Friday, November 12, 2010

Yes, Virginia--There Is A Tenth Amendment

Despite the heavy coverage of the federal elections and the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives, there is another story that is equally important. Republicans made huge gains in state legislatures and governorship, and many are spoiling for a fight that will stop the federal juggernaut from taking over every aspect of government and our lives.

Those who don't understand the word "federal" in federal government are equally determined to keep Leviathan in charge of everything. Leading the battle to wrest back the power granted to the states by the Constitution are the governors of Mississippi, Virginia and New Jersey, with several others joining the fray. They are pushing their legislatures to enact legislation designed to stave off the plans to mandate immense federal programs which provide instructions but no funding. It isn't bad enough that the federal government has put the entire United States into fiscal hell, but they are equally drunk with a power that would bury the states in debt as well.

Nero fiddled while Rome burned, and Democratic Governor Blanco of Louisiana boo-hooed while New Orleans flooded. Assisted by the complete inaction of the Democratic mayor of New Orleans, New Orleans became a wet wreck which hasn't entirely recovered to this day. And according to them, it's all the fault of George Bush who didn't render aid after Katrina hit. Ignoring the fact that under the Constitution, no president can act to bring in troops and federal assistance until requested by the governor of the state, how do they explain the preparation and recovery of their next-door neighbor--equally hard-hit Mississippi? They can't. But we can. The proud state and its Republican governor prepared for the worst, evacuated low-lying areas, had their national guard and state resources ready to move, and asked for federal assistance with specific goals in mind the moment the hurricane hit. That governor was Haley Barbour.

Barbour first broached the idea of governors utilizing their extensive powers to thwart President Obama's agenda while Congressional Republicans recover from their victory. That victory will not mean much until the current lame duck term expires next year. He, along with several of his fellow governors, believes that waiting for Congress to act might make it too late to stop the Katrina-level federal takeover of the economy. Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia and Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey believe that if the states act first, federal involvement will be lessened. Furthermore, with a Republican House taking power in January, there will be less determination in Congress to co-opt the rights of the states to solve their own problems.

When asked about the proposal to establish a new congressional committee to have jurisdiction over the entire government to make spending cuts, he replied "they don't need a committee--they need action--they need to make cuts." And all three believe the states can show the way by making the cuts now. All three have faith in the people of their states to accept government spending cuts right now. McDonnell says the states should lead the way by cutting their own spending and holding or reducing tax rates at the same time. He believes that this might just push the Congress into continuing the Bush tax cuts for all classes, reduce capital gains taxes and concentrate on private job creation. At the same time he thinks the mutual action at state and federal levels might just cause Congress to re-think how the federal government burdens the states.

Barbour advocates even more direct and positive action by suggesting that governors should go to Washington and work with Congressional Republicans to craft draconian cuts to the federal budget and encouraging them to act at the earliest possible time. He further suggests that a showing of state willingness to sacrifice could be transferred to House members with some hefty encouragement from the governors. He and the other two governors (along with several who haven't formally signed on to the concept) believe that the landslide that occurred in the House was actually not as significant as the fact that Republicans took control of twenty legislatures from the Democrats. That is the biggest turnover since 1928.

McDonnell says to House members-elect: "Given the overwhelming tide at the state level, it really is time for an honest and robust discussion about federalism. What does the Tenth Amendment really mean? Part of the reason you've got this long-term deficit is you keep legislating in areas that you shouldn't be in (emphasis added)." He goes on to say: "Stick to what the federal government is supposed to do. Do that well--fund it well--but stay out of areas that are traditionally reserved for the states (emphasis added). Let us manage those areas." He sees clearly that if Congress is busy deciding where it can cut things like the military budget (part of its constitutional mandate) while at the same time trying to micromanage and mandate things like state MedicAid, nothing will be done properly.

McDonnell was also asked about California. The likelihood is that with the Democratic sweep in that state (the attorney general position notwithstanding), and Jerry Brown as governor, the state will go bankrupt. Should the federal government bail California out? True to his federalist beliefs, McDonnell says: "Absolutely not. I don't subscribe to 'too big to fail.' There's no obligation of the United States to bail them out." He points out that Meg Whitman had the best plan available for California to get itself out of debt, and the people rejected her. So, they've made their bed, now let them lie in it. As a Californian who will be severely impacted by the impending bankruptcy, I say "more power to McDonnell and the federalists."

