When I studied the U.S. Constitution in school, I learned that for a bill to become law it first had to be introduced in either the House or the Senate. Today, a cynic might say for a bill to become law a member of Congress must first be introduced to a lobbyist.
Much of government's dysfunction, cost and overreach can be traced to the abandonment of the constitutional boundaries the Founders put in place for the purpose of controlling the lust for power. In his new book, The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic, Mark R. Levin asserts the U.S. government isn't performing up to standards established by the Founders because, like a flooding river, politicians have breached their constitutional limits.
Levin, who graduated with honors and a law degree from Temple University and who hosts a popular syndicated radio talk show, believes "The nation has entered an age of post-constitutional tyranny" resulting in this attitude by our leaders: "The public is not to be informed but indoctrinated, manipulated and misled."
Before this is dismissed as the ranting of a far-right extremist, consider the case Levin builds: The executive branch has assumed for itself "broad lawmaking power," creating departments and agencies that contravene the doctrine known as separation of powers; Congress creates monstrosities like Obamacare that have no constitutional origin, spending the country into record debt and making America dependent on foreign governments, especially China; the judiciary consists of men and women who are "no more virtuous than the rest of us and in some cases less so, as they suffer from the usual human imperfections and frailties." And yet they make decisions in the name of the Constitution that cannot be defended according to the words of the Founders, who believed the judiciary should be the least powerful and consequential branch of government. In Federalist No. 78, Alexander Hamilton wrote that the judiciary branch would be the weakest of the three because it had "no influence over either the sword or the purse. ... It may truly be said to have neither FORCE nor WILL, but merely judgment."
Who can credibly disagree with Levin when he writes: "What was to be a relatively innocuous federal government, operating from a defined enumeration of specific grants of power, has become an ever-present and unaccountable force. It is the nation's largest creditor, debtor, lender, employer, consumer, contractor, grantor, property owner, tenant, insurer, health-care provider and pension guarantor."
To return America to its constitutional boundaries, Levin proposes a series of "liberty amendments" to the Constitution, beginning with one limiting the terms of congressmen so they might avoid the bipartisan virus that infects even some who believe in limited government, mutating them into power-hungry influence seekers with little regard for the public good.
Another amendment would establish term limits for Supreme Court justices. "The point is," argues Levin, "that the Framers clearly intended to create intrinsic limitations on the ability of any one branch or level of government to have unanswered authority over the other."
Another amendment would establish spending limits for the government. Another would grant states the authority to check Congress.
Levin admits these amendments are unlikely to win congressional approval because in Washington power is not willingly relinquished. That's why he proposes the states bypass Congress, as the Framers provided, and pass these amendments themselves. As Levin notes, "Article V (of the Constitution) expressly grants state legislatures significant authority to rebalance the constitutional structure for the purpose of restoring our founding principles should the federal government shed its limitations, abandon its original purpose and grow too powerful, as many delegates in Philadelphia and the state conventions had worried it might."
Americans who care about the health and future of their country have the power through the states to force the federal government to abide by its founding document. Mark Levin's book is a serious work that can serve as an action plan for curing what ails us.
What's needed is less focus on Washington and more on state capitals where legislators are more likely to be responsive to the demands of "we the people."
(Readers may e-mail Cal Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org.)