Judge Andrew Napolitano, in a column for the Wall Street Journal, writes:
Unfortunately, these presidential attitudes about the Constitution are par for the course. Beginning with John Adams, and proceeding to Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson and George W. Bush, Congress has enacted and the president has signed laws that criminalized political speech, suspended habeas corpus, compelled support for war, forbade freedom of contract, allowed the government to spy on Americans without a search warrant, and used taxpayer dollars to shore up failing private banks.Unfortunately, "we, the people," aren't much better. After all, we're the ones sending these criminals to Washington. Napolitano sums up:
All of this legislation -- merely tips of an unconstitutional Big Government iceberg -- is so obviously in conflict with the plain words of the Constitution that one wonders how Congress gets away with it.
In virtually every generation and during virtually every presidency (Jefferson, Jackson and Cleveland are exceptions that come to mind) the popular branches of government have expanded their power. The air you breathe, the water you drink, the size of your toilet tank, the water pressure in your shower, the words you can speak under oath and in private, how your physician treats your illness, what your children study in grade school, how fast you can drive your car, and what you can drink before you drive it are all regulated by federal law. Congress has enacted over 4,000 federal crimes and written or authorized over one million pages of laws and regulations. Worse, we are expected by law to understand all of it.
The truth is that the Constitution grants Congress 17 specific (or "delegated") powers. And it commands in the Ninth and 10th Amendments that the powers not articulated and thus not delegated by the Constitution to Congress be reserved to the states and the people.
What's more, Congress can only use its delegated powers to legislate for the general welfare, meaning it cannot spend tax dollars on individuals or selected entities, but only for all of us. That is, it must spend in such a manner -- a post office, a military installation, a courthouse, for example -- that directly enhances everyone's welfare within the 17 delegated areas of congressional authority.
And Congress cannot deny the equal protection of the laws. Thus, it must treat similarly situated persons or entities in a similar manner. It cannot write laws that favor its political friends and burden its political enemies.
Perhaps the only public agreement that Jefferson and Hamilton had about the Constitution was that the federal Treasury would be raided and the free market would expire if the Treasury became a public trough. If it does, the voters will send to Congress those whom they expect will fleece the Treasury for them. That's why the Founders wrote such strict legislating and spending limitations into the Constitution.Albert Einstein once said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If we really want change, we need to quit supporting the status quo.
Everyone in government takes an oath to uphold the Constitution. But few do so. Do the people we send to the federal government recognize any limits today on Congress's power to legislate? The answer is: Yes, their own perception of whatever they can get away with.