Tag Archives: congress

Fixin What Ain’t Broke – Voter ID Bill

So yeah, its been a month or so since I’ve posted. Oops.

I don’t really have much of an excuse, except that working full time over break and then starting school has taken a lot out of me. Also, normally I take my politics break over winter break, (there’s only so much I can take before I need some time off and this election cycle was rather insane), and didn’t do so this time. So I’ve been a bit out of the loop. Confession: Still have not watched/listened to/read the State of the Union address. That’s how bad it is. At least I’m still Tweeting.

I’d like to focus on something a little closer to home than national politics today. Shocking, I know! Instead, I want to focus on Wisconsin Attorney General Van Hollen’s proposed Voter ID bill.

To give you some background: This bill is intended to cut down on Wisconsin voter fraud. An admirable goal, for sure. For example, in the 2008 election, there was a huge stink over ACORN in the US and other smaller pieces of fraud in Wisconsin. But in reality, according to a study from Van Hollen’s office, there were only 18 fraudulent votes out of all 3 million votes cast in the state. Big deal? Maybe, but not huge.

So before we beg  the question of whether this bill is necessary at all, here’s how he wants to do it: by requiring all users to show a photo ID before being allowed to vote. And not just any photo ID, but only drivers licenses, state IDs and military IDs.  For example, UW students could no longer use their UW identification cards along with proof of a current address to vote.

Now, we all already know that getting voters to the polls is a problem. If you’re poor, you’re less likely to vote. If you’re a minority, you’re less likely to vote. If you’re young, you’re less likely to vote. If you’re too old, you’re less likely to vote. If you’re disabled, you’re less likely to vote. Less than half of the people in Wisconsin voted in the 2008 election, and even less in the 2010 midterms. So now, all of a sudden, if you decide, “Hey, I might go vote today!” but you’ve been too poor to get a state ID, you can’t.  If you’re a student from out of state and your license hasn’t been switched over, you can’t vote. If you’re elderly and don’t have a license anymore because you don’t drive, you can’t vote. And if you don’t live close to a DMV or work during business hours? You’re SOL.

One Wisconsin Now keeps pointing out the problem, as does the Government Accountability Board.

See the problem?

But it gets even more confusing. According to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article, to make sure this doesn’t amount to a poll tax, state IDs will no longer cost money. But wait, you say, isn’t there a budget deficit? Doesn’t even that small amount of money help the state? Well, yes, yes it does. Thanks for noting that. You forgot to mention cost of training for state employees to learn the new rules, training for everyone else to make sure it’s enforced, and special exceptions for students, elderly, etc.

In fact, according to the Sentinel, in 2009 this was estimated to have an annual 2.9 million dollar price tag. That’s not counting the training costs (estimated at 2 million by the Government Accountability Board), the loss of DMV revenue, or anything else. That’s just the cost of the program itself.

So while I know the Republicans are trying to put some trust back into the political system, I don’t see how this is going to help. You know that saying, if it’s broke, don’t fix it? Here’s another, if it’s broken, don’t spend money to make it worse.


Lessons in losing

Today is another break from Teh Commerz Clawz day. (Though according to my ever-growing page hits, I’m pretty popular when you search for anything regarding Gibbons v. Ogden or FDR’s court packing plan. LOLZ.)

This post has been floating around in my head since before the brutal attempt on Congresswoman Giffords’ life and the resulting discussion surrounding the dangers of overblown political vitriol. So let me preface this by stating that I don’t believe someone as out of touch with reality as Laughner really paid that much attention to politics. Selectively maybe, but the immediate conclusion that political name-calling led to her death is ridiculous. Thankfully some columnists kept their heads while the rest of the media was losing theirs, and it seems discussions about gun control and mental illness are finally springing forward. Ugh.

But back to my point. I’ve been thinking about this idea of bitter, mean-spirited politics since January 1st, actually. Several of my more liberal minded friends started ranting about how life was going to be over in Wisconsin as soon as Scott Walker took office, and were instrumental in calling for his repeal.

First, there’s the bit where Walker can’t just be repealed like he’s an offensive bill, since he’s an actual elected official that won fair and square. Obviously. But that’s not the issue. The issue is the current insistence on combativeness in the political process. (If you need another example, the Republican insistence on a symbolic health care vote should be enough.)

