Editor's note: This piece was authored by Brion McClanahan.
In case you missed it, and many did, President Barack Obama gave his annual “State of the Union” address last night. All the pageantry, the pomp…the demagoguery, what’s not to watch? In light of President Obama’s promises and agenda, perhaps it would be useful to analyze his address through the lens of the founding generation. After all, they wrote and ratified the Constitution, so they should have a fair understanding about its meaning, powers, and how it should be interpreted.
Obama: “Tonight, I want to speak about how we move forward, and lay out a blueprint for an economy that’s built to last -– an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers, and a renewal of American values.”
Founders: First and foremost, the president does not have the constitutional authority to “lay out a blueprint” for the American economy. He is not legislator-in-chief or the prime minister. He can make “recommendations” as the Constitution states, but that does not involve a legislative agenda.
Obama: “Tonight, I’m announcing the creation of a Trade Enforcement Unit that will be charged with investigating unfair trading practices in countries like China.”
Founders: Where does the Constitution give you such authority? If you want to discuss trade problems, then address that with the Chinese government and present a treaty to the Senate for approval. You do not have unilateral authority over any foreign policy issue.
Obama: “Join me in a national commitment to train 2 million Americans with skills that will lead directly to a job. My administration has already lined up more companies that want to help.”
Founders: Again, Mr. Obama, where can you find the constitutional authority for such activity? There are no delegated powers in the Constitution, either for the congress or the executive to build educational partnerships. That is a state issue.
Obama: “Innovation also demands basic research. Today, the discoveries taking place in our federally financed labs and universities could lead to new treatments that kill cancer cells but leave healthy ones untouched.”