Free Markets, Free People

Politics

Is prosperity about to become a thing of the past?

You tell me.  Robert Samuelson:

The presumption of strong economic growth supported the spirit and organizational structures of postwar America.

Everyday life was transformed. Credit cards, home equity loans, 30-year mortgages, student loans and long-term auto loans (more than 2 years) became common. In 1955, household debt was 49 percent of Americans’ disposable income; by 2007, it was 137 percent. Government moved from the military-industrial complex to the welfare state. In 1955, defense spending was 62 percent of federal outlays, and spending on “human resources” (the welfare state) was 22 percent. By 2012, the figures were reversed; welfare was 66 percent, defense 19 percent. Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, Pell grants and Social Security’s disability program are all postwar creations.

Slow economic growth now imperils this postwar order. Credit standards have tightened, and more Americans are leery of borrowing. Government spending — boosted by an aging population eligible for Social Security and Medicare — has outrun our willingness to be taxed. The mismatch is the basic cause of “structural” budget deficits and, by extension, today’s strife over the debt ceiling and the government “shutdown.”

You know, we keep saying this is “unsustainable”, yet we keep refusing to face the problem head on and do anything about it.

This little bit of political theater isn’t going to change that and we all know it.  The last paragraph identifies the problem.  What apparently isn’t understood, though, is government is not the solution.  And big government simply makes the problem worse because it sucks down more and more of the GDP.

The solution is both painful and difficult.  And, of course, no one wants to face that fact, certainly not any politician.

So the can gets kicked down the road – as you know it will before any of this ever begins.  None of the politicians want to be “the ones” in power when all of this collapses.

For whatever reason, after WWII, we decided to change the purpose of government from “night watchman” to “Santa Claus”.  Maybe it was the horror of war.  Maybe it was the huge surge in post-war prosperity, but like the story of the goose that laid the golden eggs, we’re about to kill the goose.

So what does that mean?

As economist Stephen D. King writes in his book “When the Money Runs Out: The End of Western Affluence”:

“Our societies are not geared for a world of very low growth. Our attachment to the Enlightenment idea of ongoing progress — a reflection of persistent postwar economic success — has left us with little knowledge or understanding of worlds in which rising prosperity is no longer guaranteed.”

And that fact alone makes any recovery from this mess even less likely.  We’ve been able to stumble along and put off the inevitable because we have managed to have “persistent postwar economic success”.  But if you look at economic projections for the future, they don’t show the historical growth that America has enjoyed since the ’50s.  They show European type “growth”.  They show slow growth as the “new normal”.   Why?

Lindsey attributes U.S. economic growth to four factors: (a) greater labor-force participation, mainly by women; (b) better-educated workers, as reflected in increased high-school and college graduation rates; (c) more invested capital per worker (that’s machines and computers); and (d) technological and organizational innovation. The trouble, he writes, is that “all growth components have fallen off simultaneously.”

As it seems now, Greece is our future.  Nothing, politically, is going to be done about it, despite the current political theater.  Neither the politicians nor the citizens want to face reality.  And as it is shaping up, it isn’t a matter of “if”, but “when” it all folds in on itself like a wet cardboard box.

~McQ

Well, that didn’t take long

Last night, on the podcast, I predicted the Republicans would fold on Obamacare, end the shutdown, and avoid a technical default on the debt. Less that 24 hours later, it appears that the Republicans have decided to celebrate the Columbus Day holiday by folding. The word is—as of 1:30pm Pacific Time—that the government will be funded through 15 Jan 2014, and the debt ceiling to around 15 Feb 2014. All is proceeding as I have foreseen.

My position, as a strategic matter, was that the Republicans have simply been galactically stupid. The reality is that Obamacare, with the current Senate and President, will not be repealed. If the republicans, therefore, were not prepared to shut the government down for as long as the sun burns hot in space, they shouldn’t have shut it down at all.  Moreover, even if we assume, arguendo, that the Republicans were prepared to shut down the government forever, they shouldn’t have done it this month.

Alternatively, they could’ve sent up a temporary debt limit increase first, and ensured that was in place, and then shut the government down. At least that way, they could have a long-term shutdown without the specter of default hanging over it.

