Fedzilla vs. the Constitution
Fedzilla vs. the Constitution
In 1788 the Constitution of the United States created a federal government of limited powers. Everyone agreed that anything not on the Constitution's list of 18 "enumerated" powers was retained solely by the states or the people. Yet, two and a quarter centuries later, federal bureaucrats decide what our children should eat for lunch at school, the pajamas they wear to bed, the bulbs we screw into lamps, the water our toilets can flush and much, much more. Most importantly, Washington decides how much of our hard-earned money we deserve to keep and how much it thinks it can put to better use. The Constitution has been turned upside down. The federal government has practically all the power and the states seem to have only the bones that are thrown to them.
Our government mutated and grew far beyond its constitutional limits, to become Fedzilla. Wiktionary defines "Fedzilla" as "US federal government regarded as a rapacious monster with an appetite for power, money, etc." The shoe fits, although it is a giant shoe on a huge claw. The federal government has become a behemoth to be feared, not just because of its size, but because of the damage it does when it heaves its gigantic bulk around, even while trying to do good.
This book explains how the United States Government slipped the constraints of the Constitution to grow into the Fedzilla of today. The book then argues for why limited government at the federal level is still needed and is still what the Constitution requires. It concludes with some ideas about how we can start to shrink Fedzilla back to its constitutional dimensions.
A Brief History of Federal Government Growth
As you will see, there have been forces at work since the Administration of George Washington to get around the Constitution in order to expand federal reach. The very first Congress that assembled in 1789 started the tradition of pork-barrel spending. Washington's Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton, worked to grow federal power almost from the day he took office. Even though the national capital was Philadelphia, Hamilton was the prototype of a "Washington power player." He certainly had President Washington's ear. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison lost critical fights with Hamilton over the Constitution's limits on federal power. We will examine these battles in detail in subsequent chapters. Madison later used his veto as President to curb spending he saw as unconstitutional.
Presidents from Andrew Jackson to James Buchanan vetoed spending they thought was unconstitutional, although Congress kept trying to get bloated appropriations bills past them.
In contrast, Abraham Lincoln was a proponent of large federal projects for internal improvements. Lincoln, however, did not believe in expansively interpreting the Constitution to abolish slavery. Instead, he favored, and got, its abolition through the 13th Amendment.
Under Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson, the Progressive Era ushered in new federal regulation of businesses in interstate commerce. It also added the 16th and 17th Amendments to the Constitution, which, respectively, expanded Congress's power to tax income and provided for popular election of senators, changing the balance of power between the states and the federal government.
In the 1920s, Presidents Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge strove to reduce federal spending, the national debt and taxes. Their efforts slowed, but did not stop, federal expansion, which was pushed by congressional Democrats as well as progressive Republicans. For example, spending by the new Veterans' Bureau ballooned and its first director went to prison for corruption. President Coolidge was succeeded by Herbert Hoover, a progressive Republican, who reacted to the crash of the stock market in 1929 by increasing federal spending and embarking the go