Mar 28 2009

John Locke and Thomas Paine, where are you today?

Category: governmentharmonicminer @ 9:20 am

Lately I’ve reviewed John Locke’s Two Treatises on Government and Thomas Paine’s Common Sense.  You may be tempted to skip Locke’s first Treatise, believing it to be a now-irrelevant attack on the “divine right of kings”, but don’t.  It has some essential background to help you understand the second treatise, both of which are getting more and more applicable to our current predicament, as over-reaching as our federal government has gotten in recent decades (and it’s about to get a great deal worse).  After you finish those, read The Federalist Papers, all of which will give you essential background to understand this.

Our Colonial ancestors petitioned and pleaded with King George III to get his boot off their necks. He ignored their pleas, and in 1776, they rightfully declared unilateral independence and went to war. Today it’s the same story except Congress is the one usurping the rights of the people and the states, making King George’s actions look mild in comparison. Our constitutional ignorance — perhaps contempt, coupled with the fact that we’ve become a nation of wimps, sissies and supplicants — has made us easy prey for Washington’s tyrannical forces. But that might be changing a bit. There are rumblings of a long overdue re-emergence of Americans’ characteristic spirit of rebellion.

Eight state legislatures have introduced resolutions declaring state sovereignty under the Ninth and 10th amendments to the U.S. Constitution; they include Arizona, Hawaii, Montana, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Washington. There’s speculation that they will be joined by Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Nevada, Maine and Pennsylvania.

You might ask, “Isn’t the 10th Amendment that no-good states’ rights amendment that Dixie governors, such as George Wallace and Orval Faubus, used to thwart school desegregation and black civil rights?” That’s the kind of constitutional disrespect and ignorance that big-government proponents, whether they’re liberals or conservatives, want you to have. The reason is that they want Washington to have total control over our lives. The Founders tried to limit that power with the 10th Amendment, which reads: “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 to the people.”

New Hampshire’s 10th Amendment resolution typifies others and, in part, reads: “That the several States composing the United States of America, are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their General (federal) Government; but that, by a compact under the style and title of a Constitution for the United States, and of amendments thereto, they constituted a General Government for special purposes, delegated to that government certain definite powers, reserving, each State to itself, the residuary mass of right to their own self-government; and that whensoever the General Government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force.” Put simply, these 10th Amendment resolutions insist that the states and their people are the masters and that Congress and the White House are the servants. Put yet another way, Washington is a creature of the states, not the other way around.

Congress and the White House will laugh off these state resolutions. State legislatures must take measures that put some teeth into their 10th Amendment resolutions. Congress will simply threaten a state, for example, with a cutoff of highway construction funds if it doesn’t obey a congressional mandate, such as those that require seat belt laws or that lower the legal blood-alcohol level to .08 for drivers. States might take a lead explored by Colorado.

In 1994, the Colorado Legislature passed a 10th Amendment resolution and later introduced a bill titled “State Sovereignty Act.” Had the State Sovereignty Act passed both houses of the legislature, it would have required all people liable for any federal tax that’s a component of the highway users fund, such as a gasoline tax, to remit those taxes directly to the Colorado Department of Revenue. The money would have been deposited in an escrow account called the “Federal Tax Fund” and remitted monthly to the IRS, along with a list of payees and respective amounts paid. If Congress imposed sanctions on Colorado for failure to obey an unconstitutional mandate and penalized the state by withholding funds due, say $5 million for highway construction, the State Sovereignty Act would have prohibited the state treasurer from remitting any funds in the escrow account to the IRS. Instead, Colorado would have imposed a $5 million surcharge on the Federal Tax Fund account to continue the highway construction.

The eight state legislatures that have enacted 10th Amendment resolutions deserve our praise, but their next step is to give them teeth.

The short story: not one, single federal dime comes back to the states or “the people” without having strings attached to it. Notwithstanding that that dime probably started out as a quarter sent TO the federal government FROM the states or the people, the simplest way for states to regain their proper consitutional status, and to make the Tenth Amendment mean something again, is to simply put the brakes on money sent to the federal government. It’s an interesting notion; will any states have the nerve to stand up to the federal government’s VAST over-reaching of its constitutional mandate?

I’m not holding my breath.  On the other hand, if a state did grow a spine and do this, I can’t see the White House sending in the Marines to enforce its will on the states, and the Governors are the commanders of the state’s National Guard.  It could be very, very interesting.  Washington DC takes much more than it gives back.  And I suspect that if, say, a retaliatory attempt was made to stop social security checks or medicare reimbursement to medical providers of an offending state (which are direct federal-to-individual payments that bypass the states, mostly), the outcry would hurt the federal agency that did it more than the state government whose action led to the federal retaliation.

What’s clear is this: the founders simply did not intend, envision, or even think possible a federal government that would or could regulate every conceivable economic transaction under the guise of the interstate commerce clause.  The idea of national speed limits would have seemed as silly as national horse shoe standards.  The idea of federal education regulations would have been laughable to them.

It’s laughable to me, too, when I’m not crying.