The debate over Obamacare has prompted a long-overdue focus on the Commerce Clause. The Commerce Clause is just one constitutional provision among many, but ridiculously broad interpretations of it over a period of decades have threatened to undo the foundations of the republic as set out in the remainder of the Constitution. The Commerce Clause, by its terms, does not purport to extend federal authority over virtually every facet of our lives:
The Congress shall have Power…To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.
Yet the Supreme Court has expanded the scope of the clause beyond all recognition, to the point where it has rendered the most basic principle of the Constitution, that our national government is one of limited and enumerated powers, almost a nullity. Michael Ramirez illustrates graphically how one clause, misinterpreted in pursuit of a Progressive agenda, can shred the constitutional structure of which it is intended to be only one small part:
While he got his history wrong yesterday, President Obama nevertheless expressed the prevailing liberal view when he said that the Commerce Clause gives the federal government power over everything that has to do with “commerce” or any “economic issue.” Virtually every issue, in turn, is economic, including your family’s health, so the federal government is all-powerful.
It would be a great thing if the Supreme Court, in ruling Obamacare unconstitutional, not only rejects the individual mandate on narrow grounds, but begins to restore the Commerce Clause to its proper role in constitutional interpretation, and the federal government to its proper role in the nation’s life.