Amendment X – The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or the people.
– The United States Constitution
Ever heard of the 10th Amendment? It was put in the U.S. Constitution by the founding fathers to protect us from a run away federal government. The Constitution clearly and deliberately delegates the authority that is allocated to the federal government. Everything else falls to either state or local government and allows the will of the citizens to be the deciding factor in many aspects of the law. The idea being that local and state governments would be better able to determine community needs than the federal government.
Why were the founding fathers so intent on delineating state and federal government? Probably because many of them or their families had left Europe to escape oppressive governments or monarchies that thought they knew what was best for everyone on all issues from religion to taxes. By limiting the scope of the federal government they were creating a union of sovereign states that allowed for unique differences based on the desires of each states’ population.
“The powers delegated to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the state governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, [such] as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce. The powers reserved to the several states will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people.” James Madison, The Federalist
Continuous over reaching by the federal government for the last twenty years is causing a backlash at the state level. The movement for state sovereignty has gained momentum because the balance of power has tilted too far and for too long in the direction of the federal government. These bills are not political statements of independence. They are a rejection of the increasing cost of unfunded mandates being placed upon the states by the federal government. Currently, there are at least 30 states with bills before their state legislatures. As out of control federal spending increases, so do the odds of some of these sovereignty bills passing in the next year.
Last week just in time for April 15th and the Tax Day Tea Parties that had been announced, the Department of Homeland Security released a report that detailed the department’s concerns about increased security threats from “right wing extremists”. One of the ideologies warned about in the report was … states’ rights. Contrary to rumors most supporters of states’ rights are not interested in secession or avoiding their tax obligations but rather restoring the appropriate balance (as defined by the Constitution)
between states and the federal government. Make no mistake those in power at the federal level are not in favor of reducing the size and scope of Washington’s authority. As this movement gains momentum expect increased friction and fighting over this important issue.
More things to consider as this story unfolds…..
“Right wing extremists” are not the problem – radical legislators and activist judges are a bigger threat. A threat that the founding fathers anticipated, so they provided no Constitutional power for Congress to override state laws. Also if they really intended to give Congress the authority to act in the interest of the “general welfare,” why would Article I, Section 8, have been included ? Keep in mind, it also did not give the judicial branch unlimited jurisdiction over the states.
The Tenth Amendment was written after the Constitutional was ratified. It was added to reinforce that the states remained individual and unique sovereignties and as such, were empowered in areas that the Constitution did not delegate to the federal government. Therefore, any federal attempt to legislate beyond the Constitutional limits of Congress’ authority is a usurpation of state sovereignty making it illegal.
As the Administration and the Congress make plans for massive bailouts and expanded social programs, state governments are wondering where the money will come from. If they don’t comply they can lose federal funding and if they do, many of these programs come with long strings that result in unfunded obligations for the states. Reasserting their sovereignty maybe the only way to take a stand.
“The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government — lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.” — Patrick Henry
“With respect to the two words ‘general welfare,’ I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators.” — James Madison