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The 10th Amendment to the Constitution

Checks and Balances

The 10th Amendment reads as follows: “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 Constitution wanted to be specific about the power the Federal government has over the people, as in, the State versus the Feds. The original Constitution that was ratified in 1788 contained few restrictions about the way the Federal government could use its power against the people or for the people since sometimes, major decisions are left to the States even to this day. 

The government only had powers that could be exercised by the Constitution, meaning the government didn’t have the power to violate the rights of the people, ever. The Constitution still has its freedom of speech to criticize the government amendment, as well as the freedom of religion stipulation in the First Amendment. The Constitution is a document that molds our government, all of it, providing a system of checks and balances so that one branch cannot take too much power.

Some felt a bill of rights would be dangerous because it would outline the government as being given too much power. During the time period, the original Constitution was set up, Massachusetts and Virginia were criticizing the ratification of a Constitution without the bill of Rights. The first Congress proposed 12 Amendments to the Constitution, and the last ten of which wound up being ratified in 1791, becoming what is now known as the Bill of Rights that many states agreed upon having. The 10th Amendment simply states a requirement that the government should not use powers it was not granted to have to be used. The 10th Amendment was made to decide how much power the government could actually have over the people.

An example of the 10th Amendment in action is the highway speed limit, as well as the legal limit of alcohol in the bloodstream being 0.08 percent. The highway speed limit is 55 mph in other states but in California, it is 65 mph. The government tries to implement national programs that have minimum standards, although Texas has the highest speed limit in the United States at 85 mph. The States have their own say in what is legal and what is not legal. Another example of this quandary being the use of marijuana as well as its products. It would seem that the Affordable Care Act was ruled unconstitutional precisely because of the 10th Amendment, coercing States into accepting Medicare funds if individuals fall 133 percent below the poverty line. Universal healthcare can only work if states are in agreement. Lawmakers have not figured out how to make this happen, if it can happen at all. Universal healthcare is all about passing a law that makes it accessible for anybody, instead of making every patient pay exorbitant fees. The 10th Amendment is part of checks and balances.

Once again, it would seem that the 10th Amendment was originally designed to outline how much power the government has. Sometimes the government needs to be involved in matters of freedom of religion when it comes to cults, for example. To some founding fathers, the Bill of Rights might have been a dangerous inclusion to the Constitution because the government’s power needed to be limited in some situations. It was concluded: “the inclusion of a bill of rights does not change the fundamental character of the national government of the national government. It remains a government of limited and enumerated powers so that the first question involving an exercise of federal power is not whether it violates someone’s rights, but whether it exceeds the national governments enumerated powers.” So this is why the 10th Amendment is in the Constitution, to exist as a buffer between the power of the federal government as well as the States themselves.

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The 10th Amendment to the Constitution
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