Then, they should have delayed shutting down the government until after the Obamacare rollout, which everyone with an ounce of sense knew was going to be a failure. Assuming they could have gotten the senate to sign on to a clean budget deal that would’ve funded the government for some period of time, that would’ve made the Obamacare rollout failure the top story last week. Instead it got overshadowed by the budget fight and the shutdown. The Republicans effectively did the Obama administration a favor. Otherwise, they could’ve waited until the failure of the Obamacare rollout was clear, then could’ve offered to delay the personal mandate for a year, to match the business mandate delay, as a gesture of good will to give the Administration some time to "get the system fixed."

Sure, the Republicans—or at least a plurality of them—were elected to repeal Obamacare. Sadly, the electorate as a whole didn’t provide them with the political power to make that happen. Those Republicans, therefore, cannot simply wave a handful of magical fairy dust and make Obamacare disappear. Absent a new resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, or the program’s collapse under its own weight, Obamacare will be the law until 2017. That’s just an undeniable fact.

The shutdown was a big game of chicken. The problem is that I firmly believe that President Obama is fully willing to have the US technically default on its debt rather than agree to let Obamacare loose. He isn’t going to veer away at the last minute. He’ll go all the way to default, then blame Republicans for it, and his water carriers in the media will be glad to repeat that message. As Michael said last night on the podcast, at the end of the day, this isn’t about the debt, or default, or Obamacare. It’s about taking the chance to destroy the Republican Party’s opposition.

And again, I go back to my oft-stated position that I want Obamacare implemented. The electorate effectively voted for it, they rejected the chance to repeal it, so they should get it. good and hard.

All the government shutdown did—a shutdown that the republicans didn’t have any plan to implement, by the way—is expose the Republicans as ineffective and, ultimately, feckless. So, this appears to be ending exactly as I knew it would, with the Republicans having accomplished nothing but cause an unnecessary uproar for a couple of weeks, and obscure the Obamacare rollout’s failure.

It doesn’t do much real-world good to temporarily stand for your principles, without any thought-out plan or strategy, knowing you will eventually cave, with the inevitable result of making it measurably more difficult to stand for your principles in the future.

In basic weapons training, one of the first things you learn is that you never pull a gun on someone unless you’re fully ready to put two rounds into the body and one to the head. In this case, the Republicans pulled the gun, brandished it wildly for dramatic effect, and now appear to be ready to calmly snap it back into the holster.

Fail.


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What is the budget endgame? And why do I even care?

So, first off, sorry about no podcast tonight. Bruce is away for a few days, and I was caught up in something.

Anyway, how about that government shutdown, huh?

Obamacare is the central issue, of course. Republicans don’t want it, and Democrats don’t want to abandon it. So, the whole government shutdown is really about whether or not Obamacare gets repealed or gutted. Both sides have staked out their claim, and the only climbdown I can see for either side would entail a massive loss of face. I don’t see how any bill that can pass the House can pass the Senate. And even bills with almost unanimous House support, such as a couple of the peicemeal funding deals the House passed this weekend, are DOA in the Senate.

So far, it’s clear that the Senate Democrats won’t take up any piecemeal funding at all, since that is tantamount to surrender. After all, if they go down that path, there is one funding bill the Senate will never get from the House, which is an Obamacare funding bill.

What is the endgame, then? When does some sort of deal emerge? I dunno.

I suspect the Republicans will cave, because Obama will simply veto any bill they passed that defunds the ACA. I just don’t see how Republicans can win this, unless there is some surge of public disapproval against the Democrats that threatens them wholesale in 2014. Unless the Republicans were willing to shutdown the government for…well…ever over Obamacare, then they shouldn’t have shut it down at all. I don’t think Republicans are willing to do that, so I think they’ll eventually fold without accomplishing anything

My view, of course, is that a continuing government shutdown over Obamacare is pointless. I want the ACA fully implemented. I think it will be a staggeringly massive failure, and I want that that failure to occur.  The voters had their chance to elect a Congress and a president that would overturn it.  They chose to do otherwise. So…screw ‘em.  They voted for it. They should get it. Good and hard.

Over and above all that, I go back, once again, to wondering how long all of this can go on. The Right and Left in the country have fundamentally different ideas about the purpose and role of government. Those ideas are completely incompatible. So, why would either side continue to consent to rule by the other?

