Monday, April 20, 2009

"Getting Around Congress?" It's Much Worse than That

Special to

20 April 2009

John Armor

The Treasury Department announced today that it would “convert its preferred stock in the nation’s largest banks into common stock.” The stated advantages were that this would allow Treasury to aid more banks without going back to Congress for more money than what was already approved. Some Administration officials even said that this would “get around Congress.”

That alone would be bad enough. But the actual meaning of this action subverts the entire Constitution and is an assault on the American people. It is a take-over of American government, similar to the take-overs that occur every month or so, in tin-pot dictatorships around the world.

Harsh charges. Here is the evidence:

The Constitution does not give the President of the United States the power to spend a single dime. Nor does it give such power to the Supreme Court. The power to raise money (through taxes) and to spend that money on governmental purposes is given solely to Congress, in Article I.

There are times when the President or the Chief Justice are able to spend money by their own decision. But such events occur ONLY when Congress has previously acted to authorize such spending,

Anyone who has ever read the Constitution, or even anyone who has ever heard the song on School House Rock, “I’m just a Bill,” knows this is true.

Article I lists the specific powers of Congress, a list that has long been violated, but that’s not today’s subject. Then, it lists the restraints on Congress’ powers, including this in Section 9:

“No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.”

What does the word “appropriation” mean? It means that Congress must state an amount of money, and also state the purpose for which it is to be spent. The statement of a purpose is just as important as the amount.

Could Congress legitimately pass a law that said, “We appropriate $1 trillion dollars for the Treasury Secretary, for him and the President to spend for the improvement of the nation’s economy, as they see fit”? Such a law would be unconstitutional because it abdicates Congress’ mandatory role in the nation’s finances.

Why is this also an attack on the American people? First, as the Declaration of Independence states, governments derive their “just powers” only from “the consent of the governed.” This latest financial move by the Obama Administration is designed to cut Congress, and the people who voted for Congress, out of the political equation.

The Constitution also speaks to this point. It provides in Article I that all revenue bills (that means taxes) must “originate in the House of Representatives.” Remember that when the Constitution was written, the House was the only point at which popular will, actual voting by citizens, took place. Senators were them elected by the State legislatures; Presidents were elected by independent members of the Electoral College.

The experience of other governments, beginning with England but including dozens of others, boiled down to this: the people do not have control of their government unless they elect their own representatives, who in turn have the power of the purse. The House of Representatives was originally given that power, but the Obama Administration is now stealing that power away.

The theft is not occurring wholesale, since the mainstream media might notice and comment. It is happening retail, a mere trillion dollars at a time. It is now five hours since the Treasury Department announced this change. No one anywhere in the media has, according to my Internet searches, even bothered to ask whether this is constitutional.

The take-over has begun. What will we do about it?

No comments: