Chas' Compilation

A compilation of information and links regarding assorted subjects: politics, religion, science, computers, health, movies, music... essentially whatever I'm reading about, working on or experiencing in life.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Did the U.S. government shake loose its constitutional moorings more than 70 years ago?

Paul Remarks Have Deep Roots
Republican candidate Rand Paul's controversial remarks on the 1964 Civil Rights Act unsettled GOP leaders this week, but they reflect deeply held iconoclastic beliefs held by some in his party, and many in the tea-party movement, that the U.S. government shook its constitutional moorings more than 70 years ago.

[...]

In tea-party circles, Mr. Paul's views are not unusual. They fit into a "Constitutionalist" view under which the federal government has no right to dictate the behavior of private enterprises. On the stump, especially among tea-party supporters, Mr. Paul says "big government" didn't start with President Obama, Lyndon Johnson's Great Society of the 1960s or the advance of central governance sparked by World War II and the economic boom that followed.

He traces it to 1937, when the Supreme Court, under heated pressure from President Franklin Roosevelt, upheld a state minimum-wage law on a 5-4 vote, ushering in the legal justification for government intervention in private markets.

Until the case, West Coast Hotel v. Parrish, the Supreme Court had sharply limited government action that impinged on the private sector, infuriating Mr. Roosevelt so much that he threatened to expand the court and stack it with his own appointees.

"It didn't start last year. I think it started back in 1936 or 1937, and I point really to a couple of key constitutional cases… that all had to do with the commerce clause," Mr. Paul said in an interview before Tuesday's election, in which he defeated a Republican establishment candidate, hand-picked by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R, Ky.).

Mr. Paul has said that, if elected, one of his first demands will be that Congress print the constitutional justification on any law is passes.

Last week, Mr. Paul encouraged a tea-party gathering in Louisville to look at the origins of "unconstitutional government." He told the crowd there of Wickard v. Filburn, a favorite reference on the stump, in which the Supreme Court rejected the claims of farmer Roscoe Filburn that wheat he grew for his own use was beyond the reach of federal regulation. The 1942 ruling upheld federal laws limiting wheat production, saying Mr. Filburn's crop affected interstate commerce. Even if he fed his wheat to his own livestock, the court reasoned, he was implicitly affecting wheat prices. If he had bought the wheat on the market, he would subtly have raised the national price of the crop.

"That's when we quit owning our own property. That's when we became renters on our own land," Mr. Paul told the crowd.

In an interview, Mr. Paul expressed support for purely in-state gun industries, in which firearms are produced in one state with no imported parts and no exports. Guns produced under those circumstances can't be subjected to a federal background check, waiting period or other rules, he reasons.

"I'm not for having a civil war or anything like that, but I am for challenging federal authority over the states, through the courts, to see if we can get some better rulings," he said.

To supporters, such ideological purity has made the Bowling Green ophthalmologist a hero.

"He's going back to the Constitution," said Heather Toombs, a Louisville supporter who came to watch him at a meet-and-greet at a suburban home last week. "He's taking back the government." [...]

Of course that doesn't mean we have to discard everything that's happened since 1937. It's not about trying to go back to the past, but about understanding the past and using that knowledge to make course corrections in the present, to keep us guided and protected under our Constitution. Read the whole thing for context, it's not a very long article.
     

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