August 14, 2011
Marie Lozito is a Registered Nurse, Licensed Massage Therapist, wife, mother, grandmother and life-long conservative. She wrote a text on medical massage and taught at New York College of Health Professions.
Interested in, and observing politics since 1960, she
ran for elected office in 2010.
HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?
America's debt remained reasonable and manageable for about the first 150 years. This was because the people and the politicians understood that it was not good to carry debt and that it was good to pay debt down as quickly as possible. They also knew that the Congress could approve going into debt only for Constitutionally approved functions. The Constitution, the charter that is the Federal government's only source of power, was respected as the supreme law of the land. The majority of citizens knew and understood the Constitution and held the politicians accountable for both upholding it and for respecting the restrictions on the Federal government's power and authority.
Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in Democracy in America that everyone in America knew and understood the Constitution and their responsibility in maintaining this democratic republic by watching what the politicians did, and by voting. (His treatise on how democracy functioned in America is probably the finest work on this subject to this day.)
There is a wonderful story that exemplifies just how well the private citizens did this and how seriously they took their responsibilities to the country. While campaigning, Colonel Davy Crocket, then a Representative from Tennessee, met a farmer in his district named Horatio Bunce. It seems there had been a bad fire near the capitol, in Georgetown,
and many people had lost their homes and all they had in the fire. The weather was very cold. The men, women and children were suffering.
Wanting to help, Congress rapidly wrote and passed a bill for $20,000 to help those people. Mr. Bunce declared that the Representative had voted improperly on a Constitutional issue. Col. Crockett felt there must be some mistake for he did not remember any constitutional issue that had come up for a vote. The reply was, “No, Colonel, there's no mistake. … last winter you voted for a bill to appropriate $20,000 to some sufferers by a fire in Georgetown. Is that true?” Crockett replied he had and that “certainly nobody will complain that a great and rich country like ours should give the insignificant sum of $20,000 to relieve the suffering women and children, particularly with a full and overflowing
Mr. Bunce proceeded to give the Representative a lesson about the Constitution and how this appropriation from Congress violated
it, and that Congress was giving what was not theirs to give. Part of what he said was,
“It is not the amount, Colonel, that I complain of; it is the principle.... In the first place, the government ought to have in the Treasury no more than enough for its legitimate purposes. But that has nothing (to do) with the
The power of collecting and disbursing money at pleasure is the most dangerous power that can be entrusted to
...you see, that while you are contributing to relieve one, you are drawing it from thousands.
… If you have the right to give to one, you have the right to give to all; and, as the Constitution neither defines charity nor stipulates the amount, you are at liberty to give to any and everything which you may believe, or profess to believe, is a charity, and to any amount you may think proper.
You will very easily perceive what a wide door this would open for fraud and corruption and favoritism, on the one hand, and for robbing the people on the other. Congress has no right to give charity. Individual members may give as much of their own money as they please, but they have no right to touch a dollar of the public money for that purpose.
...The people have delegated to Congress, by the Constitution, the power to do certain things. To do these, it is authorized to collect and pay moneys, and for nothing else. Everything beyond this is usurpation, and a violation of the Constitution.
...So you see, Colonel, you have violated the Constitution in what I consider a vital point. It is a precedent fraught with danger to the country, for when Congress once begins to stretch its power beyond the limits of the Constitution, there is no limit to it, and no security for the people.
...an understanding of the Constitution different from mine I cannot overlook, because the Constitution, to be worth anything, must be held sacred, and rigidly observed in all its provisions.”
This was a fine lesson on an important principle in the Constitution. A principle that too many of us have either ignored or forgotten.
What had happened was that the members of Congress, with all good intentions, had voted to help the victims of the fire. Had they done so with their own money, it would have been charity and a very commendable act. However, they took what did not belong to them, the tax payers' money, and spent that money. An act they had no authority to do. In fact, as it was not an enumerated power given to any branch of the Federal government, it was both illegal and unconstitutional.
“The Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good
-American statesman and senator Daniel Webster (1782-1852).
As mentioned last week, in the early part of the 20th century the “progressive” ideas of socialism became very popular. The ideas that everyone should have an equal share, no-one should do without or be in need and that the potential of failure might be eliminated, are all very enticing ideas. Those believing in the socialist dream world became impatient with the limits of the Federal government. Socialism requires a strong central government that has much more power than the Constitution allows.
The progressives needed the government to be involved in the
individuals' personal lives. It needed to be able to control what the people did. To accomplish this they needed to create an administrative system that was free of political and constitutional controls. Progressives strove to erode the constitutional restrictions. But, it wasn't just the government that needed to be changed, it was the culture too.
American culture encouraged people to be independent, self-reliant and self-responsible.
Its capitalist economic system encouraged individuals to be entrepreneurs and to enjoy the “fruits of their labors”. Neither is compatible with socialism.
Bit by bit, the progressives pushed their agenda from all angles. (Part 3 of HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? next week.)