by Marlin Stutzman, Indiana State Senator – District 13
If Thomas Jefferson could come back and visit the United States for a day, would he recognize the government his wisdom and wordsmithing helped create?
He would likely be confused, or outraged, by the overreaching power of the federal government. He would bristle at the coercive use of matching funding, and unfunded federal mandates, to make the states submit to the will of the federal system.
Federal mandates and power grabs have been happening for years, but gaining momentum is a national movement to demand the federal government adhere to the designs of our forefathers and enforce the 10th Amendment. That amendment says powers not specifically delegated to the federal government are reserved to the states.
I joined State Sen. Greg Walker (R-Columbus) in authoring a resolution urging the federal government to end all state mandates beyond the scope of powers outlined by that 10th Amendment. We were joined by 19 other Republicans and six Democrats as co-authors. It passed in the Senate overwhelmingly, 44-3. Similar resolutions have been introduced in 30 states – 15 in the last month alone.
Many leaders in those states have recognized the checks and balances our forefathers built into the U.S. government have eroded to dangerous levels.
Early American statesman Alexander Hamilton said “the people will always take care to preserve the constitutional equilibrium between the federal and state governments.” This balance formed a double security for the people. If one encroached on their rights, they could find a powerful protection in the other.
Our founding fathers said the federal government should be concerned with war, treaty and commerce between the states and abroad — period. Everything else – roads, education, agriculture, etc – is a state responsibility. Programs such as the far-reaching “No Child Left Behind,” signed by a Republican President, and massive federal stimulus plans with as many strings as dollars, created by a Democrat president, both disrupt the balance built into our system of government.
Jefferson teamed with another future president and statesman, James Madison, to write this resolution for Kentucky and Virginia: “The several states composing the United States of America are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their General Government.”
Powers of the federal government are, as the Constitution clearly outlines, “delegated.” They are not inherent. This arrangement made the federal government an agent of sorts for the states, authorizing it to act on their behalf in certain ways – not vice-versa.
This issue is not an attack of the Obama Administration. This is not a Democrat versus Republican issue. This issue is about the legitimacy of authority wielded by the federal government. Our founding fathers knew what they were setting up. Conflict between the state and federal systems was by design.
If our constitution is to be anything other than a dusty document we honor in a museum, we need to keep those principles alive in our hearts and minds.
While he might be dismayed at how out-of-balance our government currently is, I think Thomas Jefferson would also be pleased to see resolutions passed in so many states protesting federal intrusion. After all, it was Jefferson who said “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.”
First elected to the Indiana State House of Representatives on November 5, 2002, Marlin A. Stutzman is a State Senator for Indiana’s District 13.Â Click here to contact Senator Stutzman.