I just don’t know. I don’t know about any of it. That’s why I don’t write about politics much anymore. I’ve seen the idea of individual liberty be consumed by this ever-encroaching collectivism for my entire life. Nothing much has stopped it. I’m not sure that there’s much of anything that can stop it, other than to let it run its course, and for the American people, hopefully, to realize that the promises of collectivism are false, and that to the extent it brings economic equality, it is an equality of poverty—except for government officials and their cronies, of course. They’ll always have their dachas outside Moscow. Or farms in the Virginia countryside, as the case may be.

And if the American people don’t ever realize that…well…then they don’t, and they deserve whatever they get. I’m pretty sure that what I write about it won’t effect it much either way. And, frankly, the way things have gone for my lifetime, the long slow surrender to collectivism is almost at the point of no return. I expect I’ll do what I can to enjoy the dying fruits of the country our forefathers bequeathed to us for as long as I can, and hope I die before the Levellers finish looting it, and it’s gone.

So, I’ve been driving a new Chrysler 200 for the past few days. I’ll drive it a few more days. Then I’ll write about it this week. That’ll give me a lot more pleasure than writing about Washington power games and the declining state of our political culture ever will.


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Rule of man, not of law? See ObamaCare (and much else)

Apparently our laws are arbitrary if you’re in a favored group.  All you have to do is appeal to the King for an exemption:

Back in 2009, when Democrats were writing the massive new national health care scheme, Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley offered an amendment. Obamacare created exchanges through which millions of Americans would purchase “affordable” health coverage. Grassley’s amendment simply required lawmakers, staff, and some in the executive branch to get their insurance through the exchanges, too.

To every Republican’s amazement, Democrats accepted the amendment. It’s never been fully clear why; the best theory is they intended to take the provision out in conference committee, but couldn’t do so because they lost their filibuster-proof 60-vote majority. In any event, Obamacare — the law of the land, as supporters like to say — now requires Congress to buy its health care coverage through the exchanges.

That has caused Democratic panic as the formal arrival of Obamacare nears. Right now, all lawmakers and staff are entitled to enjoy generously-subsidized coverage under the Federal Employees Health Benefits plan. Why give up that subsidy and go on the exchanges like any average American?

But that’s the law. It could be amended, but Democrats, who voted unanimously for Obamacare, couldn’t very well expect much help from Republicans, who voted unanimously against it. So over the summer Democrats asked President Obama to simply create an Obamacare exception for Capitol Hill.

And the King, looking down upon his faithful minions waved his hand and came up with a “solution” by executive fiat that uses tax dollars to circumvent the law:

Not long after — presto! — the Office of Personnel Management unveiled a proposed rule to allow members of Congress, their staff, and some executive branch employees to continue receiving their generous federal subsidy even as they purchase coverage on the exchanges. No ordinary American would be allowed such an advantage.

However, a rebellion was cooking:

Vitter watched the maneuvering that led to the OPM decision. He began work on what became the Vitter Amendment, which he likes to call “No Washington Exemption from Obamacare,” that would reverse the OPM ruling. It specifies that members of Congress, staff, the president, vice president and all the administration’s political appointees buy health coverage through Obamacare exchanges. If any of them earn incomes low enough to qualify for regular Obamacare subsidies, they will receive them — just like any other American. But those with higher incomes will have to pay for their coverage on the exchanges — just like everybody else.

Vitter hasn’t exactly thrilled his colleagues. “There has been a lot of pushback behind the scenes, including from many Republicans,” he says. Political types have complained that the requirement will cause “brain drain” on the Hill as staffers escape the burden of paying for their own coverage. “My response is, first of all, it’s the law,” says Vitter. “Look, this is a disruption. It’s exactly what’s happening across America, to people who are going to the exchanges against their will. To me, that’s the point.”

Ron Johnson, the Republican senator from Wisconsin, is one colleague delighted by Vitter’s move. The idea of equal Obamacare treatment for Washington is enormously popular around the country, Johnson points out, which means even lawmakers who don’t like it will be afraid to oppose it.

“I think most members don’t want to vote to reject the OPM ruling,” Johnson says. “But I think most members would vote to do that, if they were forced to, because it is so politically unpopular to have special treatment for members of Congress and their staff.”

