Just what are the powers granted to the federal government under our Constitution? It’s simple; the powers are laid out clearly in the Constitution in Article 1, Section 8. There is no secret here or any ambiguity in this matter. The Constitution tells the federal government what it can do and anything not covered is reserved for the States, thus the power of the federal government is severely limited and the States are superior to the federal government. Yet our federal government functions like it has unlimited power – if Congress says it is okay, it must be okay. Well this current federal / state relationship is clearly wrong and unconstitutional. Congress and the executive branch are out of control.
The federal government, particularly Congress, in words directly taken from the Constitution, is empowered to:
- lay and collect taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
- borrow Money on the credits of the United States (this one has been worked to death);
- regulate Commerce with foreign nations and among the several states, and with the Indian Tribes (regulate in this case means to make function smoothly and foster trade – not to control everything and anything that is remotely managed through interstate commerce);
- establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States (the federal government has been remiss on Naturalization and violating its own laws on Bankruptcy);
- coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures (the federal government certainly has been working the coining – printing – money to its fullest, but its current economic policies have actually worked to unregulate the Value of our Money);
- provide for Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;
- establish Post Offices and post Roads;
- promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;
- constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;
- define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations (this specific power to punish piracy was not readily utilized by the Obama administration recently, until the Captain of a Navy vessel forced his hand);
- declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water (military tribunals);
- raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years.;
- provide and maintain a Navy;
- make Rules for the Government and Regulation of land and naval forces;
- provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrection and repel Invasions;
- provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress (your National Guard);
- exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise the Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-yards and other needful Buildings;
- and make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof (limited to the defined powers of the federal government).
Under the 15th amendment, the United States has the power by legislation to enforce the voting rights of citizens.
In the 16th amendment, the Federal Government was given another power: The Congress shall have the power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration. (This amendment has allowed the Federal Government to use the tax code to manipulate the States and to drive social issues, but it was never intended to allow this action.)
The federal government has absolutely no other authority than what is spelled out above. Watching your Congress work would let you believe that it can do whatever it wants.
- Can you find the power to institute Cap and Trade – a tax on carbon emissions?
- Can you find in this list of powers the power to loan money to AIG and other TARP recipients?
- Can you find the power to regulate executive compensation?
- Can you find in this list the power to mandate educational requirements to the States?
- Can you find in these powers the right of the federal government to tell me what I should eat or, to make rules for national healthcare or to control healthcare – there is no interstate commerce when I visit my doctor?
Try your own test of these powers to see if other federal government regulations pass the test.
Just what are the powers of the States? What limitation on these powers does the Constitution offer? The limitations are those rights afforded the people of the United States in the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights also provides for the powers of the States in the tenth amendment: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution (article 1, section 8 ), nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people. The 14th amendment provides additional restraints on the States “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Why have we let the federal government become what is was not supposed to be – all powerful? Why have the States rolled over when confronted with federal legislation violating the assigned powers of the federal government? Perhaps it is time to fight back and place the federal government back into an inferior position to the States. Push, plead, and cajole your state representatives to fight back and regain their rights as states.