As I’ve traveled the country over the past many months, I have been known on occasion to ask crowds, given what’s going on in Washington, DC, if they want a Revolution. Now that I am a declared candidate for president, I’ve tried to cut down on the references to revolution – with the amount of travel I do, it would be really inconvenient to end up on a government watch list.
But as we celebrate Independence Day, it is entirely appropriate to consider the possibility that we need another Declaration of Independence. There’s nothing wrong with the old one. I just think we perhaps need another one.
While the list of grievances that prompted the original Declaration was quite long, and included much that doesn’t apply — yet — when it comes to our relationship with our own federal government, there are a couple that jump off the page when you look at them today.
Consider this: Much of the motivation behind the Declaration of Independence in 1776 stemmed from repressive taxation. The Tea Act, the Stamp Act…..we all remember the history lesson. What we sometimes forget, though, is what brought those taxes about: Britain was heavily in debt. Much of that debt was the consequence of having engaged in several costly wars in a short period of time – including the French and Indian War.
Lacking financing options, Britain turned to taxing the Colonies to erase the red ink – justifying it in part on the basis that the colonists were made more secure by that war. With a debt ceiling about to be breached and the government’s financing options becoming more limited, and some of the rhetoric we are hearing from the White House and others, does that scenario sound familiar or what?
Also chief among the grievances which prompted the Declaration was the chronic abuse by monarchy in Britain of its right to “Assent to Laws”. Laws passed by the colonies, before they could take effect or be enforced, had to be “assented” to by the Crown – and the Crown used that right to block the colonies from governing themselves and adapting their own laws to their own needs, innovations and best interests.
While the governance structure is a little different, is there any real dispute that our federal government has quite successfully created its own right of “Assent” in far too many areas of our lives and economy? Go to any state in the union, and you will find innovations, ideas and priorities that have the support of the legislature or governor, but which are blocked by the Feds. Health care, Medicaid, highway construction, gun rights, education, drug laws – the list goes on and on of issues in which the states are not even remotely free to act without the permission of an all-knowing federal government. Just this week, the Department of Justice once again reminded the states that implementing medicinal marijuana laws could bring the full weight of the federal government down on them. All across the country, states are having to submit health care and Medicaid plans to Washington for permission to innovate, save money, and fashion programs that might actually work without bankrupting us.
Let there be no mistake; our government in Washington has done a masterful job of reestablishing the right to Assent of Laws. We may not have to wait for the King’s blessing any more, but if you are a governor or state legislature, just try doing something innovative or important with the Assent of Washington.
And of course, there is whole notion of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Washington’s interference in those would require a book.
Yes, perhaps the time has come for a new Declaration of Independence – or at least a refresher course on the old one. The good news: As I travel the land and talk with Americans of all political persuasions and walks of life, it is clear that the same spirit of independence, the same desire for liberty, and the same willingness to push back against over-reaching government that created this great nation is alive and well today.
Americans are once again demanding Independence – and I am confident we will once again prevail.