I can’t speak for your education but there were times when I was going to school and one of the first things my teacher would say, aside from Good Morning, was, “How many of you have read your homework assignment from yesterday?” Then the teacher would go about discussing what we were supposed to have read, often finding that some of us had not actually read our assignments.
I wish I could do something similar; ask by a show of hands how many have actually sat down and read the Constitution. I wonder how many would raise their hands. I also wonder if I began to grill you on the specifics of the Constitution how well you’d be able to answer. It would be an interesting experience, to at least see how many people were knowledgeable about the document that framed our system of government, considering their voting records show that they either don’t know, or don’t care what it says.
Having lived for over sixty years now, and seeing the transformation that has taken place across the country, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that, regardless of how ignorant they are regarding what the Constitution actually says, they should be allowed to vote…but it still does cause me quite a bit of consternation. Oh, and for those of you with limited vocabularies, consternation means alarmed, confused or dismayed.
The funny thing is, understanding what the Constitution actually says is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding how bad our current system of government is. Think about it; if you don’t know what powers were delegated to our system of government as a whole, and each branch specifically, how can you say you are making an informed decision at the polls? Honestly, if you don’t know what powers each branch of the government was supposed to be limited to, how can you tell when they overstep those powers?
I hear people all the time say that we need all these laws our government enacts to maintain order and keep us safe; and that those who violate these laws should be put in jail. Well what about that law that says what our government can and cannot do; is that not worth enforcing as well; and how can it be enforced when the overwhelming majority of the people who vote don’t even know what it says?
I know I’ve said it before, more than once actually, but there are only 18 Clauses found in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution; which is where the specific legislative powers delegated to the government are found. Just 18; and one of them is the Necessary and Proper Clause; which could be considered as the Pandora’s Box that has led to a multitude of usurpations and abuses of power.
One of the things the framers of the Constitution used as a justification for tossing out the Articles of Confederation and replacing them with the Constitution was the government’s lack of ability to impose taxes; they could recommend that taxes be paid, but there was no coercive power to enforce those taxes.
That all changed when the Constitution was ratified. The very first clause of Article 1, Section 8 gives Congress the authority to ‘lay and collect’ taxes. Prior to this they could lay taxes, but they had no authority to collect them.
At first glance that may sound like a reasonable, even necessary power; but if you were to examine the wording closely, and actually think about it, there are no restrictions upon how many taxes they may ‘lay and collect’, or what purposes they are to be collected for. Sure, there are 16 specific powers that follow the power to lay and collect taxes, but there is no wording within the Constitution that specifically ties the taxing power to those other enumerated powers.
This taxing power was contested throughout the Anti-Federalist Papers; those essays written in opposition to the Constitution. For instance, in the first essay from Brutus we read the following about the power given to Congress to lay and collect taxes, “…this power therefore is neither more nor less, than a power to lay and collect taxes, imposts, and excises, at their pleasure; not only [is] the power to lay taxes unlimited, as to the amount they may require, but it is perfect and absolute to raise them in any mode they please.”
Later, Thomas Jefferson, on more than one occasion, would try to clarify and limit the taxing power by tying it directly to the specifically enumerated powers that follow. For instance, Jefferson would write, “To lay taxes to provide for the general welfare of the United States, that is to say, ‘to lay taxes for the purpose of providing for the general welfare.’ For the laying of taxes is the power, and the general welfare the purpose for which the power is to be exercised. They are not to lay taxes ad libitum for any purpose they please; but only to pay the debts or provide for the welfare of the Union.”
If that isn’t enough to convince you that Jefferson felt the taxing power should be tied to the remaining enumerated powers, how about this excerpt from a letter he wrote to Albert Gallatin, “Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated.”
So it would seem that Jefferson was trying to restrain government and keep it from living up to the fears of those who had feared that the Constitution would create a government that was capable of taxing them for any purpose it felt necessary.
Almost from the moment the Constitution went into effect the government it established has sought to expand both its taxing powers and those specifically enumerated in the Constitution. In fact, the very first resistance to federal authority came after George Washington signed into law an excise tax upon distilled liquors in the U.S.; leading to him personally leading an army into Pennsylvania to put down the Whiskey Rebellion.
