by John Galt
March 27, 2012 22:15 ET
Tonight the conservative media has spent an entire afternoon gloating on the idea that the questioning from the Justices might actually reflect an inclination of a decision in favor of the American people and freedom. I warn my readers not to get too gleeful nor to presume anything. Conservatives once thought that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was cornered again in 1937 when a major challenge to the newly created Social Security Act was brought before the Supreme Court. The now infamous case, Helvering v. Davis established a precedent which has been upheld to this day by both conservative and liberal courts to one extent or another. This portion of the decision is what remains key in my opinion:
“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.”
This is from Part Two of the opinion and the key portion below:
The problem is plainly national in area and dimensions. Moreover, laws of the separate states cannot deal with it effectively. Congress, at least, had a basis for that belief. States and local governments are often lacking in the resources that are necessary to finance an adequate program of security for the aged. This is brought out with a wealth of illustration in recent studies of the problem. [n9] Apart from the failure of resources, states and local governments are at times reluctant to increase so heavily the burden of taxation to be borne by their residents for fear of placing themselves in a position of economic disadvantage as compared with neighbors or competitors. We have seen this in our study of the problem of unemployment compensation. Steward Machine Co. v. Davis, supra. A system of old age pensions has special dangers of its own if put in force in one state and rejected in another. The existence of such a system is a bait to the needy and dependent elsewhere, encouraging them to migrate and seek a haven of repose. Only a power that is national can serve the interests of all.
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 [p645] may sap those sturdy virtues and breed a race of weaklings. 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. [n10] 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.
To listen to the testimony today click the download or play button below:
Here is today’s transcript of the testimony: