Big Brother Smackdown Series: Federal vs. State Government

I met an intelligent and interesting person on Twitter, through viewing The Young Turks feed. There was a comment made concerning the report on TYT about the food stamp issue. I’m paraphrasing, but the question/comment was something to the effect of “The Federal Government ensures that women have babies, but does not ensure that they are fed after they are born?”

My reply was simply that Public Health and Safety was, explicitly, a State Government issue and Federal involvement was unconstitutional. In return, I received one comment about Slavery, Jim Crow, and Segregation and a statement that Federal Involvement is necessary, which I won’t go into here because it was wholly out of context. Another comment, from a woman that I’ll call Chels, stated that the Federal Government had the authority over protecting our constitutional rights as people. (Again, paraphrasing because Chels later in the conversation got upset and then deleted every post of the conversation).

While I agreed with her that the Federal Government is required to ensure that State governments adhere to the Constitution, that Federal Government did not have the authority to extend past it’s express powers; those stated in the Constitution.

For a quick update:

Exclusive Federal Powers

Exclusive State Powers

Shared (Concurrent) Powers

Print money (bills and coins)

Establish local governments

Setting up courts

Declare war

Issue licenses (driver, hunting, marriage, etc.)

Creating and collecting taxes

Establish an army and navy

Regulate intrastate (within the state) commerce

Building highways

Enter into treaties with foreign governments

Conduct elections

Borrowing money

Regulate commerce between states and international trade

Ratify amendments to the U.S. Constitution

Making and enforcing laws

Establish post offices and issue postage

Provide for public health and safety

Chartering banks and corporations

Make laws necessary to enforce the Constitution

Exercise powers neither delegated to the national government nor prohibited from the states by the U.S. Constitution (For example, setting legal drinking and smoking ages.)

Spending money for the betterment of the general welfare

Taking (condemning) private property with just compensation

As you can see, the idea of Federal Government maintaining authority over child birth and/or ensuring said child is fed and given healthcare is not under the jurisdiction of Congress or the President. It is a State issue.

I made the comment that the Federal Government cannot take any further powers than what they are granted by the State governments. After some waffling around, I agreed to amend a single word since the conversation was going nowhere. that word being granted. My opponent, in conversation, highly criticized the use of the word grant, stating that States do not grant powers to the Federal government nor does the FedGov derive their powers from the State.

While on its face this is true, it can be interpreted that the FedGov does, indeed, derive their powers from StateGov. Here is why I say that:

As stated in the 10th Amendment:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

There have been debates and arguments over the exact interpretation of this Amendment, but the Surpreme Court ruled that on face value, this amendment only reiterates what is already in the Constitution. That is, that there are powers delegated (or reserved) to the FedGov and there are powers reserved to the StateGov.

The term ‘reserved’ is an important one. In order to really understand anything about today’s government, you must have a good understanding of the origins of our government. I’m not talking about the “Yeah, I know they went to war to be free and set up a federal government to run the new country.”… That’s, actually, not what happened.

Originally, the 13 colonies became 13 sovereign and independent states. The Federal Government was set up as merely a figurehead to represent a united nation of individual states. The Forefathers did not want a central government. If that were the case, they most likely would have never written the Declaration and we’d all still be loyal British subjects.

However, a united/central figurehead was necessary if our Forefathers wanted to be taken seriously. To that end, the Articles of Confederation were formed. While this united the states into one nation, it left each State individual and making their own laws that may or may not have conflicted with the interest of the Nation as a whole. Disputes between states were common and inter-state commerce as well as citizens rights were constantly put through endless arguments and debates.

So, the forefathers sought to amend the Articles of Confederation, realizing that the Federal Government was too weak to keep the nation unified and enforce the Constitution. Thus, certain powers/rights/duties were given specifically to the Federal Government. These powers, as stated in the new Constitution, were meant to give the Federal Government the necessary strength to enforce the Constitution across the entire nation, and to eliminate squabbling between State governments that ultimately harmed the citizens.

