Tag: federalism

How to End the Loophole Surrounding Federalism

By Jack Shields | United States

The drinking age in most states in the United States is twenty-one. This fact is a great disappointment to me having turned eighteen this year. But the fact the age is twenty-one rather than eighteen isn’t even the most disappointing part. It’s the reason why the drinking age is twenty-one. Most states have this as their drinking age because they were coerced into doing so by the federal government using a technique that was held as constitutional in the case South Dakota v. Dole. The decision handed the federal government a mechanism by which they may go around the very idea of federalism and force the states to submit to their will, and must be overturned.

The Effects of Prohibition

In 1919, we as a nation decided that legislating morality was a good idea, and ratified the Eighteenth amendment prohibiting the sale of alcohol at a federal level. Unsurprisingly, Americans did not respond well to being told what to do, and the disaster that was prohibition was finally ended with the ratification of the Twenty-First Amendment in 1933. Section Two of the Twenty-First amendment clearly stated that states had a right to regulate alcohol if they so choose, but the federal government no longer had a say in the matter. Yet, when has a constitutional provision ever been enough to stop our federal government from expanding their scope of power and informing us ignorant, ordinary people what is moral and right to do?

Congress passed a law in 1984 which required the Secretary of Transportation to withhold five percent of federal highway funds for states that did not adopt a drinking age of twenty-one. This was challenged by South Dakota, which at the time had a drinking age of nineteen. The Supreme Court ruled that this law did not violate the spending powers of Congress or the Twenty-First Amendment. Their logic for this was because the law was for the general welfare of the nation, and the way Congress went about achieving this was reasonable, then the law was within Congress’s constitutional bounds even if they were indirectly trying to achieve a goal not within the purview of Congress or the federal government in general.

The Abandonment of Federalism

This logic has now been widely accepted. In my Government class, we had to create our own bills and have our own Congress as an assignment in order to learn how Congress worked. Our teacher informed us that we didn’t have to worry at all about the fact the federal government has very few enumerated powers. We could make our bills about any subject as long as, instead of just creating the policy at the federal level, our bill listed what we wanted and what we would be willing to take away from the states if they didn’t comply. This is not federalism. This is the system my parents had for me when I was little, where if I didn’t obey them then Santa would not be coming that year.

The federal government and the states should not have a parent-child relationship. The way it was supposed to go was the federal government would have a small list of enumerated powers in which their laws would be the Supreme Law of the Land. These were policies that needed to be uniform throughout the states in order to have one country such as a single currency and regulating trade with foreign nations. But other than that, everything was left up to the states. The states were their own independent government, and with powers not enumerated to the federal government, the states’ law was the Supreme Law. That is the very idea of federalism and of limited government, and sadly we do not have that right now because of this decision.

If the federal government is supposed to have limited, enumerated powers, and nothing more, then indirectly forcing the states to do something not within the scope of their power is clearly a loophole that needs to be shut. But how? The federal government currently gives funding to the states for many things. And both the states and federal government feel the need to legislate morality on many issues like alcohol, marijuana, and many others. Whether either of these things is good is an issue for another time. It’s how things are and a fix to this problem needs to fit into that reality. So the federal government is giving funds to the states and giving money inherently grants the authority to withhold money. What should justify withholding said money?

The Solution

It should all be based upon the federal government’s enumerated powers. This is the most logical conclusion, which is clearly seen when looking at this type of situation with any other entity. If you have a phone, you have a deal with a phone company wherein they provide you with a data plan and you pay them for it. If you disobey their terms and conditions pertaining to the purchase of the data plan, it is completely reasonable for the company to cease to provide you with those things. But if you didn’t pay your rent that month, it would not be an appropriate justification for the phone company to cease to provide their services because that has nothing to do with the relationship between you and the phone company. The relationship between the federal government and state governments should be the same way.

From 1919 to 1933, it would have been appropriate for the federal government to withhold funds for disobeying their will pertaining to alcohol. Regulating it was an enumerated power and their law is the Supreme Law. But it is not an enumerated power anymore, and therefore they have no place in regulating it. Funds should only be withheld in cases wherein that pertain to an enumerated power. If the federal government wants to withhold funds because states are disobeying immigration laws, they can. Because that’s a federal power. But if the federal government wants to withhold funds because a state doesn’t pay teachers enough, that would not be allowed as that is not an enumerated power of the federal government and is therefore outside the natural bounds of the relationship between the federal and state governments.

