Prior to the adoption of the 16th and 17th Amendments, our U.S. Constitution prohibited the imposition of a federal income tax and mandated that U.S. Senators be chosen by state legislators.
Those state legislators kept a close eye on the U.S. Senators they'd chosen, making sure they gave top priority to the states' interests. Back then the appointed Senators lacked the barrel of pork they now use to aid their re-election, in essence bribing us with our own taxpayer dollars.
Approval of the federal income tax and direct election of U.S. Senators began the inversion of the relationship between the states and the federal government, with the result that many of our public servants in Washington now seem to regard themselves as our masters instead.
The electorate is wising up, however, and beginning to clamor for reassertion of states' rights.
The next Senator from West Virginia -– be it Democrat Joe Manchin or Republican John Raese -– will be expected to defend the primary interests of our state and be more than a populist purveyor of pork.
While his longstanding support for most of the Obama administration's government-knows-best policies remains worrisome, Manchin took a giant step in the right direction last week when he announced a lawsuit challenging the Environmental Protection Agency's efforts to stifle mountaintop mining in West Virginia.
"Through a series of questionable and unlawful actions, the U.S. EPA has implemented policies and procedures that have delayed the permitting process and halted the issuance of new mine permits," Manchin contended.
Some of our fellow citizens may see Manchin's move as a cynical, self-serving one. They will suggest that Manchin, who is in a dead heat with Raese in the bid for Robert Byrd's old seat, simply might be trying to distance himself from his more and bigger taxes comrade in the White House.
Nevertheless, it is impossible to overstate the importance of mining to West Virginia. A challenge to the federal government's meddling in our affairs is long overdue. Our next U.S. Senator must be someone we can count on to stand up for our state.