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Just How Powerful is Government Supposed to Be?

September 23rd, 2012

The Constitution focused heavily on a government with limited powers.  After all, our forefathers had just risked life and limb to hop in boats and travel across the Atlantic — then fought a war — just to get away from the oppressive government back in England.

The last thing they wanted was a repeat here!

In order to keep the federal government from spiraling out of control, the forefathers created three branches of government — each with its own job to do.  That way, the government had a built-in way to keep itself in check.

So, if the Executive Branch overstepped its boundaries, the Legislative Branch could stop it.  Or, if the Legislative Branch started hogging too much power, the Executive Branch could step in.

In order to make things even more clear, the forefathers created a list of Enumerated Powers that spelled out exactly what Congress was allowed to do.  You can find the entire list in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, but the list includes things like collecting taxes, regulating foreign commerce, coining money, establishing post offices, creating and maintaining a military, and borrowing money on U.S. credit.

To the forefathers, anything that went beyond the list was simply not the role of the federal government.  Remember, they believed that our rights were given to us by God — not the government.  In fact, most of the Bill of Rights is aimed at keeping the government out of the way.

So how do you think today’s government big-wigs are living up to the Constitution?  Are they abiding by the Enumerated Powers?  Are they making the government bigger than it was ever intended to be?

What Does “We the People” Mean Anyways?

September 17th, 2012

They’re the first three words of the Preamble to the Constitution, but have you given any serious thought to what “We the People” really means?

Back when it was first written in September 1787, “We the People” referred to everyone who was living in the brand new America as a means to escape from an unfair government back in England.  By starting off the Preamble to the Constitution by talking about the people — instead of talking about the government — it was a clear sign that the government’s power came FROM the people it served.

But has the meaning of “We the People” changed since our forefathers wrote it down all those years ago?

Think about today’s political climate and how it affects “We the People”…

Does it refer to all Americans, regardless of race, marital status, religious views, political views, etc?

Does it refer to anyone who calls this country home — either legally or illegally?

Does it only refer to the “people” in power — like the members of a certain political party?

Does it only refer to people who have the means to get their message heard — like in TV commercials, in giant Facebook marketing campaigns, or in loud protests?

Does it only refer to the people who vote?

Does it only refer to the majority?

Does it only refer to the people who work on Capitol Hill?

 

One important thing to remember — when our forefathers came up with the term “We the People”, they weren’t just giving the American people rights.  The term was also used to describe the “people” responsible for upholding the foundations of the Constitution.

So, what do you think?  Are the “people” doing a good job of that today?

Happy Constitution Day!

September 17th, 2012

On September 17, 1787, 42 delegates met and changed the history of the world.  They had only one thing on their to-do lists that day — sign the U.S. Constitution.

Finally putting signatures onto paper was a remarkable achievement for these men.  After all, they had been hard at work for months, trying to come up with a document that would set a baby-faced America on the right path.

First, they thought they could simply rewrite the Articles of Confederation.  But, after much nit-picking, it was decided that America would be better off with a fresh document.  And so the debate began in Philadelphia’s State House, to determine what kinds of powers the federal government would have — and what kinds of options the people would have to reign it in if it got out of control.

Dozens of delegates sat around the table for four months, throwing out ideas and trying to balance ideas and fears from all over the 13 colonies.  Even though there was no 24-hour news cycle, no Twitter, and no smartphones, Americans shared in the debate — from their taverns, their street corners, and their polling places.

With so much on the line, the delegates had to get it right.  They had to come up with a document that summed up what they wanted and how they were going to get it.  If they didn’t word it perfectly, all of the fighting America did to earn its independence would be in vain.

So, when you’re going about your daily business on September 17th, think about what these men must have gone through.  The pressure they faced was immeasurable.  They — literally — had the weight of an entire country on their shoulders.

Now, it’s up to us to carry on their legacy.

The Debate Over the Constitution

September 4th, 2012

As much as our forefathers loved the thought of starting a brand new country, there sure was a lot of debate about how to actually do it.

Rewind to 1787…

The Articles of Confederation were holding America together, but they were never meant to be a permanent blueprint for the country.  Instead, our forefathers knew they had to come up with a new document that protected our liberties.  Remember, the Declaration of Independence turned colonial politics upside down (http://ourvoicecounts.com/2012/08/29/the-radical-declaration-of-independence/).  Now, it was time to come up with a way to make the Declaration of Independence’s statements feasible.

To do it, delegates created a system of checks and balances and called it the Constitution.  It explained how the three branches of government were all designed to keep each other in line, and how the states were allowed to reign in the federal government if necessary.   That way, America’s government could never grow to be too big or too oppressive.

But before it could be ratified, the Constitution created quite the debate!

There were two types of people back then — the Federalists (who thought there were enough safeguards in place to protect the people from an overreaching government) and the Anti-Federalists (who thought the Constitution didn’t go far enough to protect the people).   They argued back and forth for months, and eventually ratified it.

Now, fast forward to today…

The first 10 amendments haven’t been touched since 1791.  Among other things, the Bill of Rights has protected our speech, our right to bear arms, our right against unlawful search and seizure, and our right to a fair trial for more than 220 years.

But now, many of these rights are in danger.  There’s talk of abolishing the 2nd Amendment altogether.  A proposed law called SOPA threatened the 1st Amendment.  At the end of 2011, the National Defense Authorization Act seemingly violated the 6th amendment.

The debate over the Constitution continues today.  But, now, it seems like we’re trying to get rid of it!

Why?

Whatever happened to “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”?

 

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