The growing consensus about National Public Radio (NPR) is that it ought to lose its federal funding for precipitously firing Juan Williams for making a controversial statement: a clear violation of the First Amendment.
Others say federal money shouldn’t go to overtly political groups. NPR is a liberal bastion with a clear agenda — not just anyone receives grants from George Soros to the tune of $1.8 million — but is this bias combined with one major First Amendment violation enough to pull the plug?
Hopefully, but the good news is that the Constitution has more to say about this issue, or rather, it has nothing to say on this issue because Congress was never granted the power to fund a radio station.
Much has been said lately about the Commerce Clause in regards to Obamacare. What about the Commerce Clause in relation to NPR?
Undoubtably, if NPR’s funding is constitutionally justified, it’s done using the Commerce Clause with an assist from the “Elastic” Clause. Everything’s done that way.
The founders might as well have taken Article 1, Section 8 and said: “Congress can do whatever.”
But they didn’t.
The Commerce Clause states that Congress has the power “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States,” not to get involved in private business.
This power had a specific purpose laid out by James Madison in Federalist No.42: “A very material object of this power was the relief of the States which import and export through other States, from the improper contributions levied on them by the latter.”
In layman’s terms, this means the federal government can regulate tariffs and other regulations individual states place on each other.
So, then, radio and communication must be at the end of Section 8 in the “Elastic” Clause. It says Congress can “make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers.”
If foregoing means previous — and for all you Harvard linguists, it does — then Congress can make the laws it needs to execute the previously stated powers.
A liberal radio station is clearly needed in order to stop states from erecting tariffs.
Only lawyers could follow that logic. The rest of us are stuck here wondering why the federal government has its hand stuck in every pot. Where are the amendments granting these powers?
It’s the lawyers. Well, to be specific it’s the judges and decades of case law granting powers grounded in “emanations” and “penumbras.”
The only way we can get back to following the Constitution is to fight step-by-step to elect leaders who will gradually remove the government’s hand from every facet of our life. A great start would be for the government to stop funding NPR.
Ron Meyer hosts We the People Internet Radio Show and writes a weekly column for Human Events. He is a student at Principia College and a former National Journalism Center intern who has also written political opinion for AOL News and the Santa Barbara News-Press.