Thursday, March 29, 2012
Our Associate Editor Ralph On The Obamacare debacle at the SCOTUS.
The logic goes back to the 1942 Supreme Court case "Wickard v. Filburn" in which Ohio farmer Roscoe Filburn was fined for growing wheat in excess of New Deal--era crop quotas. Mr. Filburn argued that the quotas did not apply to his particular circumstances because he was growing feed for his own chickens, not to sell. But the Supreme Court disagreed, stating that "control of total supply... depends upon control of individual supply," and by growing his own chicken feed, Mr. Filburn was not buying it from others. Also New Deal agricultural programs were so effective, according to the court, that Mr. Filburn should stop complaining about impositions on his freedom and show a little gratitude.
The Obama administration takes this pernicious logic a step further by compelling people to buy things they don't want. Since there is no interstate commerce to regulate, the government mandates it. But Judge Graham's question can be answered by employing the same argument that Chief Justice John Marshall employed in the foundational case of Marbury v. Madison (1803). If Congress can exercise powers that are in practice unlimited, then as Justice Marshall concluded, "written constitutions are absurd attempts, on the part of the people, to limit a power in its own nature illimitable." It is "a proposition too plain to be contested" that the Constitution cannot be used to justify an act that destroys the very limits on which constitutional government is founded.
In essence, Obamacare must be unconstitutional, because if it stands it would remove the limits to Congressional power that the Constitution was designed to impose. The Constitution is not a suicide pact even if Obamacare is.