After a tough year in terms of American prestige around the world and unshakable economic doldrums, people are undoubtedly wishing that the new year will bring better news. We all want success in defeating global threats and an economic reawakening that brings real opportunity for Americans at all stages of life to improve their financial fortunes.
As a first step to making that outcome a reality, I hope that every American will find a copy of our nation’s founding documents in their stockings this Christmas. And in fact, you can purchase an attractive pocket Constitution online at Barnes and Noble for less than two dollars.
Even politically-active Americans may have forgotten how our Founders carefully laid out our federal government’s structure, with a clear mission of limiting government’s powers and protecting individual liberty from an overbearing state.
The preamble alone is a refreshing reminder of what our government really is supposed to be about and the true roots of American exceptionalism: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
America was meant to be a country governed by laws that are fairly enforced. The federal government was meant to fulfill a few vital needs and to do those jobs well.
Our legislative branch was given the power to develop those laws, but was meant to exercise its legislative power in a limited manner. The president was tasked with serving as commander in chief and representing the country to foreign nations. The executive branch — which today issues an unimaginable number of rules and regulations with the force of law — is barely mentioned, but clearly intended to have only powers to enforce our laws and facilitate commerce.
Our current government clearly has strayed far from this vision. Some of its evolution has been necessary, but much of it isn’t and today betrays the vision of our Founders and contributes to the problems that plague our country today.
Everyone, regardless of political affiliations, surely recognizes that today our government tries to do too much — micromanaging nearly every aspect of our society, from our businesses, to our healthcare system to our schools and infrastructure — and no longer does much of anything very well.
This government overreach has become an open door for corruption, as the politically connected are able to carve out special laws and regulatory fiats that help them, and hurt others. That’s not how our country was supposed to work.
Our federal government spending is responsible for about 20 percent of our country’s gross domestic product. States and localities control almost another 20 percent. This means that our private-sector is being squeezed, and many are finding the American Dream more and more difficult to achieve. Some hope that government can solve their problems. With so many Americans suffering in our stalled economy, with too few jobs, stagnant pay and rising prices, it’s no wonder they want government to come to their aid.
Yet the problem is that government isn’t Santa Claus and can’t just put goodies in our stockings. As government provides more support — new entitlements, expanded benefit payments, more money for this corporation or that interest group, a bigger bureaucracy — it must take that money and those resources from taxpayers. People are not only left with less money in their paychecks, but less economic opportunity everywhere.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Our Founders envisioned an effective, fair government that relied on Americans to make our country strong and compassionate. We can restore this vision, by encouraging greater entrepreneurship, job creation and economic growth, while maintaining a system that protects our most vulnerable citizens.
I hope you find a copy of the Constitution in your stocking this Christmas, and will use it as a guide as you evaluate our political debates and decisions during the coming year.