Where is the United States heading, and how long will it take to get there?
In 1789, our present Constitution, which was written in 1787, became effective. For generations, the Constitution provided the established framework for governance of America. Of course, everything did not always function as many people would have liked, so since 1791, the Constitution has been amended 27 times. Many of those amendments were designed to clarify or provide individual rights that were not contained in the Constitution or contemplated in 1787.
But the focus of this posting is upon the Constitution as originally drafted and then subsequently ratified by the people of the United States. If you recall your study of the Constitution, you will remember that it was composed of only seven articles. To me, one of the beauties of the document is the principle of the Separation of Powers, which is encompassed in the first three articles. Article 1 provides for a legislature: “All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.” Article II provides for a president: “The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. . . he shall take care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” Article III provided for a judiciary: “The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.”
Recently, those powers have become blurred. Take the Congress for example. Article I established both a House of Representatives and a Senate. Since 2010, those two branches have been controlled by different political parties, and neither appears to want to cooperate with the other in consideration of proposed legislation for the Country. That is, of course, within the purview of the constitutional grant. Nothing in the Constitution requires the Senate and the House of Representatives to agree upon proposed legislation, and, similarly, nothing in the Constitution permits either the Senate or the House to enact legislation on its own and without the consent of the other branch. The current Speaker of the House, a republican, laments that the Senate has more than 350 bills that the House has passed but the Senate refuses to vote upon any of them, while the current Majority Leader of the Senate, a democrat, accuses the House of ignoring important legislation approved by the Senate. Thus, none of those proposals become law or are the subject of any attempt to compromise the two entities’ positions.
Similarly, the president is an “executive,” charged with the responsibility to execute faithfully the laws passed by Congress. The president does not create law; he is to enforce the laws the Congress passes and which are not vetoed by a president. Yet we find that our current President believes he has the power to write the laws. Take immigration for example. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution establishes the powers of Congress. In clause four of that section, Congress is granted the power “To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization,” and the Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that “naturalization” includes “immigration.” However, when the Congress refused to pass an immigration reform bill favored by the President, he stated that because the Congress will not do its job, he will undertake changes in the law through executive orders and will ignore other provisions that he does not like. Such action would defy the separation of powers. The Congress did its job; it considered the proposal and decided not to go forward with it. Congress does not have to approve any or all bills proposed by a president. He is neither a king nor a dictator; he is part of a three-pronged system of government.
Congress passed the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, and the President signed that bill into law. That law contained approximately 2,700 pages and, obviously, numerous provisions. When many of those provisions were determined to be unworkable or unattainable, e.g., certain deadlines for various required actions, the President extended the deadlines or granted waivers from compliance. Again, that is not the President’s job. He is to faithfully execute the laws as passed. The proper action would have been for the President to go back to Congress and request that the law be amended to accomplish the extended deadlines or waivers desired. Of course, the President has the executive power to do various things, but he constitutionally cannot use that power to change duly enacted laws.
In addition to riding roughshod over the Separation of Powers doctrine, the government’s potential implosion has other contributing aspects. Politicians blatantly lie about other politicians or their actions, and nothing happens when the accusers are proven wrong. The Majority Leader of the Senate regularly uses his free time at the opening of the Senate’s day to harangue Republicans or conservatives. For example, during the 2012 presidential campaign, he stated that he had heard that Republican candidate Romney had not paid taxes for 12 years, an assertion proven to have been incorrect, but one for which the Majority Leader suffered no ill consequences.
The Washington Post newspaper periodically reviews “facts” asserted by people, particularly politicians, and if it finds those facts are wrong, it issues a “Pinocchio” for that statement. The highest number of Pinocchios any particular statement can earn is four. President Obama is a regular recipient of four Pinocchios. In fact, during 2013, he received three of the top 10 four-Pinocchio awards. However, the President’s most famous four-Pinocchio award was for the 2009 repeated assertion regarding Obamacare: “If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health-care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health-care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what.” In practice, millions of people found those statements to be totally false. In May, 2014, the President received four Pinocchios for stating that since 2007, the Republicans have “filibustered about 500 pieces of legislation that would help the middle class.” The Post found that the number of successful filibusters by Republicans during that period was approximately 130, and that nearly 90 of those related to nominations for judges and other officials. In other words, only 40, not 500, of the filibusters related to legislation in any sense.
Politics and political campaigns have been dirty since the inception of our republic, but the advent of everyday presidential and congressional falsifications seems to me to be at a new high for American politics. If we cannot trust our president to tell the truth, what does that mean for our Country? And if Americans simply ignore those falsehoods, what does that say about us, our concern for our country, and the hope for its continuation?
– Donald Bogard.