Now I understand that politics create controversy. My opinion is not going to be the opinion of someone on the far right. Or the far left either. And I don’t expect those two people to agree either with me or with each other. That’s what makes democracy work, and theoretically with debate and compromise all those different ideas lead to the best deal for everyone in America. But that’s not what happens anymore.

Instead we end up with the ridiculous amount of name-calling familiar to anyone who even vaguely follows politics. This person is the incarnation of the devil! This person’s policies will make your crops wither and die! That person is a witch! This liberal wants to send all our old people to death camps! That conservative is a Nazi and wants you to march in lock-step for the rest of your life as punishment for having brown hair!

I only made up the second and part of the fifth one.

As soon as the opposing party takes power, suddenly the world is going to end. “Life will never be the same!” the losing party exclaims. “This is the worst thing to happen to our (city, district, state, country) since (last terrible buzz-person) ran everything into the ground! Run for the hills!” They inflame their staunchest members with floods of fund-raising emails. They tell half-truths when they can. They get everyone they can all riled up. And suddenly people actually believe that the President wants death panels. They believe that this person is the incarnation of the Devil or is a witch or a Nazi or a terrorist or whatever the buzz-word of the day is. Not everyone pays enough attention to know better.

This just isn’t on the left or on the right. This isn’t just from the Republicans or Fox News. This comes from Democrats and MSNBC commentators as well.

We’ve forgotten, as a country, how to lose gracefully. We’ve lost our sportsmanship. We’ve lost our ability to shake hands with someone that ran a better campaign than we did and tell them “Good game. There’s always next time.” We’ve somehow misplaced the lessons taught to us when we were young, lessons about not throwing down our ball and stomping away to pout when the game doesn’t go our way.

And we, as people involved and commenting on the political process of the United States of America need to relearn that skill. Maybe, if there’s anything to learn from this truly pointless murder spree, it’s how to lose gracefully again.

Instead of continuing to rant myself (I have to admit this was far less intimidating to talk about before a prominent Congresswoman almost died) I’m going to let one of the only people I still fully trust in politics finish off with a talk of his own.

I give you: Jon Stewart. He says it better than I do anyway.

Arizona Shootings Reaction
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog</a> The Daily Show on Facebook

Teh Commerz Clawz: NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp

A belated Happy New Year to all! After a wonderful 5 day weekend, in which there was much drinking and debauchery, I am back to work and back to blogging, and can’t wait to start a whole new year of law, politics, and journalism!

So without further ado, welcome to Teh Commerz Clawz: National Labor Relations Board v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Company, which fittingly marks the turning point in the history of Commerz Clawz interpretation, and begins the start of the Major Expansion Era of the Teh Commerz Clawz.

bored lolcat

(How I imagine most ppl feel about law.) It gets moar interestin soon, I promiz!

So if you remember from last time, we’ve established some precedent for what commerce is prior to 1937:


1. Commerce is only goods moving in interstate commerce. There is a stream of commerce (Swift) with both a beginning (Schechter) and an end (Carter.) If goods have not yet started shipping or have reached their final destination, the federal government can’t touch them. This also applies to rules that attempt to set minimum wage or other requirements based on the Commerz Clawz.

2. There are things that have direct and indirect effects on commerz. Things like manufacshuring and wages only have an “indirect” effect on commerce, and so can’t be regulated. Things like stockyards, even though nothing is directly sold there, are so much a part of the streem of commerz that they fall under govt control.

3. Manufacshuring is not commerz.  It comes before commerz, and leads to it,  but is not a part of it (E.C. Knight.)

Now I know that’s all realllly boring, but to understand why Jones & Laughlin is so full of impoartant, you have to remember what came first. Also, remember that the last two cases were trying to regulate economic evils that led to the Great Depression. Roosevelt (FDR, not Theodore) kept trying to pass laws for things like minimum wage and health codes, and failing.

At this point, teh Supreme Court had set themselves up as a kind of super-majority. If things didn’t go along with their laissez-faire philosophy, they’d shoot the law down quicker than you can say “bread line.” Which was fine with big business, not so fine with starving people who wanted living wages and food.

fdr court packing plan

See? No onez happie.

After a couple years of this, FDR was really, really mad. He just couldn’t seem to beat Teh 4 Horsemen, who could usually find one justice willing to join them for a majority. So he came up with an idea. Instead of waiting for the Court to come around, he was going to add moar juztices instead. Tons moar juztices.

