Two nationally publicized recent incidents involve local public schools being told what they must do by arrogant bureaucrats in Washington. These events provide new reminders of why the Founders included the 10th Amendment in the Constitution's Bill of Rights. While liberal judges and professional politicians in both parties would rather it be forgotten, it is doubtful the U.S. Constitution would have been ratified had not James Madison, the document's main author, agreed to the amendments, especially the Tenth, which reads: "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."
The fulcrum of American politics from the Constitution's ratification to the present has been the issue of how much power the federal government should have. And there is no better capsule statement of what the Constitution says on the matter than the 10th Amendment. That is why liberals who want power centralized in an all-knowing Nanny State government in Washington hate the 10th Amendment. Conversely, conservatives look to the 10th Amendment as embodying the view that power should be decentralized to state and especially local authorities.
The federal role in education in recent decades has increased immensely in Washington funding and regulations dictating how local public schools must operate. In the first of the two incidents mentioned at the outset, a local teacher in a North Carolina school forced a little girl to give up the lunch her mother made for her and instead have one thought to be more consistent with federal school nutrition requirements. As a result, the school's chicken nuggets replaced Mom's turkey sandwich.
In the second incident, federal officials decided it was OK for public school lunches across America to be prepared using "pink slime," the gelatin-like concoction also known as Boneless Lean Beef Trimmings. For those unfamiliar with BLBT, it's essentially the meaty parts of what's left of the cow after the more familiar cuts -- sirloin steaks, T-bones, etc. -- are removed. The meat industry claims -- and Washington officialdom now agrees -- that pink slime is fine for our kids as long as it is washed with ammonia before being packaged.
In commenting on these incidents, Walter Russell Mead, a rare liberal who rejects the knee-jerk preference of the Left for centralized power, asks "why on earth school lunches are a federal matter. Surely this is something states, cities and towns or even local schools (perhaps in association with the PTA) can work out? My guess is that the closer to the local level decisions are made, the more common sense will prevail." Why indeed when the first incident so precisely illustrates the fatal flaw of a one-size-fits-all federal approach -- anonymous bureaucrats in some far-off government cubicle cannot possibly conceive rules suitable for every local need. And why indeed when the second incident demonstrates the "regulatory capture" that is the inevitable result of centralized power -- policy is made to suit politically influential special interests instead of the people. That's why the 10th is the "power to the people" amendment.