Tuesday, January 30, 2007

TAKE THAT, AMERICA! BUSH USURPS CONGRESSIONAL ROLE IN AREAS OF REGULATING FEDERAL BUREAUCRACY


"The Constitution makes Congress a coequal branch of government. It's time we start acting like it."
--Senator Russell Feingold
(D-Wis.)


WASHINGTON D.C.--Attempting to raze as much of civil society as he can before his final plunge, George W. Bush signed an Executive order (EO 12866) that grants him more powers over how the Departments of government function, and who they report to. It's much like a scorched earth policy for a retreating army--do as much damage as possible before they get you. This is the role of Congress in the Constitution, but since when has that document that's "just a piece of paper" gotten in the way of the Bush administration? Just a piece of paper? Only Congress can make the social contract a reality here, and they seem reluctant.

It has taken constant-hammering from the internet and numerous other corners for them to act against the Bush administration's encroachments, and attempts at nullifying the Constitutional tradition of "coequal-branches."It seems that the Presidential Oath of Office is no more, at least when one swears one the Bible before God that they "will defend and protect the Constitution of the United States of America." It also seems that Mr. Bush lies before God a lot, and that even his few-remaining supporters and minions are beginning to see him for what he really is: a pathological liar and a criminal with absolutely no-scruples whatsoever, completely beholden to corporate interests. He can be assured of a massive response from Congress that will be bipartisan, he has (once again) thrown-down the gauntlet, and crossed the Rubicon.

What Executive order 12866 does is allow political appointees to control and regulate Federal agencies that cover health, education, welfare, labor relations (Even OSHA, Nixon's creation), the environment (the EPA, Nixon's creation), and even civil liberties:

The White House will thus have a gatekeeper in each agency to analyze the costs and the benefits of new rules and to make sure the agencies carry out the president’s priorities.This strengthens the hand of the White House in shaping rules that have, in the past, often been generated by civil servants and scientific experts. It suggests that the administration still has ways to exert its power after the takeover of Congress by the Democrats. (NYT, 01.30.2007)

This is in-keeping with neocon ideology--a revolutionary one--towards disruption and a shrinking of the government in providing crucial regulations on business, providing for the common good, as well as protections for whistleblowers. Basically everything a government and a society are for, the Bush administration and their allies attack. This is nothing-less than an affront directed-at the American public and the new Congress. Its contempt for democracy is open and unvarnished. It is meant as an insult, outside of its operative-goals. But what it all does is at the crux of the Bush administration: eradicating all roads towards accountability for business and the Executive branch.

Naturally, the United States Chamber of Commerce loves it.Congress has yet to respond to this one, and they had better do it immediately. Essentially, Bush is saying, "Do something about it." I have to believe he's becoming both bored and restive that Congress won't put up a fight, it almost seems he's begging them to stop him. The problem is, they're too-scared to take the gambler's risks that the Bush administration has taken, and will continue to take. It has served them well, especially in a political-context where their opponents lack the resolve and fanaticism, a stunning-parallel to conservative German leadership during the Weimar period in Germany.

Par-the-course, the "rules of the marketplace" (excepting themselves and their backers) must be applied to public agencies under EO 12866. Some of this is a submerged-conflict over a past-appointee, Susan Dudley for the Director of the Office Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). The new Executive order resembles Dudley's extremist-views, and she is expected to be installed while Congress is in-recess as John Bolton was as Bush's "diplomat" to the UN:

Public Citizen, a District nonprofit group that monitors regulation, charged that Dudley will use a market-failure standard to create economic barriers to protecting the public. Under the Bush executive order, regulators also now will have to estimate the total costs and benefits of planned rules. And the process will be overseen in each agency by a political appointee, another provision that public interest groups oppose. (Washington Post, 01.29.2007)

This isn't new, however, and just another attempt at expanding the powers of the Executive in the neocon universe of the "unitary Executive." So far, the usurpations have been successful. It remains-to-be-seen if they will endure beyond the Bush administration. Noting our recent track-record, it's likely they will. All of this is literally uncharted-territory, and new experiences are likely to drag Americans from the safety of their couches and televisions into the emerging-order. Antipathy and apathy for politics doesn't solve the problem of politics, only deferring major social-problems for later. Eventually, things explode. The explosions are here, and regardless of the outcome, America will be forever changed.

It is quite possible that George W. Bush is dragging us into the 21st Century, kicking-and-screaming, into uncharted territory that will smash currently ossified social-structures through the confusion and disorder he leaves-behind. OMB Watch has this to say:

Through amending the regulatory process, the President is institutionalizing an anti-regulatory approach by using a market failure criterion in place of actually identifying threats to public health and safety. It diminishes standards Congress may have required agencies to use, such as the best control technology, by elevating a new market failure standard that Congress never required. This standard has been advocated by Susan Dudley, Bush's current nominee as administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). (OMB, 01.18.2007)

Technically-speaking, we aren't at war (just a social one). Congress hasn't declared war since WWII, yet the Bush administration has demanded war powers, and much more. We can assume that much of the impetus behind expanding Executive power comes from Vice President Cheney, not Bush. This administration has been enabled by politicos on both-sides of the aisle, and the apathy of political elites for democratic principles, traditions, and institutions. This has been fertile ground for the neocons, and their backers' hold on the mainstream media through ownership has also served them well. Past deregulation of the FCC have enabled this march towards concentrated Executive power as well. Making the Fairness Doctrine law at the FCC would be a major-step towards remedying this distortion.

The confrontation is coming, but will Congress have the will to do what needs doing to save American democracy? Only if they're pushed by the president and the public, it seems. They should be explaining their reluctance. In case you didn't know it, corporations (and the other multinationals of foreign-origin) are in the White House, and they're removing most all of the regulatory-functions of government. They have never had such direct-access to the levers of governmental power, and we let them do it. This is a governance of brigands--no governance at all. Welcome to the Libertarian utopia. Sucks, don't it? Conservative ideology is practically dead.


The New York Times on the New Executive Order: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/30/washington/30rules.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1&ei=5094&en=f7bdc9f4cbb28c31&hp&ex=1170133200&partner=homepage

AP: http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,,-6381354,00.html

Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/29/AR2007012901818.html

OMB: http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/ , and: http://www.ombwatch.org/

OMB Watch Article on EO 12866: http://www.ombwatch.org/article/articleview/3685/1/132?TopicID=3