The fall of constitutional government and the deterioration of state sovereignty can mostly be traced to the disastrous decision to change the election of US Senators from the states to the actual citizens in an effort to make the Constitution “more democratic” via the 17th amendment. Randall Holcombe of The Independent Institute highlights how this even plays into the modern day health care debate.

Federal Health Care Reform, Paid For By the States, and the 17th Amendment

The root of this particular problem goes back nearly a century, to the passage of the 17th amendment in 1913. Prior to the 17th amendment Senators were chosen by their state legislatures, and represented the interests of their state governments. Under that system, this cost-shifting could not have been remotely feasible, because the representatives of the state governments, in the Senate, would not possibly sign off on it. Now, with the popular election of senators, Congress is more able to pass the costs of its initiatives on to the states.

I’ll go a step further and argue that the cost-sharing arrangement in the original Medicaid program approved in 1965 could not have passed had Senators been chosen by their state governments rather than by popular vote.

Lots of people have criticized Senator Baucus’s health bill, and I’m one of them. Looking at the bigger picture, the issue I’ve raised also provides a nice illustration for why we should repeal the 17th amendment.

Craig Grant
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