10.01.2008 0

Sooner Sense

  • On: 10/14/2008 16:04:05
  • In: Federalism

  • By Howie Rich

    While much of the U.S. Constitution invites legitimate debate as to the “Framer’s Intent,” the twenty-eight words which comprise the Tenth Amendment are as unambiguous as they are forgotten.

    “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.”

    One of the clearest and most compelling proofs that our Founding Fathers indeed envisaged a limited federal government, the Tenth Amendment is a vital safeguard against an overreaching central authority.

    Unfortunately, it is also one of the most routinely discarded pieces of our nation’s founding wisdom. In fact, judging by its scant enforcement, it’s almost as if this cornerstone of the old adage “the government closest to the people governs best” was written in invisible ink.

    Indeed, the Tenth Amendment has become the redheaded stepchild of the Bill of Rights, viewed by generations of politicians as an historical nuance to be cast aside when it impedes our federal government’s insatiable appetite for new revenue streams and new sources of power.

    Certainly some expansions of federal power—such as the Fourteenth and Nineteenth Amendments—were warranted due to changing social conditions and the need to protect individual liberties. But more often than not, these expansions sought to expand the size and scope of the federal government at the expense of our personal freedoms, and to strip state and municipal governments of their right to enact laws which are in the best interests of their people—while seizing more of the people’s revenue in the process.

    Consider this—only twice has our modern U.S. Supreme Court struck down a law because it was found to be in violation of the Tenth Amendment.

    Is this because such violations weren’t occurring? Of course not—generations of activist judges have simply chosen to look the other way.

    Using an increasingly thin stretching of the “Elastic Clause” (also known as the Commerce Clause), the federal government over the past seventy years has gone about regulating one industry after the next and blackmailing states into adopting new laws by threatening to cut them out of annual appropriations bills.

    Because the Tenth Amendment has been ignored, some of the basic freedoms guaranteed to by the rest of the Bill of Rights have been trampled upon—with states left powerless to protect us.

    Fortunately, leaders in one state have finally stood up and said “enough is enough.”

    By an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 92-3, the Oklahoma House of Representatives recently passed a resolution that reaffirmed that state’s sovereignty under the 10th Amendment.

    Specifically, the resolution tells the feds to “cease and desist, effective immediately, mandates that are beyond the scope of these constitutionally delegated powers.”

    In other words, the Oklahoma House is telling the federal government to back off—and using America’s founding blueprint as its justification for doing so.

    Not surprisingly, Washington D.C.’s officialdom remains utterly tone-deaf to this sorely-needed expression of state sovereignty.

    In fact, when asked to comment on the resolution last week, President Bush’s spokesman had never heard of it, and could only say “maybe, maybe I will” when asked whether he would look into the matter for the purpose of providing the administration’s official response.

    By contrast, the resolution’s lead sponsor—State Rep. Charles Key—was nearly as unambiguous as the language of the Tenth Amendment in explaining his desire to protect America’s “forgotten” right.

    “The more we stand by and watch the federal government get involved in areas where it has no legal authority, we kill the Constitution a little at a time,” he said. “The last few decades, the Constitution has been hanging by a thread.”

    And so have our liberties.

    Here’s hoping that leaders in other states will join the Oklahoma House in standing up to protect both.

    The author is Chairman of Americans for Limited Government.

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