The question of whether the power to tax should be tied specifically to the enumerated powers that follow was finally put to rest in 1936 when the almighty Supreme Court, (and I say that with a heavy dose of sarcasm), stepped in and delivered their opinion in the case of United States. v Butler. I know the following passage may be long, but it is important that you read it thoroughly; as it provides both the court’s opinion and the history behind it:
Since the foundation of the Nation sharp differences of opinion have persisted as to the true interpretation of the phrase. Madison asserted it amounted to no more than a reference to the other powers enumerated in the subsequent clauses of the same section; that, as the United States is a government of limited and enumerated powers, the grant of power to tax and spend for the general national welfare must be confined to the enumerated legislative fields committed to the Congress. In this view the phrase is mere tautology, for taxation and appropriation are or may be necessary incidents of the exercise of any of the enumerated legislative powers. Hamilton, on the other hand, maintained the clause confers a power separate and distinct from those later enumerated, is not restricted in meaning by the grant of them, and Congress consequently has a substantive power to tax and to appropriate, limited only by the requirement that it shall be exercised to provide for the general welfare of the United States. Each contention has had the support of those whose views are entitled to weight. This court has noticed the question, but has never found it necessary to decide which is the true construction. Mr. Justice Story, in his Commentaries, espouses the Hamiltonian position. We shall not review the writings of public men and commentators or discuss the legislative practice. Study of all these leads us to conclude that the reading advocated by Mr. Justice Story is the correct one.
Basically, what the court held was a confirmation of the worst fears of Anti-Federalists such as Brutus, “…this power therefore is neither more nor less, than a power to lay and collect taxes, imposts, and excises, at their pleasure; not only [is] the power to lay taxes unlimited, as to the amount they may require, but it is perfect and absolute to raise them in any mode they please.”
As a quick example, let’s take foreign aid and discuss it for a minute. The Constitution was written to frame a system of government for the United States; and whether you feel that this system of government was to operate upon the people or the States is of no regard at this moment. Jefferson stated that this power to tax was to provide for the general welfare of the United States; meaning whatever States may enter into the Union. So by what justification does Congress authorize the spending of our money, OURS, NOT THEIRS, to spend in the form of foreign aid?
I wonder if people even realize the vast amounts of their tax dollars that have been sent abroad in the form of foreign aid. Israel tops the list of countries that has been the beneficiary of this aid, with our government having sent them a whopping $3.1 billion; that’s billion with a capital B. Egypt comes in second with about half that much; $1.5 billion, and Jordan comes in just under that at $1 billion. That’s it for the billionaires club, but what about the rest of the world?
Lebanon and Syria, both of which our government tells us are engaging in acts of terrorism, both get around $150 million in foreign aid. Pakistan put them to shame though, getting around $900 million. Even tiny Haiti got $291 million. I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture.
… I didn’t vote for those ‘people‘ in D.C. so they can send my tax dollars to other countries; especially countries our government tells us are our enemies. It’s not like I vote anymore; having come to the conclusion that my government as a whole, sucks and voting isn’t going to change that. But still, they are pillaging our income to what; send it to other countries to buy what; their allegiance and support for its empire?
Yet, so far I have only touched upon how our government has blatantly abused its power to ‘lay and collect’ taxes; what about all the other times it has abused or usurped power? To answer how they have done so I must first list the specific powers which were originally delegated to government by the Constitution; not those which we take for granted that the government has today. Those powers are:
* To borrow money on the credit of the United States
* To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes
* To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States
* To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures
* To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States
* To establish Post Offices and Post Roads
* To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries
* To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court, (which I will discuss in a minute)
* To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations
* To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water
* To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years
* To provide and maintain a Navy
* To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces
* To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions
* To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress
* To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings.
That might seem like a long list, but it isn’t a whole lot of power when you think that it is ALL that is delegated to our government. Yet almost every single one of those powers have been expanded upon, or the boundaries that separate the Congresses authority to enact laws regarding them have been blurred to where the Executive or Judiciary branches have also exercised them.
For instance, only Congress has the authority to declare war, yet George W. Bush declared war on terror; which isn’t even a country, it is a thing. That ‘thing’ has been used to justify the invasion of two sovereign countries; Iraq and Afghanistan, and was recently used as the justification for Trump assassinating a member of Iran’s military. This whole war on terror is essentially a blank check, written out by the government and payable to them, and the military industrial complex, authorizing a never ending war upon any country the U.S. government declares might be engaged in policies it declares to be acts of global terrorism.
