A few weeks back Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN) questioned Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Chairman Bernanke of the Federal Reserve about the constitutionality of the radical bailouts which began last year. Continuing to point back to the authorization given by the House of Representatives, Geithner never answered the basic question of where in the Constitution authority is given to the Treasury to interfere so drastically with the private sector. As Congresswoman Bachmann pressed the point, he had a look on his face that would say, "I do not know this 'Constitution' of which you speak." It's like that old Andy Griffith episode where Barney cannot repeat one word of the preamble correctly. But at least Barney thought he had it memorized!
I'm a member of a book club of several women in my ward who are interested in learning and discussing and becoming more involved in politics. Yesterday, we had our second meeting, and reviewed the Constitution. As I read the articles for the first time in decades I realized that while we site the occasional Amendment here and there, we as a society have forgotten much of the vision the Founding Fathers had for this great Democratic Republic.
George Washington said:
"This Constitution is really, in it formation, a government of the people ... No government before introduces among mankind ever contained so many checks and such efficacious restraints to prevent it from degenerating into any species of oppression ... The balances arising from the distribution of the legislative, executive, and judicial powers are the best that have [ever] been instituted."
-from a proposed address to Congress, 1789, as quoted by W. Cleon Skousen in The 5000 Year LeapThe Constitution is wrought with wisdom, laying out an incredibly ingenious format for a government, including the method for changing the document should change become necessary. Dependence on case law and a desire to emulate other countries have in many cases kept us removed as a Nation from using this defining document to maintain our way of life. Some see this as a positive progression. Others, myself included, do not. Republican and Democrat politicians alike seem to have trouble setting limits for themselves as the governing body of the country. They all seem, for instance, to ignore the 10th Amendment. (Kudos to Texas for invoking it yesterday.)
Regardless of one's position on the usefulness and relevance of the Constitution, I think it is important for United States Citizens to know what it contains. I think it is the most useful way to analyze the direction that the country is headed in at any given time, not just now. Be informed. Read and re-read the Constitution. Pay some attention to politics. And then use that information to become involved in whatever small way you can. The greater the level of public involvement in politics, the better able we are to keep this a "government of the people."
*Read here to see why it's dangerous that I not only voted for Bob Barr and lean Libertarian, but that I obviously feel the country is moving away from the Constitution and am a States rights supporter. Those are only a few of the reasons why you should apparently never sell me manure.