In the April 7th edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer, there was an editorial outlining a method of the government handling the notion of bank’s toxic assets. Without getting into the details, a discussion broke out regarding this notion. One of my co-workers suggested that the government should just step in and dictate the price of these securities. In other words, the government should replace the market. I attempted to explain the concept of contracts, of how the government cannot just rip up contracts and dictate new terms, of how contracts are constitutionally protected. His response was “who cares?” To him, the Consitution is a 200-year-old piece of paper and needs to be changed or ripped up and rewritten.
This co-worker is originally from India, but is now an American citizen. I guess I was wrong to assume that citizenship tests are still given, otherwise he would have known that the Constitution can be changed via amendments. In fact, we have amended the Constitution several times in our existence. Regardless, it is doubtful someone not born and raised in a country that prides itself on the rule of law and of contracts could truly understand their importance. For example, in India, although contracts exist, it takes their court system 2 years on average to resolve disputes versus about three months here in the United States. That is the accepted status quo in India and what is expected in terms of contracts.
As concerns the Constitution, it is perhaps the most remarkable document ever written and framework for a functional government. Those words allow for the rule of law, for the orderly transition of power- something many, many countries cannot claim- and allowing this country to surpass the world in a relatively short period of time. The problem in America today is not that 200 year old piece of paper that should be “ripped up” or “changed.” The problem is citizen and elected leader ignorance of the document bordering on stupidity. When we have a President who can fire the CEO of a major company, when we have unelected Treasury Secretaries dictating compensation to companies and purchasing equity stakes in financial institutions, of making “loans” to businesses then dictating the products they produce, of socializing the health care industry, of federalizing education, and ceding sovereignty to international bodies of every ilk, the the Constitution has been essentially shred, ripped up, and discarded.
If a bank- or ANY business- makes a bad decision, then they need suffer the consequences. If an insurance giant speculates in unregulated securities that backfire on them, the Constitution does not dictate that the government intervene and correct these mistakes on the backs of the taxpayers. The Constitution does grant Congress the power to deal with these possibilities through bankruptcy laws, not through some nefarious reading of the Commerce Clause. Isn’t it ironic that those opposed to the auto bailout were shouted down when they suggested that bankruptcy was the better course of action yet fast forward five months, and that is the very solution now put forth with General Motors.
I told my co-worker that his last name should be Stalin. But I doubt that he- or even the vast majority of Americans- really understand the principles upon which this country was founded. To make a long story short, they were not founded upon socialist principles that operate outside a written, albeit 200 year old, document. Way before Obama secured his party’s nomination, I researched the guy. I became increasingly convinced that he was a socialist, or at least controlled by the far left wing of his party. And the more he spoke and outlined his agenda, I came to the belief that he had much in common with Benito Mussolini as concerned his domestic agenda. I did not realize that there was a little bit of Stalin in there. To hear my good friend originally from India, it would appear he has a lot in common with Obama if these are his solutions also. And by the sounds of it, there are a lot of other people out there who would rip up or ignore the Constitution at the very time we should be most closely adhering to the principles it embodies. If these are the beliefs of the “average American,” then it is less “God bless America” and more “God help America.”