Even Justice Scalia Thinks Rick Perry is Nuts
A growing number of conservative lawmakers embrace tentherism, a radical overreading of the 10th Amendment which claims that nearly all of the federal budget is unconstitutional. Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) believes that Social Security and Medicare “contradict the principles of limited, constitutional government that our founders established to protect us.” Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) mocked President Franklin Delano Roosevelt for calling upon the federal government to provide “a decent retirement plan” and “health care” because “the Constitution doesn’t give Congress any of those powers.” Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) shares their belief that Medicare violates the Constitution, and he’d also eliminate all Pell Grants, student loan assistance and other federal spending on education.
During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing yesterday, however, conservative Justice Antonin Scalia openly mocked their suggestion that his Court should simply declare all these programs unconstitutional in response to a question from committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT):
LEAHY: Justice Scalia, under our Constitution, what is the role, if any, that the judges play in making budgetary choices or determining what the best allocation of taxpayer resources is? Is that within their proper role, or is that somewhere else?
SCALIA: You know it’s not within our proper role Mr. Chairman. [laughs] Of course it’s not.
Scalia is right to laugh at people like Perry and Lee, because their views do not surviveeven the most superficial contact with the text of the Constitution
. The Constitution gives Congress the power to “to lay and collect taxes” and to “provide for the…general welfare of the United States.” No plausible interpretation of the words “general welfare” does not include programs that ensure that all Americans can live their entire lives secure in the understanding that retirement will not force them into poverty and untreated sickness, or programs that ensure that young Americans can begin their careers with the skills they need to provide for themselves.
Yet this break between Scalia — who has long been considered one of the nation’s leading conservative legal thinkers — and the increasingly vocal tenther movement demonstrates just how far today’s conservatives have strayed from the mainstream. Indeed, congressional Republicans have largely abandoned Scalia’s sensible view that people who are accountable to the electorate and not unelected judges should be responsible for the federal budget. Last year, the congressional GOP leadership released a so-called “Pledge to America” which made the false tenther claim that “lack of respect for the clear Constitutional limits and authorities has allowed Congress to create ineffective and costly programs that add to the massive deficit year after year.”
If these tenthers ever have the opportunity to start selecting Supreme Court justices of their own, America could wind up with a Supreme Court that makes Scalia look like a raging liberal.