How Bachmann reads the Constitution

The Wall Street Journal ran an article yesterday about the Department of Agriculture, potatoes, and federally-funded school-lunch programs. This wouldn’t have been especially interesting, except the piece led Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) to complain about government via Twitter. (via Matt Yglesias)

Where in the Constitution does it say the fed. government should regulate potatoes in school lunches? It doesn’t.

Well, sure, that’s true. The U.S. Constitution is silent when it comes to schools, lunches, and vegetables, so in a literal sense, Bachmann’s reading-comprehension skills have not failed her, at least in this case.

But as Kevin Drum responded, “Nor does it say that highways should be built out of concrete instead of asphalt, or that naval vessels should be powered by nuclear reactors instead of sails.”

I imagine Bachmann’s child-like appreciation for constitutional literalism gets plenty of nodding heads with the Tea Party crowd, but the superficiality of this line of thought is a reminder of why the far right is not to be taken seriously on these issues.

Bachmann, for example, loves federal highway spending, which is heavily regulated. The Constitution makes no mention of highways or automobiles, so by her reasoning, the interstate highway system is unconstitutional and undeserving of her support.

Bachmann also supports Medicare, which is also heavily regulated. The Constitution makes no references to health care or the elderly, so she must see the program as an outrageous abuse of governmental power, too.

The Constitution is silent on all kinds of modern societal advances. Maybe policymakers can be grown-ups about this?

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.