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September 9, 2011

Enumerated Powers

Joe Charlebois

My daughter just finished her first week of high school and was exasperated at the increase in the size of her homework. As a part of one of her very first assignments, she had to define roughly 100 separate terms for her government and civics class. The term “Enumerated Powers” was one on the list that stumped her.


Enumerated Powers isn’t a term that is in typical use in a high school freshman’s lexicon. With the past few federal administrations, maybe it should be.


Enumerated Powers are what empower the “Tea Party” of today. Members believe in the United States Constitution and its role in the success of our nation for over 200 years. Those who could be labeled Tea Party members are looking for limited government and a return to fair taxation. They are not the caricature that leftist commentators and legislators portray them to be.


A “Google” query of phrase “the tea party is” revealed several results.  None of them accurately describe those people I know who would characterize themselves as a Tea Party member. The seven results were: racist, destroying America, crazy, a joke, over, insane, evil and ruining America.


The ideals of limited government are not evil or racist; they are not destroying or ruining America; nor are they insane.


The ideals of limited government are the framework that the Founding Fathers built the United States Constitution upon. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution states – and limits – what powers will be granted to the federal government by the people of the United States.


The Founders never intended for the federal government to be more powerful than the states – pr more accurately – the people. Those sympathetic to the Tea Party would like to see the federal government take more of an originalist role in governance and return the power back to the states and the people.


The most egregious examples of heavy handed federal overreach are the continual usurpation of economic and personal liberties by unelected and politically entrenched bureaucrats.


The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has become the enforcement arm of labor unions, and the Environmental Protection Agency has enacted regulations that may essentially shut down a large number of power plants and impact both corporate and family farms. Of course, the heaviest hand would be that of the healthcare mandate that President Barack Obama forced on the American citizen.


The NLRB has singlehandedly crushed the American aerospace industry by ruling against an American corporation – Boeing – when it ruled that it could not open a new plant to ramp up production of the Dreamliner in addition to the plant in the State of Washington. In a ruling that did not benefit or harm any union employees in Washington, the NLRB essentially told Boeing it was not allowed to build the Dreamliner in a “Right to Work” state. This has cost Boeing billions in lost sales and future sales as its main competitor has not had to deal with the same labor issues and bureaucratic indifference.


The Environmental Protection Agency, even in the face of a rising tide of criticism from business leaders and Republican opposition, was not swayed in its determination to push forward on the shutdown of many aging coal fired power plants. Many of these plants are on the way out anyway as “clean coal” plants are replacing them with much cleaner technology that meets EPA standards. President Obama realizing the crippling impact that these regulations would have on energy prices and lost jobs, actually told EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to suspend the enforcement of those regulations for now.


Obamacare is likely the most overreaching regulation that the federal government has ever attempted to enforce. The requirement that each individual needs to purchase health insurance has put the most onerous burden upon businesses as they attempt to plan their investment and hiring goals over the next few years. Individuals, for the first time, in the history of the United States would be punished for failing to purchase a product. Any comparisons to automobile insurance or other similar products fall short as they are only required when an individual owns an automobile. Individuals in New York City, who take a taxi or subway to work, aren’t obligated by the state of New York to purchase automobile insurance in the off-chance that they may rent a car or borrow a relative’s vehicle to move furniture.


None of these departments or actions by the federal government is enumerated in The United States Constitution’s Article I, Section 8, nor should they be. There is nothing in the Constitution that prohibits the states from enacting these types of regulations and decisions, but the Founders’ intentions – when it comes to the federal government – were quite clear as to the federal government.


So, opposing these regulations doesn’t make one crazy or evil. It is often said that the Founders were possibly the most brilliant assemblage of thinking men ever assembled; it’s nice to think that I am in their company.


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