The Nanny-Stater Challenge: Where's Your Constitutional Basis?

Posted: Jan 28, 2008 12:00 AM
The Nanny-Stater Challenge: Where's Your Constitutional Basis?

(Note: Follow the links to view the opening exchange; Jon Sanders' offer, my reply and Jon's counteroffer.)

Dear Jon,

Our tongue-in-cheek wager based on the political fortunes of “your” nanny-stater, John Edwards, against “my” nanny-stater, Barack Obama was justifiably tweaked by some readers who want us to take on the leftward slide on the Republican side.

You rose to the challenge.

My worry about your John Edwards is not that I think he will be president. It is that he is pushing the two real contenders on his Democratic team to the left as they fight to keep within distance of his pandering to bug-eyed anti-capitalists on the issue of health care, energy and rampant, unfair, corporate greed.

One could hope that Ron Paul would be the leveling counter-balance on the right side of this political teeter-totter, at least on the issue of constitutional government. But the other candidates are not listening to him. When it comes to wowing them on the stump, Paul can’t hold a make-up mirror to John Edwards.

But have you ever asked a Republican in federal government what the constitutional basis is for whatever program they fight to support or create?

I am just a talk-show host; I don't pretend to play a constitutional authority on the radio, but even I can read Article I, Section 8 which outlines the powers of Congress, and the Tenth Amendment, which reaffirms to our representatives that, and I am paraphrasing, if it ain’t listed, it ain’t your job, and no, you can’t kindly take on the work anyway, thank you.

Both Bill Bennett and Margaret Spellings, former and current Secretaries of Education respectively, have told me the same thing when I asked them the constitutional question regarding schools. I asked whether they agree that education is a local and state issue per the Constitution. They both answered, essentially, that we have the federal Department of Education now, so what are you going to do? We might as well try to make it work. So much for freedom.

George W. Bush hooked up with Ted Kennedy to explode the size of the Department of Education. So much for local control, state’s rights, parental power through vouchers and limited federal government. So much for freedom.

Anyone who takes the four minutes necessary to look up and read the powers of Congress might ask themselves whether it holds authorization for the Department of Education, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Agriculture, the Arctic Research Commission, the Commission of Fine Arts, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Office of Federal Student Aid, the Multifamily Housing Office, and on and on and on.

Some may reply that they think the work done by those agencies is necessary and wonderful. “We need fine art,” they say. “It lifts, it enlightens, it sharpens perception.”

That’s all wonderful. But I don’t need my perception further sharpened to realize that when Baby needs new shoes, Daddy doesn’t care to have his money confiscated in order to pay for crosses stuck in urine.

Their approach to government brings us to the nub of what we are discussing. You and I see more government as less freedom, and we yearn for the politician, much less a party with a snowball’s chance of getting some power (sorry Libertarians), who will answer those people with a loud, “So what?”

Does that mean we don’t care about education? No, it means we believe in state’s rights.

A quick aside to another of my Illinois representatives Jesse Jackson, Jr.: The term “states’ rights” is not – not – code for bringing back slavery. Grow up!

Nanny-staters on both sides of the political aisle have slowly and steadily self-aggrandized by using your money to gorge the federal government. By doing so they have tipped the scale away from freedom towards reliance; a paternalistic, condescending form of government control.

If the Founders had intended the General Welfare Clause to mean that the government can do anything it wants, they would not have made a list of boundaries it couldn't cross, and then followed it with the Tenth Amendment’s and-nothing-else-we-really-mean-it warning.

I remain confident that Obama will outlast Edwards (especially since his “Hey, what about me?” moment at the recent Democratic debate), so I am more likely to pay off in this wager. But we got into this in the first place because we see both men as threats to freedom in America.

Too bad the opposition to their socialist, power-grabbing urge is so thin among the ranks of the elected GOP.

As for continuing the wager, I propose to keep it simple. I offer up that timeless parable of our right to the fruits of our labors trumping the desires of the greedy income redistributors: an illustrated copy of "The Little Red Hen."