My Wonk Room colleague Ian Millhiser has been tracking the recent upsurge in “tenther” thinking — conservatives who basically think that the Tenth Amendment renders everything the federal government does unconstitutional. He’s got a great new example as Representative Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH) offers up the banal observation that the federal highway system is permitted under the constitution:
Author and historian David Barton, the president of WallBbuilders, [sic] says Shea-Porter’s comments reflect her view that Washington government should run everything. He notes that both the Ninth and Tenth Amendments say anything that is not explicitly covered in the Constitution belongs to the states and to the people.
“All of those issues belong to the states and the people. Healthcare is not a federal issue. It is a state and people issue — the same with transportation. The Constitution does say that the federal government can take care of what are called the post roads — those on which the mail travels — but outside of that, states are responsible for their own highways, their own roads, their own county, local, state roads,” he notes.
I bow to no man in my dislike of federal highway spending. But the legitimacy of federal expenditures on interstate transportation projects was settled back in the days of John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay. I suppose you could choose to read the “post roads” clause as requirement the construction of separate, hermetically sealed mail routes with no other purpose, but that’s never how that’s been construed and it’s hard to think of any good reason to start doing it.