by Sharne Krauser
Let’s stop the partisan politicking now, and let’s talk about the cold hard truth that may be difficult for both establishment Republicans and Democrats to swallow. Our government is too big, and it is destroying any remaining remnants of a free society.
Consider this: In 1800, the U.S. Capitol was moved 150 miles from Philadelphia, PA to Washington, D.C. What did those elected officials take with them for this move? A total of 12 boxes!
In 1800, we had a $1 million budget – about $100 million in today’s dollars – and 3000 employees. Compare those paltry numbers to today. We have a budget of over $3 trillion and three million employees. So while our population has grown one hundred fold, the number of employees has increased 1,000%. Yes, today the number of federal employees exceeds the population of America in 1787.
In 1787, we had problems, but it did not revolve around big government. We had, in large part, lean and efficient government. Today, we have a pathetic runaway train that seems unstoppable.
Today our Congress spends time making laws that are clearly outside the scope of their authority. From the amount of sugar used by ketchup manufacturers to maple syrup production, Congress has gone too far, and they know no limits.
Most of the legislating that takes place in DC revolves around the commerce clause found in Article I, Section 8. The oddity is of this is that which is supposed to be a limiting power is now boundless.
It was U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia who challenged Clinton’s solicitor general to name a single activity that congress could not touch through the commerce clause. He couldn’t name one. Not one! In other words, not even the lawyers for big government can pretend to make a case that the Constitution embraces a limiting principle.
Americans must long for men and women of principle who will view their oath as something other than a doormat or cute sound bite. Our Constitution is supposed to be the rule book with powers that are few and defined. However, those in office see their powers as unlimited and unending.
Here is the way it used to be:
In 1794 and in the face of being called callous and unfeeling, James Madison objected vigorously to a $15,000 appropriation for French refugees. He said, “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.”
In 1796, Senator William Giles of Virginia condemned a relief measure for fire victims and insisted that it was neither the purpose nor the right of Congress to “attend to what generosity and humanity require, but to what the Constitution and their duty require.”
In 1827, Representative Davy Crockett rejected a proposal for a $10,000 relief for the widow of a naval officer. Understanding he had no authority to put his hand to this legislation, he said,
“We must not permit our respect for the dead or our sympathy for the living to lead us into an act of injustice to the balance of the living. I will not attempt to prove that Congress has no power to appropriate this money as an act of charity. Every member upon this floor knows it. We have the right as individuals to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right to appropriate a dollar of the public money.”
In 1854, President Franklin Pierce vetoed a bill intended to help the mentally ill, saying: “I cannot find any authority in the Constitution for public charity.” And President Grover “King of Veto” Cleveland rejected hundreds of congressional spending bills during his two terms as president in the late 1800s. And his reason for his consistent rejection? “I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution.”
Let’s stop pretending that government is big out of necessity. That is not true! It is big because we have elected people into office who have allowed it to become so. Their myopic view of future elections has decimated the bigger picture of freedom. While we should be ashamed, we can reverse course. The elections of 2014 and 2016 are just around the corner.