Saving Congress from Itself

More incisive excerpts from James L. Buckley’s ‘Saving Congress from Itself‘:

As the people had not granted the new government the power to enact laws relating to religion, speech, etc., there was no occasion to include protections against the abuse of powers that hadn’t been granted. (page 3)

Over the years, successive Congresses and an accommodating Supreme Court have emasculated federalism to the point where there is virtually no exercise of federal power that the Court will deem unconstitutional. (page 5)

In sum, although ours is understood to be a government of limited powers, the Supreme Court has construed one of those powers as providing ?Congress with the ability to bribe the states to adopt policies that lie beyond its own constitutional authority to prescribe – a position that caused Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to declare, in her ‘South Dakota v. Dole’ dissent: “If the spending power is to be limited only by ?Congress’ notion of the general welfare, the reality…is that the Spending Clause gives power to the Congress…to become a parliament of the whole people, subject to no restrictions save such as are self-imposed. (page 6)

The first grant-in-aid program of the modern kind was the Morrill Act of 1862. It authorized grants of federal lands to the states on the condition that they or the funds derived from their sale be used by the states for the establishment of agricultural colleges. President Buchanan vetoed an earlier version as unconstitutional, but the 1862 Act included a provision for military training in the colleges’ curricula that may have eased its acceptance as the Civil War was then in its second year. (page 12)

Consider, for example, the remarkable feat of grantsmanship that has enabled Connecticut to proceed with a highly controversial 9.4 mile busway between New Britain and Harford…..It was only when the federal grants reached 80.2 percent of the busway’s projected cost that the state felt justified in committing the additional $113.34 million required to build it….the busway is projected to shorten the commute of an initial 13,400 commuters by a few minutes a day with a long-term projection of 16,300. (pages 28-9)

The programs are rigid because Congress will rarely admit that one was ill-advised and cancel it: on the contrary, even the worst programs are protected by an “iron triangle” consisting of the legislators who created it, and the groups who benefit from the status quo, however flawed. (page 40)

Whatever their pedigrees, human beings are – human. That is true of the elected representatives who enact our laws, the experts on whom they rely in crafting them, and the administrators who man the agencies and bureaus that issue the regulations required to implement them….They pursue the public good as they understand it, but that understanding will tend to coincide with their own self-interest. (pages 41-2)

The problem today is that those governing our towns and states are no longer in control of a large proportion of the government activities that affect our lives. In too many respects, our state officials now serve as administrators of programs designed in Washington by civil servants who are beyond our reach, immune to the discipline of the ballot box, and the least informed about our particular conditions and needs. (pages 53-4)

 

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by jackdean on May 19, 2016 at 11:23 am

    > > The first grant-in-aid program of the modern kind was the Morrill Act of > 1862. It authorized grants of federal lands to the states on the condition > that they or the funds derived from their sale be used by the states for > the establishment of agricultural colleges. President Buchanan vetoed an > earlier version as unconstitutional, but the 1862 Act included a provision > for military training in the colleges’ curricula that may have eased its > acceptance as the Civil War was then in its second year. (page 12) >

    I went to UMass/Amherst which was a product of the Morrill Act. It started out as Massachusetts Agricultural College. It has a building named after Morrill, and I served in the ROTC for my first two years. Mass Aggie still exists within the larger university.

    On Thu, May 19, 2016 at 6:45 AM, Burypensions Blog wrote:

    > burypensions posted: “More incisive excerpts from James L. Buckley’s > ‘Saving Congress from Itself’: As the people had not granted the new > government the power to enact laws relating to religion, speech, etc., > there was no occasion to include protections against the abuse of” >

    Reply

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