Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Tea Party's Constitution Day Propaganda Program

Leave it to the irrepressible Tea Baggers and their assorted Tea Party factions to never let an opportunity pass to promote their gross and derelict ignorance of the Constitution. Naturally, they're planning to do it in commemoration of the 100th annual observance of "Constitution Day" - as they beseige assorted schools across the land, armed with their bogus lesson plans and coloring books to teach a Tea-bagger friendly version of our esteemed document.

Never mind that if these bozos could even read at 4th grade level, they wouldn't even attempt it! They'd realize what they are planning to teach is a watered down, John Bircher nutso version that epitomizes cherry picking. Thus, their urging of Americans and lawmakers to "sign a pledge to honor the entire Constitution", puts their own bollocks firmly in the cross -hairs.

True to form, we hear much talk from these whackos about the “original intent” of the Founders in writing the Constitution but very little evidence that these latter day, wannabe purists actually know what any single part means. The Whacko Right, based mainly in the Federalist society and other bastions, insists the Constitution was designed to limit government – the reach thereof- and also any innovative government programs which they deem have no basis in the original parchment.

But dare to ask them about the “unenumerated rights of citizens" declared under the Ninth Amendment of the Bill of Rights (referred to as those rights 'not denied or disparaged' by the enumerated rights) and their faces all turn as blank as their minds. No wonder! The whole concept of rights that can exist without being actually mentioned is something beyond their ken, or conception!

Evidently, then, they never read the Constitution as carefully as they believed! In fact, as Prof. Garry Wills has pointed out, the unenumerated rights are all those rights not already specifically declared or described in the existing document. The Founders thereby realized and understood there could exist rights in the future they hadn’t conceived of at the time of the Constitutional Convention, and so allowed those (then) undefined rights to become realized later. In other words, the rights allotted citizens are not limited to the rights actually and specifically delineated, i.e. in the Bill of Rights.

Many Federalists actually believe the unenumerated Rights refer to “State’s Rights” but this is false. The States have NO rights, only flesh and blood citizens can possess Rights, as the selfsame authors (e.g. James Madison, Alexander Hamilton etc.) noted in The Federalist Papers - which one would have thought the Federalist Society would be acquainted with. Indeed, in Amendment X, the reference is specifically made to powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution - nor prohibited by it to the States- are reserved to the States respectively...). Thus, the States have prerogatives and powers, but citizens have rights. This is a critical distinction that most tea baggers lack clue one about.

Another Teepee myth is the Constitution was created to protect states from federal power, but this is bollocks. The fact is, in the Federalist Papers James Madison himself compared the federal government system to the Solar system. Just as the planets (analogous to states) could not exist as part of that system without the centralized force of gravitational pull of the Sun, so also the federal system could not exist without the centralized pull of the federal government – leading the diversity of states to be one cohesive entity as government. Thus we do find the Constitution includes limits but mostly limits on STATE governments.

If the Constitution was intended to limit the federal government power it certainly doesn’t say so. In Article I, Section 8 – the longest segment of the document, we see an extended declaration of congressional power. (The States are mainly afforded their power in the articles of confederation). In addition, it ends by clearly delegating to Congress the ability “to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or any Department thereof."

Another canard promoted by Tea Party idiots (based upon assorted signs at their rallies), is that of proclaiming "No taxation!" In fact, the REAL issue at the Boston Tea Party was: No taxation without representation!. Nowhere in the Constitution does it say 'No taxes', period! Again, Sec. 8 of Article I clearly states:"The Congress shall have the power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises to pay Debts and provide for the common defense and General Welfare of the United States"

This can also be seen as linking the payment of debt obligations (such as the $14.3 trillion which had been embodied in raising the debt ceiling) to preserving the general welfare - which is, in fact, the main item of federal budgets that the Repukes and conservatives, tea baggers want to the form of what they disparagingly refer to as "entitlements": Medicare for Seniors, as well as Social Security, including for the disabled and elderly. In other words, the clear undertone here is that TAXES be used when needed to pay debts!

In terms of Obama's Affordable Care Act, wingnuts and Tea baggers have argued that the decision to buy health insurance must be a private one, and hence one can opt out or not. The government can't dictate such a purchase, even if it would bring down premiums for all. Thus, a young and healthy worker may simply decide the costs are not for her so she decides not to buy.But what if she then gets into a major auto or motorcycle accident and requires serious surgery? Without health insurance this means landing in an ER where the costs are much greater. Most of these costs are passed on to the regular insurance holders for whom it can be regarded as a kind of extra tax on them in higher premiums.

Multiplied millions of times this would represent a significant additional (and unintended) tax upon all the regular insurance buyers! In other words, it would be totally unacceptable. Thus, in the case above, the private decision to opt out has major impacts on the overall plan and purchases - so can't be tolerated. In other words, doing nothing - buying nothing, can be a private decision with huge deleterious public consequences! Now, is the Affordable Care Act somewhat cynical? Yes, I agree, and according to one University of Pennsylvania Law Review article:Making healthy young adults pay billions of dollars in premiums into the national health care market is the ony way to fund universal health care coverage without raising substantial new taxes.

While my preference, if I were in charge, would be to raise new taxes, then let people opt out if they chose (after paying their taxes!)But again, being cynical or a law embodying it, is not proscribed by the Constitution. The most crucial aspect to grasp for any Constitution Day (especially for students), is that it was written as a flexible set of rules which could be amended (as it has been) and not a dead hand authority restricting options, choices or novel inputs to adjust to the changing times. As I said, it's not a bible, nor should the Founders' words be treated as some kind of inerrant text (look at the provisions for black-slave citizens, to regard them as only 3/5 of white!).

Our aim then needs to be to rescue the concept of a living Constitution from being a whipping boy of the Wingnuts and tea bagger extremists. A Constitution by itself, after all, guarantees nothing. (Bolshevik Russia and Nazi Germany had constitutions). In effect, if there is no genuine spirit of liberty in the hearts and minds of citizens, then their nation's Constitution can be no more than just a "piece of paper" - as George W. Bush once memorably put it, when he enlisted a derelict judiciary to justify his (1978) FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) excesses. One thing everyone must understand is that Constitutions by themselves - including ours- don't protect our spirit of liberty, it is our spirit of liberty and the grasp of what it requires, which protects the Constitution. This is something that the Constitution idolaters, who claim to study this document so fervently and obsessively, have yet to learn.

In this sense, the Progressive opposition to Tea Party pseudo-Constitutional fetishism is correct, and their argument that if the Teepees had their way they'd repeal the whole of the 20th century is also. It is time then to seize the document and prevent it from being corrupted by Tea Bagger hogwash if it means anything to us!

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