The general idea was that any juztice over the age of 70 would lead to a new seat on the Court, up to six new seats at any given time. At that point, 6 of the justices were over 70 years old, including all of teh 4 Horsemen. Though Roosevelt said he was trying to create less work for an overstaffed judiciary, everyone knew better. FDR merely wanted enough ppl supportive of Teh New Deal on the Court that they’d quit overturning all his laws.  No one was very happy about it. Matter of fact, it was a big enough deal to be the subject of the first fireside chat of Roosevelt’s second term.

Congress and FDR fought about this for a while, 6 whole months in fact, and then suddenly, Juztice Owen Roberts switched sides. It’s called “the switch in time that saved nine.”

So remember all those things we just talked about? About how manufacshuring and commerz aren’t teh same? How manufacshuring and wages only count as having an indirect effect?

Enter National Labor Relations Board v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation.

FDR set up the NLRB in to help workers get bettah wages, primarily in the form of being able to “collectively bargain,” or rather, the right to not be kicked out of your job for joining a union.

NLRB: Strikes affect commerz. If workrs get mad at companys and no work happenz, then that “restricts the free flow of commerce.” Iz bad, and we can regulate it. U must b good to workrs nao. We haz precedent.  (Not discussed here, but the case is Stafford v. Wallace, which is also states the stream of commerce doctrine.)

Jones & Laughlin, one of the biggest steel companies in the country, was sued for discriminating against union workers, and, as usual, instead of just treating their workers better, Jones & Laughlin complained about it.

J&L: No! Manufacshuring iz not commerz, and wages and labor relations izn’t either. U said so alredy. Duh. Screw off, FDR.

All the lower courts agreed with J&L. Obviously, this had already been settled before. But when the NLRB appealed to the Supreme Court, something funny happened. Union Kitteh shall explain:

union cat

Da Ali iz 2 lazee to design her own lolcatz today. Thanks icanhazcheezburger.com!

“So, suddenly, dings changed. Straight up, yo. Teh Court didn’t agree wit teh big business no moar. Instead, teh majority turned all teh way around and agreed wit FDR’s stuffs. All of a sudden, FDR and Congrez gets 2 say what commerz iz, not the Court.

“Chief Juztice Hughes used teh bill written by Congrez, which said that “commerce means trade, traffic, commerce, transportation or communication among the several states…or between points in the same state…” and that dings that affect commerz can includez “tending to lead to a labor dispute burdening or obstructing commerce or the free flow of commerce.”

“Normally, dat would no be right. But the court agreed with that definishun! Hughes then reminded ppl that teh right to organize iz an essential right, and that teh govt haz teh right 2 safeguard it. Iz not interfering in statez rights.

“Third, teh Court saiz that manufacshuring iz nao so cloze to commerz that the 2 can be regulated together. “Although activities may be interstate in character when separately considered, if they have such a close and substantial relation to interstate commerce that their control is essential or appropriate to protect that commerce from burdens or obstructions, Congress cannot be denied that power….”

“Last, obviously, if steel work stopped, that would haz a ginormous impact on teh economy and on teh commerz, and becuz of that, unions are part of commerz and can b regulated. Iz not teh same as E.C. Knight.”

So, in case you hadn’t noticed, a few things changed here. (The 4 Horsemen noticed too. Their dissent can basically be summed up in two words, “Dudes, WTF?”) Suddenly Congress can regulate manufacturing, and wages. The stream of commerce idea is practically done. So now what happens?

Well, a couple different things. In our next case, Wickard v. Filburn, we find the lowest lows of the court’s wishy-washy nature. Then, things go back to normal a little more in the New Federalism Era, which started somewhere around Rehnquist (70s or 80s). Only 4 more cases! We’re almost there!

Teh Commerz Clawz: Carter v. Carter Coal

Hello again everyone!

lolcat quit

If writinz waz cough medicine, that'd be mee.

After a very long hiatus where I think I passed all my finals and such, I am now finally back and ready to finish this giant project I started back in the day called Teh Commerz Clawz, where I explain the precedent to the states’ challenge to the health care bill in super simple speak. Also with lolcats.

