Thursday, December 30, 2010

Wickard v. Filburn key to overturning Obamacare


Despite all the doom and gloom in the news, 2010 marked a real beginning in America’s fight to take back its Constitution. Pelosi and Reid intended to expand Congressional power through Obamacare. But instead, Obamacare woke America up. For the first time in decades, average Americans are talking about the Constitution. Average Americans know what the “Commerce Clause” is and are actively advocating for a return to Constitutional limits on Congress. For the first time since the 40’s, the Supreme Court’s Wickard v. Filburn case is being discussed by people other than law school students. This is all very good news!

The Wickard v. Filburn case was one of the most important and tragic moments in American history. It changed the role of the Federal government in American life as dramatically as did the so-called Civil War. Yet until this year, most Americans had never even heard of Wickard v. Filburn. Since our Obamacare Class Action’s primary goal is to overturn Wickard, let me take this opportunity to review the facts of Wickard:

Roscoe Filburn was an Ohio farmer growing wheat to feed his chickens, livestock, and family during the great depression. In order to drive up wheat prices the U.S. government had imposed limits on farmers’ wheat production. Roscoe was growing more than the overlords in DC permitted. So, the Department of Agriculture ordered Roscoe to destroy his crops and pay a fine, even though he was producing the excess wheat for his own use and had no intention of selling it.

Rather than pay the fine and destroy food during a food shortage, Roscoe sued the Federal government arguing that the “Agriculture Adjustment Act of 1938” was beyond the Constitutional authority of Congress. Filburn argued that because the excess wheat was produced for his private consumption on his own farm, it never entered commerce at all, much less interstate commerce, and therefore was not subject to Federal regulation under the Commerce Clause.

The Federal District Court ruled in favor of Filburn. The government then appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States, which called District Court's holding against the Department of Agriculture a "manifest error." The court went on to uphold the Act under the Interstate Commerce Clause. The Supreme Court decided that, because Filburn's wheat growing activities reduced the amount of wheat he would buy for chicken feed on the open market, and because wheat was traded nationally, Filburn's production of more wheat than he was allotted was affecting interstate commerce, and could be regulated by the federal government.

Now, it must be understood that for the first 150 years after the ratification of the Constitution all three branches of government understood that Congressional authority under the Commerce Clause was very limited. It was well established that this clause was intended to allow Congress to prevent individual states from imposing unfair barriers to commerce between the states, such as tariffs and home-state favorable regulations.

As an example of how central this principal of limited Federal government was to our Republic, we need only consider President James Madison’s 1817 veto of a bill that would have provided Federal funds for construction of roads, canals, and navigable waterways. President Madison wrote a letter to Congress explaining that his reason for vetoing the bill was that Congress had no authority under the enumerated powers of the Constitution to spend public funds on such projects. Madison explained that for the Constitution to survive the Federal government must remain limited to the specific tasks that the States had granted it authority to perform. Think about that for a minute folks. In 1817 a President who had been personally involved in the ratification of the Constitution reminded Congress that the Federal government didn’t have the power to spend public funds on roads. How far we’ve fallen…

It should also be noted that when the Wickard v. Filburn case reached the Supreme Court the Department of Agriculture had asserted a defense that would have caused the case to be thrown out, but then the Department mysteriously waived its defense. You see, the fix was in. For several years before Wickard v. Filburn, the FDR packed Supreme Court had been deciding cases that dramatically increased Congressional authority. I suspect that the Department of Agriculture somehow knew that Wickard v. Filburn would go their way in the Supreme Court. The FDR administration certainly wanted a case that would sweep away any remaining remnants of the old Republic’s Constitutional limitations and empower Congress to do whatever it wanted. With a World War raging, and the outcome of that war uncertain, 1942 was the perfect time to centralize power in DC. Unfortunately this fundamental shift in power went unnoticed. The government of our Founding Fathers was swept away and our history classes never reported it in our government funded schools.

For six decades Congress regulated anything that moved and taxed anything that didn’t. For six decades the Supreme Court upheld Congress’ authority to regulate anything. Many lawsuits were brought challenging Congressional mandates, but all fell to the new logic of Wickard v. Filburn. Finally in 1995 a small ray of hope emerged. United States v. Lopez (1995) was the first decision to invalidate a federal statute on the grounds that it exceeded the power of Congress under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. Unfortunately, the Lopez decision was very limited, and has not been expanded upon significantly.

But now, with Obamacare taking Federal authority to an all-time high, with Americans waking up to this problem, we once again have an opportunity to regain our Constitutional Republic by overturning Wickard v. Filburn. We do not want a decision that simply eliminates the individual mandate of Obamacare. We need the Supreme Court to recognize that Wickard v. Filburn left zero limitations on Federal authority. We need the Supreme Court to recognize that Obamacare is a milestone in Congressional abuse and that that abuse arose BECAUSE of Wickard v. Filburn.

This is what Liberty Legal Foundation is fighting to accomplish. This is what you support by being part of the Obamacare Class Action and when you donate to Liberty Legal Foundation. Please tell everyone you know the story of Roscoe Filburn. Tell them about President James Madison’s letter to Congress in 1817. Show them how we lost our Constitution in 1942, and how we can restore it through the OCA lawsuit.

2011 will be a great year, with your help, as we continue to defend the Constitution.

In Liberty,
Van Irion
President, Lead Counsel, Co-Founder
Liberty Legal Foundation

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