February 27, 2010 [LINK / comment]
Defending the Tenth Amendment
Are you a "Tenther"? I'm not sure if I'm as vehement about the issue as some folks, but I have taken the Tenth Amendment seriously at least since I was in graduate school at U.Va. I was surprised back then that some of my grad student colleagues, and apparently some professors, seem to downplay the Tenth Amendment as nothing more than self-evident, redundant boilerplate language lacking much substantive meaning. Their attitude baffles me for two reasons: first, because I can't imagine why the Founding Fathers would amend the Constitution with something so trivial, and second, because it is so obvious that major issues hinge on the extent to which states exercise unique powers that are denied to the Federal government in Washington. Clearly, if you favor centralized big government solutions to social and economic problems, then you won't be too fond of any constitutional impediments that might thwart your agenda. In other words, there is a widespread dismissive attitude toward the meaning of the Constitution, tending to subvert respect for authority. In any case, here is the text:
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.
I bring this up because I heard a very good presentation on "Term Limits and the Tenth Amendment" this morning at the Valley GOP breakfast. The guest speaker was James Atticus Bowden, a retired Army officer, author, Republican Party activist, and blogger. His presentation is posted on his blog at Deo Vindice. I first learned who he was three years ago when he was one of the "Bloggers for Sayre," and have occasionally read his writings since then. (He is NOT the deovindice blogger from Tennessee.)
Bowden argued that American politics is out of kilter in large part because of a badly mistaken understanding about where the locus of authority and sovereignty is in our federal republic. He views supreme authority as resting in God Almighty, and human laws being subordinate to and (hopefully) consistent with Divine Will. Since the American Civil War, which badly disrupted the body politic of the American nation, there has been a steady march toward the centralization of power, which is the prime reason for the gradual breakdown of social order. Americans are allowing their freedoms to be incrementally stripped away, and one manifestation of this is the poor awareness of the role of the Constitution in upholding our individual liberties and state government prerogatives. Bowden made a very good case and displayed a solid, deep grasp of the subject matter. My only real criticism, as I stated during the Q&A period, was the fact that he glossed over the erosion of constitutional safeguards under the Bush administration, exemplified by the No Child Left Behind educational program and the initiation of military action against Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003) without a formal declaration of war by Congress. Bowden agreed with me on both points.
The Tenth Amendment is the essential basis for the effort by state governments to nullify Obamacare, if it is passed. I discussed this constitutional issue in my Feb. 12 blog post, and talked about it when I met Ken Cuccinelli (then a state senator, now attorney general) last September.
Internet tax equity
The lead editorial in Monday's News Leader praised the bill sponsored by State Sen. Emmett Hanger, which would begin levying sales taxes on purchases made over the Internet from within Virginia. Of course, that got the knee-jerk anti-tax crowd all fired up with their metaphorical torches and pitchforks, but there were a number of worthwhile comments made by readers. My comment:
The idea that tax burdens should be spread equitably is obvious, or ought to be. Likewise, the need for additional revenue is obvious, especially for communities like Staunton where budget shortfalls threaten to close a key state institution, the CCCA. Too bad that some people refuse to consider worthwhile reforms, or even admit that the state budget is in dire straits.
Mr. Campbell [*] sheds helpful light on some crucial details that the News Leader editors may have missed. From what I can tell from the Legislative Information System, SB340 was tabled until next year by the Senate Finance Cmte., and SB660 is a watered-down short term incremental step. If it passes, let's hope it doesn't side-track the goal of FULLER tax equity.
A number of companies that sell goods over the Internet already charge state income tax, but I wonder how many of them actually fork over the proceeds to the fifty state treasurers like they are supposed to?
* That was a reference to a comment by R. David L. Campbell, Chief Executive of Fed-Tax.net
Are liberals smarter?
Some expert in Britain has done a scientific study which found that, "on average, people who identified as liberal and atheist had higher IQs. This applied also to sexual exclusivity in men, but not in women." CNN.com. The more I read, the more appalled at the bigotry of the authors, one of whom linked paranoid feelings with religious faith. I also question their premises: "It defines 'liberal' in terms of concern for genetically nonrelated people and support for private resources that help those people."