Sunday, September 26, 2010

"Unemployment compensation is unconstitutional"

The same article on the Tea Party movement that inspired my previous post also contains:

"The Senate candidates include Joe Miller of Alaska, who has said unemployment compensation is unconstitutional."

This one is wrong too, but in a subtler fashion. What Miller actually claims, as one can check pretty easily by listening to what he says, is that federal unemployment compensation is unconstitutional. That is not the view of the current court, but it is a defensible reading of the Constitution based, as Miller makes clear, on the doctrine of enumerated powers. On that interpretation, the federal government is only entitled to do those things that the Constitution explicitly says it can do, with the Tenth Amendment providing that anything else is reserved to the states and to the people.

Unemployment compensation is administered by the states, funded by both the federal and state governments, and varies from state to state. Eliminating the federal role would be a substantial change but one well short of eliminating unemployment compensation, which is what "unemployment compensation is unconstitutional" seems to imply that Miller is proposing.

It seems I have a new hobby—debunking overstated claims about what Tea Party supported candidates have said.

13 Comments:

At 11:45 PM, September 26, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Prof. Friedman,

I am sorry, this is of topic, but may be of interest to you: The US Congress is punishing China for allegedly manipulating its currency. Could you comment on that, it seems to be your field (price theory) and from what I read in your books, not a very wise move of the US Congress.

 
At 6:48 PM, September 27, 2010, Anonymous Allen Dalton said...

On topic, the explosion of internet and cable tv sources has, it seems to me, accelerated the "sound bite" presentation of positions and led to even greater misrepresentation than in earlier periods. One only needs to spend some time channel-jumping between Maddow and O'Reilly any evening to wonder where what passes as "serious" political discussion is headed.

 
At 12:12 PM, September 28, 2010, Blogger John Fast said...

Anonymous: If Professor Friedman won't comment on it for you, I will. "Fools rush in" and all that. :-D

 
At 12:39 PM, September 28, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems that much of what is law in this country is unconstitutional. Andrew Napolitano and others have shed light on this.

 
At 3:43 AM, September 29, 2010, Anonymous Job Search Freak said...

Instead of indulging in firefighting at this stage, the government should have acted more responsibly during recession and we would not have come to this stage.

 
At 2:55 PM, October 02, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

He just wants federal government to stop providing unemployment, Medicare and Social Security. He has no plan to provide them on the state level. He wants to put a stop to the culture of entitlement. So if you are on Social Security or Medicare today, well, he wants you not to be entitled to them anymore.

 
At 11:01 AM, October 05, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

But he was OK with his wife receiving unemployment benefits in '02 after she briefly worked for him as a magistrate judge clerk.

Pot meeting kettle ...

 
At 11:10 PM, October 05, 2010, Anonymous Kid said...

But he was OK with his wife receiving unemployment benefits in '02 after she briefly worked for him as a magistrate judge clerk.

Pot meeting kettle ...


I am not sure if I follow your logic. I believe roads should be privately owned. Instead, I pay taxes, and the government builds and maintains roads. Should I not make use of roads?

I believe unemployment compensation is unconstitutional. Normally, I'd set aside a bit of my own money for lesser times. However, now, I pay a tax for it. When unemployment comes, should I refuse the compensation?

 
At 7:07 PM, October 06, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe Kid, but unless you are running a campaign on that premise, you would be expressing the opinion of a single citizen.

Miller also has admitted to receiving farm subsidies, another issue he opposes.

If nothing else, it smacks of arrogance and hypocrisy to utter the phrase, "Well, that wasn't my position then, but it is now."

Pubic perception counts. I just don't believe it's the smartest platform to be so vocally opposed to that which he's greatly benefited from. At least not without a whole lot more explanation.

He felt entitled then, because as you say, he'd already paid in. Has he explained how proposes to make amends to those folks who are suddenly cut off SSI and Medicare, if he is successful in abolishing them?

Something about what's good for the goose ought to be good for the gander ....

Just ftr, I too am opposed to those entitlement programs, but a politician claiming that he got his, so sorry, but times are tough so you don't get yours, is not a well thought out campaign, imo.

 
At 6:15 AM, October 07, 2010, Anonymous albatross said...

Is it that we're more likely to get shoddy journalism based on soundbites now than in the past? Or is it that we're more likely to be able to find the full transcript of the interview or speech, or the whole interview or speech, on YouTube now, and catch the errors/misinterpretations/lies?

Seriously, is there any way to work out whether the mainstream media have become worse, or their failures have simply become easier to see, in the last decade or so?

 
At 1:17 PM, October 09, 2010, Blogger Jonathan said...

Anonymous, if someone is entitled to benefits according to the rules as they are, there's nothing wrong in claiming them.

If he's also opposed to those benefits in principle, there's nothing wrong in saying so, and nothing wrong in campaigning against them.

I see no inconsistency, nor arrogance, nor hypocrisy here.

It's merely sensible and normal practice to work within the rules as they are, while trying to change them.

 
At 8:55 PM, October 11, 2010, Blogger Neolibertarian said...

Any comments on the Nobel Prize and search friction?

 
At 8:20 AM, October 21, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Constitution empowers Congress generall to "... provide for the common Defence [1787 spelling] and general welfare...." It provides specifically that Congress has the power "to raise and support Armies ...to provide and maintain a Navy ...to make rules for the government and regulation the land and naval forces ....to provide for calling forth the militia...to provide for organizing, arming and disciplining the militia...." It does not expressly provide for, among other things, an air force. Is left up to the states under Miller's logic? Or can Congress provide for an air force under the "common defence" language or the "necessary and proper" language? If so can't they also provide for u/e benefits under the "general welfare" or "necessary and proper" language? The Constitution also does not provide for a "coast guard" or, to my knowledge, an Executive Protective Service.
It provides for "post roads" but not interstate highways. It does not provide for student loans but I suspect there are Tea Party'ers who've got them and whose kids are getting them now. Should the states then pave the roads within their borders, or not, provide student loans, or not, have an air force, or not? The Founders wrote a Constitution that recognized they couldn't think of everything. They were smart enough to know that the "general welfare" down the road would be different than it was in the white, male, slave holding 18th Century world in which they wrote. They knew that future governments would need authority to do what was "necessary and proper" in years and centuries to follow.

 

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