Written by Frank Salvato
As we approach Independence Day 2013, this might be a good time to take stock on the American experience: where we are, where we came from, what we are supposed to be and what we have become, collectively, as a country. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the United States of America has become something other than what our Founders and Framers would have envisioned. In fact, it could be argued that the “old white guys in wigs” would not only be shocked for what we have become, but for our apathy in allowing our country to become what it is.
Thomas Jefferson is quoted as saying:
“A government big enough to give you everything you want, is a government big enough to take away everything that you have.”
Today, the United States federal government is so large and so intrusive that it not only employs 4.4 million people, but holds a national debt of over $16.8 trillion dollars. This does not address a $124.6 trillion unfunded liabilities mandate. These numbers appear shocking because they are shocking. And when one takes into consideration that each year the US federal government operates “in the red,” even though they glean $2.902 trillion in revenue from various sources (individual income tax being the primary source at $1.359 trillion), one can only conclude that the federal government has taken on the role of the arrogant spendthrift, and one that disavows Benjamin Franklin’s sentiment, “When you run in debt; you give to another power over your liberty.”
But perhaps the whole of our modern American experience can be summed up in the end state of this quote by Thomas Jefferson:
“A departure from principle becomes a precedent for a second; that second for a third; and so on, till the bulk of society is reduced to mere automatons of misery, to have no sensibilities left but for sinning and suffering...And the fore horse of this frightful team is public debt. Taxation follows that, and in its train wretchedness and oppression.”
In the formative days of our Great American Experiment, the Founders and Framers set up a federal government limited in its authority and scope. In fact, in the early days of our Republic the federal government operated almost completely on revenues gleaned from tariffs and trade. It wasn’t until the 19th Century that the “income tax” would come to be and even then, until the passage of the 19th Amendment, the constitutionality of the income tax was held in question.
Today, thanks to an inequitable tax system – the Progressive tax system – we have a populace that is purposefully divided into factions: one that pays federal taxes, another that avoids paying federal taxes, and yet another that believes the taxes collected are due them. In a land where everyone is supposed to be equal in the eyes of the law (read: government), we have allowed those who we elect to office to literally create a class system, through which they manipulate the citizenry for political gain and the retention of power.
To say that the United States of America was founded on deep-rooted desire for the individual to be free to practice the religion of his or her choosing is to understate the importance of the issue. Truth be told, the issue of religious freedom delivered pilgrims to American shores centuries before. The Founders and Framers, being deeply reverent men – much to the opposite of claims by the secularists of today – understood all too well the importance of not only freedom of religion (the natural law right to worship in the dogma of choice) but the idea of recognizing something larger than self where government was concerned. As our founding documents – the Charters of Freedom – are predicated on the understanding and acknowledgment of Natural Law (the acknowledgement of a Higher Power), it is only the intellectually dishonest who argue religion did not (and does not) play a significant role in the government of our Republic.
To wit, The Declaration of Independence states:
“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness...” (emphasis added)
Yet, today, military chaplains are forbidden from even displaying a Bible on their government issued desks for the ignorance of history served up at the hands of Progressive and secular activists.
Today, because of an activist Judicial Branch (and at the urging of Progressive and secular activists), the innocent notion of a separation of Church and State, which in its original intent was meant to reassure one denomination that another would not be placed above it in an establishment of a “national religion,” i.e. the Church of England, has been grotesquely distorted to require the ever-increasing banishment of all religious symbols from the public square. And at the same time, the federal government – in the form of ever-expanding entitlements – seeks to replace the Creator as the Alpha and the Omega for the American citizenry.
At our country’s inception, the Judiciary – the Judicial Branch and all federal courts in its charge – was to administer federal law in the context of constitutionality. Was it constitutional or what is not? Or was the question reserved for the States and the judiciaries of those States, per the 10th Amendment?
