By J. Robert McClure III, PhD., President and CEO of The James Madison Institute
Also Posted on WCTV6-CBS Editorial Blog
In 1789, the second year of our nation’s journey under the U.S. Constitution, Benjamin Franklin – then in the final year of his long and productive life — wrote a letter in which he penned the now-famous saying, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”Now, unfortunately, Franklin’s saying may need to be amended. In a reflection of how far America has strayed from the Constitutional principles bequeathed to us by our nation’s Founders, the federal government is teetering on the brink of insolvency and default — a situation attributable, at least in part, to Washington’s usurpation of powers that the Constitution’s Tenth Amendment explicitly reserves to the states and to the people.Why, for instance, is the federal government spending billions of dollars each year on education when that’s a responsibility better left to state and local officials and to the people? Has this money made education more effective? Why is the federal government taking over health care, which accounts for roughly one-sixth of the U.S. economy when it has demonstrated time and time again that every program it touches becomes riddled with waste, bloated bureaucracies and terrible service to the taxpayer it purports to be helping? Finally, why do congressional representatives from both parties blatantly attempt to buy votes by earmarking taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars for wasteful pork-barrel projects in their districts? The wisdom of the Founders’ intent with the establishment of the 10th Amendment was stunningly prescient.Granted, there are varied opinions concerning the consequences and impact if the August 2 deadline comes and goes without an agreement on raising the federal government’s so-called “debt ceiling.” Already, however, the blame game has begun.Ironically, President Obama and the big spenders in Congress – the very people who are resisting plans that include significant cuts in federal spending — are now attempting to pin the failure to reach agreement on “Tea Partiers” and others who are actually trying to solve the problem.It’s a good time to remind folks that the original “Tea Party” in Boston Harbor was a manifestation of a tax revolt. The current “Tea Party” movement arose after CNBC newsman Rick Santelli’s February 9, 2009 on-air rant about an Obama Administration housing plan that Santelli correctly said “promoted bad behavior.” At one point he suggested that there ought to be “a Chicago Tea Party” to protest this kind of policy.The Tea Party movement caught fire and spread nationwide for the same reason that a wildfire spreads: the conditions were conducive. Americans were tired of seeing an inordinate share of the fruits of their labor seized to fund an ever-expanding government. They also were tired of seeing the boundaries of their liberties shrinking at the hands of meddlesome bureaucrats.Although the term “Tea Party” pays homage to the original event in Boston, supporters also note that “Tea” can be viewed as a convenient acronym for “T-axed E-nough A-lready.” The Tea Partiers’ belief – that the “debt crisis” stems from too much spending rather than too little taxation – animates their resistance to proposals that include additional taxes now followed by phantom spending cuts much later.This grassroots movement and its adherents in Congress may have made Wall Street jittery, but its members are correct that the current trend in which towering budget deficits add to an already excessive national debt is unsustainable – unless the United States wants to follow the fiscal example of Greece. Unfortunately, that won’t work. While Greece’s economy is small enough – and Europe’s economy, though struggling, is large enough to work out a rescue – nobody can save the U.S.A. from fiscal ruin except the U.S.A. itself. Give the Tea Party caucus credit: At least they’re trying.