It has become popular to say the US Constitution is" outdated." Politicians in Washington have stated more than once that they won't let it get in the way of their plans. And many people appeal to the American Voter's compassionate side to claim that "someone must do something," which is often synonymous to a campaign to increase the size of the Federal Government, and the amount of tax and debt it collects.
When I ask those that tell me that the Constitution is outdated, what exactly it is that doesn't apply to governance today, they usually say something about modern technology, but they can't point to anything in the Constitution, because they don't seem to have read it. The Constitution does not govern technology. It governs government. It lays out responsibilities and authority of various branches and levels of government. It spells out how it can be changed, if such a change is needed.
"The power under the Constitution will always be in the people. It is entrusted for certain defined purposes, and for a certain limited period, to REPRESENTATIVES of their own choosing; and whenever it is executed contrary to their interest, or not agreeable to their wishes, their SERVANTS can, and undoubtedly will, be recalled." George Washington
It is a living document, not because it can be changed at the whims or "interpretation" of a politician or judge, but because it affords a method of amendment, which has been used 27 times, the last of which took 201 years to be ratified. It is written in clear, precise, simple English. You don't need a law degree to understand it. At worst, you may need a dictionary from the 18th Century and perhaps a High School Diploma. Shall and Shall not are rarely used today, but they offer no room for loopholes.
The Constitution is first and foremost the blueprint for how the Federal Government is established. It creates the US House of Representatives and the US Senate and gives Congress the greatest list of powers; to declare war, to raise Armies, to maintain a Navy, to write laws, to raise revenue, and to spend that money. It establishes the Executive Branch, which is to preside over the government and do the day to day business of the Nation, but limits the authority of the President to that which the Representatives of the People authorize. It establishes the Judiciary, whose responsibility is rule accordingly to the law & the Constitution, not empathy or politics, in matters of dispute.
To simplify the 4 original pages of the US Constitution into an ideology of governance, it says that the Federal Government has responsibility for external affairs, and for affairs between the States, while the States have responsibility for governance within their borders. It sets up various mechanisms to prevent the Federal Government from punishing or rewarding regions or states, and to maintain a level playing field.
The Bill of Rights was written and ratified almost immediately. It re-iterates the principles of the Declaration of Independence and primacy of State Governments in the governance of the People. The Bill of Rights were necessary because although the Founders had previously stated the Rights of the People to Freedom, as a Right given by God, not man, the Founders knew that if these Rights weren't spelled out and guaranteed, some politician wanting total power would usurp the God Given Rights of the Individual.
Again, I ask, What were they thinking? Did they not know that the People would want Education and Health Care? Why didn't they give such authority to the Congress? Why did they make States, not Congress & the President, the governors of Americans? Why did they restrict the Federal Authority to external affairs?
They didn't know exactly how future politicians would attempt to expand their own powers, but they had no doubt they would. They knew politicians would lie, but they respected the intelligence of the People to see through those lies, and provided a mechanism for correcting gross errors if a charismatic dictator charmed them out of their rights, in the form of the Electoral College and Impeachment proceedings. It required that anyone holding the Office of President swear to protect the US Constitution.
Throughout the First Century of American Freedom, the States retained the majority of their authority, though it was also marred with attempts to create economic barriers in Southern Ports and led to a Civil War, later portrayed as a moral question of Slavery. Lost in revisionist history is that the Southern States were already establishing plans to abolish slavery and that it was the North that were the last to abolish practice.
As the 20th Century was born, the movement to abolish alcohol gained momentum and popularity, but there were two barriers at the National level. One was that the Constitution afforded no authority for Congress to do so and the second was that taxing alcohol was the primary source of revenue for the Federal Government. It took a man on a mission, with no care for party, to overcome the logjam of opposition to abolition. He instituted smear campaigns against any politician that opposed prohibition, funded propaganda campaigns linking alcohol to enemies and creating monsters of normal men, and funded those politicians that supported prohibition, whether they drank alcohol or not. Counties turned dry at a breakneck pace, but it wasn't a National ban.
It took the 16th Amendment (1913) to convince politicians that the 18th Amendment (1919) was viable. The 16th Amendment allowed the Federal Government to lay a direct income tax on the people, which replaced the primary source of revenue the 18th Amendment removed: tax on alcohol. In between (1913), the 17th Amendment removed the States' Representatives to the Federal Government: Senators chosen by the States. The 17th Amendment put a popular vote who would be Senator, as opposed to the previous system whereby the Elected Representatives of the State Government, who personally knew the politicians sent to Washington, chose the State Representatives to Washington. It still "sounds" good, though it removes the State Representation in the Federal Government, strengthens to Federal politician's position, and weakens the State Legislature.
