Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The irony of Constitution Day

Today is Constitution Day. It was on this day in 1787 that the first 39 signatures were placed on the Constitution that had been created.

On December 8, 2004, the Congress of the United States, one branch of the government established by the Constitution, passed a "Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2005" (118 Stat. 2809, 3344-45), establishing Constitution Day in the United States.

In Section 111 of Division J of Pub. L. 108-447, there is a subsection (b) that states:

"[e]ach educational institution that receives Federal funds for a fiscal year shall hold an educational program on the United States Constitution on September 17 of such year for the students served by the educational institution."

So today, just about every school in the nation is, or should be, doing a program of some kind about the Constitution.

I suppose the irony of the law was unrecognized by those members of Congress who voted for this. Where does the federal government get the authority to “mandate that all federal agencies and schools receiving federal funds hold educational programs pertaining to the Constitution on Constitution Day”???

Certainly NOT in the Constitution they’re promoting.

I also find it sad that Congress could find the votes for such a mandate, but cannot muster the courage to pass the Enumerated Powers Act, which would require all legislation passed to include the section of the Constitution which grants them the authority to pass such a law. Of course, if Congress had such an Enumerated Powers Act, we wouldn't have a Constitution Day.

Those points aside, I do think it's a great idea that we focus attention on this historic document that has given us one of the most stable - and free - governments of all time. I just think we should pay attention to its precepts on a daily basis - not just one day out of the year.

If you'd like more information, you can visit The Constitution Center, Constitution Facts or Constitution Day.

10 comments:

gordon gekko said...

What is this constitution you speak of?

Sincerely,

The US Supreme Court

Chuck Greer said...

Another irony: Liberal fascists who think that the Constitution is a living thing, but an unborn fetus is not.

Alexander said...

The requirement looks like a valid conditional grant of federal funds. If the schools don't want to spend a day teaching about the Constitution, they don't have to take the federal funds.

Here is the source of power:

"The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;" Article I, Section 8, Clause 1

The Enumerated Powers Act would show how often Congress uses this section and the Commerce Power to pass legislation that I would call "Constitutional, but frivolous." However, I wouldn't call Constitution Day frivolous.

Tim Higgins said...

Maggie,

It is right and proper that we celebrate the document designed to protect us from our government, now and every day. While we are asking your question on this most auspicious of days however, I would like to add another:

How many of the agencies and institutions receiving federal funds, and making them obligated under this legislation, are doing do under a mandate provided in The Constitution?

The insult added to the injury of this must have the Founding Fathers whrling like dervishes. Perhaps however, while our government celebrates this blueprint of freedom, they will take the time to read it.

Maggie Thurber said...

Alexander: First, Congress has no authority over educational institutions, at least, not according to the Constitution. Further, I'd ask you to show where they have the ability to tax and distribute for such a purpose.

Finally, if anything and everything can be done by the federal government under the guise of 'common good,' what was the point in enumerating the limited powers in the first place?

A Constitution Day isn't frivolous. What is frivolous is the attention only on 1 day of the year, rather than in the daily practice.

Alexander said...

Maggie:

You are correct that there is no provision mandating or enabling Congress to exercise authority directly over educational institutions. For example, Congress could not constitutionally pass a law saying "All public schools must observe Constitution Day in a fashion prescribed by Congress."

On the other hand, it can place conditions on its distributions of funds and say "All public schools must observe Constitution Day in a fashion prescribed by Congress, if they want to receive funds from the Federal Government."

The spending power is limited by all other constitutional limitations on the exercise of the federal governments' power. But I find no provision barring this kind of condition.

South Dakota v. Dole sets forth the current constitutional test for conditional grants of federal funds. 483 U.S. 203, 206, (1987)

http://supreme.justia.com/us/483/203/case.html

Maggie Thurber said...

I agree with you that Congress can put conditions on their funding...but that just leads us back to the question of their ability to tax and distribute such funding in the first place.

There is nothing in the Constitution authorizing Congress to legislate/oversee/run education. In fact, the elimination of the Department of Education used to be a policy position of Republicans. Absent such Constitutional authority, it becomes the purview of the states - solely.

So, the point about conditions on funds is moot if the funds can't be expended in the first place...

Lisa Renee said...

Another moment of irony, I just asked my 14 year old who does have a social studies class if anything was said about what today was.

There was no mention in class about today being Constitution Day...

gordon gekko said...

You're all racists.

I should know because I am.

Sincerely,

Psychological Projection
aka Democrats

gordon gekko said...

Sorry

I meant that comment for you previous post

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