Justice Breyer tried to pull a fast one, and gets crushed:
JUSTICE BREYER: I’m focusing just on the Commerce Clause; not on the Due Process Clause, the Commerce Clause. And I look back into history, and I think if we look back into history, we see sometimes Congress can create commerce out of nothing. That’s the national bank, which was created out of nothing to create other commerce out of nothing….
So what is argued here is there is a large group of — what about a person that we discover that there are — a disease is sweeping the United States, and 40 million people are susceptible, of whom 10 million will die; can’t the Federal Government say all 40 million get inoculation?
Me: Perhaps yes, but they couldn’t both force them to get inoculated, and force them to pay for it. But Paul Clement goes in for the kill
MR. CLEMENT: Well, Justice Breyer, let me start at the beginning of your question with McCulloch. McCulloch was not a commerce power case.
JUSTICE BREYER: It was both?
MR. CLEMENT: No, the bank was not justified and the corporation was not justified as an exercise of commerce power. So that is not a case that says that it’s okay to conjure up the bank as an exercise of the commerce power.
And what, of course, the Court didn’t say, and I think the Court would have had a very different reaction to, is, you know, we are not just going to have the bank, because that wouldn’t be necessary and proper, we are going to force the citizenry to put all of their money in the bank, because, if we do that, then we know the Bank of the United States will be secure. I think the framers would have identified the difference between those two scenarios, and I don’t think that the great Chief Justice would have said that forcing people to put their deposits in the Bank of the United States was necessary and proper.
Now, if you look through all the cases you mentioned, I do not think you will find a case like this. And I think it’s telling that you won’t. I mean, the regulation of the wheat market in Wickard against Filburn, all this effort to address the supply side and what producers could do, what Congress was trying to do was support the price of wheat. It would have been much more efficient to just make everybody in America buy 10 loaves of bread. That would have had a much more direct effect on the price of wheat in the prevailing market. But we didn’t do that. We didn’t say when we had problems in the automobile industry that we are not just going to give you incentives, not just cash for clunkers, we are going to actually have everybody over 100,000 dollars has to buy a new car -
MR. CLEMENT: Well, with respect, Mr. Chief Justice, I suppose the first thing you have to say is what market are we talking about? Because the government — this statute undeniably operates in the health insurance market. And the government can’t say that everybody is in that market. The whole problem is that everybody is not in that market, and they want to make everybody get into that market.
MR. CLEMENT: Well, Justice Kagan, I’m not sure that’s right. I think what health insurance does and what all insurance does is it allows you to diversify risk. And so it’s not just a matter of I’m paying now instead of paying later. That’s credit. Insurance is different than credit. Insurance guarantees you an upfront, locked-in payment, and you won’t have to pay any more than that even if you incur much great expenses.