Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is one of the leading lights of the 10th Amendment movement, or “The Tenthers,” a peculiar band of U.S. Constitution misreaders, dopes and ignoramuses whose asinine arguments are actually garnering some attention to these days.
Tenthers point to the 10th Amendment to the Constitution in arguing the federal government has overreached in myriad ways. The government, Tenthers claim, lacks constitutional authority in areas of food stamps, child labor, Medicare, Social Security and just about everything else you can think of, including the federal highway system.
They also cite the Tenth Amendment as the justification to for suing to overturn the the Affordable Care Act, aka ObamaCare — and Cuccinelli is leading the charge on those efforts.
Here is the entire text of the 10th Amendment:
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.
Essentially, Tenthers interpret this to mean that unless the U.S. Constitution specifically grants a power to the federal government, the feds can neither assume nor enforce that power. Obviously, the constitution does not explicitly say the federal government can force citizens to buy health insurance. Therefore, the Tenthers hold, that is an issue for the states, period. And they believe that’s how Cuccinelli is going to get the law kicked.
Of course, this completely obscures actions by Tenthers of an earlier era, who used the 10th Amendment as the prime justification for the “States Rights” argument that itself was a smokescreen for the real cause of the Civil War — the South’s insistence on preserving slavery.
But apart from aligning themselves with slaveholders, there’s another more fundamental flaw in the whole modern Tenther argument. In a nutshell, it’s this: Their interpretation is based on a single sentence in the Constitution, rather than on the document as a whole.
In fact, the larger document directly contradicts the Tenthers’ argument. That’s right — words the founding fathers quite deliberately wrote into the Constitution clearly and effectively rebut the Tenthers’ faulty reasoning.
For example, consider the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The problem for the Tenthers here is that the First Amendment has nothing to do with what Congress can do. It’s all about what Congress can’t do.
And this is where the Tenthers’ entire argument falls apart. Because under Tenther-logic, unless the Constitution permitted the feds to establish religion, or abridge freedom of speech and so on, then the feds would automatically be prohibited from doing it.
Obviously, the founding fathers themselves did not believe that, or they never would have felt the need to write the First Amendment in the first place.
I won’t go to Tenther lengths with this line of reasoning, and mount an argument that because the founding fathers did not prohibit the government from requiring individuals to buy health insurance, that requiring them to buy it is constitutional. I’ll leave that one for the scholars and the courts,
But it’s plainly obvious that the simple language of the First Amendment renders the Tenthers’ interpretation of the 10th Amendment completely bogus.
What’s really going on here is this: the Tenther movement is led by a few smart and cynical people who find economic or political self-interest in Tenther logic. They have won over a much larger bunch of intellectual boobs who can’t be bothered to think for themselves.
And those latter folks are the ones making all the noise.