Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Sovereign State of Oklahoma

It's been a long time since I've posted, for which I apologize. It's been a busy few months, and I'm behind on the things I like to do besides the ones I need to do. But, I'm back!

The latest curiosity to come out of the Oklahoma legislature is the "attempt" to assert Oklahoma's sovereignty. Hmmm. Most people probably thought that war was fought, oh, about 150 years ago. Can a state secede from the Union? Can they thumb their nose at a federal government that adopts objectionable laws, like the freedom of slaves?

The controversy actually swirls around the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, part of the Bill of Rights. It reads, "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."

Sounds simple enough. Actually it added nothing to the Constitution; it simply stated the obvious, that if the federal government hasn't been given a power, it rests with the states and the people.

But the federal government isn't trying to seize more power, as House Republicans and other right-wing blathering idiots would have you believe. There are two ways the federal government attains comprehensive compliance. First, the federal program carries with it significant matching funds. If you don't comply with minimum federal requirements - say, a 55 mph speed limit, or .08 blood alcohol content, or a 21-year-old minimum drinking age - then the state government will lose federal highway funding. A good primer on that is South Dakota v. Dole, 483 U.S. 203 (1987). Or, if states don't fall in line with a federal education program like IDEA or No Child Left Behind, federal education funds can be at risk.

There's nothing to stop a state like Oklahoma from saying "no" to these federal initiatives. But try telling the Oklahoma Department of Transportation that they're not going to receive $340 million in stimulus money to be used for road and bridge projects. That makes up the largest chunk of the $465 million the state is expected to receive.

State Transportation Director Gary Ridley was quoted this winter as saying, "My boss expects me to secure all federal funds that are available to us, and I'd sure hate to have to go to him and tell him we lost some money."

Industry experts estimate that for every $1 billion in transportation project value, about 32,000 jobs are created.

The second method of encouraging states to implement federal programs is to take over a field at the national level unless the state itself implements its own program of regulation that meets the minimum federal standards. See New York v. United States, 505 U.S. 144 (1992). In Oklahoma, a good example is consumer credit. Reg Z is regulated by the State of Oklahoma because we adopted the Uniform Consumer Credit Code, and federal law allows us to govern that field of law as long as our regulations meet or exceed federal regulations. Other examples are the Clean Water Act and OSHA. In all those areas, Conress had the power to regulate the subject matter under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.

The law recognizes that the federal government's power is not absolute. In the case of Printz v. United States, 521 U.S. 898 (1997) the Supreme Court held that the national government could not directly require state law enforcement officers to conduct background checks under the Brady firearms legislation. It held, "(T)his Court never has sanctioned explicitly a federal command to the States to promulgate and enforce laws and regulations."

Ironically, this concept of cooperative federalism is a good way to minimize the size of the federal government. It's better for us to take care of things on a local level instead of having all decisions made in far-away Foggy Bottom.

For Oklahoma legislators to rattle sabers and refuse to accept federal economic stimulus money only worsens our reputation in the country. While we've been fortunately buffered from the worst effects of this recession, we now have an opportunity to spring forward with economic development while other states struggle to survive.

And, while the amount of borrowing in the stimulus plan is nauseating, something's got to be done to fix the problems created by overzealous corporations in an underregulated economy. Hopefully the economy will grow enough that we'll have enough tax revenue in future generations to pay off the debt. That's the saddest part of all - corporate greed is the real culprit that will be imposing this legacy on our children and grandchildren.


Blathering Idiot said...

As a typical liberal, you cannot make an argument without resorting to name calling, " House Republicans and other right-wing blathering idiots". That said, there are two points you fail to mention. First, what in the constitution gives the Federal Government the right to set a national drinking age (using the example you stated). That should be left to the state and the state alone. Secondly, you fail to mention that federal funding is actually taxpayer dollars to begin with. In essence, Okahoma citizens are already paying for their own highway maintenance. It just came through the middleman, the Federal Government.

I would be curious to see how much money the citizens and companies of Oklahoma pay to the Federal Government verses the amount Oklahoma receives in return.

Public Sentry said...

Thank you for reading my post.
Nothing in the Constitution gives the federal government the right to set a national drinking age. But the federal government does have the right to attach strings to appropriations. Set a national drinking age, or you don't get certain appropriations. The states aren't required to take the appropriations if they feel it's more important to have a different drinking age.

Didn't think I needed to mention that federal funding is actually taxpayer dollars. As a typical conservative, I figured you knew that.

Anonymous said...

What people fail to recognize is that the Federal Government has usurped every individual's sovereignty (even the states) by using your 1st amendment right to contract. If you willingly enter into a contract (such as Social Security, Drivers License, Marriage license etc) and are eligible to receive benefits from the Govt. they own you. Even though you don't know the terms of those contracts it doesn't signed away your Sovereignty to the Govt and they own you. That's why they have the legal right to tax you, impose ridiculous statutory laws (Common Law is another matter) upon you and lock you up in a steel cage for not complying. They can also use your tax money to enrich themselves and their buddies and expand the American Empire. The U.S is a Federal corporation not a country. Copy and paste the below links into google and you get the definition of "state" and "United states". You thought you lived in a country? That country owns everything and everyone in it. You though you were free? Do some research and support the state legislators that still have some backbone to put their foot down and resist the tyranny of the Federal criminals also known as our Government...

26 U.S.C. §3121 Definitions

TITLE 26 > Subtitle C > CHAPTER 21 > Subchapter C > Sec. 3121. [Employment Taxes: FICA]

Sec. 3121. - Definitions

(e) State

(1) State

The term ''State'' includes the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa.

USC Title 28, Part VI, chapter 176, sub chapter 176, subsection A, 3002 (15) “United States” means—(A) a Federal corporation;

Non-profit Delaware Corporation
Incorporation Date 4/19/89 File No. 2193946