Those specific powers are shown above. The term ‘reserved’ becomes important because, originally, the States held all the powers of the Confederation. In giving the Federal Government more power, Forefathers wanted to ensure that States remained sovereign and independent and that they retained their powers of government. Simply put, the State rights/duties/powers needed to be reserved for them to ensure that Federal Government did not take complete control over the nation. This was a major part of the ‘Checks and Balances’ set into our Constitution.

Thus, those powers (listed above) that were reserved for State Government could not be taken away from States. Whatever powers that weren’t specifically reserved for the States or ‘granted’ (yes I used the word again, because that is what the Constitution did, it granted specific powers to the Federal Government) to FedGov, would default into the hands of the people.

Now we had a new nation, with two levels of government. Individual State governments, plus a central Federal Government that had just been given the strength to enforce the Constitution and keep the States united for the best interests of the people.

The rest of the world, at this time, was very skeptical of what our Forefathers were trying to do. They didn’t believe that government could successfully run that way. They soon realized, however, that our forefathers had created a new form of government that better assured liberty to the people and protected their freedom of choice. Over the years, to this day, countries have thrown out their old governments to replicate that of the United States of America.

With that Patriotic notion in mind, we fast forward to Present Day. Keeping in mind the powers specificed for Federal Government and reserved for State Government, it must be realized that in 2012, our Federal Government has made the transition to becoming an over-powered central government. State Governments no longer even resist the abuse of authority. They freely give up their rights/duties/powers to the Federal Government, so long as they don’t have to fix the problems themselves.

In my state, I’ve looked at all the laws being written, reviewed, and sent to State Congress. Here are examples.

  • Laws renaming stretches of highways after law enforcement personnel who have fallen in the line of duty.
  • Laws permitting the building of Casinos.
  • Legalizing the sale and purchase of louder and more powerful fireworks.
  • Safety Belt Laws.
  • Laws deciding whether or not prisoners may receive Bridge Cards.
  • Laws increasing correctional facility safety.

While all of these might not seem like bad government, in fact there are some great things being done, it still remains that the most important issues of the day seem to be missing from the State Government agenda in a state that goes into a Depression every time the Federal Economy goes into a Recession. Looking at the table above, it makes me wonder why the State isn’t passing healthcare law, education law, or laws that help in the creation of jobs.

Instead, the entire nation is looking towards the Federal Government to fix those problems. The issue that I have is that it is clearly written in the Constitution that States are responsible for these things.

So, how did this happen?

Think of it this way: You have 50 states and they send representatives to the Capitol to represent them and their citizens. Those representatives, more than likely, already served in a State Government capacity. So, they are taking their states problems to the Federal level to see if they can be fixed. I’ll conceded that this is an intended, natural course for this style of government. However, anytime a new bill is introduced, the very first question that should be asked is, “Does this bill belong here or does it belong at the State level?”

Then, the Constitution should be consulted to see if (for example) providing healthcare is a Federal Government issue. They would then see that it is not, and would inform our representatives to contact their State Governments to have the bills introduced in their respective states.

This is not what happens, though, and unfortunately as a result we have given too much power to the Federal Government. So much, in fact, that States no longer try to retain the powers reserved to them. They allow their representatives to attend Congress and push their agenda on a Federal level. What everyone has forgotten is that, by doing this, they are restricting the rights of the people.

Here is a simple metaphor:

Think of the nation as a family. Each individual state is a child and the federal government is the parent. The children have grown older and life is tougher because they have to do things on their own now. They have to discover who they are, pay their own bills, work, and generally create a life for themselves. However, they know that their parent is always there. So, when the going gets tough, they run home to their parent and they cry for help. “Do this for us, fix this, we don’t know how!”

The parent, being the parent, says, “Of course we will fix it. But, understand that when whatever we do all of you will have to follow. My word is law for each of my children. I can not do for one and not the other.”

In reply, the States agree, “Yes. Yes, just do it! We don’t want to deal with it.”

