Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) is one of the more honest members of the left in Congress. Long before President Barack Obama first started pushing Obamacare, Rep. Stark was advocating for a government “Medicare for All” takeover over our nation’s health care system.
Rep. Stark’s honest view about the proper role and power of the federal government were on display again last month at a townhall in Hayward, CA. In the video posted, a constituent asks Stark: “If this legislation is Constitutional, what limitations are there on the federal governments ability to tell us how to run our private lives? … If they can do this, what can’t they?”
Stark eventually answers: “The Federal government can, yes, do most anything in this country.”
Stark’s logic, if not his understanding of the Constitution is dead on. Last year, we wrote:
By boldly asserting that the authority to regulate interstate commerce includes the power to regulate not merely voluntary activity that is commercial or even ancillary thereto, but inactivity that is expressly designed to avoid entry into the relevant market, this theory effectively removes any boundaries to Congress’s commerce power–Congress could mandate anything. Under this theory, given that the American auto industry is a highly regulated commercial activity in the national marketplace (in which the federal government has invested), Congress could constitutionally require every American to buy a new Chevy Impala every year, or a pay a “tax” equivalent to its blue book value.
Never in this nation’s history has the commerce power been used to require a person who does nothing to engage in economic activity. Therefore, no decision of the Supreme Court has ever upheld such a claim of power. Such a regulation of a “class of inactivity” is of a wholly different kind than any at issue in the Court’s most expansive interpretations of the Commerce Clause. A mandate to enter into a contract with an insurance company would be the first use of the Commerce Clause to universally mandate an activity by all citizens of the United States.
Today, even voting is not constitutionally mandated. But, if this precedent is established, Congress would have the unlimited power to regulate, prohibit, or mandate any or all activities in the United States. Such a doctrine would abolish any limit on federal power and alter the fundamental relationship of the national government to the states and the people.