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PBS Constitutional Road Trip: Smooth Ride with a Few Bumps
Posted By Julia Shaw On May 10, 2013 @ 12:30 pm In First Principles | Comments Disabled
This week, PBS premiered part one of a four-part series on the Constitution . In it, Peter Sagal, host of NPR’s Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, rode around America astride a decked-out flag motorcycle to investigate the Constitution in modern America. And the first leg of his journey was surprisingly good.
With a backdrop of spacious skies, amber waves of grain, and purple mountain majesties, Sagal highlights the vitality of the Constitution, exploring federalism in our unique republic .
Some great highlights:
But there are problems with Sagal’s presentation.
First, he admits that our Constitution limits the federal government, but he can’t exactly say what those limits are. Take federal regulations.
Sagal reveals that they are overwhelming and often absurd. Regulations call milk “oil” (when spilled) and allow only licensed dentists to transport dentures (which could theoretically keep Grandma from taking a Sunday drive).
But he never ponders whether the regulations are suitable for self-governing citizens or are steadily transforming us into subjects of an administrative state . Nor does he address the greatest problem with federal regulations: that they are laws made by unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats .
Instead Sagal asks: “Is the federal government going too far, or do these regulations serve a purpose?” This is a false dichotomy. Regulation may indeed have a legitimate purpose yet still be beyond the delegated powers of government.
Second, Sagal celebrates the big things that only a federal government can do. He makes much of the Hoover Dam, an impressive project completed during the Great Depression. But he never asks why today’s federal government can’t build anything like it.
Last year, columnist Charles Krauthammer  challenged readers: “Name one thing of any note created by Obama’s Niagara of borrowed money. A modernized electric grid? Ports dredged to receive the larger ships soon to traverse a widened Panama Canal? Nothing of the sort.” All he could think of was Solyndra.
Today’s federal projects, from Boston’s “Big Dig”  to D.C.’s Capitol Visitors Center  to the Air Force’s tanker program , take years longer than expected and cost substantially more than they’re budgeted for. A government truly limited by the Constitution would be smaller and much more effective.
But let’s cut Sagal some slack. The Constitution is vital, vast, and deeply engrained in our way of life. And he has miles to go and three episodes left to find something the Constitution forbids.
Article printed from The Foundry: Conservative Policy News Blog from The Heritage Foundation: http://blog.heritage.org
URL to article: http://blog.heritage.org/2013/05/10/pbs-constitutional-road-trip-smooth-ride-with-a-few-bumps/
URLs in this post:
 Image: http://blog.heritage.org/wp-content/uploads/Pete-Sagal.jpg
 four-part series on the Constitution: http://www.pbs.org/tpt/constitution-usa-peter-sagal/home/
 exploring federalism in our unique republic: http://www.pbs.org/tpt/constitution-usa-peter-sagal/federalism/
 flush toilets: http://blog.heritage.org/2011/03/02/low-flush-toilets-the-san-francisco-treat/
 the Father of the Constitution: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2013/04/james-madison-father-of-the-constitution
 steadily transforming us into subjects of an administrative state: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2012/04/why-congress-must-confront-the-administrative-state
 that they are laws made by unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2012/12/from-administrative-state-to-constitutional-government
 columnist Charles Krauthammer: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-case-against-reelection/2012/08/09/c64ce76c-e250-11e1-98e7-89d659f9c106_story.html
 Boston’s “Big Dig”: http://www.nbcnews.com/id/3769829/ns/us_news/t/bostons-big-dig-opens-public/#.UYqFbbXvt8E
 D.C.’s Capitol Visitors Center: http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2008/11/11/congress-unveils-stunning-new-capitol-visitor-center--late-and-over-budget
 Air Force’s tanker program: http://www.airforcemag.com/MagazineArchive/Pages/2010/September%202010/0910issbf.aspx
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