The 10th Amendment and the Joy of Federalism

(or I don’t care how they do things in Massachusetts). 

Note: This piece serves as a continuation and elaboration of Down with the Nanny State!

Ask someone what is the most important amendment to the constitution.  If he were a liberal, he would likely answer “the right to free speech”, the 1st.   If he were a conservative, he would likely answer “the right to keep and bear arms”, the 2nd.  Although all amendments are important (or at least those found in the Bill of Rights), I have another suggestion.  For those who fear the encroachment of an ever-expanding national government, might I recommend the 10th?  Now I know that no one really talks about the tenth anymore, but here it is:

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the State, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Any questions?  I shouldn’t really think so.  It is simple and straightforward. 

But the problem lies in the fact that few these days tend to uphold the amendment.  For example, as written in one of my articles below, consider the Department of Education created in 1979.  Now don’t get me wrong, education is important, but the federal government has absolutely no authority when it comes to education as stated by the United States Constitution.  Now if I’m in error, let me know.  Prove it to me.  If it can be done clearly and without a lot of “promote the general welfare” jargon then I will gladly retract this statement.  

 

How about the arts?  I’m sure you know that we have a National Endowment for the Arts.  Is it constitutional?  Promoting the arts is constitutional, but how so?  In Article One, Section 8, it is written as pertaining to the powers of Congress, “to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”  That is the constitutional limits of the promotion of the arts.  According to the NEA website found at http://www.nea.gov/about/index.html, they write, “The National Endowment for the Arts is a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts, both new and established; bringing the arts to all Americans; and providing leadership in arts education. Established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government, the Endowment is the nation’s largest annual funder of the arts, bringing great art to all 50 states, including rural areas, inner cities, and military bases.”  Well, isn’t that nice…art to one and all?  Agree or disagree with the ideals NEA, which need I remind you has brought us such national treasures as the “Piss Christ” and “The Perfect Moment”, but the simple fact remains that the agency is horribly unconstitutional, plain and simple. 

 

Are there more departments, agencies, and laws out there that exceed the authority of the federal government out there?  I would wager that one could fill a textbook with examples.  If you care to add your own to this article, feel free to comment.

 

Ah, but let us now get to the second part, “The Joy of Federalism or I Don’t Care How They Do Things in Massachusetts.”  Federalism, of course, is the principle of states giving up some portion of their authority to a greater or larger government to achieve specific aims, such as a common defense, creating patents, declaring war, raising armies and so forth.  For all of the specific powers granted to the federal government by the states, I direct you to the Constitution. Although the federal government does not have any power to fund, promote, or mettle in education or the arts, states and, of course, citizens do.   Assuming that it is allowable under their state constitutions and laws, any state can and ought to be involved in these areas should the citizens of the respective states so desire.  Say that the commonwealth of Massachusetts (I select Massachusetts here because I believe many of their traditions, laws, and beliefs are antithetical to our Virginia) wants to offer free education to all of its citizens from grade school to post-graduate.  Believe it or not, I say, let them.  Will the tax burden of the average citizen skyrocket dramatically?  Without a doubt.  But that is the true joy of federalism.  What Massachusetts citizens want, as long as they obey the Constitution and their own laws, they should get.  Another example is mandatory health insurance.  In 2006 the state became the first to require health insurance of its citizens (passed by wacky Gov. “Massachusetts Mitt”).  Is it a horrid idea?  Certainly.  But they have that right to be the “laboratory of Democracy” a phrase used by Robert La Follette.  When other states see Massachusetts’ successes (or, in this case, failures) they will likely either adopt or reject their policies accordingly.  We apply the same principle to other countries, so why not other states.  Now there are caveats to this principle, of course.  If a state seeks to injure, undermine, or destroy, a citizen or another state, or the laws of that state, then certainly the federal government has a constitutional requirement to defend the injured party and ideally preventing the offense in the first place.

