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U.S. National Debt:

Federal Powers Intended To Be 'Few And Defined'

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

James Madison wrote, "The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the state governments are numerous and indefinite." Unfortunately, state sovereignty, private industry and individual freedoms have been eroded by the unhealthy notion that the federal government knows best. We must stem this tide and return to a strict interpretation of the U.S. Constitution if we are to restore the proper balance of power and preserve the Framers' intent.

According to the Tenth Amendment, "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." James Madison explained the scope of the federal government powers as "principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected." Madison clarified the powers of the states as those that "will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State."

However, we have experienced increasing examples of the expansion of federal government authority reaching broader areas of Americans' lives. The recent health care law amounts to a government takeover, extending federal control over health care decisions of individuals and businesses while driving up the cost of health care. The federal government has also shrunk private sector capital by taking over much of the financial, student and home loan industries, including insurance company AIG, automakers Chrysler and GM, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Government takeovers and the ever-increasing encroachment of regulatory activities continue to bloat the federal bureaucracy and stifle our economy.

Federal spending and borrowing, largely to enable these takeovers, is out of control. Our national debt exceeds $13.4 trillion. I have opposed Bush and Obama Administration bailout and stimulus programs because we cannot improve our economy and create jobs through escalating federal spending and takeover of local and private sector functions. Increasing government bureaucracy does not grow the economy. Growing the private sector strengthens the economy. There are outstanding and committed federal employees across the nation contributing to the strength of our communities. However, the federal government cannot carry out all functions better than the private sector. The creativity and efficiency of America's small businesses are the backbone of our nation's economy. Diminishing private industry's role in the economy is entirely the wrong direction.

Americans, communities and states are understandably frustrated with the federal government's overreach and overspending. Idaho is among the states that passed state sovereignty resolutions and legislation to nullify national health care reform. People must continue to share their views and encourage others to speak out to restore America to a better course. Alexander Hamilton's words echo true today: "If the federal government should overpass the just bounds of its authority and make a tyrannical use of its powers, the people, whose creature it is, must appeal to the standard they have formed, and take such measures to redress the injury done to the Constitution as the exigency may suggest and prudence justify."

Our nation is not made strong by a large central government that absorbs enormous capital and still spends more than it takes in. Rather, our nation is strengthened by respecting the abilities of the individual. By empowering those closest to the issues and enabling the ingenuity of individuals and small businesses we fortify our communities. Stricter adherence to the Tenth Amendment will strengthen our nation.

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