My foray into the presidential debate Wednesday night lasted exactly nine minutes.

My finger hoovered over the TV power button during President Obama’s opening remarks, when he started talking about all of the money the U.S. would save by “winding down the wars” and how he would have that money to “invest” (aka spend) on his agenda at home. Never mind that the money doesn’t exist in the first place. You can’t “save” borrowed money. But winding down the wars? Really? The U.S. remains heavily involved in Iraq with recent troop deployments. U.S. soldiers continue to die weekly in Afghanistan. A friend of mine just deployed with a Kentucky National Guard combat unit to the Horn of Africa. And after his rip-roaring success in Libya, the peace president still has plenty of places left where he can flex U.S. military muscle: Syria, Iran, Yemen…the list is endless!

No – there is no “winding down the wars.”

But it was the constant appeal to federal power that ultimately sent me scurrying for the peaceful solace of the “off” button. Romney and Obama apparently think the right federal program can solve just about anything. Both promised to “fix” the education system, create jobs, achieve energy independence and make every American skinny. OK – I made that last one up. But I probably shouldn’t give them any ideas.

The only difference between Barack and Mitt lies in how they wish to apply the power of D.C. As they talked, Madison’s words written in Federalist 45 kept rushing through my brain.

The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation and foreign commerce; with which the last the power of taxation will for the most part be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement and prosperity of the State.

You see ladies and gentlemen, even if President Obama and Mitt Romney could actually achieve all of the things they promised through the application of federal power, they don’t have the authority to take the actions necessary. A constitutional power authorizing the federal government to “fix” education doesn’t exist. The authority for the federal government to develop “alternative energy sources” doesn’t exist. A federal power to “hire teachers” doesn’t exist.

So I turned off the TV and basked in the glorious silence.

If only stopping the constant encroachment of unconstitutional federal power was that easy.

As I sat there and reflected on the nine minutes of torture I’d just subjected myself to,  I imagined a letter Madison would write to our two presidential candidates. Short and to the point…

Dear Mitt and Barack,

The federal government has no constitutional authority to meddle in education, or to do most of the things you want to do.


James Madison

“But Mike…” you say. “Mitt talked about handing power and responsibilities back to the states.” So I hear. But it seems to me he only wants to give states the power to do things the federal government can’t “do better.” Umm…Mitt…newsflash…that’s not the constitutional criteria. The Tenth Amendment talks about “powers not delegated” remaining with the states and the people – not the power to do things the feds can’t do better.

It seems to me we have a choice between a usurper and a usurper-light.

No thanks. I’ll take the Constitution. Every issue, every time, no exceptions, no excuses.

Mike Maharrey

The 10th Amendment

“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.”



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