The shutdown of many parts of the Federal government due to the debate over Washington’s control of medical care is just a symptom of a much deeper problem. As significant as is the debate over who should control our medical systems, it is but one aspect of the real problem.
We have lost our vision for constitutional federalism. The balance of power between the states and the federal government, as was intended when the Constitution was written, is no longer a reality or even a goal. All of this concentration of authority into the central government is now proving impossible to manage. The people are disgusted with how dysfunctional national politics has become. I don’t disagree with them, but I hope they will see, regardless of their opinion of government control of medical care, that the only way to cure this dysfunction is to reestablish constitutional federalism.
All 50 states should not be forced into this federal government takeover of medical policies. Congress, the President, and the Supreme Court have all had their hand in crafting this policy. Now, when the current House of Representatives tries to modify the policy, we find ourselves at an impasse. No one seems able to negotiate a solution, but the states should, and could, if we had not drifted away from constitutional federalism.
If the states were asserting their proper authority, this would not be a national question, it would reside individually with all fifty states. The competitive interests between the states would determine the appropriate and practical role of government in managing our medical systems. As it is currently, even without Obamacare, through Medicare, Medicaid, etc., the federal government sets the rules for most all of medical billing and funding practices. This is a problem: one central government authority should never have asserted such singular control over what is not the core function of government.
When I first became a state legislator I raised my right hand and took an oath to uphold the U.S. and state constitutions. But now, more than a decade later, I can attest that it is nearly impossible to vote for many bills if only for the fact that they violate those constitutions by violating the basic premise of constitutional federalism. In our state legislatures far too often we are not debating and deciding policy for our state, we are just implementing federal policies already dictated by Congress, the President, and even the courts.
Laws today assume Washington is in charge of just about everything. If there was to be any superior authority in the balance of powers concept, it was to be the individual sovereign states, not the central government. But instead, the states have been relegated to a status of little more than a lap dog.
The Constitution is designed to limit the federal government to specific powers and responsibilities (Article I, Section 8). All else, as the final amendment in the Bill of Rights clearly states: “…are reserved to the states, respectively, or to the people.” Over the centuries shrewd management of the powers of the central government have eroded the authority of the states and stripped the people of many of their rights. Those states, and their people, now seem to have no meaningful way of controlling the concentrating of more and more power in Washington.
But the writers of our Constitution anticipated this possibility. They gave the states the tool they need to control a runaway federal government. In Article V, when 2/3 of the states call for a convention, they can initiate amendments for ratification instead of Congress.
Alexander Hamilton, in Federalist Paper #85 said that because of this provision in Article V: “We may safely rely on the disposition of the State legislatures to erect barriers against the encroachments of the national authority.”
To preserve the integrity of our system of government the states must exercise this fundamental authority they have always had, but never actually implemented. In today’s terms, I call this taking away the credit cards from Washington. If the states move to limit Washington’s authority, it will put the big government bully back into his corner.
Our great nation was not founded with the intention of an all-powerful central government. It was quite the opposite. The time has come, not just because of a government shutdown, but for so many more reasons, to put the states back into their proper role of government. An Article V Convention of the States will put some common sense back into politics and refocus government back on the job of securing life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.