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Category: General

Idiotic Invasions Cannot Fail, They Can Only Be Failed

[ 59 ] May 14, 2015 |

Shorter Quin Hillyer: The Iraq War would have worked out great if it wasn’t for that meddling Barack Obama.

For old time’s sake, I can’t resist quoting this particular line of bullshit:

Second, he still did have traces of weapons of mass murder (WMM — a better term than WMD). And he had maintained the capability to rapidly rebuild his stocks.

Saddam didn’t actually have WMDs. But he had “traces” of them, which we can pretend means something. And we cannot in theory rule out the possibility that he could have acquired more. Let’s give them a scarier name. And what threat would these WEAPONS OF MASS MURDER have posed to American civilians? Look — it’s the new Thomas Jefferson, Ahmed Chalabi! Let’s spend trillions of dollars to kill hundreds of thousands of people.

Impressionist Review of “Interstellar”

[ 59 ] May 13, 2015 |

  • Shot of a cornfield
  • Shot of dust storm
  • Secret NASA hideout located near farm. Convenient!
  • Look, it’s Michael Caine
  • Oh, Matthew McConaughey’s character used to be an astronaut. Convenient!
  • That robot is chunky and clunky
  • Anne Hathaway’s hair is short
  • Shot of Earth from space
  • Matthew McConaughey is crying attractively
  • Boring conversation
  • Matthew McConaughey is crying attractively
  • Relativity is an a-hole ‘cuz McConaughey’s daughter is now being played by Jessica Chastain
  • Holy crap, it’s a Casey Affleck sighting
  • OMG, is McConaughey crying again?
  • Shot of Earth from space
  • Oh, hey, here’s a cool fucking planet. Let’s spend 5 minutes there then get back to shots of Earth from space and corn fields
  • I’ll be damned: It’s Matt Damon
  • Corn fields, dust storms
  • Close-up of Jessica Chastain looking concerned
  • Topher Fucking Grace?
  • Something about gravity, another dimension
  • Dust
  • Oh, hey, Matthew McConaughey is in some other dimension instead of exploring a cool new planet, moving dust around and being a time-traveling ghost
  • Oh, hai, “Contact.” what are you doing here?  Why do you seem so familiar? Are you my dust-Morse-Code ghost?
  • Matthew McConaughey is crying again.

The End.

Dear Boners

[ 134 ] May 13, 2015 |


Dear Boners,

Hi, how are you? Sounds like you’re still upset you’re not King of Liberal. In fact, sometimes I wonder why you want to be King of Liberal since you seem to dislike so many liberals (especially feminist liberals). I can only assume it’s because you’re still sore about this that you typed literally 50 billion words to talk about how a few jerky tweets represents the entire Kingdom of Liberal. (Or Queendom, amirite?)

Listen, I get it. Liberals get circle-jerky; they get lazy. Yes, it’s true. Occasionally liberals fall back on parroted insults rather than engage an argument on its merits. (I would argue that often they do this because the argument has no merits, but whatev.) Anyway, you’ve discovered–to my shock and horror–that liberals enjoy the company of other liberals. And sometimes when they do this it gets a little echo-chambery. I get that.

Still, I don’t understand how a few less-than-impressive tweets and an unfunny list translates to “liberals are jerky slacktivists.” I would be the first person to tell you that when I tweet snarky tweets, I’m not trying to change the world. Nor am I trying to change the world when I write snarky comments on a blog. I do this to stay sane, plain and simple.

Here’s the thing: a lot of people make arguments that are in bad faith. A lot of people are trollin’ even when it sounds like they’re not. And when people take the time to give a reasoned response (that they may have already given 1000 times) to trolls and assholes, this is time stolen. Time that can’t be gotten back. So, sure, I know that sometimes when people respond with snark, they’re doing it because they’re lazy or because they’re afraid to engage on the substance of an issue. But sometimes they’re just snarking just to snark and they’re not trying to win converts when they do so.