Upon hearing this, the Parent (Federal Government) sits back with an amused sigh, thinking to itself about when these adults (States) were children (colonies/fledgling states) they thought they knew everything and wanted the rights to do things their way. It was only a matter of time, and a small bit of manipulation, before they would come running back and give the Parent full control.

Let me give one more example that demonstrates how giving power to Federal Government, which belongs at State level, has caused many of our problems. In this example I will use HealthCare. The numbers will be unrealistic, but the point will be evident.

Let us say that our nation is made up of 3 states.

Population Cost of Healthcare
State A



State B



State C





By the way, I’ve used the real (2012 estimated) populations for 3 of our states. Now, let’s assume that the cost of healthcare for each person is $5.00. The table shows how much healthcare costs in each state. At the bottom, it shows how much healthcare costs if the Federal Government were to pay.

So, here is the situation we find ourselves in today. The Federal Government is trying to come up with national healthcare. An issue, remember, that is constitutionally reserved for the State Governments. State C does not have as many residents as either of the other states. The cost for Healthcare, statewide, is relatively small. While the other two states have much higher population, and therefore much higher healthcare costs, to give the responsibility to the Federal Government to create healthcare gives a much higher cost to deal with.

The adage is that anything is surmountable if you turn it into manageable pieces. If the State Governments would argue for the powers that are reserved to them under the constitution, healthcare would cost much less than any Federal Program. Furthermore, because the responsibility has been freely given to the Federal Government, in order to pay for those costs, we must be taxed higher. So, again, allowing States to create their own healthcare laws would create lower federal taxation and allow the American People their Freedom of Choice.

If the reader gains anything from this article, I would like it to be this. Remember that we have two levels of government. One meant to provide us with laws to live by and one meant to provide us with laws that ensure the first level of government does not abuse their authority. In otherwords, every time the FedGov makes a law, it is the law of the land. Everybody has to follow it. No matter what State laws are in existance to the contrary. Therefore, every time our States fail to protect their reserved powers, we are allowing them to take away our freedom of choice.

Let’s say you live in a state of Bad Lawmakers. Just using an example, let’s say that your state passed educational laws that were highly criticized and generally not agreed with. The Freedom of Choice would allow you to move to another state, if that was your wish; one where you could cope with its laws.

The disadvantage for your State Government in this situation, and the intended built-in protection measure, is that as long as they are making bad laws, they risk their citizens and businesses moving out of state. This in turn decreases state revenues and eventually would cause a collapse of the State Government.

Remember that, although it is not exactly written into the Constitution, each and every citizen in this country is a part of the Checks and Balance system. Our freedom of choice is protected so that we can provide either the incentive or consequence of bad lawmaking.

So, as we come closer to a new election, ask yourself if the person you’re voting for believes in States Rights or believes in Federal Control. As state power erodes and federal government becomes bigger, please remember that every law that is pass is Supreme Law and takes away any choice we have as a citizen with regards to that law or issue. Any law passed by a State still allows you a choice of finding a place to live that may have better laws.

So, as we go into new elections, the question you have to ask yourself is: Do any of these politicians believe in States Rights. Listen, Learn, and Be Informed.

The Big Brother Smackdown Series

(aka. Little Brothers Rant)

  1. The Constitution – Federal vs. State Government
  2. Career Politicians – The Source of Bad Government
  3. Political Parties – Democrats, Republicans, and Those Other Guys
  4. People’s Rights as Collateral Damage in The War on Terror
  5. The Clueless Generation
  6. 2012 Elections
    • President Obama
    • Mitt Romney
    • What are you supposed to do about it?
  7. My Solution


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  1. Little Brother’s Rant: The Big Brother Smackdown Series « One Citizen's Voice
  2. Big Brother Smackdown: Career Politicians – Source of Bad Government « One Citizen's Voice
  3. Big Brother Smackdown Series: The Supreme Court « One Citizen's Voice
  4. Big Brother Smackdown Series: Piggyback Legislation « One Citizen's Voice
  5. Big Brother Smackdown: Political Parties « One Citizen's Voice

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