Consolidation of Power

Via email from John S. we have this article on how, as John put in, “Trump’s plans to massively consolidate power under the executive branch.” John stated:

Surely even hard-core Trump fans don’t want that?

Not that you’re a hard core Trump fan. I’m more referring to some of the folks who comment on your posts who clearly are. It’d be interesting to hear both your view and theirs on this issue.

It’s behind a paywall but I managed to capture the text with a quick select and copy. I then pasted it into a text editor for reading.

Just as there is with sources which favor Republicans, strongly suspect the New York Times has engaged in more than a little hyperbole to make Trump look bad.

That said, I am opposed to congress, presidents, judges and regulatory agencies which exceed the scope enumerated in the constitution. That 99.9%, or more, of those regulatory agencies even exists is repugnant to the constitution and to me. That congress “gives”* agencies the authority to create new law as long as they call it a “regulation” instead of a law is just wrong. If a president would consolidate all that power and destroy it, and “salt the earth” where those weeds flourished I would probably give him a pass on doing a task he didn’t have the enumerated power given to him by the Constitution to do such a thing, simply because congress didn’t have the power to create such a powerful agency in the beginning.

But that’s not reality. Hence, I’m sort of “meh” about the claims of doom and gloom. It is sort of like voting when the only options on the ballot are Joseph Stalin and Chairman Mao.

* I don’t see where the U.S. Constitution gives congress the ability to delegate their lawmaking authority to any other entity.


12 thoughts on “Consolidation of Power

  1. Correct, the Constitution does not give executive agencies the ability to make law, or Congress the ability to delegate it. And occasionally courts have ruled accordingly, though far too rarely.
    As for the President wiping out all that, the Constitution supports doing so — and arguably, requires it. After all, it says that the President has to see to it that the laws are faithfully executed. As Chief Justice Marshall pointed out, it follows that one must know what the law is, and what is not law. The Constitution contains the definition, in article I. So something that pretends to be a law but doesn’t match the requirements of the Constitution is not law (Marbury v Madison) and therefore it is the President’s duty not to execute it.
    To pick just one small example, it would be proper for the President to close down the Department of Education and lay off all its staff, using this reasoning.

    You can find a fictional account of just that sort of thing being done, in “Hope” by Aaron Zelman and L. Neil Smith. (Yes, Zelman, the founder of JPFO.)

  2. Quite correct that de jure the Constitution gives no such power to Congress. But de facto we have such, and that’s because We The People have, as a body, not done our job, and instantly voted out of office, at a minimum, the bastard politicians that passed and signed such drivel. (I, rather, would have applied the “rope/lamppost/politician/some assembly required” method, pour encourager les autres)

    All the many reasons the populace has permitted this can be discussed incessantly.

  3. Getting rid of the Department of Education could defund the Dem’s in a serious way that would be good. Plus since it’s conception every education metric has gotten worse. If it don’t work we don’t need it. Not that any Gov. entity could concive sutch a thing on its own. There is a mutch larger list for the same treatment if the willing get control.

  4. [Playing Devil’s Advocate for a moment:]

    The Constitution does not give Congress the ability to delegate its lawmaking power, but it does charge the executive branch with … well … executing the law faithfully.

    So, where statutory language passed by Congress is not clear, it’s the executive branch that gets to decide what it means through “regulation”. As long as the regulation doesn’t stray from the statutory language — as it did with BATFE’s recent “Final Rule” on frames/receivers — then the law is being executed “faithfully”.

    [takes off Devil’s Advocate hat]

    Now, that process might conform to the letter of the Constitution, but IMO (IANAL warning) it violates the spirit. If the statutory language is unclear, it’s Congress’ job to amend and clarify it — not the executive branch’s — and it’s We the People’s job to hold their proverbial “noses to the grindstone” until they do.

    Anything less, and Congress may as well pass a statute saying, “The Executive branch may hereby assume all of Congress’ Article I powers and may make laws as the President and/or his/her appointed cabinet secretaries and officers see fit.”