Seems it should be unnecessary to again make it clear that Congress should have to obey the law – to the letter – just like everyone else.  That was what the original law said, no?  Yet they managed a workaround that defeated the intent of the law, didn’t they?

So now another amendment is now necessary?

And here I thought that these folks were servants of the people and not a ruling elite (by the way, the big excuse is there’ll be a huge “brain drain” if the law is left in place.  Let me be the first to say, given the shape our country and government are in at the moment, I’d welcome the ‘brain drain’).

Make ‘em obey the law.  Make them navigate the same atrocity they foisted on the public.  No exemptions, no exceptions.  And that goes for every law they pass.

Period.

~McQ

When and how will America change this back to the way it is supposed to be?

A glimmer of realization?

Six in 10 Americans (60%) believe the federal government has too much power, one percentage point above the previous high recorded in September 2010. At least half of Americans since 2005 have said the government has too much power. Thirty-two percent now say the government has the right amount of power. Few say it has too little power.

Is this a partisan view?  Yes and no.

As you’d expect, Republicans and Democrats pretty much switch positions depending on who is in the White House.  But the telling line is the Independent line.  It is higher now than it was in the Bush years.

Of course, the pregnant question is, “so what are you going to do about it?”

The answer, if the recent past is any indication, is “not much”.  Probably change the Senate over to the GOP, and possibly, in the next presidential election, change parties again.

And then what?  Again, look at the trend on the graph above.  We’ve changed parties before and yet we still see the power of government continuing to grow.  Will another party change really make any difference?

One other thing to note in passing, take a look at the Democrat line in the last year.   Democrats who think government has too much power are up 13 points.  If I had to guess that is a direct result of the IRS and NSA scandals, ObamaCare and the EPA and other regulatory agencies over-reach.  Anyone who thinks those scandals, new regulations and abuse of power haven’t been significant is living in a dream world or, alternately Maine, which is about the same thing.

~McQ

John McCain: Isn’t about time for him to retire?

If anyone ever put the “E” in “establishment GOP”, it is John McCain.  “Maverick” my rear end.  He’s the archtypical establishment Republican and as such, he’s a member of a group that is almost as bad as the Democrats.

The House passed a bill to defund that abomnination called “ObamaCare”, a travesty foisted upon the public by the Democrats.  Republicans, McCain included, decried the bill, decried the money it would cost and frankly said they’d stop it if they could.

That was then, this is now.  Apparently you’re not supposed to remember all that rhetoric, and if you do, you weren’t supposed to believe it.

So, speaking of “now”, this his how the old lady of the establishment GOP is addressing an opportunity in the Senate to try to defund ObamaCare:

In the United States Senate, we will not repeal, or defund, Obamacare. We will not. And to think we can is not rational. I will again state unequivocally that this is not something that we can succeed in, and that’s defunding Obamacare, because we don’t have 67 Republican votes in the Senate, which would be required to override a presidential veto.

So they won’t even try – which is essentially what he’s saying.  They won’t bother to make the symbolic attempt and build a ground swell for it’s eventual defunding or, perhaps, enable an GOP candidate to build a campaign on the attempt.  They won’t try to pass it make the President veto it.

Nope.  It’s not ‘rational’.

And you wonder why there’s a Democrat in the White House right now?

All I have to say is this brings in focus how awful a choice the people of the United States had in 2008.

~McQ

Short memory theater

Speaking of “disgust”, these people disgust me – this one in particular:

Striking a tone of disgust, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi ridicules the GOP as obsessed with its loathing of President Obama and hell-bent on hurting him politically, regardless the cost. She assigns little to no blame to the president (even though Democrats privately say that’s laughable) and instead portrays him as saintly, above reproach and the victim of jealousy or something worse.

After 26 years in the House, she says, “I haven’t seen anything like it. I haven’t seen anything like it.”

She must have had an 8 year mental enema then because she did precisely what disgusts her for 8 years to a president of the opposition party.   And, of course, does anyone in the press call her on it.

No.

Then, like many of our political class, she utters nonsense that is factually inaccurate:

Then she added a line that she has used before, that drives Republicans batty: “He has been … open, practically apolitical, certainly nonpartisan, in terms of welcoming every idea and solution. I think that’s one of the reasons the Republicans want to take him down politically, because they know he is a nonpartisan president, and that’s something very hard for them to cope with.”

