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Let’s start repealing federal laws

TACITUS was the Roman historian whose "Annals," published in 117 AD, covered the years 14 AD to 68 AD — the time from Tiberius to Nero, which included Caligula.

What a juicy assignment. Lust. Greed. Orgies. It was like writing about a never-ending weekend at the Kennedy Compound.

I have "Annals" on my To Read list, but a quote in translation rings true 1,900 years later: "And now bills were passed, not only for national objects but for individual cases, and laws were most numerous when the commonwealth was most corrupt."

Having not learned from the Romans, America has strangled itself with 200 volumes of rules and regulations — and that is just at the federal level. States and local governments have their own sets of rules.

Enforcing billions of words is impossible. The real power is in selecting which laws to enforce against whom and when.

Thus federal prosecutors worked to convict Li'l Kim and Martha Stewart of lying, while President Clinton went unindicted.

We have too many laws. I agree with liberals that the government should stay out of our bedrooms, but I also want the government out of my bathroom.

The federal government has no business telling me how big the tank of my toilet should be or what color my toilet paper is or whether it is scented.

If my complaint seems silly, please consider that the federal government already regulates all three things. Who really is the fool?

This is a bipartisan bathroom monitoring. Republicans in 1994 thwarted an effort to repeal the toilet law. Taking control of both houses of Congress the next year, Republicans kept the law on the books.

Violators will be prosecuted. Or not. It depends on how federal agents feel that day. Prosecutorial discretion is powerful.

Federal laws often are redundant. By duplicating state and local law — which is where criminal law belongs — the federal government can control states' actions.

For example, George Zimmerman looks increasingly innocent of murdering Trayvon Martin, but Attorney General Eric Holder has sent the not-so-subtle warning that if Florida does not convict, he will.

Which leads us to the Violence Against Women Act, which everyone in Congress wants to extend.

The law seeks to increase the penalties on those who commit violence against women.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller and other Democrats want to extend this coverage to gays, lesbians and native tribes. Republicans balk.

The American Civil Liberties Union originally opposed the law in 1994 on the grounds that the increased penalties were harsh, and stricter pre-trial detention violated the Constitution. Conservatives agreed.

The Supreme Court struck down a portion of the law as unconstitutional in 2000.

The court should have rejected the entire law. The Constitution leaves to the states to handle such matters as domestic violence.

In town to work up public sentiment for continuing this redundant, unnecessary and unconstitutional law, Rockefeller cited the tragic case of the lad who bolted from the car and tried to flag down help on the interstate for his mother as her boyfriend beat her.

A car struck and killed the boy.

But the Kanawha County prosecutor's office is quite capable of prosecuting the boyfriend for murder without federal assistance.

What Rockefeller and his 99 fellow senators, the 435 representatives and the president he waited for all his life should do is concentrate on balancing the budget.

More than half a century ago, Sen. Barry Goldwater wrote, "I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size.

"I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom. My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them. It is not to inaugurate new programs, but to cancel old ones that do violence to the Constitution, or that have failed their purpose, or that impose on the people an unwarranted financial burden."

He must have read Tacitus. Mitt Romney should, too.

Surber may be reached at


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