First of all, as a personal note, I must express my thanks to the board members of NCCS for having the confidence in me for such an assignment as they have given me. I love the Constitution of the United States. I love its every word and every concept as it was penned by the Founders. I love to teach its message throughout the nation. I have been particularly blessed to have sat at the feet of Dr. Skousen, both privately and publicly and been tutored many hours by him. As he has passed the assignment on to us "younger" ones, my only hope is that I can contunue to excite people about the Founders' message as he did for so many years in person and now will continue to do through his published works. He packaged the message so the rest of us can do the teaching. It is comforting to know he watches with eagerness the increasing activities of NCCS. Now on with the work.
Band-Aids and the Healing Process
Band-aids are wonderful, aren't they? They provide an immediate help to begin the healing process when our body is injured in some way. They keep the dirt out, protect the wound, and keep the sore closed so the longer healing process can run its marvelous natural course. When the wound is healed we can remove the band-aid, leaving the skin as it was before the injury occurred and, of course, vowing never to let happen again that which produced the injury.
Our Political Body Has Many Open Wounds
As it is with any newborn baby, when our nation was founded and our plan of government set in motion by the adoption of the Constitution, it was as near perfect as any group of men could make it. Observers admired it; foreigners praised it; immigrants sought its protection.
However, over 200 years our near-perfect government has become quite battered, braised, and severely injured. It is even bleeding profusely. Parts of the original plan have been amputated or changed beyond recognition. As a result, the body is groaning and crying for help. It is in desperate need of a thoughtful but speedy healing process. As with the human body, it must be restored to its original beauty in order to function properly. Many well-meaning people have proposed healing methods, some involving the use of band-aids.
Platforms, Position Papers and Contracts
Have you noticed the time-consuming, divisive political process every party goes through to develop and update their political platform on which to run for the next year? During campaigns nearly every candidate feels he must develop a set of position papers setting forth his solutions to pressing problems. The newest tactic is the much-talked-about Contract with America, which sets forth a series of reforms which the proponents said they would implement if elected.
But Where Is The Constitution?
Some months ago, a good friend called to express some concern. He said he was all in favor of restoring America's greatness as was being touted by some well-meaning leaders, but, he said, "We don't hear much about the Constitution m all of this talk of renewing and restoring. Shouldn't the basis of all our redoing be the Constitution?" How right he is!
Try to imagine a political party with nothing as its platform other than the U.S. Constitution! Try to envision candidates running for office who, when asked their position on issues of the day, would quote the Constitution as a basis for their answer! And what if those who are using the Contract with America as the basis of change would instead use only the U.S. Constitution as the basis of change! We would be coming close to Abraham Lincoln's dream when he said, "Let [the Constitution] be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in primers, in spelling books and in almanacs, let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation."
Some Band-Aids Are Temporary at Best
Sometimes in the healing process we need the temporary protection of a band-aid— as long as our long-term goal is the healing of the body into its original form. But when the band-aid is used as a cover to perpetuate diversion from the original design, it actually becomes counterproductive. Let's look at each of the "band-aids" of the recenfiy touted "Contract with America" to see which of its provisions are heading us toward a restoration of the Constitution and which arc not.
Restoring constitutional principles is going to take more than just a few amendments which then can be ignored, violated, or misinterpreted by the courts like the rest of the Constitution. It is going to take a restoring of virtuous and morally stable people in Congress. Samuel Adams said, "But neither the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt."
What most Americans don't realize is that the balanced-budget amendment in the Contract with America, if it had passed Congress and been ratified by the states, would not have taken effect until the year 2002 at the earliest. Now that it has been defeated, do Congressmen have the courage to vote only for a balanced budget for the next fiscal year? Jefferson's position was that it was an immoral act to pass debts on to other people, which is exactly what a budget deficit does. A balanced-budget amendment is a band-aid on the boiler and may do some temporary good, but the real healing will require more courageous statesmen in Congress.
The Constitution gives the power to create new law only to the Congress. The President has no such constitutional power. Yet giving the President the power to change legislation after it comes from Congress is tantamount to giving him power to make new law. In an era when the executive has already usurped much power, the line-item veto only gives him more. This is not restoring the Constitution in its original meaning.
The Contact with America seeks to prohibit the federal government from mandating states. to do something without giving the states the money to do what is being required. The Constitution's position would be to cut out the mandates altogether, funded or un funded. The Founders never intended the federal government to be mandating anything to the states.
The Taking Back Our Streets Act
The Constitution gives the federal government no authority to fight crime or to fund crime fighting in the states. This provision of the Contract is clearly without constitutional authority.
The Personal Responsibility Act
This provision replaces federal welfare programs with block grants to the states. Concerning the federal government involving itself in welfare, Samuel Adams was the clearest when he stated that the Founders made such federal involvement "unconstitutional." The only constitutional action on the federal level would be to cut welfare programs and to reduce federal taxation of the people which have been paying for them.
