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The Balanced Budget Amendment vs. The Tenth Amendment

by Donald A. Tevault

I realize that I'm a bit at odds with most Tea Partiers over this issue, but I absolutely do NOT support the idea of passing a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. While I see many problems with it, the biggest is that we already have a Balanced Budget Amendment of sorts. It's called the "Tenth Amendment". That's the amendment that states:

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.

In other words, if something isn't specifically listed in the Constitution as a function of the Federal government, then it's to be left up to either the states or the people. However, for many years, both our elected representatives and Supreme Court justices have acted as if the Tenth Amendment didn't exist. Examples abound of agencies, programs, regulations, and even Cabinet-level departments that exist in violation of the Tenth Amendment. All of these things cost money. And, along with the extra cost come more government debt, less money for productive investment, and less liberty. However, even the "conservative" Republicans in Congress never consider the Tenth Amendment when they debate proposed legislation. All they consider is how much money to spend, and whether they can fix some perceived problem. (Making things worse is the fact that our Congressional representatives consider themselves experts on literally every topic, such as climate science, automotive engineering, finance, etc.)

A while back, I had two different confrontations with Rep. Jack Kingston concerning this issue. Twice I asked him point-blank why conservative Republicans don't go to the floor of the House or Senate and say, "I oppose this proposed legislation because there's no Constitutional authority for it". Clearly, it's a conversation that he doesn't want to have. The first time he replied with, "This isn't the answer I want to give, but the Supreme Court has ruled that most anything is Constitutional as long as the majority votes for it". The second time, he replied with a rambling discourse about how what's Constitutional is determined by five members of the Supreme Court. I was a bit perturbed, because my question wasn't about why the Supreme Court has failed to enforce the Constitution. It was about why he--as a Representative who took an oath to defend the Constitution--doesn't try to defend it.

One of the arguments for allowing the U.S. government to do whatever it wants is that the Commerce clause and the General Welfare clause of the Constitution allow it, and that the Supreme Court has upheld that position. But, this makes a mockery of both the Tenth Amendment and the Constitution as a whole. And, just because the Supreme Court has thusly decreed doesn't make it right.

If you read the Federalist Papers, you'll get a sense of why the Founding Fathers designed the Constitution the way they did. They set up three co-equal branches of government so that each one would keep the other two in check. It was never meant for one branch to have supreme authority over the other two. Yet, that is what we now have with the Supreme Court. No matter what kind of ridiculous decisions they make, they're allowed to get away with it. (Who amongst us will say that Dred Scott or Roe v. Wade were shining examples of Supreme Court jurisprudence?) When the Supreme Court makes bad decisions, such as making bad interpretations of the Commerce and General Welfare clauses, the Executive and Legislative branches should do something about it. Sadly, the Executive and Legislative branches are too often complicit in perpetrating these Constitutional travesties.

Folks, rather than a Balanced Budget Amendment, we need a President and Congressional representatives who will stand up for the Constitution. We also need to educate the populace about how much better off every person in this country would be--regardless of race, sex, age, or social status--if only the Federal government were still bound down by the chains of the Constitution. I believe that 99.9% of the problems we face in this country have come about because government has exceeded its Constitutional authority. It's time to right the ship before it altogether sinks.

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