Your complaint here seems to be that liberals are afraid to argue, at least substantively. So I’ve tried to tell you–substantively–why I think you’re full of shit. And I’ve done that even though I think–based upon  your past writings–that you’re a clueless jerk.



Government subsidies and the spiraling cost of higher ed, con’t

[ 46 ] May 13, 2015 |


I have another piece on the relationship between government subsidies for higher ed and tuition rates. When I wrote about this last month in the Times, various people complained that I didn’t emphasize sufficiently the relative decline of state appropriations for higher ed on a per capita student basis (While total state appropriations for higher ed have increased by 48% in real terms since 1980, enrollment in public higher ed has grown by 60% since then).

But, as I mentioned at the time but didn’t explore in any detail, state funding is just part — in fact it’s almost exactly half — of the picture when it comes to government subsidies of higher in America. Many people are aware of the Pell grant program, but what isn’t nearly as well known are the ways in which the federal tax code has been amended in recent years to subsidize higher ed.

According to the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation’s most recent estimates of federal tax expenditures, the IRS is currently redistributing approximately $45.7 billion annually in tax revenue in ways that directly and indirectly support American higher education. (This represents a 675 percent increase in such spending since 1990.) These subsidies can come in the form of tax credits or other types of favorable tax treatment—excluding certain forms of income from taxation or creating special deductions, for example.

The policy dynamics driving these increases are fairly straightforward: Democrats generally like to subsidize public goods such as education, and Republicans typically like tax cuts. (A number of GOP politicians have also started to champion the for-profit college industry.) Tax credits and deductions for higher education enable Congress to simultaneously pursue both of these policy preferences.

The net result of all this is that per student government subsidies for higher ed are at an all-time high in real dollars, and are a good deal higher than they were in the 1980s and 1990s, when tuition at both public and private schools was drastically lower on average.

This graph represents the change in direct and indirect subsidies over time:


Here’s how that translates into per student subsidies:


Now here are the same totals when limited to direct subsidies (appropriations, grants, and tax credits):



The disturbing bottom line:

Whether measured in terms of both direct and indirect subsidies, or in terms of direct appropriations, grants, and tax credits, total per-student government support for higher education has increased. Yet this increase has failed to stop or even slow massive tuition increases at both public and private schools.

It’s important to emphasize that this torrent of increased revenue has not been going to people who perform relatively marginal tasks within the modern American university, such as for example teaching and research. Per capita salaries for university faculty are much lower now than they were in the 1970s (This fact is conveniently obscured if you don’t consider the people who do the majority of the teaching at most universities, i.e., contingent faculty, to “really” be part of the institution).

Nor is it going to the people who clean the buildings, cook the food, take care of the grounds, etc. etc. (I’m currently taking part in a union-led movement to try to do something about the disgraceful fact that there are more than 500 full-time employees at the University of Colorado-Boulder who are paid less than $15 an hour — more on this soon).

I appreciate that government subsidies for higher ed constitute a tricky issue for progressives. Certainly, appropriately broad access to reasonably-priced higher educational options needs to be high up on any progressive agenda. But what we have now is something quite different: an invidious synergy between administrative rent-seeking in the guise of expanding educational opportunity, and the political process’s affection for transferring tax revenue to the upper classes (tax credits for tuition payments are a perfect example of the latter).

Reforming America’s higher ed system needs to be based on the understanding that shoveling ever-larger amounts of money into the hands of the contemporary administrative class for them to redistribute as they see fit is at best an incredibly inefficient way to promote genuine educational opportunity. More realistically, the current system promotes the interests of those at the top of the higher educational hierarchy, at the expense of the vastly larger number of people in less privileged positions within these institutions.

We can all just agree that Jay Smooth is the best, right?

[ 28 ] May 13, 2015 |

jay smooth

What we’re doing is talking about honoring the work Harriet Tubman did to free us from slavery by putting her face on the reason we were enslaved.”.

