Friday, January 18, 2008

Our Dysfunctional Republic Part 9

This next segment in my continuing series on Our Dysfunctional Republic deals with how to amend the Constitution. The founding fathers knew that as our nation grew and times changed, that there would be a need to add to, or amend the Constitution to keep up with the times. Hence they included Article 5, which states,

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.

The reason I take issue with many of the laws and actions of our government is because they violate our personal liberties and grant the government powers that are not authorized them in the original design of the Constitution. Our government could had gone about amending the Constitution properly, by allowing the individual states to state a simple yea or nay to a Constitutional amendment regarding those powers. Instead they took it upon themselves to grant themselves power and authority where none exists.

George Washington clearly stated this principle when he said, "The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their Constitutions of Government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish Government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established Government."

Our Constitution has been amended 27 times, with the most notable amendments being the ten amendments that make up the Bill of Rights. The most recent amendment was ratified in 1992.

There were times when our Constitution was amended, and later it was found that the amendment was found to be a bad idea and repealed by another amendment. Such was the case with the 18th amendment which initiated prohibition. This amendment was a bad idea, as it tried to regulate morality and in so doing brought about a rise in organized crime. Therefore in 1933 the 21st amendment was ratified which repealed the 18th amendment, ending prohibition. So it is possible for our Constitution to be amended and then amended again if it is found that an amendment is not in the best interests of our nation.

There are two examples in which I firmly believe amendments ought to be repealed by additional amendments to the Constitution, these being the 16th amendment and the 17th amendment.

The 16th amendment alters Article 1, Section 9, clause 4 which states, "No capitation, or other direct, tax shall be laid, unless in proportion to the census or enumeration herein before directed to be taken." The 16th amendment is the one that gives the government the power to tax your income. Up until 1913, when the 16th amendment was ratified, our government got along fine with the tax system originally designed by the founders. Since then, our government has had unlimited powers to tax, and as Daniel Webster said, "An unlimited power to tax involves, necessarily, the power to destroy.

I find it extremely interesting that Article 5 clearly states "...that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article..." Why would our founders leave the door open after 1888 for our government to amend the taxing powers of our government?

There have been many articles and books written which argue that the 16th amendment was never properly ratified by the states, chief among these is The Law that Never Was, by Bill Benson. You can read about Benson's research here,

I, myself, tend to agree with this idea, however the majority of people are either too fearful of the IRS to take actions to halt this tax fraud that is being perpetrated upon them. Therefore the only other solution to limiting our governments power of taxation is by Constitutional amendment. Yet you never hear of that idea being proposed. Maybe it is because too many people think our government actually needs that money to fund all these programs that they are not authorized to fund to begin with. Whatever the case may be, an amendment repealing the 16th amendment would be in the best interest of the people of this country.

The other example of an amendment that ought to be repealed is the 17th amendment. The 17th amendment changed Article 1, Section 3 from reading as, "The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, chosen by the legislature thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote." which was amended to read, "The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each state shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the state legislatures."

I have already discussed this, but it bears repeating that it was of importance to our founders that the states have some measure of say in the actions of the federal government. This was explained clearly in Federalist #62, where James Madison states, "It is equally unnecessary to dilate on the appointment of senators by the State legislatures. Among the various modes which might have been devised for constituting this branch of the government, that which has been proposed by the convention is probably the most congenial with the public opinion. It is recommended by the double advantage of favoring a select appointment, and of giving to the State governments such an agency in the formation of the federal government as must secure the authority of the former, and may form a convenient link between the two systems."

The 17th amendment tinkered with the delicate balance of power that our founders created in our Constitution, and the effect has been to isolate the states from the federal government. Therefore the 17th amendment ought to be repealed as well.

Those are two examples of amendments, that in my opinion, ought to be repealed. Now I would like to discuss one amendment I would like to see ratified. With the current problem this country is facing with the issue of illegal immigration, many state and local governments are taking action to control this problem, as the federal government is not taking firm enough action as I mentioned in my last segment on Article 4.

However, various special interest groups are bringing lawsuits against these states for passing laws that are not within their authority to pass because they infringe upon the authority already given to our federal government. Therefore Senator Glen McConnell is proposing that a convention be convened to amend the Constitution to resolve this issue.

McConnell's stated that, "While this action is unprecedented, I also believe that the danger facing our country is unprecedented. We need to act now. ...Congress has refused or is incapable of acting, thereby leaving the states in the position of burning while Congress fiddles. ...the problem of illegal immigration is one that has reached a boiling point..."

The proposed amendment has 3 provisions which our country is in dire need of to resolve this issue once and for all. These provisions are;
1. No provision of this Constitution, or any amendment thereto, shall restrict or limit any state from enforcing federal law with regard to immigration violations. In the absence of proof of legal citizenship status, a state may decide what governmental services funded in whole or in part by the state may be provided to or denied from any undocumented alien located within the state's respective jurisdiction. States shall also have any power to regulate illegal immigration that has not been specifically preempted by an act of the Congress.

2. In implementing the provisions of this article, each state shall have the authority to prescribe civil and criminal penalties in addition to any provided by federal law for entering the United States illegally.

3. A state shall also have the power to apprehend and expel persons who are within the state's jurisdiction in violation of federal immigration law. The federal government must provide timely assistance to the state in expelling undocumented aliens upon request by a state.

Our founders put Article 5 of the Constitution there for a purpose, to ensure that any and all changes to it be agreed upon by all parties, the Congress, as well as the individual states. Whenever any law is enacted which grants the government powers which are not clearly enumerated in the Constitution, they are bypassing the only authorized manner in which that power is to be granted. Yet we sit back and let them do it. Why?

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