Does anyone in the press call her on it?

No.

“Ill served” by both the press and our politicians doesn’t even begin to cover it.

~McQ

Politicians: Where do we get these people?

Camille Paglia is someone I disagree with at times but have always found to be, for the most part, refreshingly honest.  I like to read her thoughts on current affairs (don’t really care much about the cultural side of it all) and this week, in an interview in Salon, she answered a couple of questions that I think are worth discussing.

Question one:

Two words: Anthony Weiner. Your thoughts?

Two words: pathetic dork. How sickeningly debased our politics have become that this jabbering cartoon weasel could be taken seriously for a second as a candidate for mayor of New York. But beyond that, I have been amazed by the almost total absence of psychological critique in news analyses of the silly Weiner saga. For heaven’s sake, Weiner is no randy stud with a sophisticated sex life that we need to respect. The compulsion to exhibit and boast about one’s penis is embarrassingly infantile — the obvious residue of some squalid family psychodrama in childhood that is now being replayed in public.

I assumed at first that Huma Abedin stayed married to Weiner out of noble concern for her unborn child, who deserved a father. But her subsequent behavior as Weiner’s defender and enabler has made me lose respect for her. The Weiners should be permanently bundled off to the luxe Elba of Oscar de la Renta’s villa in the Dominican Republic. I’m sure that Hillary (Huma’s capo) can arrange that.

Her first point is the most important – how debased have our politics have become?  Look at the circus we deal with on a seeming daily basis. Look at the people we attract.  And consider the fact that Anthony Weiner actually figured he had a legitimate shot at being elected.

Look at this idiot mayor in San Diego.  He just can’t imagine why he should shuffle off the stage.  There are any number of others that need to take the hint as well.

It’s not just a problem on the left.  It is a problem on both sides of the isle. As we have said many times here, we are extraordinarily ill served by our political class today… at all levels and from both parties.  And it is we who we have to blame for that problem.  The fact that Weiner was indeed taken seriously until his latest nonsense was revealed is the point.  Elliot Spitzer is another example.  The fact that neither demonstrated any character or integrity previously should tell us we don’t need them anywhere near public office.  Yet somehow they get signals that they have a chance at a second try.  What those signals are I haven’t a clue, but whatever they are, we need to quit sending them pronto.

Question two:

Any hopes, fears or predictions for the presidential elections in 2016?

As a registered Democrat, I am praying for a credible presidential candidate to emerge from the younger tier of politicians in their late 40s. A governor with executive experience would be ideal. It’s time to put my baby-boom generation out to pasture! We’ve had our day and managed to muck up a hell of a lot. It remains baffling how anyone would think that Hillary Clinton (born the same year as me) is our party’s best chance. She has more sooty baggage than a 90-car freight train. And what exactly has she ever accomplished — beyond bullishly covering for her philandering husband? She’s certainly busy, busy and ever on the move — with the tunnel-vision workaholism of someone trying to blot out uncomfortable private thoughts.

I for one think it was a very big deal that our ambassador was murdered in Benghazi. In saying “I take responsibility” for it as secretary of state, Hillary should have resigned immediately. The weak response by the Obama administration to that tragedy has given a huge opening to Republicans in the next presidential election. The impression has been amply given that Benghazi was treated as a public relations matter to massage rather than as the major and outrageous attack on the U.S. that it was.

Throughout history, ambassadors have always been symbolic incarnations of the sovereignty of their nations and the dignity of their leaders. It’s even a key motif in “King Lear.” As far as I’m concerned, Hillary disqualified herself for the presidency in that fist-pounding moment at a congressional hearing when she said, “What difference does it make what we knew and when we knew it, Senator?” Democrats have got to shake off the Clinton albatross and find new blood. The escalating instability not just in Egypt but throughout the Mideast is very ominous. There is a clash of cultures brewing in the world that may take a century or more to resolve — and there is no guarantee that the secular West will win.

She nails Hillary and Benghazi on the head.  I couldn’t agree any more with her assessment of that particular situation and the response from Clinton and the administration. 

