March 28, 2010

The 10th Amendment Rally, the Limits of Government, and the Bounds of Discussion in the Public Square

Carroll Andrew Morse

I was late to yesterday's 10th Amendment rally held on the front steps of the Rhode Island Statehouse because – I kid you not – I had to finish putting my income tax information together for a meeting later in the day, so the samples of audio linked below represent targets of opportunity I was able to record, more than anything else.

Be warned, depending on your sensibilities, you may be shocked by what you hear.

I will confess to not knowing enough details about the macroeconomics and political economy of the Federal Reserve to be able to offer an opinion of the kinds of good and bad outcomes that would be likely to result from its wholesale elimination. And I am not an advocate of repealing the Seventeenth Amendment for one simple reason: I live in Rhode Island, and don't see better Senators resulting from Rhode Island General Assembly appointments than from popular votes.

But the fact that these issues don't have slam dunk answers, even amongst the conservative/libertarian side of the American political axis, doesn't mean that it's out of bounds to ask IN PUBLIC questions about whether every modification to, and every end-run of, the U.S. Constitution that has increased the scope of Federal power has been for the better.

So with that perspective in mind, let's boil what it is that's going on right now with the Tea Parties and other related protests down to its essentials. On one side, there is a growing movement of Americans saying there needs to be limits on government that are agreed upon, codified, and most importantly respected. On the other side, there are a number of Americans saying that all this dissent and discussion on limitations on government is becoming dangerous, so let's not do so much of it in public, and just agree that the Federal government has the power to do anything that it wants to that is not expressly forbidden by the Constitution.

Which side will you choose to take?

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Ron Paul is widely acknowledged within the US House of Representatives as a resident expert of sorts with regard to the Federal Reserve. When new Congress members are elected, they often come to him asking about the Fed and how it operates.

That he is in favor of abolishing it tells you all you need to know.

Posted by: Dan at March 28, 2010 5:40 PM

Maybe you should start with the question of what it is that you believe the Fed government has done that is against the spirit of the 10th?

We can't all read minds!

RI has the right to do anything that is not covered by the Feds. That means thousands of possible actions, many of which have gotten RI in trouble! For instance, you have the right to make promises and put RI in debt. We have the right to make most of our laws - heck we even can try murderers and put them to death!

Nothing has changed. Yet, once again, I never heard this 10th amendment BS until recently...other than from a few crazies.

So, let's review.....the states can cover what the fed does not. However, if the fed covers something, the states cannot trump it.

If the Fed does something which is considered against States rights, it can be challenged in Congress and in the Courts and elsewhere....and whoever wins will win.

I would assume, in general, that a number of constitutional lawyers look at such questions day in and day out and decide them.

So, again, what is the issue?

Posted by: Stuart at March 28, 2010 5:58 PM

"and just agree that the Federal government has the power to do anything that it wants to that is not expressly forbidden by the Constitution."

Wow, that sounds like a slippery slope.

I kinda like the Constitution. So I'm going with (a).

Posted by: Monique at March 28, 2010 7:22 PM

... and (a) has already been codified. It's the "respecting" part that our federal government has been struggling mightily with.

Posted by: Monique at March 28, 2010 7:27 PM

Stuart displays his extreme lack of knowledge of the history of federalism. The point of the 10th Amendment is that the feds have only those powers that are in the Constitution and no others, so they can't do whatever they want and "trump" the states.

It was only after FDR was able, after several years, to pack the Supreme Court with Progressive sympathizers and get official approval in Wickard v. Filburn in 1942 for the federal takeover of intrastate commerce that the last bulwark of federalism fell. Note that in the 1930s the Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional many of the New Deal programs and regulations.

Federalism as originally intended can be restored, and there is great popular support today for that. In an optimistic scenario, a century from now historians will write about how the United States saved itself from suicide in the 2010s. The era of "the great Progressive dead-end" may be just beginning now.

Or the last chapter of "Atlas Shrugged" might play out.

It's the peoples' choice.

Posted by: BobN at March 28, 2010 7:44 PM

So, you take "a" even though you don't mention what it means nor examples of the same?

OK, I know you prefer single sentences, but try to read and understand Section 8 - the Powers of Congress, of the original Constitution.

Lots of good info there!
"The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the..... general Welfare of the United States........."
"To borrow money on the credit of the United States;
To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States"
And the big kicker to make sure you understand them:
"To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof."

