Sometimes the more you watch politicians, the more you reaize there may be little hope left for an intelligent debate on anything from health care to vegetables, especially in Washington DC. Fortunately there's food. In surely what is a growing sign of the power of the sustainable food movement, during Elana Kagan's Supreme Court nomiation hearing this yesterday, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) asked a very important question for all of us.
"Do we (Congress) have the power to tell people what to eat everyday?" Coburn quized Kagan.
It's ironic that a U.S. Senator could ask such a question, because the obvious answer is: Yes. Congress and legislators in all 50 states have the power to tell people what to eat. And they do it every day. Or in the case of the Farm Bill, every five years or so. Fortunately, Senator Coburn, a radical southern Republican, does not happen to be on the Senate Agriculture Committee or he would know the answer to his own vapid question, which started with the long windup below:
"if I wanted to sponsor a bill, and it said: Americans, you have to eat three vegetables and three fruits, everyday, and I got it through Congress and it's now the law of the land. Gotta do it! Does that violate the Commerce clause?" Coburn asked.
"It sounds like a dumb law," said Kagan, trying to look serious, but drawing laughter from the crowd.
Coburn then hemmed and hawwed that he knew of a similar law that he thought was "dumb" as well, before Kagan finished.
"But I think the question of whether it's a dumb law is different from the question of whether it's constitutional. And I think courts would be wrong to strike down laws just because they think are senseless, just because they're senseless."
Coburn pressed on: "Well, I guess what I'm asking you is: Do we have the power to tell people what to eat everyday?"
Frankly, I haven't waited to hear an answer during the nomination process so much since watching then Supreme Court nominee, and former Monsanto attorney, Clarence Thomas try to explain the pubic hair on his Diet Coke, but the exchange was cut short on the Youtube clip.
Does Congress Have the Power?
While Coburn's question was obviously a stab at the recently passed health care bill, which Republicans are desperate to prove is unconstitutional using the the commerce clause, it's also revealing in a number of ways. First, Coburn, who is a medical doctor by profession, for some reason thinks that "mandating" the eating of 3 fruits and vegetables a day is some outrageous notion, even as Kagan, primping for her historical files, calls it "dumb".
Yes, mandating people eat healthy food might be a "dumb" idea for Republican legislators and future Supreme Court judges, but the U.S. government has recommended that intake since the 1930s, well before the Dietary Guidelines for Americans began in the 1980s. According to the U.S. Health and Human Services website, HHS and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have been engaged in this subversive plot since the Reagan era. And even if it has only been a suggestion, suggestions do count.
In an age of a childhood obesity epidemic, where 1 in 3 children are overweight, obesese or suffering from type II diabetes, the Coburn/Kagan exchage is tragic, clearly illustrating how common sense does not often get written into law or decided by courts.
but it does little to explain Coburn's strange obessions with fruits and vegetables or Congress taking over our dinner tables.
If Coburn thinks it's a stupid notion for Congress to mandate 3 servings of fruits and vegetables for Americans, what about forcing Americans to consume obscene amounts of high fructose corn syrup, that artificial sweetner made ubiquitious by poorly designed government subsidies? Or what about school lunch programs that regularly allow children to consume milk with
If Congress can't make laws telling Americans what to eat, then what about forcing Americans to unknowingly consume artificial hormones? What about foods made with genetically modified organism? Should Americans be forced to eat foods containing ingredients engineered in a lab, but forced to shun nature's own bounty due to the "commerce clause"? What about labeling? Do Americans have a right to know what's in their food?
What about forcing A
The brunt of Coburn's simple question came after an rambling attempt the trap Elana Kagan to say something stupid about vegetables and the Commerce Clause (Article I, Section 8, Clause 3) of the U.S. Consitution, which, over the years has evolved to cover three main areas of commerce, foreign, interstate and Indian (Native American). At a practical level, the Commerce clause is considered to have a wide intrepretation and been the center of frequent legal battles for reform.
From the New Deal, when many of Roosevelt's progressive policiies, such as
For those who think that the sustainable food movement has stalled, think again. We just made primetime confirmation hearing coverage during Obama's second Supreme Court nominee! Sure,
Whether Congress or not had the power to tell people what to eat everyday? That's an interesting question,
It's ironic that a U.S. Senator would ask such a question, because the obvious answer is yes. Congress and legislators in all 50 states do have the power to tell people what to eat. And they do it every day. Or in the case of the Farm Bill, every five years or so. Fortunately, Senator Coburn, a radical southern Republican, does not happen to be on the Senate Agriculture Committee or he would know the answer to his own question.
"if I wanted to sponsor a bill, and it said: Americans, you have to eat three vegetables and three fruits, everyday, and I got it through Congress and it's now the law of the land. Gotta do it! Does that violate the Commerce clause?"
Trying to look serious, Kagan said "It sounds like a dumb law."
But Coburn's question was more neatly taylored to the "Commerce Clause" of the U.S. Constitution, Article
whether Congress had the right to make a law that would
Besides being a U.S. Senator from Oklahoma, Coburn is also a medical doctor and a Baptist deacon. Deeply informed by his medical back ground and deep religious faith, Coburn is adamently pro-gun, believes in the death penalty and is against gay marriage. Essentially, he's a part of the radical right's "Shoot 'em, fry 'em and send 'em to hell" wing of Neandrathal Republicans currently wandering the halls of Congress.
In must only be a sign of the radical right's concern over the plight of Americans being forced to eat things they should have every right to reject,
Does the government have the right to force Americans to eat food made from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) without informing them? Or at least giving them the option
Thaks for the wiggle room, Senator Coburn
Senator Coburn, man
It's time to water the tree of liberty
I'm troubled anytime when we stop having confidence in our government, but we've earned it. You know, this debate isn't about health care. Health care is the symptom. The debate is an uncontrolled federal government...
The tone is based on the fear of loss of control.
Senator Coburn - chief of staff -