Thursday, June 30, 2005

How do people this ignorant/stupid get leadership posts in the U.S. government?

Granted, Nancy Pelosi is only a leader within the Democratic party, but the minority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives really doesn't understand law or the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Kelo. Click the headline above for the transcript of Ms. Pelosi's comments regarding a proposed bill by Republican House leaders and Senator John Cornyn that would prevent federal funds from being used for "eminent domain" of the type approved in Kelo - take from one American and give/sell it to another American to whom it does not belong (a line shamelessly stolen from Walter Williams, gotta love the moral clarity).

First, Ms. Pelosi hears the facts wrong, thinking the bill would defund the Supreme Court (which the Congress can do, just not lower the Justices' salaries - maybe they could use a few less clerks, or hold court in the basement of OSHA).

Then, after the interviewer explains the proposed bill to her, she thinks such a bill would "nullify" a decision of the Supreme Court because it would withhold funds from "enforcing" the decision. Boy, what a moron.

For all you non-lawyers out there, here is how the Kelo decision works. The U.S. Supreme Court just said that the U.S. Constitution does not prohibit local governments from taking property from one American and giving/selling it to another to whom it does not belong. The opinion says nothing about whether such robbery . . . er, eminent domain, must be used. The actual controversy - between a city in Connecticut and local homeowners - involves no federal funds that I can conceive of (except maybe to publish the case in the official register). Thus, the particular case decided by the Supreme Court would not be affected by the proposed bill.

But there is something more fundamental here as well, which given the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision in Raich v. Ashcroft, could turn out to be a delicious irony. The U.S. Supreme Court just held that purely intrastate activity even remotely touching upon something that might possibly have the slightest effect on interstate commerce is 100% within the governing power of Congress. I would think that if growing corn on one's own land for purely personal consumption affects interstate commerce enough for Congress to regulate/prohibit it, then it is clearly within the governing power of Congress to outlaw eminent domain of the type used in Kelo.

Ms. Pelosi and her ilk may object to this reasoning thusly: But Mr. Pugh, the Supreme Court just said that the Constitution grants local governments the power of eminent domain in situations like Kelo, so a bill to wholly prevent such use of eminent domain would "nullify" the Supreme Court's decision, just like I said.

If you made this argument, you would be wrong. Nothing in the U.S. Constitution, or the Kelo decision, says that local governments have an absolute Constitutional right to steal property like the Kelo's and give it to Pfizer. (Boycott Pfizer!) The decision says that nothing in the Constitution prohibits such theft. There is a huge difference between a Supreme Court decision holding that the Constitution grants an absolute right (say, abortion) and a decision that merely holds that some activity is not prohibited by the Constitution. In the latter situtation, Congress is free to make laws prohibiting the activity, provided Congress has the power to regulate the activity under Article I, section 8.

According to Raich v. Ashcroft, Congress is free to outlaw local governments from using eminent domain to take property from one American and give/sell it to another to whom it does not belong. Don't hold your breath on such a law passing, however, as many Republicans in Congress who swore to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution have some integrity and would find such an outright prohibition of Kelo-type eminent domain unconstitutional, regardless of what the Supreme Court thinks.


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