OK, that is more than one sentence, and I know complexity stuns you, but the founders- ALL OF THEM - ratified this Constitution in the end. It gives the vast percentage of powers to do ANYTHING in terms of either or both INTERSTATE COMMERCE or he GENERAL WELFARE.

Which part of that do you find hard to understand? Which actions of the government are you objecting to which you think are not covered in the powers of Congress? This should be an easy question for a skilled pundit.

Ok, now notice in the same text:
"To declare War"
Why, then, did Congress not declare the last number of wars we have?
"The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended,"

Oh, Bush did away with that.........and Congress helped with the right wing patriot act.

Other parts of this important document tell us we have the right to be secure in our persons, places and things. Well, if that is true, how can the government look at the contents of our emails, library checkout books, credit card records and even listen to phone call without a warrant?

How long have you been complaining about that stuff?

Or are you just grasping for any straws you can find? I suspect the 2nd, but would love for you to become more clear about what you are talking about. As it is, I sorta picture you up at the blackboard like your Hero Glen Beck, scribbling nonsensical talking points that make sense to only you and others with low IQ.

Posted by: Stuart at March 28, 2010 7:46 PM

Bob, another inconvient truth - that part of the actual Constitution that says:
"To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States"

It can only mean one thing. FDR did not put that in there.

I have to wonder, in your case, if they should have kept the 18th in force.

Posted by: Stuart at March 28, 2010 7:48 PM

" that the last bulwark of federalism fell."

Hey, BobN, what is the meaning of the word "federalism" in your sentence? I thought it meant sending power to the federal (national) government but that doesn't appear to be correct.

Posted by: Monique at March 28, 2010 8:04 PM

"Main Entry: fed·er·al·ism
distribution of power in a federation between the central authority and the constituent units (as states) involving esp. the allocation of significant lawmaking powers to those constituent units"

It's a counter-intuitive legal term often used in judicial opinions and commentaries. Took me a month of hearing it from law professors before I figured out what it meant.

Posted by: Dan at March 28, 2010 8:32 PM

So, bob, let me get this straight.

Our woes started with FDR, the guy who won the largest war in history, freed much of the world, built our infrastructure and industry to the best in the world, and helped our citizens be secure in their retirement........

And, somehow, just somehow that greatness continued through the 40's, the 50's, the 60's and even beyond.

And now, after a guy you don't like gets elected, you are all of a sudden telling us things have really been going downhill all this time?

It makes me wonder if the tea party is just a bunch of paranoids, kooks and malcontents...which find solace in each other and in Glen Beck talking points.

Let's talk about something real. Or, for entertainments sake, let me offer some humor:

Did you hear about the Teabagger that locked his keys in his car?
He had to use a coat hanger to get his family out.

Q: How do you start a Teabagger parade?

A: Roll a few cans of Skoal down the street.

Posted by: Stuart at March 28, 2010 9:16 PM

Gee Stuart,it's a good thing we're not too stoopid(duh)to read your little quips,or you'd have wasted all that energy.

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 28, 2010 9:21 PM

Stuart has fallen beneath the level of contempt. His lame attempt at humor is probably hilarious to his fellow Kool-Aid drinkers at RIFuture but they are merely obnoxious, incoherent rants everywhere else.

Posted by: BobN at March 28, 2010 9:45 PM

One of the problems with Stuart is that when he is caught out with a wrong statement or a lie he changes the subject to avoid admitting it.

Whatever Ford's eccentricities were, they had nothing to do with the Progressive concept of a paternalistic government controlling the lives of its citizens "for their own good". He was very clear about the good business sense of paying his people enough to afford his cars, and no amount of spin can change his words.

There was certainly an element of Progressive busy-bodiness in Ford, who did try to impose his personal beliefs on the social lives of his workers. It didn't work very well or last very long.

Stuart's hagiography of FDR is at odds with all of the facts. Clearly Stuart is steeped in the myth but ignorant of the real history. The world to him is made up of two-dimensional cartoon characters.

Posted by: BobN at March 28, 2010 10:01 PM

Virtually all left wingers avoid direct answers to questions that challenge their assertions.They use "equivalence"i.e."Look what Cheney did!!"or they answer with a question.
some,like David Cicilline,just flat out lie.
Others,like Pat Crowley start screaming"racist-you hate brown people".
It's like calling someone a pedophile-how do you answer ?You're allready smeared.