 

But let us turn back to liberal Massachusetts.  As stated, with a handful of exceptions, I don’t care how they do things in Massachusetts.  If they succeed, business and citizens will attempt to flock there, but if they fail the opposite will happen.  Heck, I’ll take that idea one further.  I don’t care how they do things in France, or Singapore, or Saudi Arabia.  As we respect the ability of others to govern themselves, so too should they honor our right.  Although many willingly choose to flounder under statism, we must jealously guard our own backyard.  If they, or anyone else, attempt to bring their socialist ideas to Virginia or our national government, we should fight them tooth and nail to defend our state, our country, our values, our culture, and our way of life.  If I wanted to live in a state like Massachusetts, I would move to Massachusetts.  Thanks, but you don’t have to bring it to me.

 

So what is the take home message from this tirade?  Slowly but surely the powers of the federal government have grown at the expense of the states and of ourselves, the citizens.  Whose fault is it?  Without a doubt, it is the unelected and “living Constitution” courts.  It is our weak-kneed or unscrupulous politicians who trade principles for patronage.  But, my friends, it is also ours, for we have remained either ignorant or silent.  I tell you that unless and until we have an informed public who demands that their legislators stand up for a limited and narrow federal government as the Constitution proscribes, the 10th Amendment will lay neglected and the ideal of federalism will wither until the states either become irrelevant or are dissolved.   Let us work to ensure that this dark day never comes.

Forget the Bacon…Bring Home the Pork!

Ah pork, the other white meat.  Of course this article has nothing to do with the pig product, but rather the issue commonly known as pork barrel spending or “pork”.  It is spending designed by a legislator for the benefit of his or her constituents.  Now I would assume that as conservatives, we would be against such a practice as it most often amounts to little more than government-sanctioned theft.  After all, 9 times out of 10, these spending projects exceed the constitutional authority of the government, give a small benefit to a few at the expense of the many, and should have been considered by a state or local government, or better yet, the private sector.  If we were truly capitalists and constitutionalists, I would have a hard time believing the necessity of these special projects.

The “bridge to nowhere” is perhaps the best-known recent pork barrel project.  It was the child of Republican Senator Ted Stevens from Alaska and was designed to replace a ferry, which transported some vehicles to and from the Ketchikan Airport.  The estimated cost was $398 million.  Now I don’t know if you have traveled on a ferry before (I’ve traveled on both the Staten Island ferry in New York and the ferry used to get from Williamsburg to Wakefield, I don’t recall its name.)  I confess that I dislike ferries.  They are slow and you often have to wait some time until they are full.  And yet I would never recommend that the United States Government take money out of my, or any other citizen’s pocket to pay for a replacement bridge.  After all, over 99% of citizens will never use the bridge, and if the demand were sufficient, why wouldn’t the state or tolls pay for its construction.  I seriously doubt I will ever set foot in Alaska, much less use the “bridge to nowhere” (if they ever end up building the thing), so why should I foot the bill? 

How about an example closer to home?  Recently, Virginia’s 5th district congressman Republican Virgil Goode earmarked $98,000 for a walking tour of the town of Boydton.  The first thing you might be thinking is “where in the heck is Boydton?”  Apparently it is about 10 miles, or so, from the North Carolina border in between Emporia and South Boston.  Now it is very likely a lovely place, but does the federal government/your tax dollars need to pay for a walking tour?  According to the 2000 Census, only 454 people live there!  Was that project really necessary?

What about the case of Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina?  As I worked for a number of months in the state, I found that many South Carolinians, especially Republicans, disliked Graham’s stance on immigration calling him “Grahamnesty”.  In one GOP meeting in Colleton County, one person stood up and vocally supported Graham, not by defending his position statements, but instead reminding voters of the considerable amounts of pork barrel legislation Graham brought back to the locality.  For shame!  Now, I don’t care who you are, if you support a candidate based on how much money he can siphon from the federal government, you are not a fiscal conservative, and likely not a conservative at all.  Being proud of stealing from others to benefit yourself shows selfishness and a lack of respect for your fellow citizens.  I hope, dear reader, that you are better than this person?  Is stealing constitutional?  Is stealing an American ethic?  Have we fallen so far?