The List That Destroyed America

[ 277 ] May 13, 2015 |

Freddie de Boer’s new piece seems to be getting a lot of attention. What I see is a pretty familiar argument with some familiar problems.

To start with a point of agreement, it is very bad and very stupid to compare critics of Obama’s position on TPP to Emmett Till’s lynchers. The problem is assuming that this random guy is representative of anything. Drawing broad conclusions from the dumb tweets of someone who formerly held a leadership position in the Sacramento Democratic party makes about as much sense as generalizing about “the left” based on Salon letter-writers or the “St. Petersburg Democratic Club.” (Or, to pick another entirely random example, asserting that all liberals really support torture because Alan Dershowitz.) If you find yourself using rhetorical techniques beloved by Glenn Reynolds, it may be time for some re-evaluation.

The basic idea here, which we’ve seen before, is to conflate various objections to Freddie’s arguments so he only has to engage with the weakest one. The idea that Democrats shouldn’t be criticized is, indeed, very dumb. Not very common, but dumb, and if you see the assistant treasurer of the Des Moines Young Democrats saying it feel free to call it out if it floats your boat. The idea that there’s no real difference between Republicans and Democrats because Democrats are bad on issue x, however, is much more problematic. The idea that vote-splitting on the left is a sound tactic for pushing Democrats to the left is equally bad. Pretending that all of the disagreement is over point one conveniently relieves from having to defend the indefensible, i.e. points two and three. And, sorry, noting the fact that the most disadvantaged bear the brunt of the large differences between having Democrats and Republicans in charge of the federal government is fair game.

This is all familiar territory. Much odder is the attack on The Toast, a site as consistently smart and funny as anything on the intarwebs. Freddie alleges that it is “a website that has taken maximum advantage of this Teflon aspect of progressive argument.” I’m not entirely sure what this means, and again the evidence is threadbare. At issue is a quick list by Nicole Cliffe. Now, no writer bats 1.000 (including, God knows, this one), and just for myself I didn’t find it particularly funny. But using it as some kind of culture war totem is hilariously overwrought. In particular, one might want to look at the second tag, although it shouldn’t even be necessary. The list isn’t an attack on the books in question or on white men; it’s observational humor, a form of humor that depends on generalizations. Freddie might also want to consider the fact that many commenters praised in not because they feel pressure from the P.C. police but because they thought it was funny — what humor hits you where you live is going to, you know, vary. Obviously, not everything that Mallory Ortberg writes is pure gold — although there are very few writers with a higher success ratio — but one can disagree that “she’s in a ‘Radiohead recording themselves farting into a paper bag’ rut” without believing that she Should Not Be Criticized. Freddie, alas, is too busy preemptively asserting that nobody (who?) will allow him to criticize Ortberg to cite a single objectionable thing she’s written, let alone explaining why he finds it objectionable.

To return to another point of agreement, I agree that “[o]ne-liners don’t build a movement. Being clever doesn’t fix the world. Scoring points on Twitter doesn’t create justice. Jokes make nothing happen.” After reading all of the preceding paragraphs, however, I’m not sure who does believe this. What I am sure is that editors of The Toast “challenging their readers” in some unspecified way will not fix the world or create justice or make anything happen either, so they should probably keep doing what they’re doing.

Organizing the Silicon Valley

[ 33 ] May 13, 2015 |

Labor has made some positive gains recently in organizing the working-class employees of the Silicon Valley. But what’s really interesting here is the aggressive attitude of labor:

The state’s labor movement has been “very good at being the opposite of Wisconsin,” Paulson said. Unions have traditionally been strong in Wisconsin, but over the past few years a state government has dealt a series of crushing blows to the labor movement, including passing a law restricting collective bargaining for public employees and a law that bans union shops. Labor in California has remained strong enough to make such attacks unlikely, but Paulson said he and others in the movement have tired of focusing so much on simply avoiding disaster.