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 28, 2010 10:10 PM

Sounds like Sue Berg will be next on Sarah Palin's hit list - not sufficiently partisan enough.
Compared to other Tea Party events, 500 seems low, particularly on a beautiful Saturday (albeit a little cooler than last week).
Couple of leftover thoughts from yesterday's Nevada bash:
Anybody see the "NO RINOS" sign with McCain's name prominent on it? If these are Palin's people, I wonder if she spoke at the McCain rallies just to hurt him among moderates. I feel sorry for John at this point - with all the pandering he's been doing lately, he's like a lovestruck young fool deluded into believing the head cheerleader will dump the quarterback for him.
I love how the guy who registered to run against Reid on the Tea Party of Nevada line was trashed from the stage, barred from the candidate forum and threatened with lawsuits. Guess elitism isn't just a liberal thang after all.
Interesting poll out there: two GOP candidates polling ahead of Reid, but when a generic Tea Party candidate is added, Reid leads.
These people may do a better job defeating themselves than Reid possibly could.

Posted by: rhody at March 28, 2010 10:59 PM


Don't get insulting to others because your own thoughts are incoherent. It makes no sense to say that a power of the Federal government to require individuals to purchase something from something else exists because from Article I section 8 saying that the government has the power to raise taxes to promote the General Welfare. A purchase mandate is not a tax, unless you define a tax as "anything the government requires you to do".

If a person in a state is buying something from a company in that state -- and in fact, the law says he can't go out of state to make that purchase (as is the case with health insurance) -- it doesn't make sense to call it interstate commerce unless, to following up on Bob's point about Wicard v. Filburn, you believe that the framers of the Constitution really meant "any kind of human activity at all" when they said "interstate commerce".

And you want to accuse others of taking dumb positions?

Posted by: Andrew at March 28, 2010 11:28 PM

There goes Rhody again, arguing using lies as his original premises.

The phony "Tea Party" candidate in Nevada is a left-wing loon from an astroturf group that specifically hijacked the Tea Party name. This was one of the early efforts of the Statist coalition to smear the Tea Party movement.

There are two good reasons that Palin openly supports McCain: First, I think that she genuinely likes the man and admires his military service; her main beef was with the campaign's RINO staffers as she makes clear in her book (which I doubt Rhode has read). Second is political loyalty and strategy: the Left would have had a field day if Palin didn't support for Senator the guy with whom she ran on the Presidential ticket. Palin has too much decency and social grace to throw him under the bus (unlike Obama, who publicly tosses people away like used Kleenex).

For all their attempts at colorful imagery, the Leftists here use a lot of words to say nothing.

Posted by: BobN at March 29, 2010 8:24 AM

OK, maybe Bob can explain this one to me.

Tea Party types are protesting by NOT taking the US Census - arguably because Kookie Michelle Bachman told them it was a government plot.

That will result in LESS representation for them, as when you are not counted, you don't have either representation or your fair share of resources.

The constitution requires a census. I guess tea partiers are all of a sudden picking and choosing what parts of the document they cry for?

Hey, be my guest! You are making sure that the movement will go down in history right next to McCarthyism and other extreme right wing efforts.

Posted by: Stuart at March 29, 2010 10:38 AM

Stuart you lie. For example, I am a Tea Party member and I mailed in my form last Wednesday. Where do you get the idea that any Tea Party organizations have asked their members not to participate in the census?

And why do you have to attach gratuitous insults to the name of every person you disagree with?

And what kind of slimy insinuation is "arguably because..."?

As I said last night, you are beneath contempt.

I sure am glad that you Leftists are afraid of guns because you sure don't have the maturity to be trusted with them.

Posted by: BobN at March 29, 2010 10:46 AM

Bob, I'm glad you filled it out, but if you don't know about the tea party and the census conspiracies, you have not been reading or watching the news!

From Houston:
"But, as some elected officials are starting to worry, Uncle Sam can't deliver anything to the rapidly growing Sun Belt state unless Texas residents deliver their forms back to the government.

As of Friday afternoon, only 27 percent of Texas households had filled in and returned their census forms — well below the national average of 34 percent"
"a new and growing threat to an accurate national head count is coming from anti-government conservatives who may not fill out their forms to protest against “Big Brother” in Washington."

