Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Continued Neutering of States' Rights

Why, oh why, did the States continue to allow themselves to be neutered? First, they take taxing out of their own control with the 16th Amendment (see my discussion here) then as if that wasn't enough, right after that, they ratify an Amendment that takes away their influence in Washington. Were they nuts?

You see, Congress was designed in the following fashion by the Founding Fathers: the Senate represented each State, regardless of population, equally with two representatives from each State. This was because the Republic had respect for each region and its sovereignty, not just population concentrations. These Senators were appointed by the State Legislatures. Thus, candidates for the Senate had to be keenly aware of the politics in their home State and had to interact with their respective State governments, be respected by them, and act in their best interest. The House of Representatives was supposed to be the part of Congress elected by popular election in each State, and each State sends a number of representatives according to its population. This created a nice balance in the Federal Legislative Branch between a body that represented the State governments and one that represented the people of each State. To this day, when a new bill or act is proposed, and both the Senate and the President approve it, still nothing gets passed until the House agrees to fund it, because it controls the Treasury. That's why something like going to war is a totally joint venture between the Executive Branch, the Senate, and the House.

So, you can see why State governments would want to be directly represented in these kinds of very important decisions. Why would they give that away? Well, in the early 20th century, several States were coming to a stalemate in their legisatures over who to send to the Senate. You know how it goes: Legislator Harry wants to send his good buddy and colleague Tom to the Senate, but Legislator Richard over there doesn't like Tom and wants to send George, and so time drags on and nobody can come to a decision that everyone likes, so the Senate seat stays unfilled. So, someone had the bright idea of having popular elections instead, for ALL the States, through a Constitutional Amendment. And it got ratified in April 1913. WHAT????

Let me say this again. The State Legislatures of several States couldn't figure out whom to send to the Senate, so instead they decided to give up and have all Senators elected by popular vote. Through an Amendment to the Constitution.

My answer would have been: tough noogies. If your State Legislature can't make up its mind and get its act together, then your State can sit out of Senate decisions until it does. The 17th Amendment simply punished all the States and left them out of the Federal loop because some couldn't figure out whom to appoint. That seems ludicrous.

The consequences? Now Senate candidates can appeal to the masses for votes, and neither body of Congress represents the States. Senators have no accountability to their State governments and therefore no reason to act in their best interest. If we think back to how our Republic is supposed to work (see here), I can't figure out which was worse, the 16th or the 17th Amendment.

Next up, the Federal Government gets even bigger! (Surprise...)

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