Commerce Clause Gives Federal Government the Power to Do Everything

Email Print
FacebookTwitterShare

Last week, the ornery Nancy Pelosi was asked, by CNSNews: “Madam Speaker, where specifically does the Constitution grant Congress the authority to enact an individual health insurance mandate?” The brilliant and philosophic Pelosi replied, “Are you serious? Are you serious?” From the CNSNews story:

Currently, each of the five health care overhaul proposals being considered in Congress would command every American adult to buy health insurance. Any person defying this mandate would be required to pay a penalty to the Internal Revenue Service.

CNSNews followed up with Pelosi’s press spokesman, Nadeam Elshami, and inquired again, “Where specifically does the Constitution authorize Congress to force Americans to purchase a particular good or service such as health insurance?” All they got back was a September 16 press release titled “Health Insurance Reform Daily Mythbuster: ‘Constitutionality of Health Insurance Reform.’” Some snippets from this 3rd-grade level literature:

Reform opponents continue to spread myths about components of America’s Affordable Health Choices Act, including the nonsensical claim that the federal government has no constitutionally valid role in reforming our health care system—apparently ignoring the validity of Medicare and other popular federal health reforms.

…But the Constitution gives Congress broad power to regulate activities that have an effect on interstate commerce.  Congress has used this authority to regulate many aspects of American life, from labor relations to education to health care to agricultural production. Since virtually every aspect of the heath care system has an effect on interstate commerce, the power of Congress to regulate health care is essentially unlimited.

Backpedal to a 2003 column from Walter Williams – “Commerce Clause Abuse.”

In 1990, Congress passed the Gun-Free School Zones Act, citing their powers under the “commerce clause.” Namely, the possession of a firearm in a local school zone substantially affected interstate commerce. Why? Violent crime raises insurance costs and those costs are spread throughout the population. Violent crime reduces the willingness of individuals to travel to high-crime areas within the country. Finally, crime threatens the learning environment thereby reducing national productivity. While all of this might be true, the relevant question is whether Congress had constitutional authority to pass the Gun-Free School Zones Act. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled it didn’t saying, “If we were to accept the Government’s arguments, we are hard pressed to posit any activity by an individual that Congress is without power to regulate.” In other words, the hours children spend studying, the amount of rest they get and what they eat has something to do with learning. Congress could easily manufacture a case for the regulation of these activities based on their perverted interpretation of the “commerce clause.”

As Don Armentano wrote on Mises.org in 2005:

The original intent of the Commerce Clause was to make “normal” or “regular” commerce between the states; thus it was designed to promote trade and exchange not restrict it. Further, it was specifically aimed at preventing the states from enacting impediments to the free flow of “commerce” such as tariffs, quotas and taxes.

7:05 am on October 31, 2009