It has become commonplace for the American public to hear from our President that he “will not wait for Congress to act.” The executive branch imposes its will – to the delight of those in agreement with his policies – in direct opposition to the very structure of our government. The separation of powers, the checks and balances that we learned about in school are essentially finished. In their place is a largely unaccountable, extraordinarily dysfunctional bureaucracy whimsically unleashing torrents of government regulatory schemes through unfunded mandates that literally crush the expansion of innovation, expression and the ability for the middle class to simply exist, let alone start a new business. Compliance is replacing creation and innovation.
Over the past seven years, the expansion of the Administrative State has reached astonishing levels. There are now 170,000 pages of federal regulations. There are over 450 federal departments, agencies, and sub-agencies that deal with an absurd array of issues. The Administrative State has limitless jurisdiction – from the most critical to the most trivial matters of both private and public life.
On January 1, 2014 the production of new incandescent light bulbs was banned. The ban itself was backed by General Electric, Sylvania, and Philips in an effort to use government regulation as a way to permanently upsell their longer-lasting but dramatically more expensive halogen, compact fluorescent, and LED lighting. In such a massive tangle of red tape regulations like this come trickling down, reducing inexpensive light bulbs to relics of a once free market under the banner of having the very best intentions for your own good.
Consider the Big Gulp Ban. Michael Bloomberg, Elizabeth Warren, Bill de Blasio and most recently Matthew Titone have all introduced bills that would ban the sale of “sugary sodas 16 ounces or larger” for kids under the age of 18. Well that would certainly make one’s eighteenth birthday quite a day: you’d be able to enlist in the United States Army and then celebrate by purchasing your very first large fountain drink. Boy, oh boy. New York Assembly member Matthew Titone, while comparing sugar to heroin, has also proposed a companion measure requiring warning labels on soft drinks. “The idea is to create some sorts of safeguards. We need to start somewhere.”
This is a start? Where does it end? Titone continues,
“Think of it like G-rated and R-rated movies. Your kids can have it, but we’re saying it might not be appropriate. If you want your child to have that obscene amount of soft drink, then you can buy it for your child. Sugary drink consumption is one of the driving factors of the obesity epidemic.”
And there it is – in an effort to address the “obesity epidemic”, Mr. Titone proposes regulations that impact everyone. It’s the blueprint for Democratic leadership: some are guilty but all are responsible. What about the merits of personal responsibility and choice? We all know that consuming a huge amount of soda isn’t good for you but in drawing attention to obesity as an epidemic people are made to feel as though something is being done to them rather than they are doing something to themselves. The Democrat strategy is to splinter the country into as many “special interest” groups as possible and then win them over with grandiose promises of government aid because somehow they have been wronged by someone along the way. If you have an insatiable thirst for Mountain Dew, then don’t worry – the government has got your back and they will be sure to crack down on those evil companies that have so shamelessly hurt you.
The concept of protecting people from making bad decisions is paramount in the Democratic party’s vision of Utopian Statism. This is diametrically opposed to Conservatism and our founding documents. I believe that we have the right to be left alone; that as a free individual there is no need for my government to tell a sixteen-year-old who pulls up to a 7-11 after getting his driver’s license must not be allowed to purchase the biggest damned soft drink he wants because there is an obesity epidemic.
This is big government. Not only does it lead to magnificently irritating legislation but it also lends itself to truly grotesque abuses of power. The government is so large that even the low-level bureaucrats are able to freely pursue their own political and personal agendas while operating under the radar yet completely within the nebulous and dangerously vague regulations. Take, for example, the multitude of “czars” employed by the White House. Czars are high level “advisers” appointed by the President to run or organize government departments. While that might sound fine and dandy, Article II section 2 of the Constitution, states that the President “shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the Supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law.”
So, unlike the heads of other executive departments, most of Obama’s “czars” have not been confirmed by the U.S. Senate or have had their positions authorized by Congress. Some of these appointees might not have even been subjected to a basic FBI background check. Some of the “czars” work for the president in the White House, which would mean that they could claim “executive privilege” if ever subpoenaed to testify before Congress. Obama’s got a diversity czar, behavioral czar, car czar, green jobs czar, disinformation czar, income redistribution czar, radio-internet fairness czar, and thirty others.
At least 18 of these ‘czars’ have titles and duties that overlap with one another. Energy and Environment Czar Carol Browner is a fine example of a “policy adviser” with a suspiciously broad range of responsibilities. Browner participated in back room negotiations regarding emission standards with auto industry executives and in these meetings she instructed the industry executives to “put nothing in writing, ever.”
