The States

States of the Union
By Mike Landry

We are the United States of America.

The United States.

Not the United Provinces, the United Districts, the United Regions.

The United States.

Being denied their rights as Englishmen, eighteenth century British colonists recognized their local areas as sovereign states, independent of the mother country. While they realized the need to cede a distinct portion of their states’ sovereign power to some kind of national union, that union was designed to be a creature of the states. Witness that despite today’s convoluted interpretations of church-state relations, about half the states had state –state—religions after the ratification of the Constitution. The newly-enacted First Amendment prohibited the establishment of a national religion (“Congress shall make no law…”), but states were free to do as they wished.

So what happened?

Several things, but one practice stands out. Over the decades, the federal government has for the most part enticed states to part with their sovereignty by lavishing U. S. Treasury money upon them. But that money has strings – indeed, chains – attached. Like drug pushers who give away free product as bait, federal monies have snared the states. After all, there seem to be many needs for “free” dollars for roads, airports, recreational facilities, and on and on.

As states have increasingly lost their sovereignty, the carrot of federal funds has also been accompanied by a stick. And that stick is heavy. Now we have a federal government attempting to crush its states and their citizens through excessive taxation, regulation, and pressure. Given such overreaching, some Americans are beginning to take a look at the concepts of government at all levels, especially what has been lost and must be reclaimed on behalf of the states in the idea of American federalism.

Most people, when they think of the organization of the U. S. government, call to mind the division of powers among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. But the Founders went further – they carefully divided power between the national government and the states. True, the Constitution’s multi-compartmentalizing makes for built-in inefficiencies. But Constitutional restrictions do not, as some claim, represent limitations of parochial eighteenth century minds. Instead, they are brilliant checks on human tendencies to amass dangerous power. And the Founders probably would smile at the term “government gridlock” “Good,” they would say. “That part of the system is working just fine.”

Which brings us to where the states are today. Continual expansion of federal power has resulted in images which include those of the governor of Arizona literally getting into the face of the President, of Oklahoma dealing with what should be the national issue of illegal immigration, of multiple states lining up to resist universal healthcare or planning to refuse to enforce new gun laws or of the governor of Texas – mainly for the sake of theater — using the word “secession.”

It’s hard to know now where it’s all going. But increasingly, state legislators and governors are dusting off the frequently ignored Tenth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution:

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.

Serious people rule out something like secession. Yet there is recognition that the federalist concept is way out of balance. And states increasingly are pushing back. Average people are gathering in restaurants to study the Constitution and the rights reserved to them and their states. Tea Partiers have left the streets and are running for and winning elected offices. Legislatures and governors are fighting the overreaching influences of big-government allies like unions, private-sector and otherwise. (Michigan a right-to-work state? Michigan?!?!?!?!?).

What happens next? Restoration of true Constitutional power? An association of states standing up and telling the federal government: “No!” Revision of the relationship between the states and Washington? Again, where it goes is hard to tell.

Yet everyone – not just politicians — needs to be concerned about getting back the proper role of the states (indeed, the interests of the politicians are part of why we got into this mess). For instance, as they become aware of the implications of Obamacare, many doctors say they will leave the profession. But where were they in the debates leading up to health care nationalization? Doctors lack civic involvement, according to noted surgeon Dr. Benjamin Carlson in his National Day of Prayer speech. That was not always the case, as he said five physicians signed the Declaration of Independence

What about small to medium-sized businesses? Like doctors, many entrepreneurs can claim they are too busy to pay attention to politics. But that attitude is as dangerous as being too busy to respond to changing market trends or to rapid advances in technology. Big corporations don’t think that way: they employ armies of lobbyists and are first in line with the campaign donations. The big guys can leverage crony capitalism; the little guys get crowded out.

Ultimately, it’s about involvement — it will take the efforts of business and professional people, trade organizations, and dedicated individuals to resist Washington’s rapidly increasing encroachments.

And it’s about commitment: time and money, of which there never seems to be enough. Yet, when it’s important, we find the resources to make things happen.

And this is important.

It’s about restoration.

Restoration of the United States of America.