Leave The Constitution Alone — It Works Fine

The following is posted with permission of The Heritage Foundation.

A Constitution for the 21st Century

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Economists often point to the “wisdom of crowds”—the idea that a group of people is likely to make better decisions that an individual will. Then again, your mother probably taught you the importance of individualism when she admonished you that “if everyone else jumps off a bridge, would you do it, too?”

In this case, the Constitution favors your mother’s view.

In a recent series on PBS, Peter Sagal set out to determine how the Constitution applies to modern American life. As part of the final installment, Sagal journeyed far beyond our borders to Iceland, where citizens are drafting a new, “crowd-sourced” constitution.

Sagal wonders, “Is our Constitution up to the challenges of the 21st century?” After all, “national constitutions are like cars. After enough wear-and-tear they can break down.” That’s certainly true for most constitutions. Law professor Mila Versteeg has read every national constitution drafted since World War II and found they are rewritten, on average, every 19 years. Some cars do indeed last longer than that.

But the beauty of the American Constitution is that it predates automobiles and many other modern conveniences. Today’s governing documents read like a laundry list of “rights” the government is required to “give” to you. South Africa’s constitution guarantees a “right” to “adequate housing,” “reproductive health care,” and “to receive education in the official language or languages of their choice in public educational institutions where that education is reasonably practicable.”

In contrast, our Constitution simply sets out a framework for a free people to confront the political questions of their times. As Heritage’s David Azerrad puts it,

Its words and principles, anchored in the Declaration of Independence, categorically rule out certain laws—e.g., bills of attainder—and create a system of checks and balance between different levels of government. But within the confines of these restrictions and delineations, it leaves the people free to deliberate via their elected representatives on the questions and problems of the day.

Its simplicity was a stroke of genius. As Sagal later admits, it has lasted for so long because it is brief and allows for occasional “repairs” through amendments.

Of course, there are a few parting shots at the Constitution during this episode. Former Representative Barney Frank (D–MA) tells Sagal that the entire system is weighted toward inaction. But commentator P. J. O’Rourke counters that that’s a feature, not a bug: “Tyranny was more worrisome to the Framers than legislative deadlock.” They wanted it to be difficult to enact national laws, because that would leave most power in the states.

It would be impossible to write a limited constitution today. Every interest group under the sun would demand “rights” be included, and it would end up reading like a menu instead of a governing framework. All the more reason to avoid following the crowd of countries that are constantly reworking their constitutions and instead rededicate ourselves to defending the one we’re blessed enough to have.

Posted in First Principles [slideshow_deploy]

Heritage Foundation: No Need To Panic

The Heritage Foundation
New Common Sense
Applying First Principles to the Issues of Today

No Need to Panic

Conservatives are, rightly, disappointed.

A president who’s recklessly spent trillions, expanded government and put many of our principles and institutions at risk will enjoy a second term. But it’s no time for despair. Now is the time to stand up and declare we will continue to work to rein in big government and defend freedom.

Voters gave conservatives a mandate of sorts two years ago, electing a Tea Party-supported House of Representatives to check President Obama’s excesses. And it worked.

After ramming through measures including Obamacare and Dodd-Frank in his first two years, the president failed to deliver any big liberal programs after that.

In 2012, voters returned the president to the White House, yet also made him the first president since World War II re-elected without improving his margin of victory. “The bad news is that Paul Ryan remains in the House,” quips Hugh Hewitt. But, “The good news is that he remains in the House, and that the rising generation of governors remains incredibly talented and innovative and they now add Mike Pence to their number.”

President Obama won a clear victory in the Electoral College (that’s one of the reasons it exists), but: “Much like Truman, Obama enters a second term with no mandate to speak of, and with roughly half of the country intractably opposed to his policies,” writes Jay Cost at the Weekly Standard. Obama’s grand themes were Big Bird and birth control.

His campaign mostly consisted of attack ads and personal insults. He won, many say, by managing to stitch together a coalition of those seeking federal largesse.

“The Democratic Party is mostly an incoherent amalgam of interest groups, most of which are vying for benefits for themselves and their members at the expense of other Americans,” notes Yuval Levin. “This kind of party is why America’s founders worried about partisanship and were, at least at first, eager to avoid a party system. It is a bunch of factions more than a party.”

For their part, conservatives must find ways to limit big government. For as William McGurn warned,  the recent hurricane exposed its failures. “The irony is that modern American liberalism has become a movement grounded less in practical politics than a sort of religious fervor—and often requiring the same strong faith in the face of disappointment and failure. The difference, of course, is that while religions often promise to deliver in the next world, government is supposed to do it in this one.”

Conservatives can make headway in this divisive atmosphere by offering the right policy proposals. The end of the campaign brings the beginning of the governing season. We have a lot of work to do. From entitlement reform to national defense and energy policy, The Heritage Foundation has developed and will continue to advocate for the solutions the country needs.

Obamacare is dragging down our already struggling economy. Our nation is far beyond just broke; our national debt is $16 trillion (a 60 percent increase under President Obama) and climbing every day. A lame duck Congress will return to Washington to try to head off Taxmageddon. The present House of Representatives must hold the line over the next two months and refuse to sign on to even more spending or higher taxes. We must stop our national binge of spending, taxing and borrowing. And we will.

Whatever the policy battles, remember this above all, happy warriors: It’s the First Principles that undergird America that make this country great. Conservatives must work harder than ever before to defend them and to see them translated into the right public policies.

