ways that we are violating the Constitution. If the way we interpret one section of the Constitution causes another section to become completely nonsensical, that’s a flashing neon sign that we’re doing something wrong.
In this case, we’ve been allowing executive agencies to create laws. Now that an executive agency (the Department of Health and Human Services) has enacted a law that violates our Freedom of Religion it raises some tricky questions. The 1st Amendment – which protects our God-given freedom of religion – says that Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion. Notice that the president and executive agencies aren’t mentioned.
So then is this mandate technically Constitutional? After all, Congress did not make a law violating our Freedom of Religion. Well, the birth control mandate does violate the spirit of the 1st Amendment for sure. But the fact that the 1st Amendment leaves our rights completely unprotected from this type of abuse by the Executive Branch tells us that something critical about the way this law was enacted.
The reason that the 1st Amendment ignores the president and his executive agencies is because there was no need to bring them up. The Constitution gives ALL legislative power to Congress. There was no need to protect us from the president violating our Freedom of Religion because the Executive Branch has no policy making powers.
This situation makes it even more obvious that the Founders did not intend to give any law-making powers to the Executive Branch – and that every last one of the hundreds of thousands of regulations that have been passed by executive agencies are unconstitutional.
The point of this clip is very straight forward. President Obama keeps talking about what he can do to implement his agenda without Congressional approval – but the Constitution doesn’t give him any authority at all to do that. As Charles Pinckney of South Carolina explains in this quote, the president is almost entirely dependent on Congress:
“He is commander-in-chief of the land and naval forces of the Union, but he can neither raise nor support forces by his own authority. He has a revisionary power in the making of laws; but if two thirds of both houses afterwards agree notwithstanding his negative, the law passes. He cannot appoint to an office without the Senate concurs; nor can he enter into treaties, or, in short, take a single step in his government, without their advice. He is, also, to remain in office but four years. He might ask, then, From whence are the dangers of the executive to proceed? It may be said, From a combination of the executive and the Senate, they might form a baneful aristocracy.”
The bottom line here is that the president is the head of the executive branch of government – he has the power to execute the laws passed by Congress. But he has absolutely no power to create policy in any way. The president is must wait for Congress to pass the laws that he will be executing.
And no – just because Congress won’t send him the laws he wants isn’t a sufficient reason for ignoring the Constitution.
Written by Chad Kent
Saturday, January 18, 2014 17:14
My Constitution Revolution this week on The Chris Salcedo Show focused on President Obama’s recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board. Here’s the clip:
There you have it. The clip makes it beyond clear – these recess appointments were unconstitutional. But why does it matter when the vacancies happen?
The answer to that goes back to why the Founders put this clause in the Constitution to begin with – and it wasn’t so the president could do something if the meanies over in the Senate wouldn’t confirm a nominee that he really, really wanted super bad.
Here’s the deal. Back when the Constitution was written, travel and communication took a long time. When Senators left Washington D.C. it could be weeks before they were able to return. In that case, imagine if someone important in the federal government died while the Senate was in recess. That could make it extremely difficult for the government to function.
The Founders decided that it made sense to plan ahead for a situation like that. The idea behind the Recess Appointment Clause is, in the event of some type of emergency where a vacancy happens in the executive branch, the president can go ahead and put someone in that office so that the government can continue to function. Then, when the Senators came back from their recess they could handle filling the vacancy through the normal process.
President Obama wasn’t facing a situation anything like that – there was no threat of a crisis in government if he didn’t get these appointments to the NLRB. His intent here was solely to circumvent the Constitution because it was putting limits on his power.
If we value our freedom at all, this has to stop. The kind of bald power grab that President Obama has attempted here exactly is what the Constitution was written to prevent.