I have to admit I almost dropped this project. But then a Virginia judge ruled that the individual mandate is unconstitutional and that the federal government is quite possibly overstepping their Commerz Clawz boundaries. So I decided a) quitting is for quitters, and b) this is honestly too much fun to stop now.

When we left off, we were talking about the end of a “stream of commerce.” In Swift and Co., the court came up with the idea of the stream of commerce doctrine. If something is part of this stream of commerce, even if it seems like intrastate commerce, Congress can regulate it. In Schechter, the court decided that once things, even sick chickz, quit moving, they’re no longer part of the stream of commerce. In Carter, the Court decides where the stream of commerz starts.

So, if you remember, the Court and Roosevelt were embroiled in a royal battle of laissez-faire economics vs. (in my opinion) needed common sense. The Court kept striking down New Deal packages, which made Roosevelt and most of the starving country pretty mad, but was pretty awesome for big business.

hard luck kittehs

We can haz warmth nao?

Right after Schechter, Roosevelt passed the Bituminous Coal Conservation Act, which established a commission to watch over the coal industry. It was paid for with a mine tax, and if the mines complied, they got 90% of the tax waived.  Carter challenged this, suing his own company to say they shouldn’t pay the tax because the law was a violation of Teh Commerz Clawz.

Carter: This tax iz unconztitushunal. ‘Member Knight? Manufacshuring iz not commerz! This iz 4 da states onli, not 4 teh federal government. Iz not a direct effect, onli an indirect one. U said so alreadyz!

US govt: No! Iz not! We iz not onli regulating coal manufacshuring, but labor too. Wages r important, and big busness onli cares cuz they can haz moar monies when they don’t pay workers good. This law allows 4 unions and wage negotiations, and this directly affects commerz. Besides, if there iz doubt about if something iz commerz or not, teh Court should rule for us, not against us.

Teh Court was pretty split, but in the end the 4 Horsemen plus Juztice Roberts ruled for Carter. A 1930s lol-scribe shall explain.

kitten writing

Old lol-cats r 2 cute!

Lol-scribe: “We haz already told u in Knight dat manufacshuring iz not commerz. Coal iz not interstate commerz, because it haz not started moving yet. Just cuz somethin will evenshually be sold, does not maek it commerz nao. Teh coal has not entered teh streem of commerz, but instead iz at the head, before it begins.”

US Govt: That’s not all we iz doing, tho! Unfair wages affect commerz lotz. When ppl don’t get paid fair, then teh company can haz lower prices, and that affects interstate commerz. So iz commerz after all.”

Lol-scribe: “Nope. U iz wrong. Iz all interstate commerz. Juztice Sutherland saiz “Working conditions are obviously local conditions…Such effect as they may have on commerce, however extensive it may be, is secondary and indirect.” Teh onli difference between this case and teh sick chickz case iz that while one was after teh streem ended, this one iz be4 it begins. U still lose.”

So now we know. There is a start and an end to the stream of commerce. Also, anything that only indirectly affects commerce doesn’t count. It has to be obviously in transit between states to be interstate commerce, or be such a big part of it that it doesn’t matter if the transaction was intrastate.

But, you’re saying, that can’t be right! Teh Commerz Clawz is now used to regulate things like medical marijuana within a state. It’s used for tons and tons of things! What happened?

Stay tuned for Jones and Laughlin Steel, coming soon, and find out exactly how President Roosevelt convinced the Court it was time to stop making the Great Depression worse… (Also, we’re only a few cases away from explaining enough precedent to understand this health care bill challenge! Its proof of how much of a geek I am that I’m almost sad to be getting close to the end.)

Also, all old lol-cats were created by a guy named Harry Whittier Frees, who was actually pretty cool. Check it out.

Imagine this

Imagine this:

Obama at this afternoons press conference Thanks to the New York Times for the image

You’re stuck in a marriage with a person who seemed alright when you married them. Not great, but they said they cared about you and that things would be alright. You would both learn to compromise, since you both brought children to the marriage and, hey, kids need a stable home and family life and your respective exes ruined your lives. You buy a house together. You have a job to do raising your children, taking care of a house, making sure everyone has clothes on their backs and shoes on their feet and food to eat  and can afford to go to college.

