Students of American history will recall some of the many grievances against King George III that were called out in the Declaration of Independence. Among them were the following:
“He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.”
“ …imposing Taxes on us without our Consent”
“…depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury”
“He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws”
I cite those indictments because they represent just a few that still affect us to this day.
But, rather than a monarch being the source of such unconscionable anguish, it is our very own President that has been guilty of such crimes against our people.
It was never intended to be this way.
In the years that followed the signing of that sacred document on July 4, 1776, the Founding Fathers utilized their newfound independence to fashion a government that was beholden to the people (rather than a people that were beholden to the government). Knowing full well the flaws that come with Kings, they created a republic, and for it a Constitution that clearly called out the limited powers and responsibilities of our federal government. In just over 1,000 words they defined the role of the Executive – the President – someone who theoretically replaced the role of the King, but unlike a King, had almost no powers. The President could not make laws, exert taxes and fees, and declare war among numerous other things that Kings took for granted. A President’s duties were very few: He was to be the face of our nation, the Commander in Chief of our armed forces, the appointer of judges and ambassadors, and he was to execute the laws created by Congress.
Although the ultimate law of the land – the Constitution – clearly and concisely identifies the legal role of the President, we’ve seen the office stray from those limitations. And, despite protestations by the Grand Old Party, this is nothing new to the office since President Barack Obama came into power. Every President of our lifetimes has been as despotic as kings, including alleged small government types like Ronald Reagan. They do as they shouldn’t and do as they want, even if the end result is not the peoples’ will.
This addiction to centralized, unconstitutional power has become the norm and dates back to the days of Lincoln, a man who had no absolutely no consideration for the Constitution and a man who history has painted as a hero (and something approaching a god) for it. Lincoln opened the floodgates that led to the modern and popular interpretation of the presidency that allows Presidents to declare war (our last Constitutional war and occupation was World War II), suspend trial by jury and exert indefinite detention, and use their administrative offices to make regulations (which are laws), impose taxes (fees and fines), and infringe upon the rights of the people and the sound operations of the free markets. They have grown beyond the boundaries of their duties and have assumed the powers that were once - and are elsewhere – bequeathed to monarchies, doing everything, unchecked, that a Congress should, thus taking all power away from the people and keeping it for themselves.
The people fail to see that the ultimate power should be in their hands, through our representative form of government. The nation was founded so that the Congress was the most powerful branch of government. The general belief is that all branches share equal power; this is not so -- the Executive Branch should only be a check and a balance to an overreaching Congress, as are our courts to both. Our nation was founded this way so that the masses were equally represented and the development of laws and budgets came from a governing body directly accessible to the common man and which could actually be comprised of the common man. The rights and consent of the government were paramount.
Yet, sadly, that is not what the people seem to want anymore.
Reflect upon what we’ve observed in this election cycle (and every cycle before it). The voters want to know what the presidential candidates will do for them. They expect them to fix the economy, regulate industry, exert social mores upon the masses, assume war powers, make laws, control the Congress, create tax policy, intervene in foreign affairs, and suppress liberty in the name of security. They think the President is – and they clamor for – a singular power, a central office…in essence, a king.
What has become of our United States? At this rate, what will become of them?
Bob Confer is a Gasport resident and vice president of Confer Plastics Inc. in North Tonawanda. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This column originally ran in the 29 October 2012 Greater Niagara Newspapers