Note too that Paglia’s candidate isn’t another senator.  She too has had enough of that brand of clueless fools that have no executive experience (although Clinton can claim exec experience with the Dept. of State, as far as I’m concerned she made a dog’s breakfast of her time there).  Hopefully the rest of the country is just as tired of it as Paglia is.

~McQ

Governing By Expert

On last night’s podcast, Dale and I discussed the rise of a soft tyranny and expansion of the regulatory state in this country. Pres. Obama has, on more than one occasion, unilaterally declared the power to pick and choose what laws to enforce, or to simply change the way they are enforced, without any consequences (i.e. checks and/or balances). He’s not the first POTUS to act that way (albeit the most brazen about it), and probably won’t be the last.

The primary reason he, or any other POTUS, is even able to act this way is because of the massive regulatory apparatus at the disposal of the Executive branch. An apparatus created by Congress; one it seems strangely reluctant to rein in. As Kevin Williamson notes, “Barack Obama did not invent managerial liberalism,” and while his agenda is painfully horrendous, it’s “a good deal less ambitious than was Woodrow Wilson’s or Richard Nixon’s.” However, Obama has used the leeway provided by Congresses past and present to further expand the regulatory state. Williamson characterizes this as Obama’s “utterly predictable approach to domestic politics: appoint a panel of credentialed experts.”

His faith in the powers of pedigreed professionals is apparently absolute. Consider his hallmark achievement, the Affordable Care Act, the centerpiece of which is the appointment of a committee, the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), the mission of which is to achieve targeted savings in Medicare without reducing the scope or quality of care. How that is to be achieved was contemplated in detail neither by the lawmakers who wrote the health-care bill nor by the president himself. But they did pay a great deal of attention to the processes touching IPAB: For example, if that committee of experts fails to achieve the demanded savings, then the ball is passed to . . . a new committee of experts, this one under the guidance of the secretary of health and human services. IPAB’s powers are nearly plenipotentiary: Its proposals, like a presidential veto, require a supermajority of Congress to be overridden.

IPAB is the most dramatic example of President Obama’s approach to government by expert decree, but much of the rest of his domestic program, from the Dodd-Frank financial-reform law to his economic agenda, is substantially similar. In total, it amounts to that fundamental transformation of American society that President Obama promised as a candidate: but instead of the new birth of hope and change, it is the transformation of a constitutional republic operating under laws passed by democratically accountable legislators into a servile nation under the management of an unaccountable administrative state. The real import of Barack Obama’s political career will be felt long after he leaves office, in the form of a permanently expanded state that is more assertive of its own interests and more ruthless in punishing its enemies. At times, he has advanced this project abetted by congressional Democrats, as with the health-care law’s investiture of extraordinary powers in the executive bureaucracy, but he also has advanced it without legislative assistance — and, more troubling still, in plain violation of the law. President Obama and his admirers choose to call this “pragmatism,” but what it is is a mild expression of totalitarianism, under which the interests of the country are conflated with those of the president’s administration and his party.

(emphasis added)

I likened the expansion and independence of the regulatory state to 2001: A Space Odyssey or The Terminator in that these things that were created to ostensibly serve in the aid of their users developed a life, mind and interests of their own, and eventually turned on the users. A perfect example would be if the IRS scandal of targeting conservatives turns out to be completely divorced of any political direction, and instead was completely self-initiated from within the department. As James Taranto often points out, that is the far scarier scenario than the one where the White House directed the agency to target its political enemies. Corrupt politicians are bad, but they are expected and can be dealt with in a summary manner. An unelected, unaccountable and extremely powerful organization exercising its own political agenda is orders of magnitude worse.

Williamson continues:

Democracy never lasts long,” [John] Adams famously said. “It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There was never a democracy that did not commit suicide.” For liberal regimes, a very common starting point on the road to serfdom is the over-delegation of legislative powers to the executive. France very nearly ended up in a permanent dictatorship as a result of that error, and was spared that fate mostly by good luck and Charles de Gaulle’s patriotism. Long before she declared her infamous state of emergency, Indira Gandhi had been centralizing power in the prime minister’s office, and India was spared a permanent dictatorship only by her political miscalculation and her dynasty-minded son’s having gotten himself killed in a plane wreck. Salazar in Portugal, Austria under Dollfuss, similar stories. But the United States is not going to fall for a strongman government. Instead of delegating power to a would-be president-for-life, we delegate it to a bureaucracy-without-death. You do not need to install a dictator when you’ve already had a politically supercharged permanent bureaucracy in place for 40 years or more. As is made clear by everything from campaign donations to the IRS jihad, the bureaucracy is the Left, and the Left is the bureaucracy. Elections will be held, politicians will come and go, but if you expand the power of the bureaucracy, you expand the power of the Left, of the managers and minions who share Barack Obama’s view of the world. Barack Obama isn’t the leader of the free world; he’s the front man for the permanent bureaucracy, the smiley-face mask hiding the pitiless yawning maw of total politics.