“Over the last few years, some of us have just said, fuck that,” Paulson told Al Jazeera. “Let’s do what we want to do to fight for workers. And so the state federation of labor in particular decided that we are going to put our resources into organizing. Into real organizing, that is going to result in a collective bargaining agreement at some time or another, and people being in a labor union, and officially having a voice at work.”

The California Labor Federation selected three particular campaigns on which to combine resources: The SEIU-USWW drive to organize Silicon Valley security officers, as well as a UFCW-backed campaign to organize workers at Walmart and a similar Teamster-driven campaign at food processing plants in California’s Central Valley. Every union in the federation is expected to contribute something to those three campaigns, regardless of whether the campaigns have anything to do with their immediate interests, Paulson said.

“Even school employees, we’re going to send them to the Walmart campaign,” he said. “We’re going to send them to food processing and help the Teamsters out in Central Valley. All of us central labor councils, we’ll organize civil disobedience and actions outside of Google and Apple in order to reinforce organizing for security officers.”

After the security officers campaign began to pick up supporters and public attention, the labor movement started throwing itself behind other organizing drives in the Silicon Valley area, according to SEIU-USWW organizing director Sanjay Garla. The most prominent of those campaigns is the Teamsters’ effort to unionize shuttle drivers — but, Garla said, “there’s a lot of talk about how food-service workers are also part of this fight.”

“Everyone sat down and said, ‘How do we back up these security officers that are going up against these major giants?’” he said. “It was really about supporting the security officers, and it’s turning into something more.”

Cajoling all the unions into contributing something for organizing is a good idea and being aggressive is a great one. There can be good reasons to play defense, but labor also must press its advantages where possible. And if it isn’t possible in California, it isn’t possible anywhere.

Arctic Drilling

[ 17 ] May 13, 2015 |


I am extremely disappointed that President Obama and Interior Secretary Jewell decided to open up Arctic oil drilling. Certain environmental conditions are supposed to be met, but as we all know too well, the oil industry is inherently dangerous and terrible accidents occur all the time (Exxon Valdez, BP disaster, Santa Barbara spill of 1969, etc., etc.). That the administration has granted these rights to Shell is even worse given that company’s awful record:

When the Obama administration announced on Monday that it would let Shell drill for oil off the Alaskan coast this year if it met certain conditions, environmentalists were outraged — not just by the administration’s decision to allow drilling, but by its decision to give Shell, in particular, the green light.

They said that the company’s track record in the Arctic should rule out another chance for it. Shell tried to drill in the Arctic in 2012, and the company’s multibillion-dollar drilling rig, the Kulluk, ran aground. The operator of a drill ship hired by Shell also pleaded guilty to eight felony offenses and agreed to pay $12.2 million over shoddy record-keeping that covered up hazardous conditions and jury-rigged equipment that discharged polluted water.

“Shell has already proven itself not up to the challenge of development in the Arctic Ocean,” said Franz Matzner, the director of the Beyond Oil Initiative at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “But it’s not just Shell. The fact is, there’s no safe way to pursue oil exploration in the frozen wastes of the Arctic Ocean.”

He added, “This is an inexplicable decision to do something that is dirty, dangerous and unnecessary.”

Shell, Europe’s leading oil company, has spent about $7 billion in the Alaskan Arctic over the last decade, and drilled two shallow wells during the 2012 attempt.

But the federal government did not allow the company to reach the deeper oil-bearing formations because the containment dome designed to cap a runaway well had been destroyed in testing.

Shell executives said they had shaken up their Alaska team, putting in new management that would emphasize better management of contractors, readiness for any problems and contingency plans to care for any accidents.

Trust us, we know what we’re doing! Don’t pay attention to our long and terrible history!

Bad Arguments

[ 48 ] May 13, 2015 |


In the world of libertarian economists, Bryan Caplan really isn’t the worst, but arguing that the Shah was “strong on civil liberties” is about the dumbest thing one can possibly say about the history of Iran.

Strong on civil liberties, weak on economic liberties – it almost seems like American liberals should have liked the Shah.

