sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Hidden Hand of Government

This week, President Obama insisted he knew nothing about major decisions made in the State Department, the Justice Department and the Internal Revenue Service. The heads of those agencies, in turn, insisted they knew nothing about major decisions by their subordinates. It is as if the government functions by some hidden hand.

Denial and obfuscation have 
replaced any semblance of 
accountability. 

In the past, President Obama has asserted that he sets the priorities and controls the big picture. If that's true, these trends are even more disturbing even though all the while there is a nagging itch in the backs of our minds. That intuitive spark tells us that it's simply what everyone has come to expect from Chicago politics, ward bosses, arm twisting, and being sent to 'sleep with the fish' if you don't go along with the plan.

The disturbing trend of growing federal bureaucracy has bloomed under the Obama Administration and it's been accomplished at the expense of Congress’s lawmaking authority. In fact, the vast majority of “laws” governing the United States are not passed by Congress but are issued as regulations, crafted largely by thousands of unnamed, unreachable bureaucrats. One study found that in 2007, Congress enacted 138 public laws, while federal agencies finalized 2,926 rules, including 61 major regulations.

As we have noticed with the recent IRS Scandal, this rulemaking comes with no particular accountability. Federal agencies owe their creation and underlying legal authority to Congress, and Congress holds the purse strings. But the practical reality of the IRS is  much the same as running a locomotive without an off switch. 

Under Article III of the Constitution, citizens facing charges and fines are entitled to due process in the court system. As the number of federal regulations increased, however, Congress decided to relieve the judiciary of most regulatory cases and create administrative courts tied to individual agencies. The result is that a citizen is 10 times more likely to be tried by an agency than by an actual court. In a given year, federal judges conduct roughly 95,000 adjudicatory proceedings, including trials, while federal agencies complete more than 939,000. 

Most agency proceedings are often mockeries of due process, with one-sided presumptions and procedural rules favoring the agency. This is clearly true with the IRS, but it's clearly not limited to them. Consider the Environmental Protection Agency and it's draconian power over most businesses. When you combine that with an unprecedented increase in presidential powers — from the power to determine when to go to war to the power to decide when it’s reasonable to vaporize a U.S. citizen in a drone strike. In this new order, information is jealously guarded and transparency has declined sharply. 

The problem can be fixed. America can simplify its tax structure, eliminating the need for well over 90% of the Internal Revenue Service. America can return the bulk of regulatory matters to the States where the common man has a greater ability to appeal abuses. However, it's not likely to happen when most Americans don't have any understanding of the Benghazi scandal, the abuse heaped on fellow Americans by the Obama Administration through IRS or abuses to the press by simply setting aside the Bill of Rights when it suits them.