By Paul Driessen
March 23, 2016
We’ve had a “try and stop me” president. Now we need one who will invalidate those actions.
Washington is out of control. Legislators, judges and unelected bureaucrats want to control our lives, livelihoods and living standards, with no accountability even for major errors, calculated deception, or deliberate, often illegal assaults on our liberties and on citizens who resist the advancing Leviathan.
These themes animate Republican and conservative politics because they are happening – regularly.
The Competitive Enterprise Institute is renowned for its annual Ten Thousand Commandments reports on federal rules. A scary but mesmerizing new analysis now maps how the Washington bureaucracy lawlessly imposes agendas that all too frequently contravene or disregard what We the People support, what is best for the nation, and even what Congress has enacted or refused to encode in legislation.
The studies’ author, CEI policy vice president Clyde Wayne Crews, analogizes the situation to the “dark matter” and “dark energy” that astrophysicists say makes up some 95% of the universe: the portion that we cannot observe directly, as opposed to the sun, moon, planets, stars, galaxies and gas clouds we can see.
“Regulatory dark matter,” he concludes, forms an equal proportion of all the rules and edicts that govern our lives. But it is “hard to detect, much less measure.” Indeed, his “map” is akin to early explorers’ depictions of North America – incomplete, but the best cartography possible with information currently available.
No one even knows how many Executive Branch agencies there are – estimates range from 60 to 438 – much less how many new rules they implement and impose each year. Officially, Crews says, they issued a staggering 3,554 new rules in 2014, while President Obama signed “only” 226 new laws enacted by Congress. Worse, of the 53,838 (!) formal final regulations included in the Federal Register from 2001 through 2014, only 160 (0.3%) received a “cost-benefit” analysis; we have no idea how the rest affect us.
Infinitely worse, this tip of the iceberg does not include tens of thousands of decrees issued in the form of:
- notices, bulletins, proclamations, circulars, guidance memos, and new or revised interpretations, policy statements and procedures;
- investigations, inquiries, warning letters, negotiated settlements to legal actions (often involving collusion between agencies and activist groups), explicit or veiled threats of legal action, armed agents raiding homes and businesses, or adverse publicity, coordinated with activists and the media; as well as
- blog posts, news releases, and emails or telephone calls to citizens or company employees.
All these actions have the force and effect of law. But few or none are covered by Administrative Procedures Act “public notice and comment” requirements, so they often escape scrutiny by courts, watchdogs and Congress. Many are supported only by “homogenized,” manipulated data; elaborate, imaginative or imaginary regulatory benefits; cavalier dismissal of costs; and no mention of benefits from the activity, chemical, energy source, industry or jobs being regulated, sometimes into oblivion.
EPA’s Clean Power Plan assumes that shutting down America’s coal-fired power plants – a tiny fraction of such facilities worldwide – can somehow stop climate change that is actually governed by numerous powerful natural forces over which humans have absolutely no control. The plan also assumes any global warming will be dangerous and ignores the many thousands who will be rendered jobless.
A “social cost of carbon” scheme concocted by a multitude of federal agencies makes the same faulty assumptions. It then hypothesizes every imaginable and illusory “cost” of carbon dioxide emissions – to forests, agriculture, water resources, “forced migration” of people and wildlife, human health and disease, coastal cities, ecosystems and wetlands. But it completely ignores every one of the obvious and enormous benefits of using fossil fuels … and of CO2’s immense fertilizing effects on forest and crop growth.
President Obama imposed both of these programs because Congress refused to enact almost 700 different cap-tax-and-trade and other climate bills. Rather than working with Congress to achieve at least some of what he wanted, Mr. Obama simply had his agencies issue decrees, as another way to “skin a cat.”
Where Congress has enacted legislation that the president dislikes – on illegal immigration or the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate, for example – he simply tells his agencies not to enforce the “offensive” provisions. Meanwhile, Endangered Species Act rules are enforced with an iron fist against ranching, oil and mining operations, but ignored in the case of wind turbines and solar installations.
Under collusive sue-and-settle lawsuits, parties impacted by decisions never have an opportunity to speak or present evidence, or even be notified that a suit has been filed or adjudicated, until it is too late.
The entire system allows unelected, unaccountable government officials to decide winners and losers, and reward cronies and allies with taxpayer-funded grants and subsidies, while punishing critics and enemies. “Progressive” judges defer to “agency discretion” and give bureaucrats free rein to do as they please, even when the rules, decisions and decrees do not comply with legal, constitutional or scientific requirements.
No citizen, small business or even large corporation can possibly even know all these edicts exist, much less understand or comply with them. Moreover, at least 4,500 carry criminal penalties, many regardless of any intent to violate a rule or commit a crime – and “ignorance of the law is no excuse.”
Astrophysics explains the consequences. A black hole in the cosmos has squeezed so much matter into a small space that the unfathomable pull of gravity prevents even light from getting out.
The Washington, DC regulatory black hole exerts such centralized gravitational force that federalism, states’ rights, state and local laws and customs, and personal liberties increasingly cease to matter.
The federal Goliath now costs US families, businesses, hospitals and organizations over $1.9 trillion a year! That is twice the entire federal budget in 1981. It’s equal to the entire budget in 1986, nearly half the incomprehensible Obama budget for FY-2017, more than the budgets of all other countries except China.
“The champions of socialism call themselves progressives, but they [resist] every kind of improvement,” economist and political analyst Ludwig von Mises observed 72 years ago. “They call themselves liberals, but they are intent upon abolishing liberty. They call themselves democrats, but they yearn for dictatorship. They call themselves revolutionaries, but they want to make the government omnipotent.”
America’s “soft despotism” is light years from the atrocities and gulags of its infamous predecessors. But it is highly effective nonetheless. The same agencies write, impose, enforce and adjudicate the rules, and impose punishment for infractions. They work tirelessly and imperiously to “fundamentally transform” our nation’s legal, energy, economic and social systems – and keep our fossil fuels “in the ground.”
They impose edicts that would never be supported by the People or enacted by Congress, and that they rarely if ever apply to themselves. They lavish billions on allies, while denying funding and legitimacy to critics, siccing IRS dogs on opposition groups, and threatening civil and criminal “racketeering” actions against anyone who “denies” the alleged “reality” of dangerous manmade climate change.
They seek to ban fossil fuels, biotech crops and insecticides – even from Third World families suffering from abject poverty, rampant malnutrition and disease, and a near total absence of electricity. They do all they can to silence and punish alternative views, and even the notion that there can be alternative views.
For seven years, our “Try and stop me” president and administration have used and abused their powers to impose their agenda. What we need now is a “Try and make me” president, who will refuse to enforce their edicts. Who will use his pen, phone and power to review them, root out any fraud and abuse behind them, and defund and bury them. Who will work with Congress to restore the rule of law and our Constitution, economic growth, and the role of personal liberties, opportunities and responsibilities.