    As for the Executive branch, where Congress-passed law is unclear: As it is impossible to “faithfully” execute a law if you can’t tell what it intends or means, the most “faithful” course of action would be to do nothing unless/until Congress amends, clarifies, or repeals the vague law.

    Of course, that never happens — the government will never choose to ignore an opportunity to give itself more power and control, ergo it loves it some unclear statutory language with a lot of wiggle room.

    That does much to explain the current over-regulated mess we’re in. The solution, again, is to make Congress amend or clarify the laws … but that is difficult when half the populace wants to see more unilateral regulation by the executive branch, and all Congress has to do for that to happen is … nothing.

    • Then again, “executing the laws faithfully” can instead be interpreted to mean, and should be so interpreted, to execute those words in what Congress passes that have a clear meaning. “Making shit up” is not the same as “executing faithfully”.
      Thomas Jefferson said it well: “Laws are made for men of ordinary understanding and should therefore be construed by the ordinary rules of common sense; and their meaning is not to be sought for in metaphysical subtleties which may make anything mean everything or nothing at pleasure”

  5. Here’s the important bit from the article:

    “Mr. Trump and his associates have a broader goal: to alter the balance of power by increasing the president’s authority over every part of the federal government that now operates, by either law or tradition, with any measure of independence from political interference by the White House, according to a review of his campaign policy proposals and interviews with people close to him.

    Mr. Trump intends to bring independent agencies — like the Federal Communications Commission, which makes and enforces rules for television and internet companies, and the Federal Trade Commission, which enforces various antitrust and other consumer protection rules against businesses — under direct presidential control.

    He wants to revive the practice of “impounding” funds, refusing to spend money Congress has appropriated for programs a president doesn’t like — a tactic that lawmakers banned under President Richard Nixon.

    He intends to strip employment protections from tens of thousands of career civil servants, making it easier to replace them if they are deemed obstacles to his agenda. And he plans to scour the intelligence agencies, the State Department and the defense bureaucracies to remove officials he has vilified as “the sick political class that hates our country.”

    What I find interesting is that in consolidating power this way, the Trump folks don’t seem to imagine a case where Democrats get power and then use this stick against them.

    I’m a big fan of limited government for many reasons, and the tendency of political parties to abuse power in a systematic way is one of them. Consolidated power just makes that worse.

    • With apologies to Vizzini (brilliantly played by Wallace Shawn): “Trump has fallen victim to one of the classic blunders, the most famous of which is, ‘Never get involved in a land war in Asia,’ but only slightly less well-known is this: ‘Never give yourself a political power you wouldn’t want your enemies to use against you!’ AHAHAHAHA! AHAHAHAHA! AHAHA- *falls over dead*”

      It’s an extremely common practice (and mistake). Both sides do it, but for some reason establishment Republicans seem to never see it coming (and at the same time, only half-heartedly use the Left’s tools against them).

      For someone who is reportedly a master of 27-dimension chess — not to mention a world-class troll, an expert at goading his opponents into responses favorable to him — you’d think Trump would get it. But apparently not.

  6. So all these problems weren’t around the last time Mr. Ego was in office? He did what?
    Trump also used the power of the ATF at will. As he said, I don’t like bumpstocks.
    Anyone truly think there was that much difference between Bill Barr and Merrick Garland? If you do then you will never understand DC.
    The two party system was created and maintained to fool you and serve the DC party/world leaders/satan.
    Trump gave us was hope last time. Not much more. And that’s what the DC party is giving us right now.
    Biden got elected by manufacturing 40 million votes in the middle of the night. And right now were jumping into the campaign shithole with both feet and the same voter fraud machine in place. (Trying the same thing and expecting different results is considered what?)
    It doesn’t matter what Trump says he will do, or what the communist media says he will do. He’s going to do what he’s told to do.
    You take the ticket, you follow orders.
    I myself wouldn’t worry. Under the present system your pretty much going to get what they give you. Presidentially speaking of course.

