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September 23, 2009

A Note On The “Tenther” Smear

Radley Balko writes an interesting piece on the left-wing attack on those who invoke the Tenth Amendment.

The American Prospect, The New Republic, and other left-of-center outlets are pushing the "Tenther" smear, aimed at lumping those who, horrors!, still take seriously the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in with the Obama birth certificate deniers and 9/11 truthers.

It's such a transparent attempt at marginalizing the other side (mostly with respect to the health care issue) it seems almost a waste of time addressing. But one might start by pointing out that unlike any convincing evidence that Obama isn't a U.S. citizen, or proof that the Bush administration orchestrated the September 11 attacks, the Tenth Amendment actually exists. You can actually go to the National Archives and read it. There's also a historical record of its drafting and ratification. Really.

Of course, there is also another argument that gets trotted out against those of us who believe that the tenth Amendment actually means something – that it really has no meaning and that any limits in it are overridden by the text of the Constitution itself. Take this example from a local lefty loon.

The US Constitution, contrary to the opinions of the “Tenthers” out there who cite the 10th Amendment as evidence that Congress has no right to act on healthcare legislation, includes healthcare reform in Article I Section 8, an enumeration of the powers and responsibilities of Congress. To wit:

“The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States.”

Click on “Wefare” for a definition. Yes, “health” is there.

Of course, this ignores two minor details. First, that the Tenth Amendment would be seen as overriding any contrary provisions of the Constitution given that it amended what previously existed. But beyond that, using a contemporary definition of the word “welfare” ignores the fact that such a definition is anachronistic when applied to the text of an eighteenth century document, where the word would have had a meaning much closer to the definition found in the original 1828 dictionary compiled by Noah Webster:

WELFARE, n. [well and fare, a good faring; G.]

1. Exemption from misfortune, sickness, calamity or evil; the enjoyment of health and the common blessings of life; prosperity; happiness; applied to persons.

2. Exemption from any unusual evil or calamity; the enjoyment of peace and prosperity, or the ordinary blessings of society and civil government; applied to states.

When viewed from that perspective, it is clear that the sort of risky healthcare scheme proposed by Obama and his minions is not within the scope of Article I, Section 8 and is therefore something that is not within the purview of the federal government under the Tenth Amendment, which clarifies and codifies the limits of federal power.

Which explains, of course, why it is so important to folks on the Left to minimize the importance of that part of the Bill of Rights and to marginalize those who believe it has meaning. After all – if the Constitution in its amended form really does limit federal power, then criticism of such a vast expansion of federal power might just have a point.





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