Today, our entire legal system – federal as well as the lessers – is held hostage to a system of precedent law; Stare decisis et non quieta movere, a Latin term meaning "to stand by decisions and not disturb the undisturbed." This is understood to mean that courts should abide by decided precedent and not disturb settled matters, regardless of whether the decision was born of activism. If the judiciary produced judgments and opinions that had fidelity to the Constitution – as the Constitution mandates, then the notion of stare decisis would be a good thing. But those who serve in the Judiciary are equally subject to human intellectual infirmities as are those who serve in the Executive and Legislative Branches. Truth is, one decision based on ideologically; one activist decision, forever moves law away from the Constitution.
As Steven G. Calabresi, a professor of law at Northwestern University School of Law and a visiting professor at Brown University, opined in a paper titled, Text vs. Precedent in Constitutional Law, published the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy:
“The argument...is that the doctrinalists are wrong in arguing for a strong theory of stare decisis for three reasons. First, there is nothing in the text, history, or original meaning of the Constitution that supports the doctrinalists' strong theory of stare decisis. Second, the actual practice of the US Supreme Court is to not follow precedent, especially in important cases. In other words, precedent itself counsels against following precedent. And, third, a strong theory of stare decisis is a bad idea for policy reasons...
“Both textualism and originalism supply arguments as to why following precedent is wrong. As for the text, it is striking that there is not a word in the Constitution that says in any way that precedent trumps the text.”
Yet, decisions on issues from voting rights to life-ending procedures, social issues to mandatory health insurance are continuously based on precedent law, or stare decisis. And with each decision that bows to stare decisis, we move further away from fidelity to the Constitution.
At the founding of our nation, our citizenry was comprised on those who wanted the freedom to build, to create, to glean the benefits of their labors based on the effort with which they sought success. Pride was not the product of artificially installed self-esteem, but a humble condition of dignity, arrived at through determination, education – sometimes, or most times autodidactic – and perseverance. The United States was a nation of strong individuals, determined to embrace the freedom – the liberty, that the New World afforded them; a nation of people with a commonality based on self-reliance and a brotherhood born of the love of liberty and justice for all, not just the oligarchic few.
Today, our country has devolved into a socialistic nanny-state, complete with an entitlement faction that will very soon not only outnumber Ayn Rand’s “producers” but a faction that celebrates its gluttony; its piggish appetite for entitlement, even as they scheme to avoid the responsibility of maintaining the Republic; even as they demand more from a government whose seemingly sole purpose is to concoct new ways to extract wealth from those who produce. Today, 47% of the nation’s people do not pay federal income taxes. Today, 23 million households are dependent on food stamps. Today, nearly 49 percent of the citizenry lives in a household where at least one member receives a direct benefit from the federal government.
That those duly elected to office exploit this societal malady for purposes of maintaining power is tantamount to a betrayal of the very principles held by those who gifted us the exquisite beauty of liberty. I wonder, if the Founders and Framers could confront the elitist oligarchs of today’s American ruling class, would they be strong enough to do so with temperance?
On this, the 237th anniversary of the American Declaration of Independence, we would be wise to self-examine our national condition. Do we really want to be a nanny-state? Do we really want to admire a legal system that moves further away for the very basis for our freedom with each decision? Do we really want to support a government that increasingly steals from the producers to give to the dependent class of their own creation, and for purely ideological and politically motivated purposes? Do we want to be a nation that stands arrogantly in its belief that We the People – or They the Government – are the highest power to which we must answer, therefore abandoning our God-given right to acknowledge Natural Law?
In 1964, future president Ronald Reagan gave a speech titled, A Time for Choosing, in which he said:
“We are faced with the most evil enemy mankind has known in his long climb from the swamp to the stars. There can be no security anywhere in the free world if there is no fiscal and economic stability within the United States. Those who ask us to trade our freedom for the soup kitchen of the welfare state are architects of a policy of accommodation.
“They say the world has become too complex for simple answers. They are wrong. There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right....
“You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children’s children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done.”
Today, my fellow Americans is Independence Day. Please, think about it.