We’ve had what I thought was a good discussion on the commerce clause in the comments the last couple of days (opinions on that may vary).
I liked this (broader) speech Jack Conway made in his 2010 campaign (courtesy of Daily Kos) because I think Conway attempted to point out a fundamental difference between liberals and conservatives that shouldn’t get lost in any specific discussion:
Rand Paul is on record as having said that we haven’t followed mine safety, as it should have been done since 1936. He is on record as having said that we need a pre-World War II system of health care. He is on record as saying, and I quote, “since 1937 I don’t think we have obeyed the constitution at all.”
And these dates are not random. They are not random. In 1936, in a case called Carter Coal, the United States Supreme Court decided that the Commerce Clause was broad enough the Federal Government could regulate mine safety. In the 1930’s we were losing 1,500 miners a year to accidents. Last year we lost 34. That’s 34 too many. But you have to understand in Rand Paul’s world his view of the constitution is it’s not broad enough to protect our miners.
And that quote that “since 1937 I don’t think we have obeyed the Constitution at all.” That’s not random. Those are Rand Paul’s exact words, and in 1937, after much debate about the New Deal, the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of Helvering v. Davis upheld the Constitutionality — by a 7-2 vote — upheld the Constitutionality of Social Security. The significance of Rand Paul’s statement is clear. Rand Paul doesn’t think that Social Security is Constitutional. He doesn’t. Rand Paul’s view stem from a radical view of the Constitution. A view that says that the federal government what it does everyday for people is an illegal expansion of federal power. He thinks it’s unconstitutional.
Here’s an excerpt from the case challenging Social Security’s constitutionality that you may find amusing, although not directly applicable to the issue at hand, I do think it illustrates the yawning divide between liberals and conservatives.
This suit is brought by a shareholder of the Edison Electric Illuminating Company of Boston, a Massachusetts corporation, to restrain the corporation from making the payments and deductions called for by the act, which is stated to be void under the Constitution of the United States. The expected consequences are indicated substantially as follows: the deductions from the wages of the employees will produce unrest among them, and will be followed, it is predicted, by demands that wages be increased.
Unrest and demands that wages be increased. It is predicted. I don’t know about you, but I feel as if conservatives were more honest back then. Scary workers and wage demands. They came right out and said it!
Whether wisdom or unwisdom resides in the scheme of benefits set forth in Title II it is not for us to say. The answer to such inquiries must come from Congress, not the courts. Our concern here, as often, is with power, not with wisdom. Counsel for respondent has recalled to us the virtues of self-reliance and frugality. There is a possibility, he says, that aid from a paternal government [p*645] may sap those sturdy virtues and breed a race of weaklings.
A race of weaklings! These are our seniors they’re talking about! Can you imagine a modern conservative saying that? Not while they’re running on Medicare, I’d wager.
If Massachusetts so believes and shapes her laws in that conviction, must her breed of sons be changed, he asks, because some other philosophy of government finds favor in the halls of Congress? But the answer is not doubtful. One might ask with equal reason whether the system of protective tariffs is to be set aside at will in one state or another whenever local policy prefers the rule of laissez faire. The issue is a closed one. It was fought out long ago. When money is spent to promote the general welfare, the concept of welfare or the opposite is shaped by Congress, not the states. So the concept be not arbitrary, the locality must yield. Constitution, Art. VI, Par. 2.