But wait, what about Democrats?  They waste money with pork too!  Sure, many of them do, but as a Republican, I believe we must hold our party accountable.  Wealth distribution and massive government programs and spending are not conservative values, of that I am certain…and if they have become a Republican value, I guess that I’m in the wrong party.  Although it is tempting to support pork when you are the beneficiary, I say it is high time for us to hold our legislators accountable.   “More pork for you?” they ask.  “No thanks, I’m going kosher!”

Pictures from the Convention

Most of my photos didn’t come out well, but here are a few for those who missed the convention.  Enjoy!

 

Del. Marshall with supporters

Del. Marshall with supporters

More Marshall supporters gather

More Del. Marshall supporters gather.

-)

Those darn Ron Paul supporters. 🙂

If only we could do away with outdated concepts like liberty, maybe they would go away…

If you were from Richmond, VA Beach, or other important places, you get to sit up front.  If you are from the 6th district, to the back of the hall with you.

If you look closely, I think you can just make out a Marshall supporter or two.

If you look closely, I think you can make out a Marshall supporter or two.

The ever popular former Sen. Allen

The ever popular former Senator Allen.

Our new Chairman, Del. Jeff Frederick

Our new Chairman, Del. Jeff Frederick

Down with the Nanny State!

Note:  This was a post written for VCAP last month that was never published.  Although a bit out of date, I wanted to have it posted somewhere.

It seems to me that in recent years, at least from a national perspective, a critical part of conservatism has been forgotten.  Sure, there are social conservatives and there are fiscal conservatives, but what about small government conservatives?  Can you name any leader who still actively and unashamedly promotes conservatism in all three areas?  There are still a few.  As some folks have forgotten about it, I guess that I should first define what I mean by small government conservatism.  Simply put, it is reducing the size and scope of the federal government to its constitutional boundaries.  Now I believe there are many legitimate functions the national government serves, chief among them are defending her citizens from threats against their lives, liberty, and property, and performing tasks that either the states or individual citizens cannot do, like the creation of a uniform monetary system.  And, although there are certainly differences between regions in the country, the government should respect and uphold the religious and cultural values that have defined our country and her people in various ways since colonization.  Beyond these limited functions, the federal government should not and must not interfere.  That, in my mind, is the basics of conservatism as it applied to the federal government.

There are many areas of power that the government has taken from the states and the people that it has no right to do so.  For example, when the preamble mentions, “promoting the general welfare”, no conservative would ever take that to mean the creation of a welfare state where citizens (and even non-citizens) depend on the charity of the federal government (and, as a result, we the taxpayers).  Although our liberal colleges would decry us as uncaring, the simple fact is that the government does not have these powers.  We must reject the neo-conservative lie that big government is OK as long as Republicans are in control.  Now I know I’ll get in trouble here, but the same fact applies to Social Security.  Social Security is just a giant pyramid scheme promoted by the feds.  As long as there are more citizens paying into the system than withdrawing, then no one notices the flaws in the plan, but when more withdraw, as is happening with the baby boomers now, the system collapses.  Why in the world did we ever allow the government to get involved in retirement?  Show me where they derive such authority?  The problem with Social Security is that you cannot simply eliminate it tomorrow without terrible consequences.  First and foremost, some folks planned their retirement around this pension and, if it were removed immediately, would force thousands upon thousands onto the streets.  Second, there are many who have paid into the system who will never see a single dime of their own returned.  The solution, in my mind, is not the easiest, but must be done.  That is, fulfill the promises to the citizens on social security while phasing the program out entirely, returning the funds that each citizen put into the system.  Will federal spending have to be cut to solve this problem?  Of course.  But, I believe this solution will help restore the government to its constitutional limited role and solve many more problems in the long run.

Getting back to my original point, how many supposedly conservative politicians talk about limited government solutions to these problems?  I remember the presidential election of 1996 where Senator Dole, if elected, promised to eliminate the federal Department of Education and the National Endowment for the Arts.  To conservatives, these should be two worthy goals.  Regardless of the merits (or lack there of) of these two agencies, the federal government did not have the constitutional authority to meddle with either the arts or education.  Alas that type of thinking seems to have fallen out of favor.  For example, since the 2000 election of the Republican George W. Bush, how many federal agencies and departments have been eliminated?  Can’t think of any, huh?  For example, rather than end the federal government’s involvement in education, unfortunately he has only increased it with the creation of disastrous No Child Left Behind Act.  Education is the sphere of the state, locality, and parents, not bureaucrats in Washington.   In other areas too, the president has sought merely to reform rather than eliminate federal government control.That failure should truly be a great disappointment to every limited government conservative out there.