The 16th Amendment paved the way for the rapid expansion of power and money to the Federal Government. As the politicians could now demand money directly from the population, they saw the amount of money raised rapidly accelerate. Politicians in Washington had a new means to force the State Governments to do their bidding and a new way to convince the electorate to keep them there: Purse Strings. Since the Federal Government now could generate more money than it needed for governing foreign affairs, it began twisting the arms of State Governments, in concert with its power to send the taxes of Californians to the districts of Congressmen in New York.
It may seem counter-intuitive that the States that tax their Citizens the most consistently vote to send people to Congress to increase Federal Spending and Taxes, but if they can wrest more taxes from Texans and Tennesseans, they can get more money from the Federal Government, i.e. the taxes of Tennesseans and Texans, for their own Welfare systems. Some of the most intrusive State Governments in the Nation are New York and California, with the highest tax burdens, highest average incomes, and highest deficits of state government. California is the 8th biggest economy in the world and has one of the highest tax burdens in the Nation and still can't balance its budget, though it has the worst Education system in the Nation.
Politicians learned that if they sent Federal Money, i.e. taxes, to their electoral districts, the voters would respond with votes for them, while companies would line up to buy their votes on sending tax dollars to them as well. It was a win-win. The voters voted for the guy that accepted money from companies, so long as the politicians could show that some of that money was spent hiring people in their district. The voters pay the most in this scenario, but few politicians point to that. Instead they point to the millions or billions they assign from the US Treasury that goes into their district, not the billions or tens of billions they charge for the money, or that companies are willing to spend thousands to millions to keep getting their pets re-elected so they get millions to hundreds of millions from the taxpayer.
There is no authority in the US Constitution for the Federal Government to run the Education system. It is clearly a State Responsibility and Authority, which is managed at the County and Municipal level. Boards of Education are elected at the lowest level and funded primarily through local and state taxes, yet there is a Department of Education at the Federal Level, at the Executive Level. What does it do? It delves out money to those that conform to the dictates of the Executive Branch. Municipalities and Counties can beg it for money, and get it, if they do what the Executive Branch tells it to do. The locally elected Boards of Education must conform to what the Executive Branch says, though they are elected by the citizens of their locale, if they want to get the money back that the Federal Government has taxed of their citizens.
The earliest income taxes were ruled un-Constitutional, but preceded the 16th Amendment. Still Abraham Lincoln was able to run the Civil War with only taxing half the States, and only a small minority of the population, at most 10% of their income. To be subject to his tax, you had to be in the top 3% of the income bracket, and then it was less than today's tax on the lowest income bracket.
What were the Founders thinking? That the Rights of the People superceded the Rights of the States, but that the States were more responsive to the People than was a Federal Government far removed from the People. They were thinking that People would defend Their Liberties, by Vigilance, by their Vote, by their Words, and by fear of Politicians of a well Armed Citizenry.
When you vote against those that would expand the Federal Government, you are voting for politicians that must be more responsive to you. When you vote to prevent the Federal Government from interfering with the Constitutional Authority of the State, you are preserving your Freedom and to Keep YOUR Money at the Local Level. When you vote for Constitution, you are voting for your freedoms, and for your ability to make as much money as you can earn.
Constitutionally, it is legal for Illinois, California, & New York to tax their residents 100% of their income and then to redistribute to every resident an equal income, as well as "free" everything from groceries to a daily nurse visit. If they want to do that, let them, so long as they don't expect the taxpayers of Tennessee to pay for it. It is un-Constitutional, however for Congress to force Tennesseans and Texans to pay for the Health Insurance of Californians or Mexicans, or illegal aliens in California, no matter how altruistic the Californian Voter wishes to pretend to be.
It does not however afford an individual from Illinois, Hawaii, or anywhere else the authority to commit the Nation to a war, not even if a Californian says so, not even if that individual were elected to the highest office in the land. It does not afford that man to get permission from Arabs or Europeans to send Troops into Combat. It requires him to get permission from Congress, from the Representatives of the People, even if the cause is just.
Or as John Dean argued prior to the Authorization by Congress of the War in Iraq:
"But this would be doing indirectly what Congress should do directly -- either declare war, or not. And if Congress does not, and the President proceeds anyway, the President should be taken to task for ignoring the Constitution." CNN August 2002
As the political establishment contemplates another war, only the 3rd in which the President has not attained consent by Congress: Clinton in Kosovo, Obama in Libya, and now Obama in Syria, we must ask who has the authority to send Our Troops to War.
The US Constitution.