It’s All About the Money

Commentary by Atty Deborah Stevenson              03/30/09



It’s more obvious today than in years past – the way the federal government gains control over state and local activities.   It may be insidious, and perhaps, even odious, but it is not new, and, unfortunately, it is not unConstitutional.


It’s all about the money. It’s about some in the federal government giving out money, on the condition that the recipient does as the federal government desires, often for the purpose of those in the federal government to gain control, where they had none before, to accomplish a particular political agenda.


It really could be called a legal form of bribery.

It’s even worse when the amount of money the federal government uses for the “bribery” continues to grow exponentially.

Yet, with each new day we hear of new ways it occurs.

Unfortunately, not only is it a very effective way for those in the federal government to gain control and to effectuate their agenda, it is also a Constitutional way.

That is really the point.  Those in control of the federal government understand that they do not have Constitutional authority to take all the actions that they take.  Politically, ethically, and legally, however, they need to be perceived as acting Constitutionally.


Here’s how the thinking of some in the government might go:


We know we want to accomplish X.  But we also know we don’t have the outright authority to do X.


We know that the Constitution (more emphatically stated in the Ninth and Tenth Amendments) limits the power of the federal government. 


We know that basically, the Constitution says, we, the people, grant to you, the federal government only these specific powers enumerated in this Constitution, and that all other powers that are not specifically enumerated as granted to you, the federal government, remain powers that belong to the states and to the people.


Okay, so then let’s do a little checking to see if the Constitution gives us the power to, oh, I don’t know, say, take over privately owned banks.


Hmm, doesn’t look like the Constitution says anything in there about giving the federal government the power to do that.


Now what? Let’s cogitate some more. 


We still want to take over privately owned banks, and we still want to do it according to something in the Constitution, because we don’t want to get people all that riled up enough to, I don’t know, impeach us, or otherwise kick us out of power.  So, let’s take another look at this and see if there’s any way we can get around this.


Well, let’s look at the Presidential power – Article Two – let’s see – commander in chief, pardon power, treaty power, fill vacancies…hmm…not much there about power over banks.


How about the Judiciary – Article Three – cases and controversies, hold office for good behaviour, treason…no, I don’t think so.


Okay, Legislative power – Article One – all legislative powers shall be vested in Congress.  Well, that’s good. Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes…hmmm…to borrow money….sounding closer….to regulate commerce…yes, I think we’re getting there…..and to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers….by George, I think we’ve got it.


So that means, that we, the federal government, through Congress, can tax the people, and write a law to spend that tax money to regulate commerce and to borrow more money.


Now, we can have Congress write a bill that says we will take a whole bunch of taxpayer money, say, I don’t know, $750 billion dollars, and spend that money by telling private banks they have to take the money so we can regulate commerce and prevent an economic collapse. Then, if they actually take the money, because it is federal money, we can tell them what to do because we have the power to make laws that are necessary and proper for executing our power to tax and spend.




And you know, that’s even better, because we can use the fact that these banks are using taxpayer money to get the public all upset at how the banks are using their taxpayer money.  We can get the public to get angry and demand that we, the federal government, do something about what the banks are doing with all that public money.  Why, they’ll be begging us to take more control of the banks. 


What a world.  What a world. 


Yes, I think we’ve discovered quite a neat little legal trick to get the power we want. 

But, wait, you say. What if some of the banks don’t take the money? 

That’s right.  If they don’t take the money, then our whole scheme, I mean, plan is foiled.  If they don’t take the money, then we have no Constitutional way to control them. 


Hmm.  That’s true.  Then, I don’t know. 


Well, why don’t’ we just tell them that they all have to take the money, for the good of all the banks.  Because otherwise the people will know which banks are not doing so well, and the people might not want to keep their money in those failing banks. 


We can’t have that.


 We’ll just tell them they all have to take the money, for the good of all the people and all the banks, that way we can Constitutionally (sort of) control them all.



That might be the thinking of some in Washington. At least, that’s how the logic would have to work in order to legally exert that kind of federal power. We’ll never know for sure exactly what went through the minds of Congress.  But what we do know if that repeatedly, the tactic of holding out the carrot of federal money, getting state and local governments, and other entities, to take the federal money, is used routinely, and has been used routinely for decades by those in Congress. One other thing is for sure, also.  If states, local governments, and other entities do not want to abide by the rules and regulations that go along with accepting that federal money, they don’t have to, but they will have to say “no” to accepting that federal money.


If states, local governments, and other entities just say “no” to the federal money, the federal government has no Constitutional way to impose regulation on those states, local governments and other entities, unless the federal government can find some other specific enumerated power granted to the federal government upon which to rely. Fortunately, the Constitution has placed severe limitations on the powers enumerated to the federal government.


This is true for all manner of issues confronting us today.  The carrot of federal money is held out routinely to entice compliance with federal regulation.  Understanding the principles outlined in our Constitution is imperative to being able to restore freedom from federal regulation.  Understanding that state and local governments and other entities can reject federal regulation by rejecting federal money is the key.  The understanding and the ability to “just say no” will work to undo a multitude of federal regulation concerning a variety of issues confronting us today.  Complaining about federal mandates in education?  Just say “no” to the federal money, and say goodbye to federal mandates.  Complaining about federal mandates concerning “voluntary” public service?  Just say “no” to the federal money, and say goodbye to those federal mandates.  Want to return to more state and local control?  Just say “no” to the federal money. 


It’s all about the money.  But it can be all about freedom, if we just get used to saying “no” to the federal government and to the money.


Attorney Deborah G. Stevenson

Constitutional scholar

Executive Director, National Home Education Legal Defense, LLC.

Practicing Education and Appellate Law

P.O. Box 704

Southbury, CT  06488

(860) 354-3590



Copyright 2009, All rights reserved.  Reprintable by permission.