From Elsewhere:

"Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., briefly called for a boycott of the 2010 census, which she apparently thought would ask too many nosy questions yet not ask about U.S. citizenship or resident status."

"Beck: "modern day slave state" being constructed out of census and service initiatives"

"Suspicion from right-wing groups that have heard talk-show host Glenn Beck call the census "a modern form of slavery" has also presented a greater problem this year than in the past"

Fact is, some from the right have said the census is the prelude for those Obama internment camps they believe are being formed. No way I have the imagination to make this stuff up, Bob...not in my furthest dreams.

But maybe Chairman Steele will provide a moment of levity today with how he is using your "anti-government" contributions to the Republican Party:
"Once on the ground, FEC filings suggest, Steele travels in style. A February RNC trip to California, for example, included a $9,099 stop at the Beverly Hills Hotel, $6,596 dropped at the nearby Four Seasons, and $1,620.71 spent [update: the amount is actually $1,946.25] at Voyeur West Hollywood, a bondage-themed nightclub featuring topless women dancers imitating lesbian sex."

Hah, I like a man with style, don't you?

Posted by: Stuart at March 29, 2010 12:02 PM

The only way a person could proceed from the stories quoted by Stuart to his conclusions is if he agreed with those conclusions in the first place.

Posted by: BobN at March 29, 2010 2:14 PM

An excellent,jam packed, meaty post by you,Mr.Morse. Thank you.

I do share your concern about repealing the Seventeenth Amendment for the reason you have stated. Here I am assuming that your underlying objection is that you would like senators elected who are stricter in adhering to Constitutional principles of individual liberty and the Republican form of government. If I'm wrong,please correct me because I am a little biased to say the least.

Yet,I am still on the fence on the issue. We might not get such state senators elected here who would then vote for federal senators who are so true to those principles,however,other states could do it and start the ball rolling,if we supported repealing the seventeenth. AS it is now,it seems muddied,who or what do our senators in DC represent now that we have popular elections for them? And doesn't popular election of senators dilute the promised Republican form of government?

It also raises the question in my mind if there might be need for some sort of outreach to our fellow Rhode Islanders to present this side of the issue.

Posted by: helen at March 29, 2010 2:42 PM

"You read that right; 10th-Amendment supporters are invoking crazies like Martin Niemoller IN PUBLIC!"

Yes, nothing at all crazy (or offensive) about comparing federal health insurance reform to the Holocaust.

Posted by: Russ at March 29, 2010 3:46 PM

Where did Sean Gately mention federal insurance reform?

Posted by: Andrew at March 29, 2010 3:54 PM

Nowhere did Gately compare the nationalization of the healthcare industry to the Holocaust, so once again Russ, this time, is arguing with a lie as his underlying premise.

His characterization of Niemoller as a "crazy" is also highly debatable and betrays a smugly arrogant sense of entitlement to judge the character of people of whom he knows little. I thought you "Liberals" were proud of your tolerance and non-judgmental acceptance of different people. It seems not to be true.

Why could that be? Oh, I forgot - Progressivism and National Socialism sprang from the same intellectual sources and the American Progressives and German Nazis were mutual admirers throughout the 1930s. Yes, our Leftists are proud of their associations with other groups who favor totalitarian, paternalistic government.

Posted by: BobN at March 29, 2010 4:20 PM

Russ-one of your allies,professional agitator David St.Germaine,compared E-verify to the Nuremberg laws.No problem there,hey?
As I recall the Nuremberg Laws stripped Germans of their citizenship if they had so much as a single jewish grandparent.
A slight difference from deterring illegal aliens from taking employment.
The only illegal aliens being asphyxiated in the backs of trucks(a Nazi mass murder method)are those who pick the wrong coyote to bring them here.Usually of the same ethnicity as they are.Not always,but about 80% of the time.
You "progressives"have very selective perceptions and outrage.

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 29, 2010 5:20 PM

What's hilarious is that the quote reads... "First they came for the Communists," exactly what many of these tea party know-nothings are doing! Talk about taking a quote out context.

