One Hero In Congress Deserves Our Gratitude

Today, Treasury Secretary Geithner, and Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke testified before a House of Representatives, Financial Services Committee hearing, called to investigate the AIG bonuses.

While several members used the hearings as yet another opportunity to perform for the cameras, expressing sanctimonious indignation, one member, Michelle Bachman of Minnesota asked questions that every member should have asked.  At the bottom of this post is a five minute video of her exchanges with Geithner and Bernanke.

First, she asked if the government is “making an historic shift,  jettisoning free market capitalism in favor of centralized government economic planning.” Secretary Geithner said not to worry, that the government was using authority Congress gave it.

Then Ms. Bachman focused on what should be the central question on the mind of every Congressman and Senator. At 48 seconds into the video she began to question Mr. Geithner on Constitutional authority:

REP BACHMAN: What provision in the Constitution can you point to, to give authority for the actions that have been taken by the Treasury Dept. since march of 08?

SECRETARY GEITHNER: oh…uh…well, the congress legislated, in The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act a range of very important new authorities…

REP BACHMAN: Sir, in the Constitution.  What in the constitution could you point to, to give authority to the Treasury for the extraordinary actions that have been taken?

SECRETARY GEITHNER: Every action of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve and the FDIC has been using authority granted by this body, by this body, the congress

REP. BACHMAN: And in The Constituiton what could you point to?

SECRETARY GEITHNER: Under the laws of the land, of course.

That answer, “under the laws of the land” was truly lame, and unworthy of  a fourth grader, let alone a senior government official. If the Constitution authorized the federal government to give or loan or invest money in private banks and insurance companies and other businesses, Secretary Geithner should have been able to cite the clause, where that authority appears.  In fact, no such authority does appear, anywhere in the Constitution.

Representative Bachman deserves emails and letters of appreciation and thanks from all Americans for focusing attention on this qustion.  Most of the actions of the Congress, the Treasury Depatrment, and the Federal Reserve since the Big Bailout began in September have been Unconstitutional.

Sadly, we live in a time when most politicians are either unfamiliar with the Constitution, or just don’t care what it says, unless of course they suffer personally from some action of government.  But the Constitution was written to put restraints on government, to authorize it to perform just a few functions, and to leave all other functions to the states or to The People.

Representative Bachman then asked Chairman Bernanke the same question, regarding the Constitution.  His answer, in part was:

The Congress has the right to authorize funds, which is what they did in The TARP program…

This answer is often given by those who wish to ignore the Constitution’s restraints on government.  It’s true that the Congress is empowered to authorize funds, but only to pay for legitimate, Constitutionally authorized functions. Brenanke’s answer, implying that anything and everything is permitted by the Constitution, as long as the Congress authorizes the funds to pay for it, has been used to justify thousands of Unconstitutional government programs, regulations, and restrictions on liberty.

The Constitution does specifically provide government with the means to deal with companies that become insolvent and cannot meet their obligations:  Bankruptcy Court.  That’s where AIG, Citibank, Bank of America, General Motors, Chrysler, and a several Wall Street firms should be today.   In bankruptcy court a company like AIG is dismantled, the parts that are valuable are sold to third parties and the proceeds are used to repay as much of the  debts and obligations as possible.  It’s a brutal process and reditors and investors usually end up with less than 10% of what they are owed.  But the pain is limited to those who, by their own choice, were  directly involved.

The Bottom Line

Both the Bush and Obama Administrations have chosen to ignore and violate the Constitution.  They have borrowed enormous sums in the name of the taxpayers in order to save companies and financial institutions that became insolvent, from the Constitutionally provided process of bankruptcy.  The cost to the taxpayer is likely to exceed Two Trillion Dollars.  The Federal Reserve is printing Trillions of new Dollars.   This will eventually bring on a round of inflation, diminishing the value of the savings, pensions and life insurance.  It’s time for The People to rise up and protest, to demand that their elected representatives and their government obey the Constitution.

4 Comments so far

  1. Handy1584 on March 25th, 2009

    How could a 220 year-old document, written for a small agricultural nation of thirteen states apply to today’s immense, modern highly industrialized society?

    The rigid interpretation Ms. Bachman seems to want ignores the flexibility built into the Constitution.

    The framers knew that they could not possibly plan for every circumstance or situation, so they provided methods by which the Constitution and its laws could be modified as society grew and changed.

    That is why our Constitution is known as a “living constitution,” one which can adapt and be flexible as necessary.

    There are three ways in which the Constitution is a “living” document: the formal amendment process; the informal amendment process; and custom, usage, and tradition.

    Article V details how amendments are added. This part of the living constitution has been a useful tool by which Congress may enact an amendment.

    Informal amendments are by legislation passed by Congress, by executive orders, and by court decisions. Congress has the power to pass whatever legislation it can within its restraints.

    The President can use executive agreements in dealing with foreign affairs and powers.

    Throughout the nation’s history, court decisions have had a great influence over the emergence of new laws, practices, or interpretations. They have changed the course of key issues and have existed as an important check on the legislative branch by the judicial branch.

    Informal amendments have played decisive roles in the evolution of the government, even directing which path shall be followed into the future.

    Custom, usage, and tradition are the ways the government reacts to new circumstances. We can’t be pinned down to old customs as our society evolves.

    Michell Bachman and this Boomerjeff are simply ignorant and do not understand Constitutional law.

  2. Sarah Livingston on March 25th, 2009

    That living constitution theory is nothing but b.s. It’s a way for socialists to get around the clear, meaning of the words in the Constitution.

    This nation was founded on some “rigid” (in your words) principles that were not supposed to change or “evolve” over the centuries. We’re living through the disaster right now of not sticking to the meaning of the Constitution.

  3. Frisky on March 25th, 2009


    I don’t remember reading any “informal” amendment process in my copy of the Constituion. Are you talking about the US Constitution?

    Where does it say in the Constitution that it will be AMENDED by “custom usage and tradition?” I didn’t see that either.

    Before the Brown decision in 1954 segregated schools were customary and traditional. Was the court wrong to rule segregation unconstitutional and violate custom and tradition?

    You are seriously confused, Bub!

  4. aaa again on March 26th, 2009

    Looks like Handy read the Wikipedia version of constitutional history. Lots of anecdotes. Almost no serious argumentation.