Joe Miller thinks the Social Security Act is unconstitutional. So did George P. Davis, a minority shareholder in Edison Electric Illuminating Company. Davis was so upset that in 1937 he fought the constitutionality of the Social Security Act all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. And lost.
And in 1937, in Helvering v. Davis, the U.S. Supreme Court, in an opinion authored by the great Justice Benjamin Cardozo, ruled by a 7-2 vote that the Social Security Act was constitutional.
Congress may spend money in aid of the “general welfare.” Constitution, Art. I, section 8; United States v. Butler, 297 U.S. 1, 65; Steward Machine Co. v. Davis, supra. There have been great statesmen in our history who have stood for other views. We will not resurrect the contest. It is now settled by decision. United States v. Butler, supra. The conception of the spending power advocated by Hamilton and strongly reinforced by Story has prevailed over that of Madison…
The Court specifically found, “The scheme of benefits created by the provisions of Title II is not in contravention of the limitations of the Tenth Amendment.”
Joe Miller is a lawyer. He knows – or should know – that the claims he is making were rejected by the highest court in the land three-quarters of a century ago.
As a lawyer, Joe Miller also should know and understand the doctrine of stare decisis. It’s an important element of the common law. It means that once an issue is decided, absent some extraordinary change of circumstances, it stay decided. Otherwise, every two-bit plaintiff with a grudge would keep trying to change the outcome.
Joe Miller also thinks the federal unemployment tax is unconstitutional. So did Steward Machine Company. The Company dutifully paid its first unemployment tax installment ($46.14) and then sued the government to recover the payment, claiming the Social Security Act was unconstitutional. Steward made the same as points as Davis about the meaning of the word “tax,” and argued in addition that the unemployment compensation program could not qualify as “providing for the general welfare.”
That case, too, made it to the U.S. Supreme Court. And in Steward Machine Co. v. Davis, also decided in 1937, the U.S. Supreme Court found that the federal unemployment compensation system was constitutional. Justice Cardozo, writing this time for a 5-4 majority, specifically rejected a challenge under the 10th Amendment.
It’s true that current Chief Justice John Roberts is no Benjamin Cardozo. And it’s true that Chief Justice Roberts hasn’t always followed precedent. But Candidate Miller is dead, flat wrong when he calls unemployment compensation and social security “unconstitutional.” It’s not a junior senator wannabe that decides that anyway. It’s the nine men and women in black robes. You’ve been to law school, Mr. Miller. In your overweening arrogance, you’ve claim to have “mastered the law.”
WC thinks Candidate Miller’s “mastery” may have missed some critical details.
Oh, and Candidate Miller, there is no “crisis” in Social Security funding. Nor is the Social Security Fund “packed with a bunch of IOUs.” The last time WC checked, the U.S. Treasury Bonds that comprise most of the Social Security Fund were the world’s gold standard for investments. Stop parroting the Tea Party blather, please.
UPDATE: Check out the Mudflat’s Legal Eagle’s takedown of Miler’s claim to seize federal land in Alaska.