California can continue to consider itself to be lotus land, largely because unlike other states, California has no balanced budget requirement. When offered that amendment to the state constitution, the people rejected it. So now they can just wallow in debt, at least until the bills come due. The state is already borrowing money from the federal government to pay for its state unemployment benefits. And that's aside from the federal extensions which have kept many Californians too comfortably afloat.

Jed Babbin at The American Spectator suggests that Republican leaders in both the House and the Senate should convene closed-door meetings with Barbour, McDonnell, Christie and other fiscally-conservative governors to make plans to deliver on their campaign promises to reduce the size of the federal government, maintain the Bush tax cuts and cut spending. "And the doors shouldn't be reopened until they come up with a bicameral plan of action that will deliver what the voters said they wanted on November 2: real cuts, real restraint of government spending and a concise plan that all of them can put into legislation that will pass the House in January."

That fits in with the worry we've expressed on this site about the Republicans not having a coherent plan for Congressional action. They could learn a great deal about both good governance and practical politics from these governors. And it would also solve the problem of Republicans being saddled with the phony charge of being the "party of no." First, it establishes that Republicans really do have a plan, and want to act at the earliest possible time. And yes, it also recognizes that the loathsome Harry Reid will lead his still-Democratic Senate to stop the plans.

And when Reid acts, the roles become reversed, and the Democrats become the party both of "no" and "know nothing." Republicans will be seen as acting on the will of the people, and successfully pursuing those goals in the House, while recalcitrant statist socialist Democrats in the Senate will use every dirty trick in the book to block the House and the people. And with the Republicans taking the initiative, any resulting "government shutdown" will be clearly seen as the fault of the Democrats (Senate and White House) rather than the blame being placed on Republicans as it was during the Clinton administration.

In the immortal words of the great poet Jim Morrison, "the time to hesitate is through--no time to wallow in the mire." Republicans must get their heads together, form a coherent plan, link arms, and march. What a refreshing change that would be. The states working with the federal government instead of the states working for the federal government. 'Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.


T_Rav said...

Well said, LawHawk. Once we've done all that, we can move to Step Two, which would be repealing the 17th Amendment.

Also, I really like McDonnell's comment about California making its bed and lying in it. I hate that you and the other good people out there could get hurt in the process, but a majority of the voters decided to sit in their own filth and cry for more money. I don't have any sympathy for them.

Tennessee Jed said...

great post, Hawk. The time to hesitate is indeed through. For once, I hope my Republicans show some cajones.

StanH said...

Great read Lawhawk. Haley Barbour is a sharp guy, as are the other two. He was Reagan’s political director, working with Lee Atwater, and later head of the RNC during Gingrich’s ’94 “Contract With America.” If the great Reagan saw his value so should we.

Not to fly off in wild directions, but do we have enough states to call for a Constitutional Convention. I believe it’s 2/3 majority, which would be 33-34 governors I think we have 30-31? I know there is peril in this because real change could happen in a flash that could alter the Constitution. But if we could take a run at the 16 & 17th Amendment that would be wonderful. Your thoughts.

Unknown said...

T_Rav: I'm amazed at the number of people who have taken up the cause of repealing the 17th Amendment, and even more surprised how many truly understand how important it is to return to the concept of Senators representing the states rather than their current status as super-Congressmen. The Founders built that balance in to preserve the balance between the will of temporary majorities and the stability of (now) fifty separate and sovereign states. I agree.

If it takes some hard times for California to come to its senses, so be it. This drunken spending spree and the perpetuation of public employee royalty must cease. Jerry Brown and the other crazies may just be the injection they need to complete the experiment that failed.

AndrewPrice said...

It's always time for a little Federalism. Let's hope Barbour and the rest of the team strike back and put an end to Obama's agenda. Having he House is great, but getting the states back into the act would be so much better on so many levels because it would cut the government's ability to turn right back around and do it again.

Notawonk said...

law: "Republicans must get their heads together, form a coherent plan, link arms, and march. What a refreshing change that would be."

gave me chills brother. can you imagine?! I know i can, as well as millions of other americans. let's hope the republicans can.

Unknown said...

Tennessee: Thanks. I have faith that the Republicans will gain some fortitude as the Brown administration fumbles, dithers, mouths platitudes and accelerates toward the cliff. I just hope that two years hence, when the Assembly is up for reelection and 1/2 of the State Senate is up, California has not already gone over the cliff.

