|"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
|"The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
In the Tea Party’s America, families must mortgage their home to pay for their mother’s end-of-life care. Higher education is a luxury reserved almost exclusively to the very rich. Rotten meat ships to supermarkets nationwide without a national agency to inspect it. Fathers compete with their adolescent children for sub-minimum wage jobs. And our national leaders are utterly powerless to do a thing.
At least, that’s what would happen if the Tea Party succeeds in its effort to reimagine the Constitution as an antigovernment manifesto. While the House of Representatives pushes Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) plan to phase out Medicare, numerous members of Congress, a least one Supreme Court justice, and the governor of America’s second-largest state now proudly declare that most of the progress of the last century violates the Constitution.
It is difficult to count how many essential laws would simply cease to exist if the Tea Party won its battle to reshape our founding document, but a short list includes:
Social Security and Medicare
Medicaid, children's health insurance, and other health care programs
All federal education programs
All federal antipoverty programs
Federal disaster relief
Federal food safety inspections and other food safety programs
Child labor laws, the minimum wage, overtime, and other labor protections
Federal civil rights laws
Indeed, as this paper explains, many state lawmakers even embrace a discredited constitutional doctrine that threatens the union itself.
What’s at stake
The Tea Party imagines a constitution focused entirely upon the Tenth 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”—which is why their narrow vision of the nation’s power is often referred to as “tentherism.” In layman’s terms, the Tenth Amendment is simply a reminder that the Constitution contains an itemized list of federal powers—such as the power to regulate interstate commerce or establish post offices or make war on foreign nations—and anything not contained in that list is beyond Congress’s authority.