Continuing our definition of the tenets of the Tea Party Group of Lodi, in this installment, we will be defining "constitutionally limited" government.
A constitution is a written set of principles of action setting the bounds for a government (or an organization). Our country is a "constitutionally limited republic," not a democracy. Similarly, each state in the Union has a constitution; however, our concern is primarily with the United States Constitution.
The Constitution is, by definition, designed to limit government's power and intrusion into our lives. Progressives complain that the Constitution is too limiting to allow their agenda. It is, by design. To understand this requires historical context.
The original 13 colonies won their independence from Great Britain and the tyranny of its monarch in 1783. The colonies then operated as 13 separate countries loosely affiliated by the Articles of Confederation. They had separate laws, monetary systems, defense, trade, etc. The central government was powerless to settle disputes between states nor could it coordinate a common defense, a situation that became unworkable.
In 1787, Congress called for a convention to modify the Articles of Confederation to solve these issues. That convention determined that the Articles could not be appropriately modified and decided to write a Constitution. The important historical context is that the Revolution had only ended four years earlier, and no one wanted to trade one tyranny for another. Thus was the source of the limitations written into the document limiting federal government intervention into state and local affairs.
The driving force behind ratification of the Constitution was the Federalists, and they had strong opposition from those frightened by the potential of another tyrannical central government, an appropriate concern. The Federalists wrote a collection of 85 articles, "The Federalist Papers," published in newspapers of the time justifying and promoting the ratification of the Constitution. "The Federalist Papers" are still considered internationally as the ultimate how-to manual for government development.
That was then, this is now. How is our Federalism doing 250 years later? We now have career politicians in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere that many of us refer to as the "ruling elite" not unlike aristocracy. Why? Because they are disconnected from the voters, serve special interests and "rule" as if their offices are an untouchable birthright (we keep re-electing them, so perhaps they are correct). Congress' approval rating is in the tank, with just 13 percent of Americans approving of its performance (January 2012).
How is the federal government doing staying out of state and local affairs, a fundamental of Federalism? The feds get around Federalism rules by pulling funding into Washington and then parsing it out in federal grants to state — and especially local — governments and school boards. This is what some local politicians declare as "free money," as if their local taxpayers did not provide it.
In any case, that money comes with federal rules that determine how the money can be utilized, giving the feds control locally. This applies to school, city and county grants. Attend a city council or a school board meeting if you doubt this. In addition, the federal government regulates water, local storm drains, energy, grade school curriculums and our real estate development, especially if some allegedly endangered toad has a claim on your property, to name a few examples.
In conclusion, the intended balance of Federalism has tipped toward excess centralization and control by the federal government. Has it become tyrannical? Progressives would say no and conservatives would say yes. Somewhere in between is probably accurate.
A label of "soft tyranny" is appropriate because growing government intrusion and controls is stifling hope in business and employment, counter to current political rhetoric. We believe a shift back to more local control is a more appropriate balance, and consistent with the original intent of the Constitution.
Find out more by attending the Lodi Tea Party general meeting Monday, May 21 at 6:30 p.m. in the United Congregational Christian Church, 701 S Hutchins St., Lodi.
Kim Parigoris and Ed Miller are leaders of the Lodi Tea Party.