Interesting piece of California history. It modeled its State Senate after the original version of the U. S. Senate. The Assembly was like the House, and the Senate represented the counties. That was so San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego counties couldn't act without the assistance of the small counties. In 1968, the formula was changed to distribute Senate seats proportionately, so that state Senators represent populations rather than counties, and the only difference between the Assembly and the Senate is the number each official represents. Since that change, the state has moved farther left and more Democratic each year. The State Senate is totally irrelevant since they vote exactly the same way the Assembly votes. Checks and balances gone at the state level too.

Unknown said...

Stan: Until Katrina, I'm afraid my prejudices against thick Southern speech kept me from "getting" Barbour. I should have known that Reagan didn't trust idiots. Since Katrina, I've learned to overcome my innate prejudices against Southern accents, and discovered I find more like-minded souls among them than I do among my mush-mouthed California acquaintances, dude.

I'm not yet ready for a Constitutional convention. I think we can remedy the problems within our current framework. Once that convention is called, anything can happen. After all, the Constitution is the result of a convention that was only there to tinker at the edges of the Articles of Confederation. We got lucky once, I'm not sure that given the current dependence of such a large portion of the population on the government dole, a Constitutional convention might not be a cure worse than the disease. It may eventually come to that, but I don't think we're there yet.

The problem is that while we're making a run at the 16th and 17th Amendments, there is a very large group of know-nothings who would like to make the same run at the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th and 10th Amendments.

Unknown said...

Andrew: I agree wholeheartedly. I was very pleasantly surprised, and only in the past few days, to find out that the governors were actually organizing an effort to instruct the incoming House. I think they could do a great deal of good.

Unknown said...

Patti: I think that with what the governors have planned, along with what the Tea Party has done, and the sense of purpose that conservatives are beginning to see coalesce, that march may already have begun. Momentum is vitally important, and right now we have that momentum. The governors are acting as the field generals to keep that momentum going. The last time I sensed something this strong in the wind was when I was a young volunteer in the Civil Rights movement.

T_Rav said...

LawHawk, thanks for the indirect compliment. :-) The way I see it, having direct election of senators negates the main purpose of the Senate, which was to represent the state legislatures. Representing "the people" is what the House of Representatives is for. I'm glad the Senate is there, of course, but it's kind of redundant under the present system once you think about it.

Unfortunately, I don't see the Amendment going anywhere, because if anyone did make a serious attempt to repeal it, the Dems would just scream, "They're trying to take away our voting rights!" Crude and simplistic, but it works. (sigh) Oh well...

StanH said...

Lee Atwater was from Atlanta, Reagan had his Southern contingent.

So if a Constitutional Convention were called, you couldn’t limit the scope, the entire Constitution would be open to amendment…”danger, Will Robinson!” The states would have to vote, and get a super majority of 38-39 to make any changes? Even so, with our progressive infestation, this would have to be broached with great care indeed.

Unknown said...

T_Rav: The Senate does have one saving grace. 1/3 of the Senate is elected every two years, and the Senators serve for six. Despite the horrific Reid Senate, it can still act as a brake on the bugaboo House of temporary majorities. Beyond that, it has completely lost its sense of representing the states. Unlike California's 1/2 every election and four year Senate terms (see my response to Tennessee Jed, above), the US Senate does reflect the mob less than the House--but not by much.

Unknown said...

Stan: The problem with a Constitutional convention is that you can make rules limiting the purpose of the convention, but you can't enforce them. It's exactly what the Founders did. They just ignored their original mandate and set out to build a whole new form of government. It was the first time (and quite possibly the last time) that a small group of representatives completely revised a form of government which included whole new levels of restraint on government, submitted it to a democratic vote, and created a genuine representative democracy (republic) with a full system of checks and balances. I'm not sure that could be duplicated in today's environment, and it could be the ultimate opportunity for the convention to institute direct democracy and remove the entire concept of a foundational document that doesn't change with the whim of current fashion.

Given today's mindless mantra of "power to the people," we would most likely end up with a third world type of government--one man, one vote, one time. Direct democracy has failed every time it has been tried, but that doesn't stop the leftists from trying again.

Tehachapi Tom said...

Wow Hawk
You provided a most titillating read.
It sounds great but can it be made to happen? The most significant effect of Katrina was an enormous increase in crime over in Houston which does not seem to be reported on.
As for Democracy that is just a more palatable term for mob rule. We need for our elected to understand the difference between Democracy and Republic. They need to be guided into the proper application of the power we vest in them or be removed in a timely manner. How is it that the cream is always supposed to rise to the top but in politics it seems only the scum rise?

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