The Family Responsibility Act
The Founders believed local government should foster and protect the integrity of the family. The federal government has no constitutional authority to legislate family issues nor (originally) to tax families based on wealth or income in order to fund family welfare programs.
The Senior Citizen Fairness Act
While the Constitution gives no authority to Congress to involve itself in Social Security type welfare taxes or payments, this provision at least eases the burden on senior citizens by reducing the double tax of social security benefits. It is a band-aid approach until the healing can take place which would result in doing away with Social Security and replacing it. with a proposal like the one NCCS gave to every congressman over ten years ago, which will not hurt anyone now receiving Social Security.
The Job Creation and Wage Enhancement Act
This is another band-aid approach which seeks to slightly reduce federal regulatory burdens on the private sector. It is a small step toward constitutional healing, which actually requires the repeal of federal regulation of business altogether.
The Common Sense Legal Reform Act
Involving the federal government in limiting punitive damages in tort actions is not on the list of 20 powers given to Congress in the Constitution.`These are state matters. The constitutional healing needed is to remove the monopoly given to the bar association to control the legal business of the nation's citizens. Any tort reform legislation belongs on the state level only.
The Citizen Legislature Act
The attempts to limit terms of congressmen and senators is another band-aid approach to the healing process. It is an approach the Founders actually considered at the Constitutional Convention, and many of them favored it. But when they wrote the actual document itself, they did not include the term-limit provision· Gouverneur Morris, the actual writer of the final document, said such a provision would tend to "destroy the great motive to good behavior" (that is, the possibility of re-election) and would tend to make a lame-duck congressman think he should "make hay while the sun shines".
One thing the term-limits discussion has done is to heighten awareness by the public of career politicians. If term limits were adopted as a temporary healing measure, it. would need to be removed when the people wish to view the Constitution again in its original Brilliance.
In summary, then, we have mentioned 12 items in the much-talked-about Contract with America. In our analysis we have found that while .most of these items attempt to put band-aids on open wounds, some actually perpetuate the injury without calling for a strong healing to begin. Some may say that is all that can be done at this time, and in some cases that may be true, but let's not take our eyes off the Constitution as our guiding star.
Doing the Right Thing at the Right Level
As we attempt to restore the Constitution, we must be aware of one principle which has been forgotten even by some well-meaning believers in constitutional principles. That is that good things done at the wrong level of government can amount to a bad thing. Did you know that in the Founders' original success formula, many things we think of as good were reserved only to states? Some examples would be voting qualifications, limiting terms, prohibiting liquor manufacturing, . civil rights protection, women's suffrage, environmental protection, and water problems. The difficulty develops when the people in local areas do not think something is a problem sufficiently large to require any action. Minority opinion groups then try to go to the next higher level of government (namely, the federal level) and force down onto the states that which they could not get the people to do themselves. With this kind of thinking, the United Nations will one day be in our back yards telling us what to do because even our national government is not moving fast enough on these issues to suit them. So besides asking ourselves if a program is correct or good, we must at the same time ask if this is the right level to take such action. The Constitution actually allows very few things to be done on the national level—even if they are good things.
A Word of Caution
Americans need to be aware of the current talk of leading politicians that the next big push, now that much of the Contract with America is passed, will involve "major" and "deep" changes or "revamp" our basic system. This is put forth with no specifics. Hopefully, what they mean is that we are returning with greater effort to the principles of the U.S. Constitution. The fact that this is not said should make all citizens more alert to coming announcements to make sure all actions are strictly according to the Constitution.
The Constitution Is the Real Contract
The only contract or platform a candidate for federal office should ever need is the Constitution of the Unites States. It is si.mple in its plan. It is specific in its divisions. It is clear in its allowances. It is definite in its prohibitions. Why not speak more of the Constitution? Why not make the Constitution, as Lincoln said, "the political religion of America"?
NCCS Seminars in Record Numbers
We are pleased to report that NCCS has received more requests for constitutional seminars over the past 12 months than over the past 10 years put together. More citizens are feeling the need to understand America's real contract, written over 200 years ago. More Americans are coming to learn how nearly every problem we have in America today can be solved by restoring the Constitution in its original brilliance. We invite all who read this to get involved in this most exciting work and be a part of the great awakening.
Future Newsletters to Correlate Current Events with Personal Study
Some of you have started the study program entitled "An Evening a Month for America." Future newsletters will provide a constitutional perspective on current events which will correlate more closely with principles discussed in these monthly classes. It will provide current discussion material for your neighborhood get-togethers.
Now Is the Time to Recommit Financial Support
Many of you have generously given of your means in the past. We haven't heard from some of you in many months, and so we ask you now to consider again your support for this most urgent work. None of us who are teaching or administering this nationwide program receive much more than our expenses for our labors. We ask you to do what you consider your part in supporting NCCS with a regular contribution. No specific amount is required, but the average donation is $10 to $20 per month. Some do considerably more. All contributions are greatly appreciated. I look forward to seeing you in your area at an upcoming seminar. Thank you for your support.
Earl Taylor, Jr.