(emphasis added)

I would add that, if the politics were reversed (i.e. “the bureaucracy is Right, and the Right is bureaucracy”) we would still have the same issue: an unaccountable power structure that invades every aspect of our lives. Coupled with a President who exercises that power based on political whims, and we have a serious issue:

The job of the president is to execute the law — that is what the executive branch is there to do. If Barack Obama had wanted to keep pursuing his career as a lawmaker, then the people of Illinois probably would have been content to preserve him in the Senate for half a century or so. As president, he has no more power to decide not to enforce the provisions of a duly enacted federal law than does John Boehner, Anthony Weiner, or Whoopi Goldberg. And unlike them, he has a constitutional duty to enforce the law.

So, one might ask (as Dale did last night), why isn’t the President being impeached for dereliction of duty? Partisan politics is one answer (see, e.g., the failure of the Clinton impeachment). A lack of will is another. Perhaps the simplest answer, however, is that Congress is quite complicit in this expansion and abuse of the regulatory state:

Congress’s supine ceding of its powers, and the Obama administration’s usurpation of both legal and extralegal powers, is worrisome. But what is particularly disturbing is the quiet, polite, workaday manner with which the administration goes about its business — and with which the American public accepts it. As Christopher Hitchens once put it, “The essence of tyranny is not iron law; it is capricious law.”

[snip]

Barack Obama’s administration is unmoored from the institutions that have long kept the imperial tendencies of the American presidency in check. That is partly the fault of Congress, which has punted too many of its legislative responsibilities to the president’s army of faceless regulators, but it is in no small part the result of an intentional strategy on the part of the administration. He has spent the past five years methodically testing the limits of what he can get away with, like one of those crafty velociraptors testing the electric fence in Jurassic Park. Barack Obama is a Harvard Law graduate, and he knows that he cannot make recess appointments when Congress is not in recess. He knows that his HHS is promulgating regulations that conflict with federal statutes. He knows that he is not constitutionally empowered to pick and choose which laws will be enforced. This is a might-makes-right presidency, and if Barack Obama has been from time to time muddled and contradictory, he has been clear on the point that he has no intention of being limited by something so trivial as the law.

I agree with Williamson that Obama has pushed the limits, but I think he lets Congress off the hook too easily. Every POTUS presses the limits. Indeed, Williamson provides the example of Nixon’s abuses, and even compares Obama favorably: “… it is impossible to imagine President Obama making the announcement that President Richard Nixon did on August 15, 1971: ‘I am today ordering a freeze on all prices and wages throughout the United States.'” Williamson notes that Nixon was able to make that announcement because of power invested in him by Congress. Just as Obama has been entrusted with incredible power via such instruments as the IPAB which requires a super-majority of Congress to override its decisions. While Obama is bad, clearly the issue here is that Congress isn’t doing its job either.

Recall that in Federalist #51, James Madison explained that the way the Constitution controls the new federal government, such that “the private interest of every individual may be a sentinel over the public rights”, was to divide the different departments in a way that each had interests sufficiently distinct from one another so as to provide an incentive for each to jealously guard those interests and maintain their power. This system of checks and balances was meant to prevent consolidation of power in any one part of the government.

The problem we seem to have run into since then is when the two most powerful departments combine their interests and secret away their combined powers in an unaccountable regulatory apparatus, safe from the will of the electorate. That the office of POTUS would be willing to do this is to be expected, and indeed is a large part of why there was much resistance to its creation. However, that Congress has done so much to aid and abet the effort is contemptible. Unless and until Congress rights the balance, and vigorously pursues its checking role, the problem will only worsen.