RIP 10th Amendment: What’s Left for the States?

When the Constitution was being drafted the anti-Federalists feared that a central government would become too powerful and oppressive, so they demanded a bill of rights, which became the first 10 amendments.  The first 9 of these grant rights to the people, while number 10 grants rights to the states.  We’ve seen attacks on the 1st and 2nd amendments; the 4th through 6th are in question as the government can now conduct warrantless surveillance and detain people indefinitely without charges, counsel, or trial; and the 10th has been overwhelmed.   We don’t hear much about the 10th though.  It’s the one that says “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”.  We could call it the “vanishing amendment”.  Over the years the Federal government has used a combination of legislation (aided by a broad interpretation of the “commerce clause”) and “carrot-and-stick” (C&S) motivation to infringe on states’ rights.  For example, the Feds responded to states’ resistance to a 55 mph national speed limit in 1974, by threatening to withhold highway funds.  Those funds were paid by taxpayers who had every right to expect highway repairs without being held hostage to Federal demands.  This administration has imposed even more Federal control on two of the last remaining state responsibilities: health care and education.

The ACA imposes a “one-size-fits-all” health care plan on the nation.  In an effort to insure around 15% of the population that was uninsured it has taken affordable plans that worked away from millions of people, forcing them into expensive plans with ridiculously high deductibles, narrow networks, less access to cancer centers, and often higher drug costs.  It’s a giant tax increase, and the IRS, a bloated and politicized agency, is it’s enforcer.   The sole purpose of a tax should be to raise revenue, and the sole job of the IRS should be to collect that revenue.  It shouldn’t be a welfare agency or a health care cop.  The president is even attempting to institutionalize his attack on the 2nd amendment by nominating a left-wing campaign supporter for Surgeon General, where he could use his position to intertwine health care with gun control.  It’s obvious where that could lead.

Government control of education is prohibited by law, but it has used C&S to barge into education with politically popular but academically unsuccessful programs like Head Start and No Child Left Behind.  The latest push into public education is Common Core, a “one-size-fits-all” education program that reduces local control and establishes a privacy-violating student database.  Admittedly it’s not a Federal program; it was heavily funded by Bill Gates.  It’s goal is to turn out obedient workers, something J. S. Mill warned about in 1859.  Even though barred from imposing a national curriculum the Feds are using C&S with promises of money or relief from other requirements for states that adopt Common Core.  Testing and textbook companies are happily complying because they see dollar signs, as do technology vendors.

Now if we add in the Feds’ interference with states’ efforts to curb voter fraud and illegal immigration (a Federal responsibility that it’s willfully neglecting), what’s left for the states?  State land permits don’t mean much any more either.  A state can issue a pond permit to a farm owner and the EPA can then fine the owner for digging it.  The EPA owns the water and the BLM owns the land.

I’ll close with two remarks.

Notice the “one-size-fits-all” similarity.  This is characteristic of socialism, where the individual is subordinate to the state.  Individualism is not a valued trait with socialists.

Also note that the 10th amendment, while granting rights to states, does not empower them to deny to the people the rights enumerated in the first nine.


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