I have heard a couple of conversations lately that made me realize how many people just simply don’t understand this basic principle. For the casual bystander who hears recommendations to eliminate the EPA, Dept. of Eduction, and other federal agencies, it is almost understandable that they may recoil thinking “Don’t they care about our environment?” “Don’t they care about education?” if they don’t understand the Constitution and the idea of a federalist nation.
Eliminating those agencies has nothing whatsoever to do with those specific topics being vital or not vital in any way. The Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution 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.”
That means effectively ‘If it isn’t mentioned in the Constitution, it is up to the states to manage as they deem fit’, period. Education, or the environment, or countless other roles that are now grabbed by our federal leviathan government were never enumerated by the US Constitution, and therefor are the responsibilities of the states themselves.
If you take time to read The Federalist Papers or historical documents around the creation of this nation, you will understand that we were never intended to have this top-down one-size-fits-all blanket solutions applied across this country. States were given the responsibility to create and manage their needs. As we stand today, we have morphed into a system in which we are ruled from afar on the affairs that should be handled at the state level, by applying heavy handed blanket rules that make no distinction to the differences in regional needs. With a top-down approach, where federal rules that dictate everything down to the type of light bulb you are allowed to buy, what is the point of having individual states other than to have your own flag?
The fact is that those federal agencies are redundant, and serve as a drain on our systems, both financially and by ignoring local needs and making it more difficult for states to act in the ways that best fit them. Why are they redundant? I will speak directly about Texas, since that is what I know, but the same applies to every state in the union. Here we have the TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) who’s mission statement is “… to protect our state’s public health and natural resources consistent with sustainable economic development. Our goal is clean air, clean water, and the safe management of waste.”. If we already have state level agencies with goals of managing these things, then there is no need for an EPA. None. What in turn happens is that we end up sending a huge amount of our money out of state to the federal government to support these redundant systems, and allow far less to retain in our states where the management should be focused in the first place.
This is the same for many other agencies. If this is not a totally familiar concept to you, I would encourage you to remember these things as you hear politicians talking about eliminating programs and understand it for what it is, which is bringing us back closer to the federalist government that we were intended to be.