States’ Rights Live On

Tait Trussell is a national award-winning writer, former vice-president of the American Enterprise Institute and former Washington correspondent for The Wall Street Journal.


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The fundamental principle of states’ rights survives—at least in South Carolina. The Palmetto State’s House chamber last month passed a measure standing up to a federal “green” law. The law requires all Americans to buy new-fangled light bulbs to save energy, even if it doesn’t save our eyesight and even if it can make us ill.

The South Carolina bill, called “The Incandescent Light Bulb Freedom Act,” would let South Carolinians buy the light bulbs everybody is used to, as long as the bulbs are made and sold in South Carolina. For anyone not aware of the federal law, which takes effect in six months, you will be forbidden to buy those inexpensive, bright 100-watt bulbs to read your bedside book, your newspaper, magazines, research papers, or anything else.

South Carolina State Rep. William Sandife III, chairman of the House Labor, Commerce, and Industry Committee, predicted the measure will become law. Because it is a product of intrastate commerce it is, therefore, not subject to federal regulation.

A spokesman for South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said she is waiting to see the specific bill language. But, it would be hard to imagine the conservative governor would not sign such legislation once it completes its course through the state assembly.

Under federal law, intended to save energy, you will be required by Jan. 1 to buy the dim, compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) containing illness-causing mercury. Thomas Edison must be shuddering in his grave.

While Obama wants to force everybody to buy health insurance or pay a fine, you will just have to buy the new light bulbs. No fine or imprisonment has been mentioned. Attorney General Eric Holder, however, could be mobilizing light-bulb squads to ride through the countryside at night to enforce the law. Nothing is impossible in Obamaland. A query to the Justice Department on enforcement was not answered.

Not only will manufacturers be banned from making the incandescent 100 watt bulb after Jan. 1, this will be followed by restrictions against lower watt versions in future years.

It doesn’t stop there. Our debt-ridden government is spending money we don’t have to subsidize development of more “high-efficiency” bulbs. The Obama Energy Department June 7 announced it is giving three California companies $4.2 million to speed up development of the bulbs, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Obama and his money-bags Energy Department seem to believe the long proven American inventive spirit cannot or will not produce any innovation without being bribed by the government.

“Two leading makers of lighting products” showcased LEDs (light-emitting diodes) as replacements for incandescent bulbs, the Associated Press reported in May. The bulbs are expensive but contain no mercury. They run $40 to $50 a bulb.

The government also is offering more money we don’t have, with a $10 million prize for developing the most innovative bulb. This was the brilliant idea of Senate Energy Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.Mex), an over-the-top environmental fanatic.

But the real reward will come in the form of bragging rights for development, a lighting company spokesman said. One other company, the Florida-based Lighting Science Group, has produced a prototype. It uses organic light-emitting diodes, or OLEDs that it claims meet stringent performance criteria. Testing is ongoing.

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  • Mike

    My understanding is that the Commerce Clause was intended to promote trade among the several srates.
    The end result of the abuse of the Commerce Clause is reduction of commerce – producing items in states for local use only.

    This should clarify how far we have strayed fron the original intent.

  • http://johnrussellturner.blogspot.com John

    For a good precis of the commerce clause to the US Constitution, go to:
    http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Com

    I once drove an 18 wheeler across country, and after a few months of dealing with all the regulations imposed upon me and my employer, I realized the impact of this clause. Or should i say, the unintended consequences of it. In my opinion, The Founders made a mistake by putting this clause in the document. Repealing the commerce clause would free up a lot of entrepreneurial activity.

    • Doc

      I don't think you can blame the Founders for the commerce clause.

  • Amused

    I guess the US military is " eco -relgious " too . DOD has set 2020 as a goal to cut back energy wasting / use by 26% . Yea what do they know eh ? And to shift to JOBS …..INNOVATION , is what leads to more jobs , or will we decide to miss the boat again for political memes and partisan ideology rather than the science of it all ,and let the Chinese eat our lunch , as they are doing now with solar powered technology .Your argument Mike , and that of the naysayers is RIDICULOUS at best .

    • Doc

      Other than space exploration and military grade weapons, great innovations (and the jobs they create) are the product of the free market desire for profit. They are not created from some government contest and then the product supported by subsidy

  • Chris Nichols

    Text of the 10th Amendment:
    "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."

    You do know that the Constitution had to be ratified by the states,right. I mean, why would the states ratify a document that relinquished their last bit of sovereignty to a centralized government? No, I guess you don't know that. I say that because I don't know what kind of obtuse moron would argue with a document written in plain language, or documented history.

    • patriot1789

      I agree with you up to a point. Remember that not all of the Founders wanted a republic, some even wanted another monarchy. So while the states would not KNOWINGLY relinquish their sovereignty, the enemies of a republic inserted seemingly helpful and harmless wording into the Constitution. This language was later used to destroy the republic.

      The power used by Congress is actually granted by the Constitution. However, the main implementing amendment was not put in until about 75 years later.

      It's true and if you want to refute it, I challenge you to go to my facebook and read "A Patriot's Thoughts" or if you can't locate it, email patriot1789 at Hotmail.

  • tagalog

    Just one thing on "states' rights." The Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states that the POWERS not delegated to the federal government or prohibited to it by the Consitution, are reserved to the states or the people.

    Governments, including both the federal and the state governments, don't have rights. They have power.

    The people have rights.

    • Think About It!

      That, my friend is a VERY good point!!

      People are endowed by their creator with unalienable rights.

      Governments are endowed with whatever they have by THEIR creators.

      Those creators are none other than…(drum roll please)… WE THE PEOPLE.

      And WE THE PEOPLE have the right to take away those powers anytime we choose.

