Letter to the Supreme CourtFebruary 1, 2011
The Hon. John G Roberts Jr.
The Hon. Antonin Scalia
The Hon. Anthony M. Kennedy
The Hon. Clarence Thomas
The Hon. Ruth Bader Ginsburg
The Hon. Stephen G. Breyer
The Hon. Samuel A Alito Jr.
The Hon. Sonia Sotomayor
The Hon. Elena Kagan
Supreme Court of the United States
1 First Street NE
Washington, DC 20543
In a short while you will probably get to rule on the health care law passed last year. I am not a lawyer, just a concerned citizen who reads things, have nothing to do with the Tea Party, and just want to give you an idea of how I (and maybe a lot of us) feel. If you want to, you can treat this as a friend of the court brief.
I am an immigrant from India, and became a US citizen in 1991. My grandfather participated in the struggle for freedom and possibly the march against the British salt tax organized by Mahatma Gandhi. The tax itself was not a serious issue, it had been in existence for at least 5000 years. However, because it was not raising enough revenue, the East India company was given a monopoly on the trading of salt, and it became unlawful to manufacture salt or possess salt in significant quantities. Peoples homes and places of business were raided. The marches were a direct act of defiance - people went down to the sea and made their own salt. While I dont think that was the case in India, I understand that in some countries where a salt tax existed, peoples homes were invaded and people arrested for not buying enough salt! Given that background, you can understand that I feel that the individual mandate is a direct, and utterly repugnant, assault on our liberty.
When I was growing up, the United States was a great country that put a man on the moon. But more importantly, it was the land of freedom, where law ruled rather than the whim of a ruler or a government official (or a mob?); where government was strictly limited in its powers; and people had the right, and were given the means to change their government. They even had the right to possess the means to overthrow a wayward despotic government by force (although no right to actually do it)! Wow! Government would serve the people, because people would have real power.
This brings us to the case of Roscoe Filburn. When I first read about him, I gagged at the disconnect between what I believed about the USA and reality. My first impulse was to look around for whatever arms I had handy, and go defend him from the out of control "feds". Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately?!) that happened even before I was born. I think the Supreme Court of that day made an error - sure, times were tough, and the Agriculture Act in question was probably necessary - but Roscoe Filburn had accepted the legitimacy of the Act and simply arranged his life so as to make it not apply to him. The Supreme Court could have preserved the Act, and supported personal liberty and limited government power by making a very narrow ruling - the Act was constitutional but did not apply to him because he was not engaged in commerce in wheat, but would apply if he bought or sold even one grain. Then the argument that "if every farmer did what Roscoe did" would have no effect - because the demand for wheat from the the non-farming population would still be there; compared to which the needs of the entire farming population would be insignificant. Only farmers subject to the Act would be supplying it, and so the price of wheat would rise, which was the goal of the Act. The original intent of the Commerce Clause would have been preserved, which was to not have it apply to manufacture or agriculture, but be strictly limited to commerce. I understand the point of "stare decisis", but you have to wonder if good intent led the Supreme Court astray that year, and as a result it opened the door to unlimited government power.
People now are concerned about what is going to happen tomorrow, many wondering how they are going to feed themselves and their family. The price of food has gone up significantly. When gasoline goes much above $3 a gallon you actually notice the slowdown in the pace of life. The CPI is a lie as it fails to reflect such things. People dont feel wealthy. Insurance is about preserving your wealth in the face of unusual and costly events. When you are already facing death by starvation or exposure in the near term, who cares about death by illness or accident sometime in the future? When you have no wealth, would you care about or buy a product that is a means to preserve it?
I now live here, and have four daughters. I hear the growl around me - the question - "How can my government do this?" - about many things. I do not want to see what is happening in Tunisia and Egypt to happen here - it is just too much risk.
So are we going to have the government described in our Constitution, or something else? People do carry those few and simple words around (maybe not exactly, and sometimes with wishful interpretation) as a rough map and a promise. I think it is time to remind the administration and Congress about the Constitution, and that what it says actually does matter.