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Constraining the Great Meddler and Reviving the 10th Amendment

June 16, 2010
Op-Ed and Speech

A Line of Sight- By Congressman Tom Price (R-GA)— Republican Study Committee (RSC) Chairman
and Congressman Rob Bishop (R-UT)— Co-Founder of the 10th Amendment Task Force 

Across America, there is a growing restlessness and discontent toward Washington, D.C.   Frustration is in the air.  A recent poll found that four-out-of-five Americans don't trust Washington.  Another poll found that eighty-six percent of Americans think the federal government is "broken." 

In an effort to work toward long-term solutions to address this frustration, we have joined with fellow House Republican colleagues and members of the Republican Study Committee (RSC) to establish the 10th Amendment Task Force.  This new initiative at the RSC is a unique opportunity to focus our efforts on protecting and preserving the rights afforded our states and local communities under the 10th Amendment to the Constitution.  The Task Force will focus on five areas:  educating the public about 10th Amendment and federalist principles; developing proposals to disperse power from Washington to state and local governments; encouraging party leaders to prioritize federalism as a core Republican plank;  monitoring threats to 10th Amendment principles;  and engaging in outreach and constituency building.  

Some of the first elections to occur this cycle show that, regardless of party, Americans are unhappy with their government.  They continue to express their disappointment and dissatisfaction with Washington, because, simply put, Washington is out of control.  People want change.

Americans are disturbed that, over time, the federal government has become the Great Meddler.  It has intruded into virtually every aspect of our lives – from the type of health insurance you have to purchase to such arcane decisions as regulating the size of holes in Swiss cheese.  Since 1995 alone, the federal government has issued nearly 60,000 new rules.  The Economist recently estimated that the federal government currently employs a quarter of a million people to write and enforce regulations.  Unlike just about every other facet of modern life, these rules and regulations come in just one size.

Centralized power, massive spending, unfair tax burdens, and one-size-fits-all solutions imposed by distant bureaucrats contribute to the sense of powerlessness and frustration among Americans.  People across the nation are increasingly finding that their lives are controlled by a government that is out-of-reach and out-of-touch.  They can see that Washington has taken over functions that truly belong to the people, states and local entities.

As these facts become more widely known, Americans are waking up to the fact that Washington has slowly but inexorably exceeded its constitutional limits and overstepped its proper authority.  They know that the Founders of this country were healthy skeptics of an authoritative, centralized government.  They realize the Founders sought to establish a federal government that would do a few things well.  Instead, Americans look around and see that we have a massive federal bureaucracy that does many things poorly.

While the Founders did intend for the national government to exercise some important power, these powers were intentionally limited in number and scope.  Most powers were reserved to the states, or more importantly, the American people – a vision made explicit in the Tenth Amendment. 

The opposite of overreaching, one-sized-fits-all solutions from Washington is the idea of federalism.  Federalism is about the proper balance of power between national and state governments and is rooted in the knowledge that our political liberties are best assured by limiting the size and scope of the national government.

Sometimes the best change is not to try something completely new or untested, but instead, to return to core, but often forgotten principles.  Few founding principles are as important, or could more effectively bring about the change people are looking for, than the idea of federalism. 

The reason federalism is the solution to today's problems is because it continues to present the most efficient way to govern a vast, vibrant and diverse society and economy.  It can allocate government responsibility and power according to which level of government is best suited to a particular task.  Bringing decisions and participation closer to local communities would restore Americans' faith and confidence in their government and the political process. 

In order for any sort of systemic change of government to actually occur, the federal government needs to acknowledge that Washington is out of control and is flush with too much authority and responsibility.  One of the goals of the 10th Amendment Task Force will be to educate Members of Congress that the solution to most of our problems is not another national program.  Decision-making needs to be returned to the people.  Most problems facing society today should be addressed locally, by individuals living in their communities.  This is what the Founding Fathers envisioned.

America is tired of top-down mandates from federal bureaucrats in Washington.  They want a bottom-up government, with buy-in from citizens; a smaller government and one closer to home.  Federalism, the Founders' original formula for liberty and good government, is the answer.  Now is the time for an agenda rooted in federalism because it is a clear, constitutionally-based strategy to ensure freedom, choice, and a more accountable and responsive government.

Click here to read more about the 10th Amendment Task Force