Posted by: Russ at March 30, 2010 10:39 AM

Who's come for you Russ?What a load.You are very loud and out front complaining about the government(pre-Obama)and constantly criticizing our system.
I have an idea.Let's not quote two people anymore jaust to make a point-Martin Niemoller and Emma Lazarus.
It's been overdone.
Like I said,Russ,have your civil librties been PERSONALLY infringed upon?
Your buddy Crowley blathered on RIF about "shutting down"Glenn Beck's signing.Turned out he had about 12 people there and BECK HAD MORE THAN A THOUSAND-tell you something?I mean,this is RI,not Texas.I wasn't there-I have no interest in books by "pundits".David Horowitz excepted.
I think if you had the chance,you'd shut down any public expression by conservatives-you seem to idolize Chavez-and that's his style.
I've been to those hearings and seen it first hand.
So you have no beef.

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 30, 2010 11:04 AM

Joe, I searched for info on St. Germain re: eVerify/Nazis, but I only find one of your comments from a few months back. I was curious to see what he felt was comparable. I'll have to take your word for it. On its face, I'd say that's a stretch.

Posted by: Russ at March 30, 2010 11:32 AM

"Who's come for you Russ?"

Um, I'm not the one quoting Niemoller. But I'd add that there is no question that red baiting plays prominently in the tea party movement. And I'd say the movement has some proto-fascist characteristics (perhaps fodder for a diary on that one).

"have your civil librties been PERSONALLY infringed upon"

Yes, absolutely.

"Turned out he had about 12 people there and BECK HAD MORE THAN A THOUSAND-tell you something?"

Yes, most progressives have better things to do than hang out at the mall waiting from that nut (can you blame us?).

Posted by: Russ at March 30, 2010 12:04 PM


The popularized version of Rev. Niemoller's famous quote that you are referring to begins "First they came for the Communists but I was not a Communist...".

I'd say that the bolded-part applies to tea partiers really well, and that the meaning of the quote really seems to have eluded you.

Posted by: Andrew at March 30, 2010 3:19 PM

Russ-I have zero reason to make up something St.Germaine said.I saw it on Capitol TV.Believe me,"Doc" has made enough inflammatory comments without me inventing one.I don't like to lie.I won't say I never have,but not on some political blog.Why bother?I have been mistaken,but everyone is at times.The statement struck me as an obscene comparison.

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 30, 2010 5:30 PM

Russ-gotta agree with you about waiting on line for a screamer to sign a book.
I have waited for Don Bousquet,the cartoonist and Tess Gerritsen,the retired doctor who writes very original mysteries.She is exremely gracious to her readers.I would also wait on line for Lawrence Block or Cormac McCarthy(but he doesn't sign books.
I'll take your word on the civil liberties thing-it's not hard if you go to a lot of demonstrations.But i don't think you need to sweat being sent to a camp.

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 30, 2010 5:36 PM

Andrew, it's ridiculous to suggest that the meaning of the quote is a disavowal of association with Communists, Jews, and trade unions. Clearly, Niemoller was expressing solidarity.

And as I said there is no question in my mind that red baiting and vilification of unions as the quote continues are a large part of the rhetoric coming out of the tea party movement, a betrayal of that very spirit of the quote and exactly what Niemoller warned us against, which is not to say that those who do so are therefore Nazis.

And, Joe, yeah, I was thinking of so-called "free speech zones," one time placed conveniently on the other side of a line of buses to make sure Bush Sr. could enter Johns Hopkins without the protest being picked up by the TV crews, and of less direct infringements like some of the data mining activities of late. Maybe I'll just start signing my LTEs "Doremus Jessup"!

Posted by: Russ at March 31, 2010 4:12 PM


To the extent that Rev. Niemoller is expressing "solidarity", it is a solidarity with others as individual human beings, not as members of groups they have to belong to, in order to have their fundamental rights respected (or, at a meta-level, to understand his idea). Such an idea goes against the basic tenants of the modern left, with its view of the world as a never-ending class struggle between collectives, with full rights and full humanity extended only to members your own collective and its allies. This is what it is that's at the base of your difficulty in interpreting Niemoller.

As importantly, I think that it makes for a better world when Martin Niemoller is being discussed in the public square -- even if you think that it's the "wrong" people advancing the discussion.

Posted by: Andrew at April 1, 2010 8:32 AM

Excellent points Andrew.Exactly what I think-the enslavement of the leftist mind to "group dynamics".
Humans at every level are individuals.Leftists can't grasp this.

Posted by: joe bernstein at April 1, 2010 11:04 AM
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