The regulation of emissions from automobiles falls under the domain of the EPA and the Department of Transportation. One might be compelled to ask why the Secretary of the EPA or the DOT weren’t allowed to conduct the negotiations over prospective auto emission standards. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that both of these Secretaries receive their authority through the Senate and can be compelled to testify before Congress.
Though the use of czars is not new, they have mostly been employed by Progressives. Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson were the first U.S. Presidents to employ “czars”. Wilson was also the first President to openly criticize the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence by rejecting the checks and balances provided by the separation of powers – the bedrock of our government. Eerie parallels exist between Obama and Wilson. In Wilson’s eyes a government by and for the people was the greatest obstacle to “efficient governing.” He saw the masses as “foolish, ignorant, and stubborn” and once wrote, “Government does now whatever experience permits…”
In 2013 Obama mentioned that “If people can’t trust” big government, “we’re going to have some big problems here.”
And now the regulations of the administrative state have far reaching consequences for all of us. It’s not just cronyism and irritating, “common sense” legislation. Julie Crowe wanted to start a vehicle-for-hire service that would offer a safer, female-friendly alternative to the “party buses” that take Illinois State University students back and forth to downtown bars in Bloomington, Illinois. Unfortunately, in Bloomington as in Chicago, the laws are designed to protect the bottom lines of established businesses, not the rights of entrepreneurs. A city ordinance requires Crowe to have a “certificate of convenience” from the city to operate, and it entitles the owners of existing taxi and vehicle-for-hire services to weigh in on whether she should get it. The city can then approve or deny the certificate based on whether the city manager finds it “desirable.” Of course, Crowe’s would-be competitors rejected it, claiming there was no “need” for her business.
What do “desirable” and “need” mean? The city’s ordinance doesn’t say – so they mean whatever the city manager wants them to mean. On nothing more than a single bureaucrat’s whim, an entrepreneur can lose her fundamental civil right to pursue her dreams and earn an honest living and the public can lose out on the innovation that only a truly free market can provide.
Government regulation has basically evolved into a scheme of passing on regulatory requirements to the states without offering any funding mechanism whatsoever. Regulations are not free. They are essentially hidden taxes on local economies and they often have crushing effects. Wonder why those potholes go unfilled? Instead of directing energy on infrastructure, the Obama administration is proposing a rule titled “Definition of ‘Waters of the United States’ Under the Clean Water Act,” which would strike “navigable” from American water law and redefine any piece of land that is wet at least part of the year, no matter how remote or isolated it may be from truly navigable waters.
The proposed rule would provide EPA, the Corps of Engineers as well as litigious environmental groups with the power to dictate the land-use decisions of homeowners, small businesses and local communities throughout the United States. There would be virtually no limit to the federal government’s authority over private property.
The American Farm Bureau started the “Ditch the Rule” movement to show what the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers would regulate if the Waters of the United States rule were to take effect: “wetlands” that are nothing more than low spots on a farm field, the decorative pond of a country home or even a vacant lot that the agency designates as possessing the requisite wetness. If the landowner fills in low spots or the homeowner builds a child’s playhouse by the pond, or a business constructs a new office on the vacant lot or anyone touches any bureaucrat-designated “wetland” in any way, the EPA or Corps may order the owners to cease activity, restore original conditions and abandon any use of the property. If the owners do not comply, they could be fined up to $75,000 per day – $37,500 for violating the rule and another $37,500 for violating the agency’s order.
Since taking office, Barack Obama has issued over 21,000 individual regulations. Remember that the United States has accrued 170,000 over time. Regulations are the reason that it costs Medicaid $43,000 to keep a single senior citizen in a nursing home for a year, but Catholic Charities can provide daycare services for seniors at $6,000 per year, home-delivered meals at $1,100, and housekeeping and domestic services at $4,000 per year. Any one, or all, of these services could keep an elderly person in their home, instead of being sent to a nursing home paid for by Medicaid.
Under Barack Obama and the expansion of the Administrative State the middle class has suffered most of all. Middle class pay has hit a fifty-year low. Sixty-five percent of all children living in United States are living in a home that receives some sort of government aid. The total number of businesses closing has surpassed the number of businesses opening.
As we begin an election year, Democrat Senator of New York Chuck Schumer – who you may recall from my last article as the man responsible for furthering the fiction of a Republican War on Women – has advised Democrats to continue embracing the Administrative State if they want to get elected in 2016. “Ultimately, the public knows in its gut that a strong and active government is the only way to reverse the middle class decline and help revive the American dream.”
The great failing of the Democrat Party is in the belief that the imperfect nature of man can somehow be solved through legislation. It’s a stark contrast from the words of Ronald Reagan: “As government expands, liberty contracts.”