      The question is whether enough of us are willing to sacrifice enough to take the "food" out of the giant rat's mouth.

      It's amusing that Amused apparently likes being supervised by rats.

  • Amused

    Well there are what's called National Standards .And they encompass things like the wattage of coffee makers , minimun requirements for any big ticket consumer items like refrigerators and air conditioners , so if you want to make "light bulbs " a Staes Rights issue , go ahead , I can use a good chuckle . Maybe you guys could start a "cause-celbre " on the upcoming Attenuation laws , or the FCC recent regs on broadcast tv signals regarding HD . If you guys had your way , people would still need a coal shoot in their homes . Anti-Science , Anti-Energy Efficiency , Anti-Innovation ….whats next ? You people need to chill …BIGTIME , you're getting carried away with your BIG GOVERNMENT POLICE STATE memes .

    • Tom

      Do you not understand the implication of having millions (eventually billions) of these CFL bulbs discarded into the landfills (dumps). They have mercury in them which is one of the most toxic substances.

      "Mercury is such a highly reactive toxic agent that it is difficult to identify its specific mechanism of damage, and much remains unknown about the mechanism.[13] It damages the central nervous system, endocrine system, kidneys, and other organs, and adversely affects the mouth, gums, and teeth. Exposure over long periods of time or heavy exposure to mercury vapor can result in brain damage and ultimately death. Mercury and its compounds are particularly toxic to fetuses and infants. Women who have been exposed to mercury in pregnancy have sometimes given birth to children with serious birth defects (see Minamata disease).

      Mercury exposure in young children can have severe neurological consequences, preventing nerve sheaths from forming properly. Mercury inhibits the formation of myelin.

      There is some evidence that mercury poisoning may predispose to Young's syndrome (men with bronchiectasis and low sperm count)."

    • Thank About It!

      Amused, you would be amusing if it weren't for the fact that you are so obtuse it's sad.

      You fancy yourself a thinker but all you do is parrot the bureaucratic mantra.

      You remind me of a "clever, slippery fishy" I've bantered with. Is that you Dorchester?

      Your vaunted "National Standards" are the products of those very bureaucrats you apparently revere. Those standards don't magically become sacrosanct just because somebody wrote them.

      And they certainly don't deserve to be the guiding lights of everything else we ever do in life.

      Giggling, snickering and belittling those you disagree with is not the same as thinking.

      We are NOT "Anti-Science , Anti-Energy Efficiency , Anti-Innovation" and the source of all those is NOT your beloved government bureaucrats.

      It is the people that are trod upon by those same bureaucrats that are the source of everything Scientific, Energetic and Innovative.

      By the way… the word is "CHUTE" as in the chute down which coal travels to the coal bin.

      Now, go play nice with the other kiddies and don't hog all the Kool-Ade.

  • Amused

    BTW , if switching from incandesent bulbs is actually the equivelant in energy savings of taking 800,000 cars a year off the road , what in the hell have you got against that ? Are you sycophant/hacks for the oil industry ?

  • Peter

    Amused, you are an idiot!!! You apparently have no idea that the federal government is a creation of the states – not the other way around. And that the issue here isn't primarily one of which light bulb is better, but rather of individual freedom – of companies to make whichever product they want and for people to freely decide to buy, or not, those products. The idea of the U.S. was never that elites and their enablers (YOU) would make these decisions for everyone else. BTW, people who actually have a valid point to make never resort to ad hominem attacks like yours. Only losers and the evil do that. Which are you?

  • Amused

    Bullsheeet Peter , so much so , it's coming out of your ears . Go an join Perry of Texas in the "lightbulb war " , I 'm sure he's got a place for you .And you certainly fit the primary requirement ……STUPID .

    • Peter

      As is oh so typical for leftards, you of course didn't actually respond to any of the points I made, but rather resorted to your only weapon – insults. Come on Amused, you can do better than that. Or can you?

      • Think About It!

        Peter, it's obviously hopeless to try to reason with Mr. Chuckles.
        He showed his hand.
        Ridicule and insults are the last refuge of small minds.

        BTW… there's another ingredient in all this.

        CFL's actually cause nerve damage by way of the electro-magnetic radiation they put out and skin damage due to excess UV.
        New Zealand has lifted its ban on incandescent bulbs as a result of this information.

  • Don from B.C.

    Quite simply, if the price of electricity rises to the point that people are willing to switch from incandescent bulbs to CFLs, then let it happen that way. By banning the bulbs (which my Province is also doing as of Jan 1, 2012), all you do is artifically force the situation.

    In B.C., the push is so that we can sell our surplus energy to commercial and other non-residential entities so that B.C. Hydro can make more money (and by extension, the province as Hydro is a Crown Corporation). Well, I don't want mercury in my home. Period. And I don't like that fact its being jammed down my throat.

  • Amused

    How many buisinesses do you know of , that incorporate incandesent lighting ? Imagine that , and we dont even know how many flourescent bulbs may have crashed to the floor in those places . Gee , Hospitals too !! Doctors offices , and Surgery rooms !! ICU s ! College classrooms , schoolclassrooms , labs -all flourescent lights .
    What I would do is stock-up on incandesent lights and wait for innovation which will surely come quickly . I hate CFL 's but for a different reason . Not mercury , but the very type of light they emit .

  • kafir4life

    Wow! I've been asking for a while just how stupid someone would have to be to vote for Obama TWICE!! Thank you Amused for providing the answer.

  • patriot1789

    Please enlighten me as to why "States Rights is a LUDICROUS RED HERRING…".

    I would really like to know what a full-brained person like yourself thinks. Document reasons please.