Third Party & Independents Archives

Congressional Power and the Constitution Game

A little humor can make an important point about the problems with our national government. Recently,, a satirical sports newspaper, wrote an article entitled Congress to Investigate Ruling on the Field That It Was a Fumble. This satire points out a sad, but obvious fact: the United State federal government now thinks that every single thing that happens in America is its business.

This satire was reacting to the recent Congressional involvement in the Division I BCS system for choosing college football’s national champion. Seriously, I am not kidding. Congressmen, after getting to be on Sportscenter with their ridiculous steroid hearings, missed the lime-light and decided that whether one team of college kids or another was called a “national champion” was somehow within the powers the founding fathers gave to our national government.

The problem runs deeper than Congressmen’s obsession with attention and sports- it is the fundamental problem ushered in by the New Deal Supreme Court in the 1930s. By relating every aspect of American life to the economy, Congress is allowed to use its so-called “commerce clause” power to reach any object- from species living only in one remote part of one state to a women growing medical pot for her own consumption to a silly game of college football. Thomas Jefferson once warned against using this logic: “Congress are authorized to defend the nation. Ships are necessary for defense; copper is necessary for ships; mines necessary for copper; a company necessary to work mines; and who can doubt this reasoning who has ever played at 'This is the House that Jack built?'” Two hundred year later, SportsPickle makes the same point- “The NFL is a multibillion dollar industry that plays in taxpayer-funded stadiums… It is most definitely the business of Congress to make sure that they get their fumble rulings correct.”

I started this post off with a silly point, but I end it with a important challenge. Take the Constitution seriously. You may believe in the Endangered Species Act, Social Security and the Department of Education- but ask yourself whether there is anything in the Constitution (actually go read it) that allows the Federal Government to engage in these policies. The real problem highlighted by these frivolous congressional hearings is that few people actually take the limitations in the Constitution seriously anymore. The reach of Congressional power has become a game- and recently, Congress is more and more interested in playing games.

Posted by Misha Tseytlin at December 22, 2005 3:54 PM