By Dr. Harold Pease
Until thirty years ago we were taught that we were a republic and not a democracy. Today we treat them as the same—a serious mistake. Two Amendments, the 16th and 17th, both ratified in 1913, laid the groundwork for the destruction of limited government, which is the foundation of a Republic, the Constitution, and liberty. A review of our one hundred year history reveals the continued damage to your liberty as a result.
What largely brought about the give-away programs of the Twentieth Century was the now 100-year-old 16th Amendment—the federal income tax. All three 1912 presidential candidates Teddy Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson, and their respective parties, wanted this financial water faucet that they could turn on at will. They could purchase anything—even people. Prior to 1913 the federal government remained mostly faithful to her grants of power in Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, which left them with only four powers: to tax, pay the debts, provide for the general welfare and provide for the common defense. Because the federal government has the inclination to grow the last two power grants, general welfare and common defense, each had eight qualifiers to harness them more fully. Outside these four powers the federal government had no power to tax or spend.
General welfare then meant everyone equally and at the same time as opposed to “specific welfare” or “privileged welfare” as it is today, targeting those to forfeit and those to receive monies. The Constitution did not deny states, counties, or cities from having such programs, only the federal government. But politicians soon learned that the more they promised to the people, from the money of others, the easier it was to get elected and stay elected.
So, how did we cover the expenses of the federal government—even wars—our first 124 years before 1913? Products coming into the country were assessed a fee to market in the U.S. called a tariff. We got product producers in other countries to cover our national expenses and thus we were able to spend, on ourselves, every cent of what the federal government now takes.
The “financial water faucet” created by the 16th Amendment effectively enticed states, counties, and city governments to “cash in” their areas of “birthright jurisdiction” for money consequently the forfeited power (most of it totally outside the Article I Section 8 list), flowed to Washington DC. So why does the government now need a fourth of everything you make and it is still not enough? Because we went off the listed powers of the Constitution and every departure required more taxpayer funding—that is why! The answer to less tax is less government and always will be. A side benefit is more freedom.
The freedom lost by the 17th Amendment, ratified on May 31, 1913, is harder to explain and mandates the readers’ understanding of what a Republic is. In such there is no federal government over the states. Think of it as a marriage where one party performs domestic duties (the states) and the other foreign policy duties (the federal government). Neither is boss over the other. Neither manages the other. As in any good marriage they are equal but sovereign over their areas of jurisdiction.
The major protector of state sovereignty was the state legislatures who picked two of their own body to protect state interest from federal intrusion and sent them to the U.S. Senate. The media undermine this concept by their term “states rights,” always portrayed negatively, but the ability to combine to hold the federal government to the listed powers of the Constitution is absolutely critical to remaining a republic and remaining free. It is the only body powerful enough to do so. This is why we have two law making branches of government, one the U.S. Senate to protect the interest of the states.
All this protection from government’s natural inclination to grow, dominating and controlling everything that it touches, was unwisely removed by the 17th Amendment and states today are not shielded from federal intrusion. U.S. Senators are elected precisely as are House of Representative members by popular vote. In fact, they may not even know of, care about, or be loyal to state issues.
These two 1913 Amendments largely destroyed our status as a Republic and Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution. We can look back and see the trail of damage of both. The 17th removed our shield from federal intrusion and the 16th enticed politicians to feed at the trough of “free” federal money for their own personal elevation consequently siphoning authority to the federal government. The result, the federal government has its dominating presence in every aspect of your life and in everything that moves. Only the ill informed can call this freedom.