A Texas county attorney has described the federal government in a way that is both insightful and destined for greatness. He said, "That bunch has a real corner on stupid."
Tom Edwards was talking about the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and Explosives, regarding a fire ATF agents accidentally set in Motley County, Texas, practicing detonations in an area locally designated no-burn. The county attorney is now helping Texans whose property was destroyed to apply for damages from the federal government.
The federal government has always had a real corner on stupid. In the early 1800s, and up through the 1860s, discussion about states going their own way and freeing themselves of a costly and unnecessary federal institution was considered conventional, rather than treasonous. Secession was seen as constitutional, legal, popular in many states, and informed by a general understanding of the processes and motivations by which the federation of several states had been established.
That era is gone, and a federally-dominated, centralized and globally combative socialism has taken the place of a U.S. constitutional republic. Non-voters and voters alike sense that some force or factor — unrelated to their desires or ballots — shapes and controls the domestic and foreign policy of the U.S. government. Americans may discuss a republican form of government, but increasingly many believe that relying on the electoral process for progress or change is as superstitious and mystical as a peyote ceremony, without the benefit of inspirational hallucination and deep personal reflection.
War and spending are never the right answer, yet they remain our federal government's favorite mechanisms for fun and sustenance at home and abroad. Happily, we are seeing the evolution of a pervasive and broad-based public opinion that the federal government is just not that bright. Depending on your interest area, you could look at issues of "law" enforcement and emergency response and recall Ruby Ridge or Waco, Hurricane Katrina or the Missouri and Mississippi River flooding response by the Federal Army Corps of Engineers. The recent extrajudicial execution and eradication of Bin Laden is a constitutional, legal, intelligence and government decision-making mess no matter how you feel about premeditated murder in general. You may be curious about signs of intelligent life in the Transportation Security Administration, or seek evidence of either ethical or constitutional behavior in this or that government agency. Maybe you are wondering about federal government plans to RFID tag everyone's livestock and record all details of the animal's life and death to a central government-owned database, as each and every critter in the country is somehow considered by some soft-handed suit in DC as part of his or her "national herd." Perhaps you just consider the war-making, intelligence-gathering, and budgeting skills of Washington a bit subpar.
Justified and widespread contempt for the federal government, in each and every aspect of its presence and existence, is the beginning of what comes next for this country. And what comes next is, in fact, very good, even though the shift will be difficult for many and challenging for most. There are signs already — beyond the very correct articulation of a slow-talking Texan attorney from Motley County.
We see it in the way the state of Utah rejected federal No Child Left Behind mandates, and told the federal government to go ahead and keep its relatively small financial contribution to the state's educational effort. What happened? Like a non-custodial parent desperate to be needed and liked, the Department of "Education" quickly backed down on its demands, and provided the federal cash to Utah, without the disputed federal mandates. Many states are similarly pushing back against federal interference, often because of financial concerns, but increasingly because the federal government has created such a outstanding niche for itself in the "No Value Added" segment of society.
Virginia's Attorney General is making a name for himself and the Commonwealth by suing the federal government for commanding that Virginians purchase health insurance. Most Virginians support the suit, but a wise subset of the people actually think a suit is not necessary — the people simply need to ignore and nullify the law. Why ask the unaccountable Supreme Court for a decision, when we the people already understand what is correct, just and Constitutional for us in Virginia? In so many ways, the Supreme Court is as stupid as the rest of the federal sector. And by stupid, I don't mean to insult. Any of stupid's synonyms — unwise, dull, obtuse, dim, thick and dense — will do.
Recently, a bill was approved by the Texas House of Representatives making it a crime for "public servants to inappropriately touch travelers during airport security pat-downs." The TSA's [stupid, obtuse, missing the point] answer is to quote the Supremacy clause of the Constitution, telling us and the states that we are not allowed to "regulate" the federal government.
Of course! That certainly explains why the ATF can practice blowing things up in an area under drought conditions and at risk for wildfire. States and localities cannot "regulate" the actions, behaviors or "rights" of the federal government. The level of dull-witted leadership in Washington astounds and shocks, even as it entertains.
Here's the thing. The entertainment value of overreaching central government is tolerable, as it is in countries around the world, only so long as it seems to pay its own way. The implications of the U.S federal government's $14.3 trillion national debt, its $1.4 trillion deficit and its half a trillion each year in carrying costs of the ever-growing national debt (at today's fiat-driven and unsupportable low interest rates) takes a lot of the fun out of watching the federal government's incessant missteps.
As the federal evil in Washington, D.C. increasingly attempts to tell states and the people to pay up, put up and shut up, secession will naturally take multiple forms and shapes at state, municipal and individual levels. This reaction — in a sense, our inevitable 21st century American transition from a nation of nanny state dependents and state worshippers towards a new land (or lands) of independent, liberated and free people — cannot be fought with any army, and it will eventually light the way for the dissolution of the federal level, its formal bankruptcy and overdue demise.
Today, the U.S. federal government is flooding the plains, burning the tumbleweed and juniper, killing people around the world without reason or moral constraint, and devaluing its paper currency like it was going out of style. For all of this, in fact, because of all this, it is a promising and exciting time to be an American, and to recall the clarity of our founding fathers on the legitimate size, scope and role of a central government.
LRC columnist Karen Kwiatkowski, Ph.D. [send her mail], a retired USAF lieutenant colonel, blogs occasionally at Liberty and Power and The Beacon. To receive automatic announcements of new articles, click here or join her Facebook page.