Tuesday, May 04, 2010

The power of 10 ...

A couple months ago, I bemoaned the relative silence of New York's junior senator, Kirsten Gillibrand. The same day that column ran, I was apparently put on her press office's mailing list. Silence is no longer an issue.

But that's not to say I don't have issues with Gillibrand. Some of them rather large. A perfect example comes from a press release I got last week announcing her “Plan to require minimum requirements for graduated drivers licenses in all 50 states.”

I'm glad I wasn't drinking anything when I read it. I would have certainly spit it out.

I have no idea whether minimum requirements for graduated drivers licenses is a good idea or not. Gillibrand's press release made a decent argument for them, to be quite honest. And if each state wanted to take up the concept and pass laws with certain requirements for younger drivers, I'd be hard pressed to oppose it.

We're talking about teenage drivers here. The idea of teenagers behind the wheel frankly frightens me. Actually, the idea of teenagers in public frightens me. But I'd no sooner support a nationwide ban on teenagers in public than I could support a nationwide standard on teen driving.

Fact of the matter is, I abhor the concept of nationwide standards on much of anything. I believe the federal government's sole purpose is to do that which is necessary for us as a country, but impossible for states to do independently. Basically, I think the feds are there for military purposes to protect us.

Of course, there are some standards that I think are necessary nationwide. And most of those are outlined in the Constitution.

One of those Constitutional covenants is that the feds will not interfere with the states on matters other than where the Constitution dictates otherwise. It's the 10th Amendment. Or as I like to refer to it, the forgotten amendment.

It reads, “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.”

In other words, except where the Constitution says otherwise, the feds will let the states do as they wish.

Gillibrand's idea of national driving standards for the youth seems to be in direct opposition to this concept.

Worth noting, she's not proposing a law to create such standards. She's proposing a penalty for those states that don't create such standards; a withholding of federal highway funds, similar to how the federal government bullied all 50 states into raising the drinking age to 21, lowering the acceptable blood alcohol content to .08, and – for a time being at least – lowering state speed limits to 55.

It is, essentially, extortion. If states don't comply they lose money they were previously entitled to. How this is not seen as a violation of the 10th, I have no idea.

Gillibrand and her fellow senators don't have to worry about it too much though. The Supreme Court doesn't even seem to recognize the 10th Amendment. In modern history, it's been upheld very infrequently.

The concept was important enough to be in the Bill of Rights. Not to mention, it was in the Articles of Confederation before that. But it's not important enough for our present-day elected officials to pay any attention to it.

Then again, what is?

For more on “the forgotten amendment,” check http://www.tenthamendmentcenter.com