The Tenthers are the ones who keep citing the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution every time there is a proposed bill they don’t like, claiming the Constitution prohibits it. As Ian Millhiset at The Prospect puts it:
Tentherism, in a nutshell, proclaims that New Deal-era reformers led an unlawful coup against the “True Constitution,” exploiting Depression-born desperation to expand the federal government’s powers beyond recognition. Under the tenther constitution, Barack Obama’s health-care reform is forbidden, as is Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. The federal minimum wage is a crime against state sovereignty; the federal ban on workplace discrimination and whites-only lunch counters is an unlawful encroachment on local businesses.
Tenthers divine all this from the brief language of the 10th Amendment, which provides that “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.”
Tenthers like Texas Governor Rick Perry back a “state sovereignty resolution.” Perry says he is “willing and ready for the fight if this administration continues to try to force their very expansive government philosophy down our collective throats.” Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina claims that health care reform violates the 10th Amendment.
Historically, this argument has been used to stop progress, and to not keep hope alive.
The right-wing South justified both secession and the Civil War on the theory that the Constitution is nothing more than a pact between sovereigns that each state is free to leave at will. In the immediate wake of Brown v. Board of Education, 19 senators and 77 representatives endorsed a “Southern Manifesto,” proclaiming — in words echoed by modern-day tenthers — that Brown “encroach[es] on the rights reserved to the States” because the “Constitution does not mention education.” President Franklin Delano Roosevelt spent much of his first term combating a tenther majority on the Supreme Court, which routinely struck down substantial portions of the New Deal.
But in the Constitution’s Article 1 Section 8, the government is given the power to provide for our “general welfare,” and that was affirmed in Helvering v. Davis.
The Constitution gives Congress the power “to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States,” thus empowering the federal government to levy taxes and leverage these revenues to benefit the American people. Tenthers, however, insist that these words don’t actually mean what they say, claiming that spending on things like health care, education, and Social Security is simply not allowed.
If the tenthers had their way, there would be no Medicare, no Social Security, even no public education. How about “Every Child Left Behind”?