An Underhanded Usurpation Of Popular Sovereignty – Guest Essayist: Nancy Salvato

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Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. Thomas Jefferson Declaration of Independence

Under the Articles of Confederation, the 13 states that made up the United States thought of themselves more as nation states loosely banding together as one country, for the purpose of defending their fragile sovereignty against foreign interests. Soon, a crisis later deemed Shay’s Rebellion, emerged.  Men who put themselves in harm’s way fighting in the American Revolution had their farms confiscated and were thrown into debtor prisons for being unable to pay taxes issued by their government (ironically to pay for the long war). Farmers organized a “resistance in ways similar to the American Revolutionary struggle.” Coined, “Shaysites” (named after their military leader), they were seen by some “as heroes in the direct tradition of the American Revolution, while many others saw them as dangerous rebels whose actions might topple the young experiment in republican government.” This emergency contributed to the determination that our country needed a national government with authority to enforce its power to raise money and defend itself against foreign and domestic threats.

Ensuing debate, however, made it clear that the states would not yield large amounts of control to a single executive who might abuse this privilege.  Instead of creating a strong national government, the US Constitution establishes a federal system of government in which power is to be shared with the states.  Furthermore, instead of having one executive with the power to legislate, enforce, and adjudicate, three branches of government with separated and shared powers were established to check and balance each other. Indeed, the Framers decided to divide the legislative branch into two chambers, the House and the Senate.  Those elected to the Senate were intended to balance state against national interests. Members elected to the House of Representatives were supposed to represent the people on whose popular sovereignty our government’s power rests — thus the nomenclature “people’s house.” The origination clause provides that all money bills are to begin in the House. This is based on the long established practice that there should be “no taxation without representation.”

Sadly, due to the 17th Amendment, the Senate chamber no longer represents state interests due to the election of its members directly by the people rather than being chosen by individual state legislatures.  Additionally, the House has abdicated its responsibility to the people by allowing the Senate to use smoke and mirrors to originate a money bill in its chamber. According to National Review’s George Will,

In October 2009, the House passed a bill that would have modified a tax credit for members of the armed forces and some other federal employees who were first-time home buyers — a bill that had nothing to do with health care. Two months later the Senate “amended” this bill by obliterating it. The Senate renamed it and completely erased its contents, replacing them with the ACA’s contents.

Because of Congress’ lack of public debate on the bill (another abdication of responsibility), the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed before members of either house, let alone the people, actually knew what was in it.  In 2012, the court held that the “shared responsibility payment“, deemed a penalty by the ACA, is “a tax on the activity — actually, the nonactivity — of not purchasing insurance.”

While many await the court’s decision in King v Burwell, as to “whether federal-tax subsidies are available to people who purchase health insurance from exchanges operated by the federal government or instead whether such subsidies are available only from exchanges established by the states,” the question that begs to be heard is why a bill that doesn’t pass the smell test was passed by our congress in the first place.

To recap, in order to pass this landmark legislation, true debate was avoided, the exact legislation was unclear, and it originated in the Senate as an entirely different piece of legislation.  Only an apathetic, uneducated citizenry would allow those elected to the highest offices in the land, to either abdicate their responsibilities to uphold the rule of law or nefariously pursue the ends to justify these means in order to achieve universal health coverage.  During the genesis of our nation, such hubris would have been met with outrage, perhaps even armed resistance. Today, we no longer recognize what would have been deemed tyranny by the founding generations. We idly watch as our popular sovereignty is surreptitiously destroyed.

Nancy Salvato’s education career includes teaching students from pre-k to graduate school.  She has also worked as an administrator in higher education. Her private sector efforts focus on the advancement of constitutional literacy. She attended the National Endowment for the Humanity’s National Academy for Civics & Government, and is the author of “Keeping a Republic: An Argument for Sovereignty.”

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3 replies
  1. Ron
    Ron says:

    We can no longer simply assume that electing a Republican to either House of Congress, or even to the Presidency, will solve our problems. We’ve disregarded “First Principles,” and until “we the people” hold our political leaders to those principles, and pass an amendment to neuter the 17th Amendment, we’ll likely continue in the same state of political, social, and spiritual dysfunction.

    Reply

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