And then you find that your partner doesn’t care about you at all. They undermine you at every turn. They want to take your children away from you, and take all your money. They want the big screen TV, the Ferrari, and the vacation house on the beach, and when you explain that to keep a balanced budget, your family can’t afford all that and to take care of the kids, they stop contributing to the marriage at all. They stonewall you. They lie to the kids about all these bad things you’ve done. They let you take all the flack. They want a divorce, but only after they’ve taken you and the kids for everything you have. (You forgot a pre-nup.)

And this whole time you’re doing your best to keep the children fed and clothed, because you promised them, shortsightedly, that everything would be alright. But Johnny and Sue don’t believe you anymore. Even your best friends are tired of you trying to compromise with someone that’s turned out to be the most royal  *blank* on the planet, and are ready to quit talking to you.  But you giving your partner permission to lease the Ferrari allows your children to have food, clothing and shelter, even if it’s against what you believe.

So, what do you do?

If you’re Obama, you let the Bush tax cuts go through for 2 more years in exchange for 13 more months of unemployment benefits. You take the flack from your friends the Democrats. You let the country talk about how you don’t know how to run the household. You explain again that you know this whole situation sucks, but your child can’t find a job and you need to help him eat till he can. (You also mention again that your child can’t find a job because your partner helped close half the businesses in town, but no one is listening anymore.)

And no one, especially you, is happy.

This may be a bad example, and certainly isn’t a thorough one. But I am so ridiculously tired of everyone attacking Obama. “He’s capitulating!” “The Republicans are winning!” “Things aren’t happening fast enough.” “You hurt my principles.” Excuse me, but would you PLEASE STFU???

Am I happy with this situation? Absolutely not. Has the man delivered everything he said he would? No. Is he one human being up against a party that thinks they have a mandate to be jerks for the next two years? Absolutely yes.

The time to stand up and tell the Republicans to sit down and deal with it was 2 years ago. Not now. Now is the time to make sure that everyone that hasn’t been able to find a job in the last two years (and believe it or not, for most people it’s not for lack of trying) still has money for the basic necessities.

Is this radical? No.  Is it going to make Democrats happy? No. Is it going to make the Republicans happier? Unfortunately, yes. Is it going to add to the deficit? Yes. Are some people going to be able to eat that wouldn’t be able to if the unemployment benefits expired? Yes.

And maybe it’s because I’m 22 and I don’t understand the economy well yet. Maybe it’s because I’ve paid my own way through college and know firsthand how tough it is to find a job, unlike all these opinion editors and senior officials. Hell, I’d stay in school longer if I could just to avoid trying. It’s that scary. Maybe it’s because I make less than $10,000 a year, loans and 3 jobs included, and I feel unemployment benefits and tax cuts for the little guy are important. Maybe it’s because I’ve already learned that being an idealist in politics isn’t going to help anyone. Maybe it’s because I honestly feel sorry for Obama.

I want to throw the question out there, with our current situation, would you let people run out of unemployment benefits and raise taxes, just to prove a point?

Teh Commerz Clawz: A.L.A. Schechter Poultry Co v. US

Om nom nom!

Welcome back to Teh Commerz Clawz, where I explain the precedent to the states’ challenge of the Health Care Bill in super simple speak. Also usually with lolcatz. Because boring law is far more entertaining when there are cute kitties saying silly things.

If you remember, when we left off last week, we were talking about how teh lolcows in Swift v. US established that there is this thing called a “stream of commerce.” This stream means that if things in intrastate commerz are part of the stream of commerz running through the states, like cows stopping at a stockyard, then they count as interstate commerz. But, now the question becomes, where does that stream stop and start?

I actually put off talking about this case until long enough after Thanksgiving that I could stomach it again. Literally. (Anyone who has read Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle knows what I’m talking about.)

This case places us square in the middle of the Great Depression. FDR passed a bunch of laws meant to turn around the failing economy, including laws on wages, fair trading procedures, unions, etc. Big business wasn’t happy about it.

Roosevelt: Teh country iz dieing. I will regulate all teh shizz, and so no onez will be hurt any moar! Yay!
Big business: No! You canz no do that! Iz bad for business! Iz too much powr for u! U iz only Prezident, u can no taek all teh powr 4 urself!

What loyality to laissez-faire economics looked like in the Great Depression

Matter of fact, the Supreme Court wasn’t either. They kept striking down piece after piece after piece of Roosevelt’s New Deal.

Supreme Court: No! We liek teh laissez-faire economicz! We thinkz u iz trying to taek 2 much powr for u! We will taek away all ur bills! No bills 4 u!