Yet years ago Congress tried to enact a law banning global terrorism, and no matter how they worded it Congressional lawyers told them that they could not pass it; for if they did the United States would be in violation of it. So basically, what those lawyers were saying was, “The United States government is a terrorist organization.” Yet this same government declares war on terror? Can we all pause for a moment and say hypocrisy?
Finally, I would like to take up a bit more of your time by discussing the Supreme Court. Every year the people of America wait with baited breath to see how the Supreme Court is going to rule on the cases it has chosen to hear. Furthermore, every time there is even the hint that a Supreme Court Justice may retire the choosing of their replacement becomes a key element in deciding who will be president when that vacancy opens up.
Why? And when I say why, I mean in regards to both questions.
Is not the Supreme Court part of the federal government; having been established by Article III of the Constitution? Now again, for the purpose of this discussion it is of no importance whether the Constitution was written to affect the people directly, or the States; the fact is that it was an act of one of the two sovereign bodies establishing a system of government, and outlining the powers that government shall be delegated with.
Therefore, if the Supreme Court is part of this government, how can they be granted the authority to determine for themselves the extent of the powers held by government; shouldn’t that authority be left to those from whom government derives its authority to do anything? Either we the people established this system of government or it was established by the States; but in either case the entity from which government derives its power and authority should be the one that determines when government oversteps its delegated authority, and what the limits to its powers shall be.
Thomas Jefferson explained that much more succinctly than I could, so let’s see what he had to say about it, “The government created by this compact was not made the exclusive or final judge of the extent of the powers delegated to itself, since that would have made its discretion, and not the Constitution the measure of its powers.”
In a letter to Judge Spencer Roane, Jefferson would write, “If [as the Federalists say] “the judiciary is the last resort in relation to the other departments of the government,” … , then indeed is our Constitution a complete felo de so. … The Constitution, on this hypothesis, is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary, which they may twist and shape into any form they may please.” That is exactly what the court has done since its inception; handed down rulings that have, at a minimum, taken a very loose interpretation of the specific powers delegated to government, and in a worst case scenario, have been the means by which government has grown from one with few limited powers to one with almost absolute and total control over our lives.
Yet when fears over whether the government outlined by the Constitution would breach the boundary that separated the powers held by the federal government and those held by the States, James Madison wrote, “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.”
Call me stupid if you like, but that seems pretty clear that Madison was saying that the government created by the Constitution would not directly affect the people of the individual States. Not only does the government routinely breach the barrier that separates its power from those held by the States, (a clear violation of the 10th Amendment as well), it does so in ways that violate our fundamental rights.
So why should the people give a darn what the Supreme Court decides on a case, or who gets appointed to serve on it? Are you too stupid or ignorant to determine for yourself what powers the government should be allowed to exercise, and when it has exercised powers that violate your rights?
If so, I have but one thing to say to you:
SPEAK FOR YOURSELF, BECAUSE I’M NOT STUPID, NOR AM I IGNORANT. I KNOW MY GOVERNMENT IS EVIL AND CORRUPT, AND I REFUSE TO PARTICIPATE IN CHOOSING WHO GETS TO ENACT MORE LAWS TO RESTRICT MY LIBERTY.
In closing I’d like to say one final thing. I have barely scratched the surface of how bad our government, and the Constitution for that matter, is. This is a plethora of things I have chosen not to discuss which proves that those who wrote the Constitution wanted to subvert the State authority and oppress the people.
Regardless of whether I spoke of those subjects, what you have just read is more truth than you got in your entire civics class in high school; and I didn’t charge you a penny for it. You should be thanking me; but instead I fear if I get any comments at all they will be preceded by, “But Br’er Rabbit…”
But Br’er Rabbit my – uh – rear end; the law is the law, and if we violate the laws the government enacts we can, and will be punished; up to and including forfeiture of our lives.
Why shouldn’t those ‘people’ in our State and federal governments be held to the same standards?
That’s all I’m asking…
January 9, 2020
About Br’er Rabbit
He’s just one person out of millions of others. The only thing different about him is that he doesn’t walk around with his head up his rear end. ~ But we suspect the he also may go by the name of…
~ The Author ~
Neal Ross, Student of history, politics, patriot and staunch supporter of the 2nd Amendment. Send all comments to: email@example.com.
If you liked Neal’s latest column, maybe you’ll like his latest booklet: The Civil War: (The Truth You Have Not Been Told). Life continues to expand for this prolific writer and guardian of TRUE American history.