    • The BATFE’s “Final Rule” on frames/receivers got thrown out because BATFE overstepped its authority when they tried to re-write statutory definitions passed by Congress, which only Congress can change.

      People — especially Republicans and Trump supporters (not always the same group) — blame the Biden Administration for that, but they forget: Trump directed his BATFE to do the exact same thing with his executive order to re-classify bump stocks as “machine guns”; “machine gun” has a very specific statutory definition, which bump stocks don’t meet.

      Unfortunately, bump stocks are controversial enough that the courts are hemming and hawing about what should be a clear-cut “separation of powers” violation, just like the frames/receivers case.

      But the over-arching point is, consolidating control and issuing extra-legal orders never ends well for We the People, no matter who is doing it.

    • Like his predecessor and his successor, then.
      I think the whole hatred of Trump we saw from its 2015 beginnings to right now was engendered because he was;
      1., an apparent turncoat they thought was reliably Democrat from the years of donating money to Democrat office holders, and;
      2. He didn’t seem to be following the marching orders that well at all.

  7. “Getting rid of the Department of Education could defund the Dem’s in a serious way that would be good. “

    It seems extremely few people realize just how well funded the American Left is courtesy of “government” money in the form of grants, funding of “studies”, various “enrichment programs” and multitudes of random “support for…” programs. With a 4 trillion dollar budget, regularly exceeded by semi-clandestine borrowing, there is a huge amount of money sloshing around Washington, orders of magnitude too much to actually account for.

    It is spent through the plethora of government agencies, which are overwhelmingly staffed by left-of-center types drawn to government service like iron to a magnet because “they want to work for change and make a difference.”

    There are very few federal agencies justified by the Constitution, so the first job is not just eliminating them, but also restructuring the economic, taxation and borrowing environment so they cannot grow back; Congress will oscillate between Democrat and semi-Democrat (aka “Republican”) control in random cycles until the sun burns out, so that control has to come from someplace higher than Congress can reach; quite a bit higher, in fact.

    Secondly, success will come only when an absolute, unbreachable, bulletproof cap on government taxation, borrowing and spending is enacted at that same higher level above Congress’ or the Executive’s reach. With such a hard limit if Congress wants to spend X dollars on “benefits for Group Y” they will have to shut down whatever government operation is currently consuming those dollars (and, yes, there needs to be a provision for extra-normal conditions, such as declared war, allowing temporarily exceeding the hard limits, which sharply defines what criteria allows exceedng the cap and mandates a post-crisis recovery process and a return to the original restrictions; without it Crisis Manufacture will become more of a growth business than it already is, perpetuating the one way ratchet we now suffer under).

    This is not nuclear physics, it’s simple economics. Economics governed, unfortunately, by people, specifically, people of lesser stature and morals but greater greed and ingrained narcissism. Until those people are strictly controlled there is no remedy, not even “electing the right people” because the Dollar & Power Drug is just as addictive as heroin; there are no “right” people to elect. John Adams said “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Given how few moral people seem to exist, or even retain such morals in the face of easy compromise, the strength must come from the system and not depend upon the people in it.

    In manufacturing, and to an extent, business itself, products are designed and processes structured to make the correct choice easier and the wrong one more difficult. It is certainly not impossible to make the wrong decision, but a proper operating – and reporting – environment highlights such choices much earlier in the process allowing correction sooner. Would such a strict system place unreasonable constraints on our national* government? We’ve tried it the other way, you decide.

    Myself, I have doubts America is capable of achieving success twice. As our host reminds us occasionally, “prepare accordingly.”

    *Note the word “national” here; there are still 50 states who have largely independent operation restricted only by small, but important, sections of the Constitution. Care should be exercised to not bring that to ruin when constraining in the federal monster.

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