House Republicans will read aloud the Constitution Thursday in a gesture to fundamentals and, one hopes, they will listen to the words they recite.
Take, for example, the preamble to the 4,543-word document written in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787. It doesn't grant powers but contains guiding principles.
We the People of the United States, ...
That means all of the people, not just some of them. It means acting on behalf of the wishes of a majority of citizens, rather than special interests such as health-care insurers and other campaign donors.
One of the first steps by Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) and his new GOP majority will be to vote on a full repeal of the health-care law approved last year. It's high on the tea-party agenda, but less than one-third of the public supports this move.
A majority favors some changes to the law, while about four in 10 citizens want to keep it as is. That's hardly a mandate for dismantling a law that provides health-care coverage for people regardless of their job status or ability to pay. And many of the lawmakers eager to take away health insurance for other people wouldn't dream of giving up their own taxpayer-funded Cadillac plan.
... in Order to form a more perfect Union, ...
The framers of the Constitution were wise in so many ways, but today we would call this particular phrase "spin." The Founding Fathers knew the national government they created wasn't perfect, thus their effort to make it better.
The nation has been at work perfecting the Constitution ever since. There have been 27 amendments, among them those recognizing African Americans as citizens (1868), allowing Congress to impose income taxes (1913), and giving women the right to vote (1920). Tea-party literalism aside, the Constitution rightly evolves with society's needs.
... establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, ...
Prosperity and fairness are the themes. In spite of GOP criticism of President Obama's economic recovery measures, they are working. The U.S. private sector added nearly 300,000 jobs in December, the most in a decade. Attempts to unravel this momentum would be foolish.
... and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
The final principle, liberty for future generations, includes fiscal responsibility. But the new House majority is advocating budget rules that make it easier to run up more deficits.