In 1936, the Supreme Court of the United States held that certain portions of the 1933 Agricultural Adjustment Act were unconstitutional; specifically they pronounced a so-called “tax” engendered by the Act in question not a tax at all, but rather constituted a slush fund for payments to farmers which were coupled with “unlawful and oppressive coercive contracts and the proceeds were earmarked for the benefit of farmers complying with the prescribed conditions.” The opinion, written by Justice Owen Roberts, noted:
The act invades the reserved rights of the states. It is a statutory plan to regulate and control agricultural production, a matter beyond the powers delegated to the federal government. The tax, the appropriation of the funds raised, and the direction for their disbursement,are but parts of the plan. They are but means to an unconstitutional end.
OK – so why, you may be wondering, should I care about some old musty Supreme Court decision about some old musty law that is no longer in effect? Good question, and it deserves a good answer. This decision, known in legalese short-hand, as US v. Butler, was the last Supreme Court decision in which the Court held a law invalid based on the fact that it was an unconstitutional exercise by the government of the power to spend. Take a minute to get your head around that; it has been 77 years since any law passed by Congress (and there have been thousands of them)has been abrogated because it contains or enables an unconstitutional power to spend! What that means is that no one has meaningfully challenged any legislation enabling the federal government’s wild and crazy spending in more than three quarters of a century. The Butler opinion goes on to warn:
If the spending power is to be limited only by Congress’ notion of the general welfare, the reality, given the vast financial resources of the Federal Government, is that the Spending Clause gives ‘power to the Congress to tear down the barriers, to invade the states’ jurisdiction, and to become a parliament of the whole people, subject to no restrictions save such as are self-imposed.
It would be difficult to conjure up more egregious evidence that the federal government, especially the legislative branch, is much more interested in promoting their pay and play lifestyle than in actually making any effort to promote and support good governance. Political public service at the federal level has devolved to little more than a ticket on the gravy train, irrevocable and with essentially no expiration date. A signal portion of their strategy is to relegate the individual States to little more than client principalities, whom they plunder with abandon (calling it “taxes”), then offer back some of the booty to those states who agree to fall in line and carry out federal mandates. The Convention of States Handbook puts it this way:
This is not a partisan issue. Washington DC will never voluntarily relinquish meaningful power—no matter who is elected. The only rational conclusion is this: unless some political force outside of Washington, D.C., intervenes, the federal government will continue to bankrupt this nation, embezzle the legitimate authority of the states, and destroy the liberty of the people. Rather than securing the blessings of liberty for future generations, Washington, D.C., is on a path that will enslave our children and grandchildren to the debts of the past.
This is not a new development; the degradation of an authentic and functioning central government into an apparatchik-laden administrative bedlam in which robed justices, posturing congressmen and executive branch proles take turns at playing incubus and succubus to a long-suffering nation began early last century with the rise of the laughably mis-named “Progressive” movement, and continues to the present hour. And it is time – indeed, long past time – to put an end to it.
Terrific – how do we do that? The answer is simple in concept and not so simple in execution. The Founders, gifted in manner and degree to an extent not even comprehensible to today’s pols, foresaw exactly our current situation, namely a runaway federal government, and gave us tools to prune back the choking federal vine that threatens to overwhelm us. The key is Article V of the Constitution, which states:
“The Congress, … on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof ….”
Bingo! Just imagine the benefits of just a couple or three amendments – like a Balanced Budget Amendment, another to term limit politicians, and still another to insure fair taxation. The mind boggles ….
The constitution has been amended 27 times in the history of our republic … and not one of them came about using this method of amendment. But that’s about to change. Grass roots groups throughout the country are coalescing around these notions … The Article V Caucus, ConventionofStates.com, the Mount Vernon Assembly, Mark Levin’s The Liberty Amendments and on and on. They will tell you, in detail, how to assist, even lead, these critical efforts.
I strongly urge everyone to investigate any or all of these groups; look at the case they make, examine the solutions they offer and make up your own mind. If you do that, I strongly suspect you will join with those who support this important cause.
Here are a few URLs to whet your appetite: