In response to Don Kennedy’s letter, “What does the U.S. Constitution Preamble Really Mean?” (AFN, April 4): It’s pathetic how the Constitution, the Founding Fathers, the flag, and anything resembling patriotism have been so cynically appropriated by conservative extremists in an attempt to bolster their agenda. I must admit that conservative think tanks have done an admirable job of this, but it has begun to grow tiresome. While true, most Americans may not be familiar with every provision of the Constitution, you should not count on that to give you license for self-serving interpretations, or try to give the impression that only conservatives truly understand the document. Or laying claim to having some exclusive, divine insight into what the framers intended.
It would be easy to pick off Kennedy’s points one by one, but for brevity, let’s take his point No 5. The assertion that “Promote the general Welfare” in the preamble really means “ Promote capitalistic freedom.” First of all, to narrow this very broad ideal to just “capitalistic freedom” or capitalistic freedom above all else is problematic. Yes, we are all for economic freedom, but there are limits. And if we are going to take liberties with the interpretation, I’d say “Promote the general Welfare” would have much stronger, logical connections to such things as providing universal health care, protecting the environment, funding public education, regulating arms sales, worker safety, child labor, etc. The general Welfare. Not the CEO Welfare. All things that can and have conflicted with unfettered capitalism. So, what’s it gonna be? What assertion are you making?
OK, for the sake or argument, let’s say that “capitalistic freedom,” whatever that really means, was literally a stand-alone provision in the preamble, right there in black and parchment. Let’s not kid ourselves that “freedom” means we have a level economic playing field where everyone plays by the same rules and gets the same breaks. Take our tax laws. How does a working class person who pays ordinary income tax compete with someone whose investments in the millions grow exponentially, and roll over every year virtually tax-free? Investments that are not taxed until cashed in, little by little, and then only at a much lower, capital gains rate. That sounds to me like wealth flowing toward the wealthy, not away from them. So, “redistribution of wealth” has been occurring all along, but not in the direction you claim. But conservatives have “branded” the term to mean the oppression of the “job creators” (or given how few jobs have been created under the Bush tax cuts, maybe the more apt term is “hoarders”). A tactic to ensure that even a “compromise” solution tilts the field even further.
And there are those who would like to keep it that way. “Nonpartisan” shadow groups such as ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) back certain, mostly Republican state legislators with corporate money for that very purpose. More specifically, to direct taxpayer money to private enterprise — from public to charter schools, from state-run universities to for-profit colleges, to for-profit prisons, the list goes on. Sound familiar? Every single Republican in the Arizona Legislature is a member of ALEC. Maybe that explains the bizarre legislation from our “representatives.” Or how these seemingly quite mad local politicians keep getting re-elected in the first place, to everyone’s bafflement. It’s no small wonder that our Legislature still has not passed any bills requiring reporting of gifts in the wake of the Fiesta Bowl scandal. Perhaps bowl game junkets were the least of it.
So, Mr. Kennedy, with your state legislators working hard for you, you need not worry about capitalistic freedom. But for all your hard work and letter writing, don’t expect to be invited to join the club. There’s only just so much room at the trough.
Randal J. Jacoby