Connor Boyack, of the Utah Tenth Amendment Center, recently submitted his article, Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing? This article supplements his based on a recent experience and opportunity to meet with Congressman, John Culberson, of Houston.
The event was the Institute of Hispanic Culture’s annual gala, a formal, black tie event hosted in one of Houston’s premier hotel ballrooms. It was a very nice event, with a number of influential people making appearances, such as Congressman, Pete Olson, Texas Supreme Court Justice, Eva Guzman, and some others.
Before the program began, the customary meet and greet at the bar outside of the ballroom was conducted for about an hour or so. I had the pleasure to speak with the aforementioned leaders, all of whom are very decent and hard-working people.
John Culberson is a very well-liked Congressman in our area. He fits the conservative persona seemingly well. There is not much to dislike, and in fact, he always gets my vote. Nevertheless, I thought I would share what I find to be the typical flawed approach to the Tenth Amendment Task Force, since Representative Culberson is one of the Force’s members.
Rep. Culberson, during the course of small-talk during the meet and greet, mentioned that the Tea Party is the best thing to have happened to American politics in a long time. I indicated slight ambivalence to this statement, by suggesting that the Tea Party is not particularly homogenous and well-defined, making “whatever its agenda is” a bit too amorphous to know how it might positively affect our politics. To my comment, Rep. Culberson replied, to paraphrase, “… but the Tea Party stands for the Constitution. That, alone, is huge and extremely important.” He suggested, by this statement, that he, too, is an ardent supporter of the Tenther Movement. Incidentally, I did not mention anything about the Tenth Amendment or the Constitution at all up to this point, as it was my preference to listen and hear what came from him spontaneously, as opposed to in response to what I might want to hear. So far, so good….
The dinner chimes rang, and we all began to take our seats in the ballroom. As luck would have it, Rep. Culberson was a keynote speaker. Part of his purpose was to introduce a prominent scientist in the Houston area who is conducting research in nano-technology. It is a very fascinating concept, and of course, no brief speech could possibly do it justice.
However, in the course of making his speech, Rep. Culberson said a couple of things which caught me…. ok…. unsurprised. First, he indicated his support of NASA. Of course, here we are in Houston. NASA is an important thing around here. He gave credit to certain people for pressing appropriations to see to it that Obama’s plans on gutting the NASA program were not completely successful. He indicated that he would continue to support NASA funding, which is so vital to Houston.
Next, Rep. Culberson, likewise touted the sophistication of our renowned Medical Center. From Houston come the world’s leading technologies. And in this regard, the important nano-technology research taking place in Houston will pave the way to major breakthroughs and discoveries. To paraphrase Rep. Culberson, again, “My job as a Congressman on the Appropriations Committee is to say ‘no,’ but when it comes to important things like our nano-technology research here in Houston, I will always say ‘yes.’”
And that’s the way it went. There was nothing major or outrageous. It was a very soft stump-speech, and in many respects, he is right to acknowledge the importance of programs that are so vital to progress in the sciences. These, after all, are not trifling endeavors.
In short the things that caught me unsurprised were that within the span of about 20 minutes, we went from the concept that adhering to the Constitution is vital to our current political system, to pledging support for continued appropriations for NASA and nano-technology research, neither of which are authorized by the Constitution.
Of course, nobody can deny these programs are important and very useful. Likewise, nobody can deny that since the bulk of taxation and control is conducted at the federal level, it is difficult, if not impossible, to expect that important programs like these could be maintained if federal funding for them was cut. It is not as if they could be maintained at the state level, given that so many of our state’s dollars are already expatriated to Washington. So, of course, we need to get them back.
And there is where the devil lies. With an excess of federal power (e.g., money), we have a problem. Either: a.) you can support the Constitutional framework to a “T” and allow your local programs which receive federal funding to go up in flames, or b.) you can suggest the Constitution must be adhered to, but make exceptions when programs you consider important to your constituents would flame-out under a rule of strict adherence.
Therefore, while I am critical of the Tenth Amendment Task Force and likewise critical of Rep. Culberson’s inconsistency in this regard, I must admit that our representatives walk a very fine line. Their jobs are not easy. How do you represent your people if you do not bring back their bacon?
Such is the life of a politician, and as I have said, I think Rep. Culberson is a pretty good one. Sure, I wish he could operate in a world of consistency. Perhaps he could, if all his cohorts would agree to do so as well. And there is no doubt that since he must bend his pledge to meet the needs of his constituents, so the other representatives must, too. They cannot stand stalwart on Constitutional principles while distant representatives rob the federal coffers to our detriment. As long as there is a frenzy at the tough, we need to get ours, too – damned be the Constitution. It is a simple as that. It is a vicious circle, to which I see no end.
The big question for our Movement in light of this obvious problem is how to promote the Constitution without getting robbed by those who do not. This is not as easy as one might think. “Voting the bums out” is not a solution. The problem is systemic.
Jeff Matthews is an attorney living in Houston, Texas. His current projects include the website SovereignStates, and the forthcoming organization, The National Taxpayer Takeover.
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