Constitution Day

Misunderstanding The Constitution And Poverty: A Real Connection

Today is the 223rd anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution, know as Constitution or Citizenship Day. Not surprisingly, polls are finding that a vast majority of Americans are woefully under-educated about the Constitution and its principles. One poll found two-thirds of Americans admit they don't have a clue what our nation’s foundational document says. This extraordinary failure of our education system is having a devastating impact on our society and culture. Not understanding the basic principles of our government, its duties and the restrictions our Founding Fathers placed on it, is at least partially responsible for the mess we now have in Washington, D.C. Blame the politicians, yes. But the fact remains that as long as Americans continue to vote for people like President Barack Obama, whose vision for our nation is thoroughly alien to that which our Founders created and to what the constitution actually states — as illustrated by his vast expansion of government — we are going to continue to get what we deserve.

One simple way to reconnect with our founding principles is to read the U.S. Constitution, which we highly encourage, especially on this anniversary day each year. Click here to read it if you haven't in a while. To see what one group is doing to improve constitutional literacy, and how you can help, click here.

Also on the front page of many newspapers today are reports that the poverty rate in the United States, to no one's surprise, has risen. Of course, most of the articles quote left-leaning politicians or think tanks that are quick to blame the government for not doing enough to take care of people in need. Unfortunately, because so many Americans don't know what our constitution says, or what our Founders meant by what it says, the message that "the government needs to do more" often finds support.

What the articles don't mention is that, according to the Heritage Foundation, "since the beginning of the War on Poverty, the U.S. has spent $15.9 trillion on means-tested welfare. And today, spending on welfare programs is 13 times greater than it was in 1964." Yet poverty continues to rise.

The articles choose to ignore the far more dramatic impact that family fragmentation and out-of-wedlock births have on poverty. For example, "children born to single mothers . . . are five times more likely to live in poverty than children born to married parents. Today, over 40 percent of children are born outside wedlock, and the numbers are particularly devastating for Hispanics (51.3 percent) and African-Americans (71.6 percent)." Marriage drops the probability of child poverty by an astonishing 82 percent.

We conservatives often are accused of focusing on "divisive" social issues such as marriage and abortion at the expense of "more important" issues like the economy and poverty. But it is, in fact, our concern about those in poverty that requires us to do more to promote and strengthen marriage. We can choose to continue down the route we've been following since 1964 and apply band-aid solutions after the fact, or we can do the hard work of providing the only long-range solution to poverty — stable marriages and families.

One Group's Mission: Improve Constitutional Literacy

Taking a page out of the 40 Days For Life playbook — by its own admission — WeReadThe Constitution.com, a project of Let Freedom Ring, is advancing the constitutional literacy of Americans one neighborhood, one community, one city and county at a time. The organization is promoting the reading of the U.S. Constitution in groups large and small, in public places and private homes, throughout the nation on September 18, the first Saturday after Constitution Day (September 17). Its Web page includes an interactive map which locates areas where such gatherings are taking place and for people to make known their own events. The idea is to increase its presence throughout the country each year on Constitution Day to encourage further understanding of the constitution and the limits on federal power it contains. In fact, just reading the constitution in one sitting — it takes about an hour, including all 27 amendments — makes it clear that the founding document was written to protect individual liberty by strictly limiting the authority of the national government. 

If We Read The Constitution can replicate the growth and effectiveness of what 40 Days For Life has had on the pro-life movement, where the numbers of people who silently pray in front of abortion centers for 40 days have grown exponentially over the last three years, the day will be soon when Americans will have a full understanding of the our blue print of self-governance. That, in turn, may finally lead to a Congress, courts and president that understand such limits.

Right now, there are 96 such events registered at WeReadTheConstitution.com, including six in Virginia: Alexandria, Arlington, Centreville, Gainesville, Locust Grove and Purcellville. That's a good start, but we wish there were more and encourage Virginians to, as we did in framing the constitution, and as we are in defending it now, to lead in a rebirth of its understanding. So, if at all interested, please get involved and organize an event. With the Internet and a week still to go, it doesn't take much to get one started — and an important movement rolling.

People interested in learning more or who want to get involved may, in addition to visiting its Web site, contact Peter Knickerbocker at 540-775-2332 or at peter@lfrusa.com for more information.