If we are to have a system of federalism and not a system of a parent like authority dictating to their children what is okay and what isn’t we must close all loopholes by which the federal government may overstep both directly and indirectly, their natural, enumerated powers. In order to do this, it is clear South Dakota v. Dole must be overturned and replaced with a standard by which federal funds may only be withheld in cases wherein the federal government wishes to directly influence a state’s behavior pertaining to an enumerated power of the federal government.


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America Did Not Listen to the Founders

By Jack Parkos | United States

The founding fathers of our nation gave us plenty of advice on how to run the country they formed. They warned us on many threats to liberty, explaining how to prevent a tyrannical government from growing. Unfortunately, America did not listen to the advice. Our government has grown tyrannical and our liberties are waning daily. The founders knew how easily this could happen and did all they could to prepare us. Frankly, we failed them.

Warnings on Factions

It seems sometimes that many of the founders predicted the future of America. James Madison, in particular, seemed to have this power. The former president warned us of many things in his writings and philosophy, most notably mob rule. In the Federalist Papers, Madison strongly criticized democracy and urged for a constitutional republic. He clearly feared factions growing in America. The essays warned how mob rule would be a threat to the liberty, outlining the fears that factions would only lead to groups pursuing interests that ran opposed to freedom.

Washington, the only president in our history without a political party, expanded on this idea. In his farewell address, he warned about the dangers of political parties and how they could lead to despotism. No one listened to his warning: not even the other founding fathers. This led to many disputes throughout history and continues to be a major issue today.

Words Against War

Once again, Madison came in with some great advice that most people ignored. He clearly warned that wars were a threat to liberty, going so far as saying:

Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other.

Madison knew how when a nation is in constant warfare, liberty is in danger. War also has the ability to create more enemies for the people that only will cause more tension and conflict in the future. The founders would not have cared about wars in Yemen: they would have safeguarded American liberty first.

Limiting the Federal Government

The federal government was supposed to be limited in what powers it had. Its main goal was to unify the states and prevent European dominance from ruining the American experiment. The federal government, however, has grown to such great lengths that the founders may not have been able to even conceive. In fact, by modern standards, even old George was a very modest tyrant, whose demands of the people were far more reasonable than those of the American government today.

One justification for such growth of government was the “General Welfare” clause. Basically, politicians believed their unconstitutional practices were acceptable, as long as they were intended to help the general welfare of the public. Once more, James Madison, the father of the Constitution, rebukes this:

If Congress can apply money indefinitely to the general welfare, and are the sole and supreme judges of the general welfare, they may take the care of religion into their own hands; they may establish teachers in every State, county, and parish, and pay them out of the public Treasury, they may take into their own hands the education of children, establishing in like manner schools throughout the Union; they may undertake the regulation of all roads other than post roads. In short, every thing, from the highest object of State legislation, down to the most minute object of police, would be thrown under the power of Congress; for every object I have mentioned would admit the application of money, and might be called, if Congress pleased, provisions for the general welfare.

James Madison explicitly states that “general welfare” does not mean the federal government can do whatever it wants. Roads, education, and law enforcement are of no business of the government. Madison warned how officials could use this clause, but the people ignored him.

Consequences of Ignoring the Founders

The above stated are not the only examples of wisdom we ignored, but they are ones that have a big impact on modern-day America.

Partisanship has only grown, to the point where our system exactly matches what Washington warned against. As a result, elected officials are putting party over country, Constitution, and liberty. Tribalism is also spiking. Mob mentality has taken over politics and law. Public opinion, rather than clear examination, is the new grounds for looking at the Constitution. If a large majority believes in a false interpretation of the Constitution, it will change and liberties will die. This is what the founders warned about: people using politics for their pursuits and sacrificing important liberties in the process.

The United States has never listened to Madison’s wisdom on war and its negative impact on liberty. In fact, it is hard to think of a time that America has not been at war. In recent years, we have been in continuous wars in the Middle East. These have led to numerous deaths, and for the survivors, more debt and fewer freedoms. We have not been able to preserve liberty throughout the wars, just like Madison stated.

Perhaps we need to stop waiting for a new revolutionary idea or leader to come about to fix our country. We can look to the past to our country’s founding to save our liberty and our prosperity.


