After hours of watching coverage of the Great American Tea Party and hours of listening to and reading commentaries on the coverage, and commentaries on the coverage of the coverage, I came to the conclusion that most of us still don’t get it. I don’t expect liberals, socialists, statists and democrats to get it; their brains are wired differently. But most conservatives don’t seem to have gotten it yet, either.
It is not out of control spending, astronomical national debt, and bureaucratic regulations that reach into every nook and cranny of our lives that are the problems. These are only symptoms of the real problem. For over a hundred years, we have allowed the political class free reign to do pretty much as they please, and they please to bolster their egos with more and more power.
As power increases, so does corruption and political lawlessness. Today we have the most corrupt and lawless federal government in the history of the country. The vast majority of government spending is illegal, most of the national debt is illegal and virtually all of the hundreds of federal bureaucracies are illegal. If the same legal standards were applied to the political class that is applied to private citizens and private business executives, Washington would be empty, because everyone would be in prison.
This has been going on for so long that the average citizen has forgotten what it is that the federal government can legally do. For example, how often have you mentioned something that you consider wrong or immoral only to have the person you are talking to respond with, “no, that’s okay, I do that myself?” Just as we have a natural tendency to measure morality against what we ourselves do, we have a similar tendency to decide what is permissible or even desirable for the government to do depending on how it affects us personally.
The poster child for this line of thinking is Bill O’Reilly, host of the “O’Reilly Factor” on Fox News. His is the number one rated show in cable news, dwarfing all the others on his own and competitive networks. I have watched his show for years and have always been puzzled by its popularity, until it finally dawned on me that his audience must have the same standards of what is acceptable that he has. Since his views are generally conservative and most of the Fox News audience is conservative leaning it’s only natural they should compliment each other.
I usually agree with most of his conclusions, but it is evident that he has no consistent standard by which to judge. He has no “yardstick” with which to measure the actions and pronouncements of those about whom he comments. His judgment on most subjects seems to be based solely on whether or not he would do the same thing or take the same actions himself.
Since April 15 is tax day, it was expected that the tea party protests would focus on taxes and spending. However, in watching and listening to participants, and reading their signs, I got the distinct impression that most would be fine with a little less spending and a little lower taxes, so long at the money spent went to things like roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects, education, health care and so on. However, the Constitution is very specific on items the federal government is legally permitted to raise taxes and spend money for. Few of the things most citizens expect the government to regulate and pay for are included in that list.
For example, one of my favorite conservative commentators is Mark Steyn. In his column on the tea parties, speaking about government spending he said this:
“OK, to be less absolutist about it, my interests include finding a road at the end of my drive every morning, and modern equipment for the (volunteer) fire department and a functioning military to deter the many predators out there, and maybe one or two other things. But 95 percent of the rest is not just “special interests” but social engineering.”
Only one of the three items mentioned by Mr. Steyn is the responsibility of the federal government, a functioning military. The rest are the responsibility of state and local governments as are education, health care, social programs, museums, parks, etc. If they are needed and desired by citizens of the various states it is the state’s responsibility to provide them and pay for them with tax money raised from citizens of the respective states.
The Tenth Amendment is the heart and soul of the Constitution. Without it the Constitution is just another historical document, interesting but meaningless in the hands of the professional politician. That is why the emerging “state sovereignty movement” based on the Tenth Amendment is so important to our future.
Tracy Coyle, a reader, reminded me in a comment on my last article that state governments are just as bad as the federal government. She is right of course, but there are some differences. In the Constitution, the Framers attempted to divide the powers of government with checks and balances to ensure each part of government kept to its own sphere.
To use the analogy of Thomas Jefferson in explaining the separation of church and state, the Constitution places a wall between the federal and state governments and between the governments of the various states. Article 1, Sections 9 and 10, Article 4 and Amendment 10 spells out the relationship between the states and the federal government. Apart from those mentioned there are no restrictions on the legislative powers of the states other than those placed by its citizens.
The federal government gets its powers from the states and the states get their powers from the people. Over the past hundred years, the wall between the federal and state governments have broken down and the federal government has spilled over into the daily lives of individual citizens to an oppressive degree. That was neither the intent nor the design of the Founders.
The Bill of Rights is designed to protect citizens from both a tyrannical federal and tyrannical state governments. The federal government has intruded into the daily lives of individual citizens to the point that all our attention is directed to it and we have allowed the state and local governments to become as corrupt and tyrannical as the federal. If we are ever to regain control of our governments as intended by the Founders, we must develop a zero tolerance for illegal actions by our federal officials as a first step.
All laws federal, state and local are governed by the Constitution, the Supreme Law of the Land. Any violation of the Constitution by a government official is a criminal act and should be viewed as such by the citizenry. In the final analysis, it is the voters who are the judges and juries of criminal acts committed by their officials and if we fail to hold them accountable, we have no one to blame but ourselves.