Herpty derpty. What did actual Iranians say about the Shah’s glorious civil liberties? From a 1979 piece written by Iranians in the Harvard Crimson:

SAVAK conducted most of the torture, under the friendly guidance of the CIA. which set up SAVAK in 1957 and taught them how to interrogate suspects. Amnesty International reports methods of torture that included “whipping and beating, electric shocks, extraction of teeth and nails, boiling water pumped into the rectum, heavy weights hung on the testicles, tying the prisoner to a metal table heated to a white heat, inserting a broken bottle into the anus, and rape.”

From Muhammad Sahimi:

The Shah’s regime responded violently in kind, establishing the infamous Joint Committee to Fight Terrorism, which was headed by Sabeti in practice, though it always had a military officer as its figurehead chief. “By 1970,” writes Dr. Abbas Milani in The Persian Sphinx, Sabeti’s “power permeated all facets of Iranian life.” Torture, beatings, show trials in military courts, executions, and even extra-judicial killings were all normal modes of operation for the SAVAK and the Committee. For example, Mehdi Rezaei, an MKO member, was arrested in April 1972 and executed that September at the age of 20, after enduring horrific torture. Ali Asghar Badizadegan, one of the MKO’s founders, was forced into an electric oven according to his comrade Lotfollah Meysami. He was burned so badly that he became paralyzed, and the SAVAK refused to turn over his body after he was executed in May 1972. As Ali Gheissari writes in Iranian Intellectuals in the Twentieth Century, under Sabeti the Committee was also “responsible for the arbitrary detention, interrogation, and torture of many university students during that period.”

Two classmates of mine, Mohammad Ali Bagheri, a pious Muslim, and Hamid Arian, a secular leftist, were lost to the political violence of the era. We were all students at the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Tehran, having been admitted in 1972 after passing the national entrance examination, or concours. Bagheri was executed by the regime, while Arian was killed in an armed clash with the SAVAK. Four other good young men that I personally knew, all secular leftists, who were a year or two ahead of me in the engineering department, were also killed: Mahmoud Vahidi and Saeed Kord were poisoned in the notorious Evin Prison, while Mansoor Farshidi and Mahmoud Namazi were killed in an armed clash. Numerous other students, including many friends in the engineering department, were imprisoned, beaten, and given long jail sentences.

To comprehend the atmosphere of terror that dominated the political arena at that time, consider the following. The house of a student friend of mine was raided by the SAVAK, and an engineering book was found there that he had borrowed from the engineering department library. In those days, the borrower’s name would be written on a card attached to the back of the book. One of the students who had previously borrowed the book was Nastaran Al-e Agha, an engineering student and a major figure in the Fadaian who was killed on June 22, 1976, in an armed confrontation with the SAVAK. Because the book had been borrowed previously by Al-e Agha, my friend was held in jail for months, just to make sure that there was no connection between the two. Such was the state of terror in the days when Sabeti was at the helm of the Committee and the leading figure in the conflict between the opposition and the Pahlavi regime. His name was identified with a host of brutal acts. He would appear on national television and talk about what had happened every time the regime declared a “victory” against the opposition, and in particular the “terrorist” MKO and Fadaian.

From Darius Rejali:

I remember one distinguished expert who reviewed my work said,
basically, how can Rejali say torture is part of modernity? If that was
true, America would torture too. It really was amazing, in retrospect,
how willfully blind people wanted to be. I grew up in Iran at a time
when the Shah’s secret police, the SAVAK, did not hesitate torturing
Islamic and Marxist insurgents. No one thought torture was something
incompatible with cars, fast food, washing machines and other parts of
modern life. I remember talking to a high-ranking SAVAK officer years
after the Shah was gone, and he certainly felt he played an important
role in modernization. It wasn’t the last time I’ve heard torturers say
how important they are in making their country safe for economic

