Praise and a Question for Senator Baucus

By Beacon Staff

On July 27, Sen. Max Baucus announced that he was introducing an amendment to our United States Constitution. We should all be very proud and appreciative that our senator does not try and circumvent the Constitution when he sees a problem. Baucus is setting a great example by working within the established procedures when he feels that change is warranted. In an age where hyper-partisanship, invective and hyperbole flies faster than the wind can blow in Havre, there are no excuses for not acknowledging the ideals for which our senator is championing. This country functions best as a meritorious system after all. Well done, senator.

The United States Constitution is indeed worthy of reverence. It, along with the Declaration of Independence and the first 10 amendments known as the Bill of Rights, are the greatest government documents ever written. The best selling book of all time provided the core beliefs and legal infrastructure for our United States Constitution. The original Constitution set up the foundation upon which this new type of government would be constructed. It outlined the three branches of government: executive, legislative and judicial. The rights and responsibilities for running each of these branches have their origins here. The Constitution grants the power for raising revenue to the House of Representatives. If you have ever wondered why “taking or keeping the house” is so important, it is precisely because of this powerful mandate. The list of justifiable expenditures is specifically enumerated here. A few relevant examples follow. The origin for funding the military can be found in the preamble to the Constitution. The obligation of the federal government to fund a border patrol regiment can be found in Article IV Section 4.

It is important to note that the primary focus of the U.S. Constitution was to protect the rights of individual citizens from the inevitable encroachment on those rights by government itself. Limited government is best achieved through a representative republic form of government, which is spelled out in the Constitution. The Declaration of Independence properly enshrines the revolutionary truth that “…we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” The First Amendment, for example, protects our right to free speech regardless of how benign or repugnant the ideas might be. It does not, however, protect people from being offended by what others may say. Also contained in the First Amendment is the right to peaceably assemble, petition for a redress of grievances, and “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The Second amendment continues to focus on the rights of individuals. It protects our right to bear arms. It would be sheer folly to make the case that you are required to purchase a gun because of the Second Amendment. You do not have to buy a gun, but you have the right to do so “…and the right to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Our rights are not conferred by a monarch or a United Nations decree or bestowed by some allegedly benevolent legislative fiat. Nope, in America we know that our rights come from God and that entitlements come from government. The closest that our Constitution gets to “living and breathing” is through the amendment process. Baucus is using that process to right a perceived wrong; and for doing so he should be commended.

Here is the one question that I have for our senator: Where in the United States Constitution can it be interpreted that Congress or the executive branch has the legal authority, complete with threats of fines and imprisonment, to obligate the citizens to purchase a product or service?

Rick Dow lives in Havre.

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