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Deputized Police are Destroying Trust in Law Enforcement

By Jadan Buzzard | USA

Police officers are sworn to serve and protect their respective communities. These men and women fulfill an essential function, protecting citizens from dangerous criminals who strive to violate natural rights. However, many police departments harbor a dark secret. These departments partake in a program intended to deputize local law enforcement officials to enforce federal immigration laws, granting many officers broad discretion in their policing practices. This program, known as “287(g),” was enacted as a part of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which amended the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996. In essence, it grants the Department of Homeland Security the jurisdiction to enter into agreements with local police departments, giving those local police the ability to act as federal immigration agents. Once entered into an agreement with DHS, local police can interrogate individuals to determine immigration status, work with DHS databases, issue immigration detainers, and transfer immigrants over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation. As one might expect, the 287(g) agreement program severely impacts local communities, destroying trust in the police and spiking serious crime. Citizens ought to recognize this program as flying in the face of good policing practices. Eliminating the program will create an environment that encourages community trust, boosts the economy, and respects the civil rights of all Americans.

Investigations conducted by the Department of Justice uncovered sweeping discriminatory practices in several departments with 287(g) agreements. Does the name “Joe Arpaio” ring a bell? He was the Maricopa County sheriff in Arizona, recently pardoned by President Trump for unlawful enforcement of immigration laws and severe police misconduct allegations. The 287(g) agreement his department had with the DHS granted him the power to sweep Latino communities for illegal immigrants, interrogating any minorities he deemed suspicious. This practice ought to be opposed by all liberty-minded individuals. When officers begin to make judgments based on physical criteria, like skin color, the result is counterproductive and dehumanizing to people of color. Local enforcement officers should focus on protecting the public from dangerous criminals, not immigrants (who are actually less likely to commit crimes than people born in the United States). The 287(g) program displaces police priorities, moving them from productive work to pursuing small crimes and traffic violations.

This raises another issue with the program: it destroys community trust in the police. Community trust is essential to the safety of a given community. Minorities need to feel comfortable revealing important information to police officers about serious crime. These individuals are significantly less likely to assist law enforcement with a serious crime if police are constantly questioning their immigration status. In fact, according to The Center for American Progress in March 2017, “70 percent of unauthorized immigrants and 44 percent of Latinos are less likely to communicate with law enforcement if they believe officers will question their immigration status or that of people they know.” Thus, not only is the 287(g)agreement program racially discriminatory, but it also limits the effectiveness of law enforcement in general. Police often rely on insider information when pursuing a serious crime, and a lack of information can leave a police investigation severely handicapped. This leads to crime spikes in local communities, driving police to suspect minorities yet again, encouraging more discrimination. The ensuing crime spiral is dangerous and should be avoided at all costs.

A final issue with the 287(g) agreement program is the impact it has on federalism, the system created by the American founders to protect against tyranny. Local police have a specific function – to protect local communities from serious crime – and federal immigration agents have their own function – to enforce federal immigration law. While my view on federal immigration policy is another story, separating jurisdictions provides each actor more efficiency in its operations. But federalism also guards against the usurpation of power by the larger branch, which in this case is the federal government. The founders implemented this system throughout the American government, and it tends to work. The 287(g) program, however, creates an unnecessary (and even dangerous) overlap between federal and state jurisdiction. It turns local police officers into federal agents, consequently offering their jurisdictions over to the federal government. The precedent set by 287(g) can have far-reaching negative effects on future policy. We cannot wait idly by as the federal government continues to usurp powers deliberately left to state and local governments. This provides yet another warrant for the abolishing the program once and for all. Through this act, communities can stand for their Constitutional rights and guard against the onslaught of federal usurpation.

Unfortunately, Trump is pursuing efforts to expand 287(g). The acting director of ICE even announced plans to triple the number of agreements by the end of 2017. This, to put it lightly, is not helpful. Trump should not be focusing on undocumented immigrants that pose little threat to overall safety or the economy. In fact, immigration generally boosts economic growth due to lower labor costs. Many politicians talk of immigrants “stealing” American jobs – a flawed understanding of macroeconomics. Businesses gain revenue from cheaper labor, which allows them to expand production, providing cheaper goods and even more jobs to the public. Undocumented immigration should not top of the list of “crack-down” priorities for the Trump administration, yet somehow it continues to pervade his policy and rhetoric.

While some may consider 287(g) rather irrelevant due to its small size and lack of media coverage, I consider it to be critical. Allowing “unimportant” policies to escape public attention is dangerous. It encourages policymakers to slide back-door regulations into large bills in hopes that they remain hidden. This practice is simply an extension of the nanny-state bureaucracy our government is currently devolving into. We, as individuals, have an obligation to preserve the principles of liberty that our country was founded upon. Without them, no nation can truly flourish. Take a stand against 287(g) and other federal policies that violate natural rights and grant officials broad, unnecessary power. United, we will remain a formidable force, against which tyranny cannot prevail.