Another point: Everyone forgets that the Iranian revolution of 1978-1979
was the revolution against torture. When the Shah criticized Khomayni as
a blackrobed Islamic medieval throwback, Khomayni replied, look who is
talking, the man who tortures. This was powerful rhetoric for
recruiting people, then as it is now. People joined the revolutionary
opposition because of the Shah’s brutality, and they remembered who
installed him. If anyone wants to know why Iranians hated the US so,
all they have to do is ask what America’s role was in promoting torture
in Iran. Torture not only shaped the revolution, it was the factor that
has deeply poisoned the relationship of Iran with the West. So why trust
the West again? And the Iranian leadership doesn’t.

So right, strong on civil liberties.

The TPP Revolt

[ 53 ] May 12, 2015 |

Warren, Wyden et al. win round one:

In a stern rebuke to President Barack Obama, Senate Democrats rebelled against his trade initiative on Tuesday afternoon and voted against even opening debate on the bill.

Democrats have demanded additional worker protections before they would consider voting to approve fast-track trade powers for the president. Shortly ahead of the vote, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) rejected the demands, insisting he would not make any guarantees beyond a vote on the fast-track bill.

The ensuing Democratic filibuster sank the legislation on the Senate floor, 52-45, with 60 needed to pass. Trade proponents in both parties vowed to try to put the pieces back together, but with little more than a week before a Memorial Day recess and several expiring laws still to be addressed, the immediate future of Obama’s trade agenda is uncertain.

Plainly, Obama could have had fast-track — senators have no independent interests or ideological views — but he didn’t. even. try.

Mark Bauerlein responds to his critics…

[ 175 ] May 12, 2015 |

including some fool name “Loomis” or something that doesn’t even sound like a real name.

“Keep reading McCulloch till you understand it”: Why Wickard Was Obviously Correct

[ 107 ] May 12, 2015 |


In comments yesterday, we heard familiar arguments that Wickard v. Filburn was wrongly decided.  But it wasn’t, and attempting to place restrictions based on the federal commerce power based on the arguments raised in Wickard would be a incoherent fiasco, just like all previous attempts to arbitrarily limit the commerce power were.

The facts of Wickard are straightforward:

The appellee for many years past has owned and operated a small farm in Montgomery County, Ohio, maintaining a herd of dairy cattle, selling milk, raising poultry, and selling poultry and eggs. It has been his practice to raise a small acreage of winter wheat, sown in the Fall and harvested in the following July; to sell a portion of the crop; to feed part to poultry and livestock on the farm, some of which is sold; to use some in making flour for home consumption, and to keep the rest for the following seeding. The intended disposition of the crop here involved has not been expressly stated.

In July of 1940, pursuant to the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938, as then amended, there were established for the appellee’s 1941 crop a wheat acreage allotment of 11.1 acres and a normal yield of 20.1 bushels of wheat an acre. He was given notice of such allotment in July of 1940, before the Fall planting of his 1941 crop of wheat, and again in July of 1941, before it was harvested. He sowed, however, 23 acres, and harvested from his 11.9 acres of excess acreage 239 bushels, which, under the terms of the Act as amended on May 26, 1941, constituted farm marketing excess, subject to a penalty of 49 cents a bushel, or $117.11 in all. The appellee has not paid the penalty, and he has not postponed or avoided it by storing the excess under regulations of the Secretary of Agriculture, or by delivering it up to the Secretary. The Committee, therefore, refused him a marketing card, which was, under the terms of Regulations promulgated by the Secretary, necessary to protect a buyer from liability to the penalty and upon its protecting lien.

For the reasons I stated yesterday, this is really an easy case. The wheat market created collective action problems in an insterstate commodity market. Article I explicitly empowers Congress to address these problems. Quotas on wheat production are a reasonable means of addressing these problems. The act is therefore constitutional as applied to this case.

