Aren’t we just so smug when we mock the liberals who say that the Constitution is a ‘living’ document, meaning it is adaptable to whatever the mores and trends of the day are? We know so much better than they. We know that the constitution is a firm and solid rock of a document, a guarantor of law and equality and freedom and justice. Or so we say.
In truth though, aren’t both sides wrong? Isn’t the constitution a withered and atrophied and neglected thing, more near death than living and pretty much useless as a lamp of freedom in a dark, tyrannical world? The words of the Constitution are hollow. They define a 19th century form of government of, by and for The People. They specify a republic, with electors by virtue of their citizenship sending representatives to assemblies to create a rulebook of laws which those electing them agree to abide by, and to conduct their affairs according to, and with respect toward. But today, those words are hollow, because, while we think we are abiding by the laws, what we are really abiding by are rules which are concocted by unelected bureaucrats ensconced in agencies which are nowhere mentioned and for the most part hardly envisioned by the Constitution of 1787.
Think about what oversees and directs our lives in the ever-increasing intermingling of our day-to-day functions and the government. Those entities would be – The Department of Commerce, the Department of Health and Human Services, The Department of Education, the Internal Revenue Service within the Department of the Treasury, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Transportation, the Federal Communications Commission, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency. None of these entities are mentioned, or called for, in the Constitution. The Constitution gave Congress, which means the People through their representatives, the authority to create these bodies and to oversee them. Congress created them, but like bad parents, abdicated their responsibility to oversee them, and now the above agencies and departments and commissions, hundreds of them, have swelled and grown and spread and siphoned off the law-making powers of Congress into a regulatory way of life that was in no wise envisioned by the Constitution. And hundreds of thousands, even perhaps up into the millions, of people are employed by these bureaus. It is perhaps possible that no one even knows for sure how many there are and where they are all located.
So Congress created this bureaucratic monstrosity , little by little and chunk by chunk, and told it to govern while Congress campaigned for re-election, which is 99.9% of the available time. And that is the way it has been for ages. Again, Congress was given the power to do this by the Constitution; i.e., Congress constitutionally let the Executive Branch of government take over it’s law-making functions little by little, and sometimes lots by lots, until we have reached a point where the Secretary of Health and Human Services can dictate what a private citizen must do in order to stay out of jail, and also the Secretary may dictate what product a private company must make available to the public and at what selling price or for free, in order to be allowed to market all its other products. Everyone knows what we are talking about here. And if we went through the list of the above -named agencies we could cite examples of the powers each and all of those agencies have assumed to make specific edicts which are not spelled out in any law enacted by Congress and signed by the President except under a general umbrella of authority they have been given. One quick example would be the recent mandate issued by the Attorney General that banks must offer home mortgages to people with bad credit histories or be liable for violating a right. Makes perfect sense.
Another construct the Constitution allowed Congress to make was the Federal Judiciary, which either in each of it’s own little districts and circuits peppering the landscape, or upon appeal to the Supreme Court of the Land ( which is specified in the Constitution) can, and does, negate the will of the people as expressed by Congress on many the fine occasion. Here, too, the unspecifically mandated federal judiciary has grown into a leviathan which, while not numbering in the millions of souls, still outnumbers Congress two to one.
So really, there isn’t much for Congress to actually do anymore. Well, there was one little item that the Congress had to do all by itself and under it’s exclusive authority, and that was to secure revenue and see to the appropriation of funds for the operation of the government. That was specifically and solely their job. They could delegate everything else, and shirk as much responsibility as they wanted, and take lots of recesses and vacations and breaks and sabbaticals and listening tours as they wished. But they had to see to the finances. Well now, in the Year of Our Obama ’03, they don’t even have to do that anymore. You see, they have created this thing called the Super Commission, or Superior Commission, or some such grandly titled thing, that is to decide how much money is to be spent and how much money is to be raised and how it is to be allotted. That was the only remaining chore that Congress had left to do and they absolved themselves of that. Now there is some question about whether the Constitution lets them abdicate like that but, considering the tale of the tape outlined above, the Constitution is sort of moot now, isn’t it? The People, as represented by their Congress, gave away all their powers and responsibility and created extra-Constitutional decision-making and fact-finding and ruling bodies that made the concept of what The People wanted, for themselves and their posterity, all but obsolete and certainly something of a joke in Progressive circles, and now, Congress is really and truly soooo …..unnecessary. Oh, sure, they are going to appoint current members of Congress to the Supreme Commission, but they could just as easily say Paul Krugman and Robert Reich could do it and, like Pontius Pilate just wash their hands and walk away.
The Constitution really doesn’t matter much anymore. The executive appoints the bureaucrats and the judges and these people, whether they are lackeys or flacks or their own people with their own little principalities and fiefdoms aren’t answerable to Congress. And now that we have the SupraOrdinary Commision, they aren’t even grudgingly dependent on Congress for dollars anymore. It is said that the Spiffy Commission will be a twelve-member outfit, which means a quorum will probably be four. So in a power squeeze, two could finagle around and prevail. A federal judge could probably unilaterally expand it to thirty or so if it got real intransigent, and water it down sufficiently to overcome recalcitrance and keep revenue streams at maximum capacity so as to feed the beast. But at this point those are just details. The die is pretty much cast. And the last three years have been so stressful that we probably all just need to get away from it a while and let the chips fall where they may, lassez faire? And again, this Congress thing? What’s the point? This is the 21st Century. Let’s just all get over it, shall we? Or…………not?