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Heritage Foundation Offers: NEW COMMON SENSE

I received an email from the Heritage Foundation with information which should be of benefit to all Tea Party members, all citizens or wannabe citizens.  The Heritage Foundation is conservative in nature as you will see if you follow the links offered in the copied email below:

Ask Yourself.

Do you want a government that creeps into more and more areas of your life– making decisions on everything from the health insurance you must buy to light bulbs can use to french fries you eat?

In recent years, liberals have benefited from Americans not knowing about the Constitution and our nation’s First Principles and because of that, the policies enacted in Washington have led to a massive increase in both the size and scope of government.

Is this the kind of government you want? Or do the individual freedoms found in the Constitution and our founding First Principles still matter today?

You can stop the liberals’ assault on your freedoms and the Constitution.  But first, you need to arm yourself with the right information.  Sign-up today for New Common Sense from The Heritage Foundation.  >>One-click here gets you started.

New Common Sense connects today’s policy debates to the First Principles that guided America’s Founding Fathers. This weekly e-newsletter highlights research from Heritage experts and gives you the information you need to fight back against the Left and get our country back on course.

The future of liberty depends on reclaiming America’s first principles.  >>Click here to sign-up for New Common Sense.

About The Heritage Foundation
Founded in 1973, The Heritage Foundation is a research and educational institute – a think tank – whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.
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What Is Poverty In The United States Of America?

Seal of the United States Census Bureau. The b...

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By Chuck Ring (GadaboutBlogalot ©2009 -2011

Quote Freely From The Article – Leave The Pseudonym Alone

How does our government decide who is poor or in their general words; who is living under poverty?  What guidelines are used, and are they consistently used when applied to all American citizens?  How about illegal aliens, should they even be counted?  Are they counted because they happened to have entered the US illegally, but for the most part are elgible for benefits given to our needy citizens?  We contend they should not be counted, or if they are, their numbers should be clearly delineated from the number of citizens of this nation facing or living in poverty.

No doubt, there are poor people in the United States.  Anyone with one eye and half-sense can see it every single day.  Those that volunteer or work at food pantries, clothing distribution centers and non-profit medical facilities can see and understand the poor’s plight easily and repetitively.

To get back to the questions posed in the first paragraph, what really is, or perhaps should be, the real formula and what overall factors should be used for coming up with meaningful statistics.  For without clear information, we will surely aim for and shoot at the wrong target.

Here is a report by the Heritage Foundation about how our government defines poverty and why the government is likely wrong in their approach:Morning Bell

09/13/2011

Surprising Facts about America’s Poor

In his address to the joint session of Congress last week, President Barack Obama called for $477 billion in new federal spending, which he said would give hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged young people hope and dignity while giving their low-income parents “ladders out of poverty.” And today, the U.S. Census released its annual poverty report, which declared that 46.2 million persons, or roughly one in seven Americans, were poor in 2010. What President Obama didn’t tell America as he was pleading for more spending–and what the Census Bureau didn’t report–is what it really means to be poor in America.

In a new report, Heritage’s Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield lay out what the U.S. government’s own facts and figures really say about poverty in the United States. The results might surprise you, especially if your view of poverty is the conventional one, perpetuated by the media–namely, destitute conditions of homelessness and hunger. In reality, though, the living conditions of those defined as poor by the government are much different than that popular image. The following are facts about persons defined as “poor” by the Census Bureau:

  • 80 percent of poor households have air conditioning
  • Nearly three-fourths have a car or truck, and 31 percent have two or more cars or trucks
  • Two-thirds have at least one DVD player and 70 percent have a VCR
  • Half have a personal computer, and one in seven have two or more computers
  • More than half of poor families with children have a video game system, such as an Xbox or PlayStation
  • 43 percent have Internet access
  • One-third have a wide-screen plasma or LCD television
  • One-fourth have a digital video recorder system, such as a TiVo

As for hunger and homelessness, Rector and Sheffield point to 2009 statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture showing that 96 percent of poor parents stated that their children were never hungry at any time during the year because they could not afford food, 83 percent of poor families reported having enough food to eat, and over the course of a year, only 4 percent of poor persons become temporarily homeless, with 42 percent of poor households actually owning their own homes. Want an international comparison? The average poor American has more living space than the average Swede or German. You can read even more of those facts in their report, “Understanding Poverty in the United States.”

None of this is to say that the poor have it easy. Sadly, one in 25 will become temporarily homeless during the year, and one in five poor adults will experience temporary food shortages and hunger at some point in a year. But exaggerating the conditions of poverty does not do America any good, as Rector and Sheffield explain:

The poor man who has lost his home or suffers intermittent hunger will find no consolation in the fact that his condition occurs infrequently in American society. His hardships are real and should be an important concern to policymakers. Nonetheless, anti-poverty policy needs to be based on accurate information. Gross exaggeration of the extent and severity of hardships in America will not benefit society, the taxpayers, or the poor.
Those exaggerations about the symptoms of poverty don’t solve the root causes of the problem, either. As Rector and Sheffield write, “Among families with children, the collapse of marriage and the erosion of work ethic are the principal long-term causes of poverty.” In order to truly benefit the poor, they say, welfare policy must require able-bodied recipients to work or prepare for work as a condition of receiving aid. And it should strengthen marriage in low-income communities, rather than ignore and penalize it.

Poverty is a serious problem that requires serious solutions. But policymakers and the public need accurate information about what poverty in the United States really means. Only then can they implement the right policies to help those Americans who are truly in need.