Enough that at one point FDR tried to implement his famous court packing plan, leading to the saying “the switch in time that saved nine.” Thankfully, Justice Roberts changed his mind last minute, but point is, the Supreme Court and FDR were not buddies for quite a while.

In the fight leading up to the court packing plan, enter A.L.A Schechter Poultry Corp v. US.

Roosevelt passed this bill called the National Industrial Recovery Act. In it, he regulated the sale of sick chickens. See, people liked to sell sick chickens to butchers for the regular price, then people would eat them and get sick while other people still made a ton of money. Not so good, right? Besides, who wants to eat a sick chicken? Gross.

The law also did other things like regulating working wages and setting prices for things. People didn’t like that either. Too much government intervention and socialism and such (sound familiar?) But anyway, Schechter got charged with, among other things, “sale to a butcher of an unfit chicken.”

Schechter decided to take the government to court over it instead of paying the fines. Schechter held that NIRA was unconstitutional, in part because it overextended the powers of teh Commerz Clawz.

Schechter: I onli sellz mah chickens to intrastate ppls, and I onli buy mah chickens frum intrastate ppl. There iz no interstate commerz. Congress and teh Prez can no regulate this. Iz onli for teh states, iz not part of teh streem of commerz!
U.S.: This haz a direct effect on commerz. Ppl being sick affects commerz. Bad business practices affect commerz. So we can haz regulation, yo!

supreme court justices with cat heads

Om nom nomz!

Teh Supreme Court agreed with Schechter. If you remember last time, we were talking about how while there’s a stream of commerce, at some point there’s a beginning and an end to every stream. Teh Court held that the sick chicks are at the end of the stream.

Juztice Sutherland (evil wolf kitteh at right): “When defendants had made their purchases, whether at the West Washington Market in New York City or at the railroad terminals serving the City, or elsewhere, the poultry was trucked to their slaughterhouses in Brooklyn… The interstate transactions in relation to that poultry then ended.” Basically, when teh chickenz reached New Yoahk, they were onli soldz in New Yoahk. No moar interstate commerz.

This means that there iz no way teh govt can argue this iz interstate commerz. We kno it when we seez it, and this iz not it. “The mere fact that there may be a constant flow of commodities into a State does not mean that the flow continues after the property has arrived and has become commingled with the mass of property within the State and is there held solely for local disposition and use.” After something goez into teh state, and iz not leaving again, then it iz not interstate commerz. Teh end.

U.S.: NO! Iz not teh end! These practices affect interstate commerz! Iz bad for business and for eberything!

Juztice Sutherland: Rong! Member? We toldz u b4! Some things haz a direct effect on interstate commerz. You can haz regulation of that. But sick chickz onli has an indirect effect on commerz. Even if this iz bad for business, that is for teh state to taek care of. Iz no for you. Go ‘way!

So now we’ve established that not only is there a stream of commerce, but it has a definite end. Once something is not going back out of the state to be sold, it’s then part of intrastate commerce. Tomorrow, or the next day depending on my schedule with finals coming up, we shall discover where this stream of commerce starts! (There’s more that goes into these challenges than you thought, isn’t there?)



Teh Commerz Clawz: US V. E.C. Knight

us v. e.c. knightIn response to the overwhelming support for teh first installment of Teh Commerz Clawz (amount of page reads only topped by my election coverage! Yay!) we shall continue today with the case of US v. E.C. Knight.

There are, according to my lovely Constitutional Law TA Leticia (she iz teh shizz fo sho), 3 phases to the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Commerz Clawz. The first, exemplified by Gibbons v. Ogden, is the Defining Phase. It ran from 1789-1835, and was basically just full of the Court figuring out wtf teh Commerrz Clawz means in the first place. Like figuring out what the rules of college are after years of public schooling where someone else told you what to do all the time.

With E.C. Knight, we now enter the second phase, The Laissez-Faire Era, where the Court and the federal government fight a lot about teh Commerz Clawz and the balance between the rights of states to regulate their own commerce under the 10th Amendment (Chief Justice Fuller and mah kitteh shall explain) and the right of the national government to regulate interstate commerce for the wellbeing of everyone involved.

kitteh and sugar

I no liek shoogar. Me no care about no silleh monopolies!

