Editorial

The constitutional ignorance of Jesse Jackson, Jr.

Upon being sworn in, each newly elected member of the House of Representatives and the Senate must take an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States …”  Sadly, for at least some of these 535 members, that initial oath may be the last time they actually focus on the Constitution. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., an eight-term Democrat from Illinois, appears to fall into this category.

In an interview just last week with The Daily Caller, Jackson displayed his constitutional ignorance for all to see.

The comments came in the context of an interview about President Barack Obama’s latest “jobs” package. When asked what steps the White House should take to get the economy moving, Jackson launched into a surreal, almost incoherent analysis comparing opposition to the administration’s “American Jobs Act” to an act of “rebellion.” He then asserted that a president can ignore the Constitution, order the government to override congressional action and do whatever he deems necessary to “solve” the economic problems facing the country.

Playing off earlier comments by Obama that the administration may try to find ways to implement certain parts of the American Jobs Act despite congressional opposition, Jackson next told The Daily Caller, “President Obama tends to idealize — and rightfully so — Abraham Lincoln, who looked at states in rebellion and he made a judgment that the government of the United States, while the states are in rebellion, still had an obligation to function. On several occasions now, we’ve seen, quite frankly, the Congress is in rebellion, determined, as Abraham Lincoln said, to wreck or ruin at all costs.” In Jackson’s view, just as Lincoln was justified in assuming extraordinary — many would say, unlawful — powers to save the union at the outset of the Civil War, Obama is justified in doing so to save the country from economic collapse.

Jackson offered his own preposterous plan for the White House to consider — an $800 billion-plus direct “stimulus” program, under which the federal government would directly hire some 15 million unemployed Americans at an average “salary” of $40,000 apiece. His proposal also included more than $200 billion to bail out cities and states for their prior bad economic decisions.

Jackson’s economic position is as astoundingly absurd as his constitutional ignorance. The federal government has been running massive budget deficits in excess of $1 trillion in each of the last three years. In the real world, of course, it is obviously nonsensical to propose that the way to increase government revenues is to spend hundreds of billions of borrowed dollars to hire millions of people so those hires will then return a percentage of their “earnings” back to the government in taxes. But, in the world in which Obama, Jackson and other big-government liberals operate, such analysis passes for pure genius.

The fact that the Congress would not have authorized such expenditures through the appropriations process — as required explicitly by the Constitution — is of little, if any, concern to Jackson.

An eight-term member of Congress proposing such a scheme as this (and with a straight face, even), which is blatantly at odds with even the most basic understanding of how our government is required to operate under the Constitution, is indeed troubling. The fact that a sitting president appears to be perhaps considering supporting such a plan, however, is truly frightening. It is manifest evidence that, 222 years after that magnificent document became the template for our republic, there are powerful leaders in both the legislative and executive branches of the federal government who hold the Constitution in deep disdain.

Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He provides regular commentary to Daily Caller readers.