Saturday, February 22, 2014

Time to limit the power of the executive branch

This is a post I started, but didn't finish awhile back. I originally titled this "Time to elect the federal AG" because it's long past time to separate the Attorney General from the Presidency due to conflicts of interest and corruption. I then thought about the 50+ year problem trend of powers being conceded to the increasingly totalitarian executive branch in general. It is enabled by Congress.  

Both parties have been guilty here.

The AG is a big example, but just one. The IRS selective auditing and selective scrutiny is another. The US attorney firings are an issue almost every presidency. The EPA has way too much power. A lot of these problems are regulations that bypass Congress - because Congress allows them to happen. Same goes for executive orders. This isn't just an Obama issue. While many on the right blame Obama for this and want him or at least his minions out of office, that is a slight part of the problem, not THE problem. The problem will be there long after Obama goes, whether he's replaced by Hillary, Chris Christie, Mark Warner, Rand Paul, or someone else. The problem is the structure to begin with. That's the dragon that needs to be slain.

Congress gave the presidency most of these powers. That is the problem in the first place. Part of it is due to laziness. They don't want to take too many tough votes, so they give broad powers to the executive which can take the blame or heat, while Congress pats themselves on the back saying they did something. Much of this was done in the name of what I call abstract wars. "War on Drugs" "War on Terror" "War on Poverty" "War on inflation". More often than not, it's a war on freedom instead.

"Fast and Furious" Eric Holder is his usual self. After blocking the Fast and Furious gun running probes so he can push his gun grabs, he's now going after election integrity measures. despite SCOTUS striking down the current measures. Obama won't fire him. He supports him. He's protected by Holder - as most employees protect their bosses. Technically he's supposed to work for the people, much as corporate lawyers work for the corporation instead of the President, CEO, or Exec Director, but in reality, how much is that really the case unofficially? He's a toady, and a dangerous one.

In the 45 last years, AG corruption is nothing new. Those who knew about Eric Holder aren't surprised by this. He came from the Janet Reno and Jamie Gorelick (Reno's deputy) school of corruption. Jamie Gorelick was the "brains" behind Waco, and the biggest problem on the 9/11 commission (and Vice-Chair of Fannie Mae - remember the subprime mortgages) She also supports back door encryption keys so government can snoop into communications. More power. This was well before the Patriot Act, Dept of Homeland Security, and FISA.

Gonzales wasn't a prize either. John Mitchell was corrupt. Ramsey Clark is who he is. With the power and increasing militarization of federal law enforcement, it's now time to separate the presidency and law enforcement.

This needs it's own elected office and own accountability, away from the rest of the executive branch. (not to mention that the BATF and IRS need to be disbanded)
File:US Department of Justice Organizational Chart.png
We elect the Attorney General in Michigan. Bill Schuette doesn't answer to Rick Snyder. Mike Cox didn't answer to Jennifer Granholm. Jennifer Granholm didn't answer to John Engler. They answered to voters. They aren't perfect, but all of them are better than Holder, Reno, and John Mitchell. Even Granholm.

Frankly, I'd do what I rarely support, and that is to amend the Constitution making the federal AG an elective office (or at least independent).  4 year term, non presidential years. Requirements of licensed attorney and 10 years legal experience, including litigation and/or judicial experience.  Presidents aren't trustworthy enough to appoint someone to run this office. No more Holders, Renos, or Mitchells. 

Department of Homeland Security - Has it made us safer? Does the TSA policies and airport groping make us safer? Thanks, W. This one's on you.  Much like the Patriot Act (most provisions first proposed by Janet Reno, Bill Clinton, and Orrin Hatch in the name of the War on Drugs), this was a quick response to a crisis with things that would not have otherwise passed. Bad is bad. Even if something is well intended,

The problem with the "War on Terror" is that the government decides what's a terrorist. From the Cato Institute

 This follows a long line of fusion center and DHS reports labeling broad swaths of the public as a threat to national security. The North Texas Fusion System labeled Muslim lobbyists as a potential threat; a DHS analyst in Wisconsin thought both pro- and anti-abortion activists were worrisome; a Pennsylvania homeland security contractor watched environmental activists, Tea Party groups, and a Second Amendment rally; the Maryland State Police put anti-death penalty and anti-war activists in a federal terrorism database; a fusion center in Missouri thought that all third-party voters and Ron Paul supporters were a threat; and the Department of Homeland Security described half of the American political spectrum as “right wing extremists.”

Terrorists these days are less "real terrorists" and more and more anyone that disagrees with the government. Government officials are a bigger threat to me than actual terrorists. Terrorists are a threat, but remember that in the 20th century, governments have killed over 262 million people. How many were in the name of national security? Can't happen here? Ask an American Indian. As much as I'd like to say that there should be no federal domestic law enforcement powers of any kind outside of the military, that's not feasible. However, it needs to be more limited, strictly to interstate matters (including fugitives crossing state lines), federal property, labwork, border control, and foreign affairs. As for the rest, that's why we have MSP, the Sheriff, and local PD.

BATFE - Disband it. We don't need it. Innocents died from them.

IRS - The Obama IRS scandals aren't the first. They won't be the last. FDR admin abused it's power. Eisenhower and Kennedy admins did it. Nixon admin did it. Clinton admin did it. Bush admin might have done it. Obama did it. This will continue long after Obama's gone. It's time to disband the IRS or at least disband the powers that it had regarding deduction auditing of both individuals and organizations. A flat tax improves, but won't get rid of the IRS. I'm moving back in favor of the Fairtax with a food exception. Straight-forward, clear, and gets the politics more removed from it. In the alternative, make the Department of Treasury an elected position like it is at the county level.

EPA - This started with Nixon. That ought to get our guard up right there. The EPA power abuses are due to Congress giving them the power to do so. They have broad power due to what was given to them in the 1970's.

Most of these agencies have their own administrative law The code of federal regulations books could fill a library. Here's a list of agencies.

The size of the federal government is at a record high. The amount of good that they do is at a record low.

This isn't just an Obama issue. This has been a problem at times going back really to Roosevelt (in his defense he had WWII in his last full and partial), but especially to LBJ and Nixon. The executives at the time used/overused their power to various degrees, but the last three administrations were particularly bad.

Checks and balances is what is supposed to keep this government out of control. Right now, there's too much power in the executive branch. That needs to change. At a minimum, make the AG and Treasury an elected position that doesn't answer to the President. Better yet, start eliminating unneeded departments.  

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