The following op-ed was published in the Standard Examiner on Sunday, 10-10-10:
Consider for a moment a horrible scenario which unfortunately is far too common in the world today: an abusive, domineering husband whose timid wife fears for her safety, yet is so paralyzed that she dare not risk an attempt to flee. If the couple has any children, there likely exists a much greater incentive to attempt to persuade the husband to change his behavior; abandoning the family, or attempting to escape with the children, is a scenario few such women entertain, let alone successfully execute.
This all-too-real example also serves as a parable for the relationship between the federal government and the several states. Whereas all parties joined hands in a solemn union under a clear and concise contract, the federal government has since that time repeatedly and relentlessly abused the terms of our contract, and has forced its will upon the states and the American people. Failure to comply with these federal edicts subjects the offending individual to fines, prison time, or both, and subjects states to a loss of the federal funding to which they have become addicted. In extreme cases of controversial conflict, the federal government backs up its mandates with physical force using the armed forces.
The states have taken these sustained assaults with only rare objections. In the past few years, many have begun to pass “Tenth Amendment Resolutions” (or “State Sovereignty Resolutions”) to request or encourage that the federal government only pass laws for which it has constitutional authority. These pleas have unsurprisingly fallen on deaf ears, and despite the peaceful petitions, the abuse keeps coming. Nevertheless, they have served as warning for potential action if the grievances are not satisfactorily dealt with.
As one example, in the 2009 legislative session the Utah Legislature unanimously passed H.R. 4, a non-biding resolution regarding the federal REAL ID Act of 2005 which opposed the “costly unfunded mandate” saddling Utahns and the state government with nearly $10 billion in expenses over the next decade. Escalating the issue beyond mere asking, in this year’s session the legislature overwhelmingly passed H.B. 234, which opted Utah out of the REAL ID Act. In that bill, which Governor Herbert signed into law, the legislature agreed that the federal law “was adopted in violation of the principles of federalism contained in the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”
In this specific case, Utah joined over two dozen other states opposing this unconstitutional and oppressive law–one which had no constitutional authority, and which sought to impose all financial obligations on the states. Having previously warned the federal government to cease and desist, Utah stood its ground and firmly said “NO” to the law. The focal point for this resistance was and is the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which reads that “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.” Some have considered this statement to be a mere truism — a redundant constitutional provision which carries no inherent meaning or importance–but history supports the rebuttal that it can’t really be true since those reserved powers have too often been arrogated by the federal government despite what the Constitution says to the contrary.
On this, the 10th day of the 10th month of the 10th year in this millennium, every freedom-loving citizen should take a moment to ponder how the Tenth Amendment — the “foundation of the Constitution” as Thomas Jefferson once wrote — can be further upheld, and the federal government appropriately restrained.
While asking nicely is often an important first step, abusive behavior often requires an escalated response. Given the general attitude that the union of states should be preserved rather than one or more of them fleeing for safety, emphasis should therefore be placed on how to firmly (and sometimes forcefully) demand that the abusive behavior stop.
Too often, like the seemingly powerless, abused wife who fears for the well-being of herself and her children, the states fear standing up to the federal government and resisting its aggression. As the Declaration of Independence states, “…all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”
To remedy this sad state of affairs, Utah and all other states should actively explore methods — whether through resolutions, interposition, nullification, etc. — of giving teeth to the Tenth Amendment, and successfully defending ourselves against federal aggression.
Our fiscal stability, our personal prosperity, and our pursuit of happiness depend upon it.
Connor Boyack [send him mail] is the state chapter coordinator for the Utah Tenth Amendment Center. He is a web developer, political economist, and budding philanthropist trying to change the world one byte at a time. He lives in Utah with his wife and son. Read his blog.