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United States v. Butler

Citation. 458 Fed. Appx. 166 (3d Cir. 2012) [2012 BL 12969]
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Brief Fact Summary.

Butler, the Respondent (Respondent), seeks judgment that the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933 (the Act) is unconstitutional in its scope.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Congress may tax and apportion for the general welfare, but Congress may not use taxation as a means to exercise powers retained by the States.


The Act authorized the setting of limits on the production of certain crops and the imposition of taxes on crops produced in excess of these limits. Respondent alleges that this tax acts as a regulation of crop production, which is a local issue.


May Congress tax crop production in excess of preset limits?


No. Appeals court ruling reversed and remanded.
The taxing and spending power is broad – that is, not limited to the enumerated list of issues in Article I, Section: 8 of the United States Constitution (Constitution).
However, the tax in this case was levied to discourage production of crops beyond the limits set by the Act. This is beyond the powers delegated to the Federal Government. Specifically, the regulation of agriculture is, absent a nexus with interstate commerce, delegated to the states.


Justice Harlan Stone (J. Stone) argues that the Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) has overstepped judicial restraint in declaring the Act unconstitutional.


United States v. Butler’s holding that the taxing and spending power is broad is still good law, however the Supreme Court’s view of the Tenth Amendment’s intersection with the taxing and spending power has subsequently changed. In particular, Butler views the Tenth Amendment as a mere tautology, a view which has changed in subsequent cases.

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