Critics of Wickard miss the boat because they come to the case as if it is an individual rights cases rather than a case about the scope of governmental power. (It’s not a coincidence that most critics of Wickard tend to oppose federal regulation of the economy; it’s also not a coincidence that Filburn also brought a Fifth Amendment claim. Most of these federalism cases are just libertarian economic arguments in thin disguise.) They focus on whether Filburn, when he grew some winter wheat he intended to consume himself (and some of which he sold, free riding on federal regulations he refused to abide by, and some of which he fed to his commercial livestock), was engaged in interstate commerce at this precise moment. But that’s not the right question. The right question is whether wheat quotas are a reasonable part of a program to regulate an interstate market. They are, and that ends the case in the government’s favor. The federal government has the power to regulate interstate commerce, and it has the powers necessary and proper to regulate interstate commerce. The claim that plenary federal powers to regulate an interstate market cannot be applied to individual cases necessary to make the regulation effective is nonsensical. As Jackson put it, “even if appellee’s activity be local, and though it may not be regarded as commerce, it may still, whatever its nature, be reached by Congress if it exerts a substantial economic effect on interstate commerce, and this irrespective of whether such effect is what might at some earlier time have been defined as ‘direct’ or ‘indirect.'”

At this point, opponents of Wickard will turn to the slippery slope: “I can see the day coming when even your home garden is gonna be against the law!” But Wickard does not actually create an absolutely unlimited federal police power; Lopez did not overrule Wickard. Could Congress apply quotas to a small, noncommercial home garden? Maybe — if it could show that such a regulation was reasonably related to a broader regulatory scheme. Wickard doesn’t tell us, because the quotas were applied to commercial farms and Filburn was a commercial farmer. There’s not really much point in considering whether Congress can apply quotas to small noncommercial home gardens growing legal products, because 1)it’s not going to do this, and 2)in any extraordinary hypothetical circumstance where it would do this it’s likely that the regulation would be justified by a reasonable relationship to a broader regulation of interstate markets.

The slippery slope most certainly does go the other way, however. If the criticisms of Wickard sounds familiar, it’s because they’re exactly like the arguments used to assert that the Affordable Care Act was unconstitutional. “People who do not buy health insurance are not, in doing so, engaged in interstate commerce.” And it’s true! True — and completely irrelevant. The health insurance exchanges are a concededly valid regulation of interstate commerce. Guaranteed issue without a mandate would cause the exchanges to fail. Therefore, the mandate is constitutional even though it does not directly regulate interstate commerce. Article I gives the federal government the powers reasonably thought to be necessary to address problems of interstate commerce. Wickard was correct; the Court’s holding on the mandate in Sebelius was wrong.

And the problems (if you’re not a libertarian, I mean) with the arguments made by Wickard critics don’t end there, and that goes double if you think that it would exceed the commerce power for the federal government to regulate abortion clinics. Having to show that every business was engaged in interstate commerce before occupational health and safety or environmental regulations could be applied would be a disaster. Forcing the federal government to, at a minimum, show that a business was more like Heart of Atlanta and less like McClung before civil rights laws apply would be a disaster. For most Wickard critics, of course, these outcomes would be features, not bugs. But there are a few liberals who would be happy to go down this conservertarian rabbit hole because medical marijuana in California. Thankfully, Stevens et al. were much smarter than that.

I will conclude by turning things over to Akhil Amar:

The most important limit, the one we fought the Revolutionary War for, is that the people doing this to you are the people you elect. That’s the main check. The broccoli argument is like something they said when we were debating the income tax: If they can tax me, they can tax me at 100 percent! And yes, they can. But they won’t. Because you could vote them out of office. They have the power to do all sorts of ridiculous things that they won’t do because you’d vote them out of office. If they can prevent me from growing pot, can they prevent me from buying broccoli? Perhaps, but why would they if they want to be reelected? So if you ask me what the limits are, I’d say read McCulloch vs. Maryland. And reread it. And keep reading it till you understand it. The Constitution is a practical document, it’s designed to work. And the powers are designed to be flexible in order to achieve the aims of the document.

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