Bench Memos

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Oklahoma Time-Waster


The Oklahoma state legislature may soon vote on House Joint Resolution 1003, which asserts that the federal government has legislated, and continues to legislate, in violation of the Tenth Amendment.  Well . . . yes.  And your point is?

At least the state isn’t threatening (so far) to sue the federal government, which would be really pointless.  But this resolution isn’t much more useful than a handful of angry letters to the Tulsa newspaper.  Once upon a time a state’s legislature could go into high dudgeon and really affect politics in the nation’s capital–as with the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798, in response to the Alien and Sedition Acts (though it’s widely forgotten that more states publicly disagreed with these two than agreed with them).  But those were the days when state legislators chose U.S. senators, when legislatures still controlled or strongly influenced the choice of presidential electors, and when state governments in general were in a position to give national politics a hard shove just by announcing where they stood.  Not so any longer. In D.C., this will hardly even be noticed.

That fact may be a result of exactly the federal depredations that Oklahoma rightly but bootlessly complains about.  But the energy expended on thumping the table about the Tenth Amendment might be better spent on recruiting small-government conservatives, in Oklahoma and nationwide, to run for Congress and change things where change is possible.  You say both of Oklahoma’s senators and four out of its five representatives are Republicans who voted against the stimulus?  That’s a good start.

As for this resolution, it would be easier to credit it as more than a symbolic tantrum if the state legislature were to resolve that no agencies of the state would be permitted to take any of the billions of federal dollars gushing into state capitals from the “stimulus” bill just passed in Washington.  It ain’t happening.  That would be really hard, and maybe more than reason can expect.  But self-denial is always harder than symbolism.

UPDATE: I agree with Ramesh that “[t]here is . . . nothing unprincipled about both opposing the bill and taking the money if it passes.”  But it does get a bit hard to choke it down after you’ve complained about the appalling violation of the Constitution that the bill represents.


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