In the rich history of American democracy, the right to vote is considered a basic right for every citizen, regardless of race. As a nation, we have journeyed from the days of Emancipation, Poll Taxes, and outright intimidation and prejudice, to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, when the National Guard was mobilized to allow disenfranchised African-American voters to cast their ballots.
At that time, Congress, during the administration of Lyndon Johnson, passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The purpose for this compendium of edicts was to combat the discriminatory acts of certain Southern States that tried to limit racial minorities from participating in the electoral process. Over the next half century, proponenets of the legislation say the Voting Rights Act of 1965 effectively leveled the playing field in American politics.
Last week, in what turned out to be a surprising decision in many quarters, the Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, overturned Section 4 of the 1965 legislation in the case Shelby Alabama Vs. US Attorney General Eric Holder.
Chief Justice John Roberts explained, “There is no denying however, that the conditions that originally justified these measures no longer characterize voting in the covered jurisdictions.” He went on to say “Census Bureau data indicate that African-American voter turnout has come to exceed white voter turnout in five of the six States originally covered with a gap in the sixth State less than one half of one percent.” To be constitutional, Roberts said, “current burdens should be met by current needs.”
As often occurs with Supreme Court cases, the most important aspect of the decision was not the direct ramifications of what was desided but rather the constitutional grounds for reaching this conclusion. In this case it was determined the Federal Government should not take over power from the States unless there are clear reasons for them to have jurisdiction. Hence, Shelby is a major victory for States Rights advocates and strict constructionists, that stress limits to the role of the Federal Government in State issues.
Of course Liberal Democrats were outraged by Roberts majority decision. Since the legislation worked, why change things?, they reason. On the other side of the spectrum Republicans applauded the Chief Justice’s ruling as they recently objected to President Obama’s vocal enforcement of the Voting Rights Act to be nothing more than race baiting to increase turnout of minority voters at election time.
In my mind the Supreme Court decision is a welcome acknowledgement that the political process in 2013, where increased role Federal Goivernment, encouraged by both political parties in the past quarter century, has lead to more power being concentrated in by Washington D.C. than ever before. Many people believe that the mounting national debt is a direct result of the Feds trying to do too much.
A good example of this logic is the well intended No Child Left Behind legislation passed in 2001 under George W. Bush, to improve public education performance in the United States. Along with the billions of dollars given through the States to assist with teacher training, standardized testing, handicapped students etc.. came guidelines to be met in order to receive the funds.
Most States have found the cost of administering the cumbersome Federal regulations could not be fully covered thus the Federal assistance has often drained resources intended for actual classroom education. As a result, President Bush’s ambitious plans——co-written with the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and shepherded thru Congress by our own Rep. George Miller (D-Martinez)——has been dubbed in many quarters as the No Child Left Ahead program.
This same type of government overreach has been under fire by critics of President Obama’s American Recovery and Re-Investment Act of 2009, aka “stimulus program” intended to dig the US economy out of the recession. Most of the $552 billion authorized by Congress has been spent on hiring additional government workers on all levels, investing in favored green enterprises, education, research, and a number of other programs intended to get the economy moving again.
After four years, most of the public sector sponsored jobs have ended, minimizing the multiplier effect that stimulates the economy compared with genuine private sector impact on employment growth. Most of the money given as loans to spur corporate job growth are either under water or down the drain so to speak. More jobs would have been created in the solar industry by stopping the Chinese from dumping low cost product in the USA than the Federal Government investing in such notable start-up scandals as Solyndra.
If the stimulus proved anything, it showed that it is best for the Federal Government not to invest in the private sector. Let the marketplace determine the winners and losers of venture capitalism. Leave the incompetent administrators in Washington D.C. out of this process.
In the wake of the stimulus and other misguided programs, the United States has an unmanageable national debt which threatens the lives of the current population and generations yet to be born. High taxes and increased government regulations on all levels is strangling job growth in the USA. To make things worse, even with implantation delayed a year, the new Obama Care Health Plan appears to be on a path to do more of the same.
When will it end or for that matter what will make government on all levels take on the responsibilities they were intended for? One doubts the framers of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution desired for the Federal Government to exercise so much power over its citizen’s lives. Why have we strayed from these ideas to become just another socialist state where freedom and opportunity is subjugated for the perceived common good?
Where do we start the rebuilding process? A good place to begin is to understand and appreciate the recent Supreme Court decision overturning Section 4 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that recognizes the limitations of the Feds trying to impose their will on the States. Hopefully the concept that less is more will take hold in the years to come.