The arrogance of power and an April morning

Terry Garlock's picture

Whether you are liberal or conservative, you should be troubled by the increasingly common power grabs in our nation’s capital.

Maybe the framers of the U.S. Constitution were particularly insightful on human nature when they gave limited, enumerated powers to the federal government and reserved all other powers for the people and the states. I think the framers feared the corrupting influence of power, having just fought a war for independence from a king who created taxes and laws at the stroke of a pen that oppressed British subjects in America.

Today’s American ruling class, if you look closely, seems to ignore those constitutional limitations, doing as they wish. Here are just two small examples.

Elizabeth Warren is President Obama’s pick to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the new bureaucracy created to oversee all of your financial transactions. She is so extremely liberal that Democrats warned the President she may not get past the Senate confirmation process, even in his own Democratic Senate. So the president is circumventing Senate confirmation by planning to call her a presidential assistant and advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury, and having her run the new agency without the requisite title.

The White House might call that clever. I call it an arrogant circumvention of the senate’s constitutional role of advice and consent.

But Republicans are part of the problem, too. Even as Republicans push for extension of the Bush tax cuts beyond their year-end sunset, they join the Democrats in the language that lifts the fig leaf, exposing the thoughts of America’s ruling class for all who are willing to see.

Democrats argue that we should extend the Bush tax cuts for the middle class – thereby pandering to the largest number of voters, by the way – but that we cannot extend tax cuts for the upper income brackets because doing so would cost the government about $750 billion over 10 years. Republicans do their best to counter that sound bite with the revelation that the middle class tax cut extensions favored by Democrats will cost three times as much.

To some it may be a small thing that our elected officials in Washington have an insatiable appetite for our money while refusing to see their excessive spending to be the real problem. They regard the money in your pocket to be theirs, and if they don’t take it from you that would be a “cost” to the government. The arrogance of power must be a potent narcotic.

Consider an important date in American history, April 19, 1775. At dawn about 80 American farmers and merchants with muskets stood to face the oncoming force of 700 British redcoats in Lexington, Mass. Americans Paul Revere, William Dawes and Samuel Prescott worked all night at great risk to raise the alarm that the redcoats were on the march toward Lexington and Concord, where the militia had stored arms.

Ask yourself why a group of frightened amateurs would take up arms to face a vastly larger number of professional soldiers experienced in combat.

Their ancestors had settled the American colonies in unspeakable hardship. Over seven generations the Americans, a rugged and fiercely independent people, had governed themselves even though they were British subjects. The colonies became increasingly important to the crown’s economy as 40 percent of England’s exports were sold in the American colonies.

And then, after all that time, the arrogance of King George III became too much to bear. The lust for owning land in America pushed settlements ever farther west, but the king prohibited further westward expansion. The king imposed a multitude of taxes to raise revenue for England, even taxes on transactions between Americans and foreign merchants in the Caribbean that had nothing whatever to do with the British.

When grumbling brewed in Boston, America’s primary port, the king sent warships to the harbor and thousands of redcoats to occupy the town, where citizens were required to house and feed troops who were there to keep untrustworthy Americans under control.

Slowly the resentment and fury mounted, and when the first Continental Congress convened a meeting among representatives of all the colonies, they had never done anything together before at the time. Before that meeting they were Bostonians, Virginians, Georgians, New Yorkers. Now they were all Americans.

But even so, the very idea of independence was treasonous, and would not gain favor until the next year. The arrogance of power would eventually lead to a war in which a rag-tag, under-equipped, unpaid, ill-fed band of outnumbered soldiers, who had no navy and no chance of defeating the mighty British, did just that.

At Lexington that April morning in 1775, nobody knows who fired the first shot, but it was called “the shot heard ‘round the world.” Why was the first shot of the revolution so important? Because the end result years later was a new system where the government’s powers were enumerated, limited by the people, and the elected leaders gained their authority from the governed.

While the world had always used power to impose a top-down system of governing, America built a bottom-up system, and it spread like wildfire to people hungry to control their own destiny.

It should make little difference whether you are Democrat or Republican as you look at what has happened to the enumerated powers in our constitution, designed by the framers to confine our government to specific and limited roles while the people are responsible for their own destiny.

In Washington such constitutional limitations have long been ignored or shoved aside by trickery or excuses, while our federal government, our betters in Washington, pass mountains of laws and regulations for you and me to follow.

The ruling class dreams up new ways to control us because we cannot be trusted to fend for ourselves, and as they reach into every crevice of our lives, they think of the money in our pocket as theirs to spend – for our benefit of course.

It smells much like King George III to me, and I worry that new generations of Americans don’t value what our forebears fought for, too busy doing the government’s bidding and eagerly taking its handouts.

Maybe the arrogance of power will prevail after all.

[Terry Garlock is a Certified Financial Planner. He lives in Peachtree City and writes columns occasionally for The Citizen. His email is tgarlock@mindspring.com.]