In the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison warned us that if the federal government were to have the exclusive right to judge the extent of its own powers, its power would continue to grow – regardless of elections, the separation of powers, and other much-touted limits on power.
The principle behind these resolutions, that the power of federal government must be checked by state governments, has gained resurgence in recent years, and is growing more every day.
Those sound like nice words, but what does this mean precisely in application?
In order to restore usurped constitutional authority, a State must be prepared, at some point, to resist federal intrusion. In the American tradition, there is a long history of States doing just that. Georgia nullified the Supreme Court’s ruling in Chisholm vs. Georgia (1793); New England States nullified fugitive slave laws; and earlier New England townships nullified Jefferson’s embargo and the war of 1812 declared under Madison’s administration.
While over the last few years, dozens of states have literally said NO to Washington DC on issues ranging from national health care to medical marijuana, the real ID act, gun rights and more – some people feel that to really activate the constitution for the future, something more will be needed.
One idea, which will take a great deal of courage on the part of the People and their state governments, is to establish what’s being called a “Federal Tax Escrow Account.”
Introduced in Georgia as House Bill 20 (HB20) is the State Authority and Federal Tax Funds Act.
It states, in part:
(a) The Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America states that ‘(t)he powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, or prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.’ The General Assembly finds that the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America defines the total scope of federal power as being that specifically stated in the Constitution of the United States of America and no more.
(b) The General Assembly finds that the federal government, its agencies or agents, or the United States Congress does not have the power under the Constitution of the United States of America to appropriate or otherwise expend funds for purposes that are outside the scope of the powers enumerated in the Constitution of the United States of America for the federal government.
(c) In light of the continuing unconstitutional federal expenditures, the state hereby reasserts its authority pursuant to the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America.
If passed, this would require that all federal taxes come first to the state’s Department of Revenue. A panel of legislators would assay the Constitutional appropriateness of the Federal Budget, and then forward to the federal government a percentage of the federal tax dollars that are delineated as legal and Constitutionally justified. The remainder of those dollars would be assigned to budgetary items that are currently funded through federal allocations and grants or returned to the people.
Will the federal government – and its courts – deem such laws constitutional? Unlikely, especially in light of the fact that as recently as 2005 the Supreme Court ruled that a person growing a plant on their own property, keeping it at home, and consuming it in their own home was somehow “interstate commerce.” Rulings such as these show that the courts have little, if any, respect for the rights of the people.
The Supreme Court, with only nine unelected judges, has become the most important policy making body in this country, and makes claim to be the final authority on interpreting the Constitution. Never in history have so many been ruled by so few.
The essential question, of course, will the people and their state governments have enough courage to push forward anyway? Only time will tell.
Click here for the Tenth Amendment Center’s Federal Tax Funds Act tracking page