Assuming John McCain becomes our next president, what federal programs and departments will he work to eliminate?  I know he speaks well against pork spending which is admirable, but it is merely fighting the symptoms rather than the disease itself.  Unless he works to truly reduce the size of the government, striking at the heart of the problem, spending will go up again soon enough.

The solution, my friends, rests with us, not the politicians in Washington.  If you are a three-pronged conservative, you must support three-pronged conservatives.  If a politician claims to be conservative, the burden of proof is on the candidate.  If he or she embraces the conservative rhetoric in whole we should support him or her.  Then if the politician fails to live up to the promises and their voting record is poor, then we must withdraw that support.  When considering the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, I encourage you to put the torch under each candidate asking, “if elected, what federal programs, agencies, or departments will you work to eliminate?”  If the response is the “deer in the headlights” look, or a vague and unsatisfactory answer, limited government conservatives must not support that candidate.  That, I believe, is the only way that we can reclaim the Republican Party and reign in the massive power of the federal government.  We deserve better!

The Convention

I hope you all had an opportunity to attend the state Republican convention in Richmond this weekend.  Overall I think it went quite well and here are my thoughts on what happened.

First of all, I should mention that I supported Bob Marshall for U.S. Senate and Jeff Frederick for Party Chairman.  I strongly believe that these were the two candidates who best represented my conservative values.  Of course, the results were a mixed bag.  

The U.S. Senate

Bob Marshall lost by only the slimmest of margins, losing by about 60 votes out of over 1,000 cast.  For those like me, who greatly wanted to see Del. Marshall elected, it was a heartbreaking loss.  In my hometown, Harrisonburg, I was the lone vote for Del. Marshall.  One out of nine.  Needless to say, I felt a bit out of place waving my Marshall sign among the Gilmore supporters, but I’m used to being the lone voice in the crowd from time to time.  As a mixed blessing, we were seated in front of the city of Lynchburg, and while they had a number of vocal Marshall supporters, I sincerely wish they had shown about a bit more respect to the former Governor.  I felt their booing gave the rest of us a bad name.  The 6th district as a whole went for Gilmore, but only by a little over 20 votes.  It was amazing that most congressional districts supported one candidate very heavily with 2 to 1 and 3 to 2 margins being common.  In the end, we came up just a little short.  I suppose the hardest losses are the ones that could have been won.

The RPV Chairman

Del. Frederick easily won election to the post though official results were not given to the mass public.  For the Harrisonburg delegates the vote was 7 to 2 in favor of Frederick.  Not only that, but in the 6th district Jeff Fredrick won every single county and city with the exception of Roanoke City where it was tied.  I suspect the result was somewhere between 60 to 70 percent in his favor.  I do confess that I feel a little bad for former Chairman Hager, losing decisively as he did, but we needed desperately needed a change.  I felt that the RPV has ignored the western part of the state for too long and the losses in the General Assembly were avoidable.  Let us hope that both situations will be reversed soon.

It was great to meet so many Republicans across the state.  The hospitality suites were a perfect way to get in contact with the candidates, their supporters, and other related groups.  In fact, if not for the fine people at thejeffersoniad.com, I would not be writing here now.  Special thanks.

Well, that’s all for now.  Talk to you again soon.

Joshua

A first post

Hello everyone and welcome to my first blog post.  Although most topics will primarily concern themselves with politics (my greatest love), don’t be surprised to find a number of posts on a variety of issues ranging from mundane thoughts about day to day life, football (once the NFL season gets underway again), religion, and various goings on in the great state of Virginia.  Feel free to comment however you see fit, though I do ask for you to keep any personal attacks or profanity at a minimum.  I hope you will enjoy a brief glimpse into my world.

Thanks for reading!

Joshua