March 14, 1936 - Editorial - The Constitutional Issue, by George Lorimer
When discussion becomes highly excitable there is wisdom in keeping very close to facts and allowing the storm of opinion to rage. The Constitutional issue is now so highly surcharged with emotion that even a member of the Cabinet, Mr. Wallace, in addressing a radio audience, has referred to the disposal of processing taxes by the Supreme Court as a "legalized steal."
Many of those persons whose purposes and aspirations, real or supposed, have been thwarted by recent decisions have joined in a hymn of hate against the Supreme Court. Other persons who wish to keep their heads clear amidst this clamor should cling to three facts:
1. Threats against the Court, to clip its wings and curb its power, are not new. They have been heard at various times for well over a century, and the Court's influence has not been curtailed. This fact does not prove that abridgement will never occur in the future, but it is more significant than many of the critics, who have apparently just discovered the Supreme Court for the first time in their lives, seem to realize.
The point is that those who denounce the Court at one period are likely to defend it later on when issues and political influences change. The demand for a reduction in the Court's authority has not come, over long period of time, from the same group. Everything depends upon whose ox is gored, which fact is good presumptive evidence that the Court has, on the whole, proved an essential stabilizing influence in American life and institutions.
2. It is false to say that the country is under the absolute rule of "nine old men" or that they have complete veto power over legislation. Even a child in grammar school must know that the people created the Constitution as their supreme law and made the acts of Congress inferior thereto. The people can change their own supreme law, and have done so a score of times.
The Supreme Court declared an income tax unconstitutional, but the people wanted an income tax and amended the Constitution, with the result that we have had an income tax ever since.
The Supreme Court declared Prohibition to be Constitutional, but the people decided they wanted it repealed, and there has been no Prohibition since. Only the utter ignoramus or the demagogue or the man whose temporary pet ox has been gored says that the Supreme Court has absolute rule over the country.
3. The most important practical fact to bear in mind is that those who try to get around the Constitution, instead of proposing a direct and specific amendment, must either be very muddy in their thinking or else afraid to go before the people with their proposal. If the Constitution is out of date, why abuse the Court or suggest a curtailment of its powers? Why not propose at once a specific amendment to accomplish the particular legislative ends desired?
If modern conditions really demand greater Federal power, they demand it in a permanent form which only a Constitutional amendment can give, and not merely in the temporary acts of one Congress, which are never binding upon another Congress. If this is so, then it is plain that the real issue is not whether the Court has too much power, but whether Congress and the Executive should have more power than the people have yet given to them.
But apparently those who denounce the Court are afraid to put this real issue before the people. Either they do not know exactly what they want or else they want new powers so great that they do not dare ask the people for them. (pg. 26)
Comments: Lorimer and the other writers for The Saturday Evening Post didn't grasp the real issue when it came to the Social Security Act. It was power over the labor of all working people. The people were sold a service without being told that the price would be servitude. Would FDR or any of the rest of the New Dealers have said to the people: "We can help you, but you must consent to let us to reduce you to a condition of servitude to the Government in order to do it?" If servitude is going to be imposed by the force of law, then the due process of the 13th amendment to the Constitution gives us the rule of law on this process. The 13th amendment states:
1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction
2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
In other words, you can't be despoiled of the fruits of your labor unless it is for punishment for crime after conviction. No master may tell you what your allowance from labor shall be unless this due process is satisfied. That's the way it's supposed to be, but, obviously, that's not the way it is. The best statement I have found in studying the Supreme Court Reporters that defines what determines the status of slavery comes from the Dred Scott case of 1857, and was part of Justice Curtis' dissenting opinion. After all, slavery was an institution back then. Surely all nine justices knew what slavery was all about, since it was deeply rooted in the laws of the period in which they lived.
"The status of slavery is not necessarily always attended with the same powers on the part of the master. The master is subject to the supreme power of the State, whose will controls his action towards his slave, and this control must be defined and regulated by the municipal law. In one State, as at one period of the Roman law, it may put the life of the slave into the hand of the master; others, as those of the United States, which tolerate slavery, may treat the slave as a person, when the master takes his life; while in others, the law may recognize a right of the slave to be protected from cruel treatment. In other words, the status of slavery embraces every condition, from that in which the slave is known to the law simply as a chattel, with no civil rights, to that in which he is recognized as a person for all purposes, save the compulsory power of directing and receiving the fruits of his labor. Which of these conditions shall attend the status of slavery, must depend on the municipal law which creates and upholds it."
So, it is "the compulsory power of directing and receiving the fruits of his [the slaves's] labor" that determines the status of slavery. Look at your paycheck and think about this. On December 27, 1997, after several months of work, I filed a lawsuit against the Secretary of the United States Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service Commissioner at the Federal Courthouse in Denver, Colorado. I was challenging the income tax laws on slavery grounds by suing the masters. After learning that the Constitution still guaranteed the right to free labor, I decided to exercise the right and waited for the IRS to act against me. They did with a process called "Backup Withholding." This instructs the person you are contracting your labor with to start withholding 31% of your pay and not to contact the IRS about it. In other words, just do it. So I decided to sue them with my new-found knowledge of the law and my ability to compose my own documents and file them without a lawyer. On March 6, 1998, Arthur P. Yoon, Trial Attorney, Tax Division of the U.S. Dept. Of Justice said the following on page 7 of the United States Motion To Dismiss:
"Consequently, plaintiff's first request that the Court permanently enjoin defendants from enforcing their tax codes upon plaintiff's labor' seeks to frustrate those [tax collecting] objectives' and should be denied."
Abraham Lincoln pointed out the importance of the Dred Scott case back in his day. In a speech at Chicago on July 10, 1858, he said:
"What are the uses of decisions of courts? They have two uses. As rules of property they have two uses. First - they decide upon the question before the court. They decide in this case that Dred Scott is a slave. Nobody resists that. Not only that, but they say to everybody else that persons standing just as Dred Scott stands are as he is."
What this means is that the way the Government looked at my labor would reflect the way it viewed everybody else's labor. This exposes the power that the New Dealers wanted that they dared not ask the people for with a constitutional amendment, for such an amendment would either repeal or diminish the force of the 13th amendment. If I had gotten a hearing in my case, then I would have seen how the Federal District Court would have ruled against my labor, and this would set a legal precedent as to how the courts were to look upon everybody's labor. In short, the Government believes that our labor is theirs to tax to whatever levels they desire. I suppose that as long as the allowance most people get after taxes lets them have a high enough standard of living, most people aren't going to worry about it and accept the system. But when the allowance becomes less and less, then how will the people feel? I guess we'll just have to wait and see.