All of the hot wind coming out of the New York Times and Washington Post notwithstanding, the real constitutional crisis our country is facing is that our federal government is no longer a representative republic. We have lost that entirely. There are but a handful of members of Congress who truly attempt to represent their constituents.
Why is this? It is the result of decades of eroding away our constitutional limits on federal power. It has come from the unrelenting effort of “well-intentioned” legislators, presidents, and federal judges who have repeatedly federalized issues more properly left to the “several states” in these United States. It has developed as Big Government “progressives” and weak-willed folks from both political parties have come to Washington, D.C. and drunk deeply from the elixir of power, influence, and largesse that pervades that city.
However, these personal and political failings are just symptoms, not the cause. Washington, D.C. is a symptom of a disease that infected our U.S. Constitution a century ago:
The 16th (income tax), 17th (direct election of U.S. senators), and 18th (prohibited manufacture/sale of alcohol) amendments were all adopted within a six year period between 1913 and 1919. They are sometimes referred to as the “progressive” amendments.
The 18th amendment was adopted with the best of intentions by those who championed the cause, and was an attempt at “improving” American society. Prohibition proved to be a colossal failure, but not before causing a massive crime wave and disastrous unintended consequences for our country during the 1920s. It was with a collective sigh of relief that the 21st amendment was passed in 1933 to end Prohibition and repeal the 18th amendment.
Like the 18th amendment, the 16th and 17th were adopted by well-intentioned “progressives” with an agenda to “improve” our “democracy.” Just like the 18th, the legalization of a federal income tax and popular election of U.S. senators have proved to be full of unintended consequences – the least of which is the bloated and un-representative federal government that exists today.
The 16th amendment bequeathed to Washington, D.C. a virtually unlimited revenue stream. One of the important limiting factors for Washington prior to 1913 was the types of tax revenue it could collect, as specifically authorized in the U.S. Constitution. Our massive federal bureaucracy, our bloated budgets, and our metastasizing federal rulemaking could not exist without the Internal Revenue Service and the federal income tax.
However, this is actually not the worst of it. The adoption of the 17th amendment converted U.S. senators from representatives of their states, as elected primarily by their state legislatures, to popularly elected mini-kings and queens who need massive infusions of cash to fund their own statewide network of offices and campaign infrastructure. When combined with the decision of the U.S. Congress in 1921 to stop increasing the number of members of the U.S. House of representatives in proportion to population growth, the 17th amendment fundamentally transformed the relationship between the several states and the D.C. powers-that-be.
In 1913, the states lost their representation in the Senate, and every ten years since 1921, the American people have seen their representation in the U.S. House decline to the point of irrelevance today.
Like the 18th amendment, the “progressive” 16th and 17th amendments have proven to be abject disasters for our American republic. Today’s federal government is a symptom of the disease deliberately infected into our U.S. Constitution by well-meaning “progressives.”
To drain the Washington, D.C. swamp, it will be essential for these two amendments to suffer the same ignominious fate as did Prohibition. It’s time to repeal (and not replace) the 16th and 17th amendments!