I want to be clear from the beginning in case you don’t read further than this first line: you are not being represented in Washington D.C.

There is a myth held so tightly in this country that it may find its best expression in Frank Capra’s classic Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. The star of the movie,Jefferson Smith, played by Jimmy Stewart,is picked to replace a deceased senator. Unaware that he was picked because the powers-that-be believe him to be a dupe, Smith goes to Washington with good intentions and the “plain, ordinary, everyday kindness” most Americans exhibit. However, he eventually realizes that the government’s promise to “look out for the other fella” never was, never is, and never will be.

That mythical promises that you and I, your neighbors and your family, can plead their case to their representatives in Washington and they will listen. However,Americans from Maine to Hawaii and Florida to Alaska are an afterthought to the elites in Washington.

In reality, the political class relies on the consent of the governed. There are ways – which will be discussed below – to regain our rights. None of these strategies include voting for the right president or writing your congressman a letter. As the Tenth Amendment Center put it in a recent Facebook post:

“If you’re waiting for the national government to tell you it’s OK to exercise you’re rights, you’ll die before it ever happens.”

Let us look at the difficulty that an American citizen might have in making his or her way through the Washington swamp to get a concern heard by elected representatives.


There are 15 Executive Branch agencies known as the Cabinet. The heads of these agencies are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. The number of employees in each Cabinet agency is staggering.

  • Department of Agriculture: 100,000 employees with an annual budget of $95 billion
  • Department of Commerce: 38,000 employees with an annual budget of $6.5 billion
  • Department of Defense: 3 million on active duty, 700,000 civilian personnel, and 1.1 million in the National Guard and Reserve forces
  • Department of Education: 4,200 employees with an annual budget of $68.6 billion
  • Department of Energy: 100,000 employees with an annual budget of $23 billion
  • Department of Health and Human Services: 65,000 employees with an annual budget of $700 billion
  • Department of Homeland Security: 200,000 employees with an estimated annual budget of $50 billion – $95 billion
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development: 9,000 employees with an annual budget of $40 billion
  • Department of the Interior: 700,000 employees with an annual budget of $16 billion
  • Department of Justice: 105,000 employees with an annual budget of $25 billion
  • Department of Labor: 15,000 employees with an annual budget of $50 billion
  • Department of State: 30,000 employees with an annual budget of $35 billion
  • Department of Transportation: 55,000 employees with an annual budget of $70 billion
  • Department of the Treasury: 100,000 employees with an annual budget of $13 billion
  • Department of Veterans Affairs: 235,000 employees with an annual budget of $90 billion

That’s hundreds of thousands of employees focused on maintaining the regulatory and administrative state. These departments all have employees and liaisons that can easily make appointments with elected representatives and their staffs. With a short taxi ride, these employees can easily lobby (the term they often use is“educate”) for their parochial interests.

The average American cannot compete with the bureaucrat’s access to power. Can you walk over to your elected representative’s office and meet with him? Technically yes; but go ahead and try.

Federal agencies take on a life of their own; this is known as regulatory capture. Though bureaucratic agencies were created to take direction from elected officials, eventually these bureaucracies begin to advance their own interests; transforming the mechanisms of good intentions into the machines of authority.

The Export-Import Bank: A Case Study in Capture

The existence, and possible reauthorization, of the Export-Important Bank is an example of regulatory capture. However, its creation, decades-long existence and fight to survive, show the difficulty Americans face in a head-to-head challenge against the product of regulatory capture.

Created in 1934, the Export-Import Bank (the Bank) provides taxpayer funded loans to American businesses that want to sell their products abroad. To this day, the Bank’s administrators argue that they are supporting American jobs by funding (read, subsidizing) American businesses unable to compete abroad with foreign businesses.

As long as Congress does nothing, the ninety year old Export-Import Bank will disappear overtime. To be clear, there is no need for Congress to take an affirmative action (a vote) in order for the Bank to end.They must simply not vote to reauthorize the Bank’s charter.

Allowing the Bank to expire is low-hanging fruit for Republicans and Democrats. Both parties have sound practical and ideological reasons for opposing the Bank. If Republicans are really the party of limited government, low taxes and the free-market, they should oppose the Bank. Democrats, who are tired of corporate fat-cats using the government to enrich themselves on the backs of Americans, have just as many reasons to end the Bank. However, we should never forget that the Export-Import Bank gives taxpayer money to well connected businesses. That’s all it is. And for that reason, we should champion its demise.

This should be a slam-dunk. But all members of Congress know that if they vote to reauthorize the Bank, their fundraising efforts become that much easier.

Despite the Bank’s ability to thrive without taxpayer subsidies, the Senate voted to reauthorize the Bank’s charter. Reauthorization will come up for a vote in the House of Representatives in the next few months.

How did the Senate do this?

An amendment reauthorizing the Bank’s charter was attached to a long-term highway bill. There are two things to consider here. First, Senator’s without the moral fortitude necessary to take a tough vote would rather allow the Bank to exist than get slaughtered by a big-business community dependent on government funds to operate. Second, this amendment was added as an afterthought to the overlying bill. In other words, the Bank amendment did not need to receive a vote.

How to Fight Back and Reassert Your Rights

It should be clear by now – if it was not already – that the individual citizen has almost no power in Washington DC. The capture by agencies, lobbyists, and crony institutions is too great.

So, what can the individual do?

First, find the appropriate outlets and get informed.

The Tenth Amendment Center offers a step-by-step guide outlining what you, your friends, you city and your state can do to withdraw consent from the federal government’s tyranny.

The job of resisting unconstitutional federal overreach will take time. Nullifying federal laws is as much about crystallizing our constitutional rights as it is a way to affirm our natural right to autonomy. Thus, it will be received poorly by anyone who wants to concentrate power in on Capitol Hor. Or put another way:

Nullification has never been a legal tactic. It has always been an extra-legal and political one. Law and politics are two different things, and the fact that something is illegal does not mean it’s politically unfeasible or impossible.

P.A. Deacon

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