This case involves the favorite drug of hyperactive children everywhere… No, not adderal. That’s college kids. I’m talking about plain old-fashioned, awesome…shoogar.

So, in the Industrial Revolution age, when people were finally figuring out how to mass produce things, lots of businesses liked to get together and create monopolies. Made them tonz moar money, because they could set all the prices.  The federal government realized that that was bad for business and bad for the people, so they decided to do something about it.

Federal government in 1890: No! Bad companiez! We maek teh Sherman Anti-Trust Act with our awesome Commerz Clawz powrs!. Nao u no can haz monopoly. Iz bad for America. Free trade rulez!

But E.C. Knight Co. didn’t care, and decided to merge with American Sugar and create a ridiculously huge monopoly.

American Sugar Stock

American Sugar Stock

E.C Knight Co.: We do no care! We maek monopoly! Manufacshuring iz not commerz! U can no regulate us! We control 98% of all teh shoogar in teh WHOOOOOOOOOOLE United Statez! We setz all teh prices! We maeks tonz and tonz of monies! Yay!
Federal govt: Yes, we can! Teh Sherman Anti-Trust Act saiz so! Bad company! We sue u!
E.C. Knight: Noez! Teh Sherman Anti-Trust Act iz unconstitushunal! Besides, we tell u already! Manufacshuring iz not commerz!

E.C. Knight argued that the Sherman Anti-Trust Act violated the powers of teh Commerz Clawz, and also that since manufacturing and commerce are separate parts of industry, the Sherman Anti-Trust Act couldn’t apply to them.

Now, in the age we now live in, that may not make much sense. Obviously, if sugar is manufactured and then sold, it’s part of commerce, right? At least the abilities of American Sugar to control the prices should be part of commerce. But according to the Fuller Court, it’s not quite so simple. And remember, there’s not a lot of precedent. We’ve only been a country for about 100 years, and we only just now discovered industrialization. On top of that, we looooooove the idea of a laissez-faire economy.

Mah kitteh Zipper has been hanging out with Chief Justice Fuller recently and shall explain further:

Supreme Court Justice Fuller with a kitteh!

Chief Justice Fuller lieks monopolies! Zipper lieks monopolies on teh foodz going 2 him and not 2 Zophie.

“So, we already kno frum Gibbons v. Ogden dat commerz haz rules for what Congrez can regulate. It can regulate teh ‘intercourse’ between da statez. But, E.C. Knight saiz that they iz not in commerz. They only do manufacshuring, which happens b4 commerz and iz not part of it.

“Chief Justice Fuller agrees. Him saiz “Commerce succeeds to manufacture, and is not a part of it…The fact that an article is manufactured for export to another State does not of itself make it an article of interstate commerce…”

“Him iz worried about the sovereignty of teh states to keep control of their ‘police powerz.’ Police powers iz teh power of the statez to regulate within their borders for the health and wellbeingz of their citizenz, and dat balance between “the independence of the commercial power and the police power, and the delimitation between them…must always be recognized and observed.”

Fuller saiz dat teh effect of Knight’s monopoly iz an “indirect effect” on commerz. It iz up to teh statez to regulate this. Teh national Congrez can no do it.”

So, here we see the beginning of the understanding of the Commerce Clause that takes us through to after the Great Depression. Though it evolves, as we shall see the rest of this week, the general idea is that some activity has a direct effect on interstate commerce, for example, transporting sugar from one state to another. Other activity, such as the actual manufacture of sugar in one state for later transport to another, does not. And an indirect effect is not enough to give Congress any power.

Remember also, that intrastate commerce, like sugar being sold in a store in one state, is also not under the regulation of commerce, and instead falls under state police powers.

Business wins! Government loses! But will it stay that way? Only time and moar lolcatz will tell!


Mah kitteh Zipper has been hanging out with Chief Justice Fuller recently and shall explain further:

Supreme Court Justice Fuller with a kitteh!

Chief Justice Fuller lieks monopolies! Zipper lieks monopolies on teh foodz going 2 him and not 2 Zophie.

“So, we already kno frum Gibbons v. Ogden dat commerz haz rules for what Congrez can regulate. It can regulate teh ‘intercourse’ between da statez. But, E.C. Knight saiz that they iz not in commerz. They only do manufacshuring, which happens b4 commerz and iz not part of it.