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.
What is apparently a "right wing" interpretation of this amendment is that the federal government cannot act where it is not specifically given power to act, and that power is defined in the main body of the constitution; everything else is off limits. This is the fundamental tenet of Federalism.
On the other side of the battle is a massive effort to grow the federal government even further. Federalism was set up to protect the people against tyranny. The effort to grow federal control is therefore, wittingly or not, an effort to strengthen that tyranny. And it is bolstered by journalists not at all concerned about their own pretense of integrity and impartiality.
Evidently, we've forgotten what federalism is, and what it means to be a state. On July 31, 2009 CNN aired a report on this 10th Amendment movement. In this report, with anchors John Roberts and Carol Costello, we are given an excellent example as to the problems of the anti-states' rights argument.
Most of us like to think of ourselves as normal. This includes our beliefs. CNN's staff and crew are no different from the rest of us in this regard. And so when CNN asked for viewer response to a story it seems only natural that their predominantly left wing audience responds accordingly - and that CNN anchors would consider this response as "most people".
ROBERTS: Now, you would think- because states’ rights advocates are so strong in their opinions that the opinions- we’ve been asking for comments, right? Therefore, you would think that most people would be in favor of states’ rights, but it’s running, to a large degree, the opposite way.
COSTELLO: Oh, yeah. But my favorite comment so far- you know, ‘asking for states’ rights is asking, you know, the children to be the parents.’
COSTELLO: It’s comparable to that.
ROBERTS: Somebody else wrote in and said, “We’re the United States, not the divided states.’
We have here selected statements from members of CNN's predominantly left wing audience affirming their ignorance of federalism and statehood. And, of course these journalists can claim "we didn't say it" as if that were relevant, particularly with Costello's own admission that she liked a particular sentiment.
So what's the problem here? Federalism, after all, is a system in which the power to govern is shared between national and central (state) governments, creating what is often called a federation. The European Union might be an example of this. Each member of the European Union is its own sovereign country, but it should be no surprise that even this national distinction is quickly eroding. I expect to see within my own lifetime the notion that France or Germany or the U.K. or any member nation in the EU should be allowed to make their own laws independent of the EU treated as an absurdity. That's the problem with Socialism, state and individual rights are usurped by a national government.
And that is precisely what has happened in the United States. Through decades of being taught too little about American history and civic duty American society has been cultivated to think the Federal government is supreme over the states in all matters, and that the states are merely provincial denominations of that national government. Now advocates of states' rights are largely portrayed as right wing kooks by both Congressional Democrats and by left wing journalists.
But what about the "Supremacy Clause" you say? It's clear that when a state law conflicts with a federal law, the latter is the "supreme law of the land" as stated in Article VI of the constitution. This is in the context of a federal law being legal in its own right. No where in the constitution do we see authority for the federal government to impose itself in areas not explicitly granted it (a limitation imposed by the 10th Amendment), such as acts of benevolence, education, retirement and certainly not health care. Today Congress acts as if there are no bounds to the areas which it can legislate. A limitless government is precisely what our founding fathers wanted to avoid.
At its inception the United States of America was a small federal government designed to handle several specific tasks, such as interstate commerce and treaties with foreign governments. The individual states were to be otherwise regarded as independent and sovereign countries, on the same level as England, Russia, or any other nation. New Yorkers would have thought of themselves as citizens of the nation of New York. Federalism, as written in the Constitution by America's founders, did not establish a parent/child relationship between the federal government and the state governments. It separated powers along distinct lines: the federal government could do some things and yet was explicitly denied authority to do other things. The federal government does not have authority to do anything or what ever it deems as the "general welfare".
But it should not be assumed historical and civic ignorance are the real problem here, though they contribute a great deal to it. As seen in the comments given to us in the CNN news story mentioned above, and in the brief commentary offered by the anchors, those opposed to states' rights often just don't care about the reality of the situation. They want a centralized national government to be in control. Federalism no longer means powers separated between the states and the national government, now it means a parent/child relationship between the two, with the national level government treated as the parent.
Indeed, The 10th Amendment was great idea, but there is An Impending Showdown between the federal government and the states.
Let us not presume our individual liberty is uninvolved in this conflict. After all, individual liberty was the whole point of the constitution. Does our freedom have a place in a Socialist society?