The First One Hundred Days – Stalemate

We have now experienced the first one hundred days of the Trump administration and there is some good there. Gorsuch and the move to deregulate and the move to review past Federal actions for overreach and unacknowledged failure, that is all good.

However the bad news has become very bad and is getting worse – can any of the Trump agenda, can any of the promises made during the campaign become legislation? Immigration reform, tax reform, healthcare reform, that list goes on and on and there is legitimate well-founded doubt as to whether an actual bill which Trump can actually sign and can actually become law can actually happen.
Democrats this past week agreed to a seven day Continuing Resolution (CR) in order that the government will be funded for another week. If the model is that we will run the government on one week spending bills that are to be renegotiated week after week then we can be assured that nothing else will get done. The Democrats have made clear that they will block any further CR’s if healthcare reform, the infamous ’wall’, defunding Planned Parenthood, or any number of other things to which the Democrat Party is opposed were to be voted on by the GOP.
If the GOP were to pass any of these other bills the Democrat threat is to shut down government.
The Democrat strategy of consuming congressional time with weekly CR’s is aside from the GOP’s inability to produce a bill which the GOP can even muster enough votes within itself to pass. The Democrat threat may be irrelevant if the GOP itself cannot come to an agreement on what should and should not be in these bills.
To summarize – it is a cluster and it is not immediately clear what can be done in order to alter the dynamic.

Yes, Virginia, There Is Such A Thing As Constitutional Executive Orders

The Washington insider publication The Hill recently ran a breathless piece proclaiming that President Trump is “using executive orders at an unprecedented pace” and in a “whirlwind” he has unleashed “a rash of executive orders.” This focus on quantity, rather than quality, or more precisely, substantive nature, misses a key Constitutional point: There is nothing per se wrong or problematic with executive orders. It depends on who is being ordered to do what.
 
The president has authority to issue orders to the executive branch within the law. The key issue is whether the order directs the priorities or operations of the executive branch regarding how it enforces existing law. That is entirely proper. What is improper, indeed, unconstitutional, is if the order alters the rights or obligations of citizens in a way not provided by law, in other words, if the president effectively legislates by order.
 
It appears that at least one of Trump’s orders has crossed that line on an issue in which President Obama also abused his authority. Both presidents issued orders that altered the operation and effect of the Affordable Care Act in a way that conflicts with the plain language of the statute (at least that’s how Trump’s order was reported). The question isn’t whether the changes are sensible, or better than the existing statute. It is whether the order attempts to change statute. That is not a proper executive power.
 
Some observers note that Obama did not issue a particularly large number of orders compared to his predecessors. This again misses the point. By the content of his orders, the president often tried to alter the law of the land. A report by the Heritage Foundation cites numerous examples: As noted, he effectively amended Obamacare several times. He waived corporate reporting requirements to prevent bad economic news from coming out during the 2012 election season. He acted to unilaterally raise the minimum wage of employees of federal contractors. He upended immigration law and tried to grant legal work status to immigrants barred by law. He exempted school districts from some of the requirements of No Child Left Behind if they would adopt the administration’s preferred policies, such as Common Core.
 
In contrast, virtually all of Trump’s executive orders pertain to matters already within the authority of executive agencies or to reversing prior executive orders by Obama. For example, he directed the Education Department to review Obama era rules and regulations over K-12 Education. He directed the Department of Commerce to study the factors contributing to America’s trade deficit with certain nations. Trump is acting to remove barriers Obama erected to arctic drilling. He directed the Interior Department to study the Obama administrations methodology in using the Antiquities Act to seize millions of acres of undeveloped land without action by Congress.
 
None of those orders purport to change governing law (except in the case of removing improper “law” that Obama previously imposed). They are all proper exercises of directing the executive branch.
 

There’s another reason Trump might lean heavily on executive orders. Following eight years of Obama and decades of unchecked growth, overreach, and power grabs, the federal bureaucracy is a hard beast to tame. It is notoriously aggressive, unaccountable, and hostile to the intentions of Trump or any president that would attempt to rein it in. Issuing orders regarding specific reforms highlights the issues, gives purpose and presidential approval to cabinet secretaries implementing the policy, and may add to grounds to dismiss resistant bureaucrats for insubordination.

Given the stakes and the magnitude of the task, it is likely the stream of orders will continue. And if properly directed, that is a good thing. People who equate executive order with abuse of power are misunderstanding.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

It Is Absurd

Just this morning this was posted by a newspaper publisher friend whom I personally like – though we may disagree on a wide range of issues:

“It is our solemn responsibility to show that government can have both a head and a heart; that it can be both progressive and solvent; and that it can serve the people without becoming their master.”

I appreciate the sentiment expressed. As much as I appreciate the sentiment and wish it was true or could be true – I do not believe it to be true and I do not believe that there are a set of circumstances under which it could become true.

The foundational cause for why this is not true and can never be true – human nature.

We have given those in government great power – and year over year for many decades the power we have given to government has grown and grown. Here is the caveat on what I am about to say: not everyone in government is a bad person or corrupt or a psychopath. However not everyone, or even most, or even more than a few need to be for the entire enterprise to go bad and here is why: it is not human nature to wake up in the morning and think, “What can I do today to make my life as difficult as possible so that the life of everyone else will become easier?”

Those with great power inevitably make decisions that will make their life and job easier. That is human nature – by and large we are not even conscious that this is what we are doing. We are egocentric beings. People who wake up in the morning and think, “What can I do today to make the life if everyone else easier and mine more difficult?” are exceedingly rare and to assume that these rare people are the same people who populate legislatures and councils and bureaucracies is incorrect.

In a free market the check and balance on this behavior is that if you make your customers life more difficult they will take their business elsewhere. Government demands a monopoly and government has no hesitation in using force if you attempt to evade this monopoly – hence you cannot ‘take your business elsewhere.’ Example A: the DMV and the consequences of driving without a drivers license or without your car being registered. No matter how difficult they may make your life and no matter how illogical or arbitrary or unyielding their decisions are – you have little choice but to comply.

This is the essence of the argument for small government and for government with the least amount of power over your life. The essence of the argument for small government is not Auschwitz but it is the DMV. The essence of the argument is tens of thousands of government entities passing millions of laws and tens of millions of regulations – of which no person can possibly keep track or keep up with. The argument for small government is a 72,000 page Federal tax code. The argument for small government is that this country has 92,000 gun laws when totaled up at all government levels.

The argument for larger government is in attempting to make the compelling case that a tax code which is 72,001 pages rather than 72,000 pages will enhance your life. The argument for larger government is in attempting to make the compelling case that you are safer with 92,001 gun laws than you were with 92,000 gun laws. Go ahead – try and make that compelling argument. I am betting that you cannot.
It is absurd. There is simply no other word which applies. It is not that people in government are all bad people or corrupt or psychopaths – though there is no shortage of that in government – but it is a matter of giving great power to people when the natural tendency of human beings is to make their own lives easier with the power they possess. The government path to making the life of those in government easier is to pass a law, create a regulation, tax, spend, borrow.
As much as we maybe sympathetic with the sentiment expressed in the newspaper publishers post – we had better start dealing with what is true and what can be true rather than the fantasies which appeal to what we wish was true but can never be.

Elizabeth Warren Blows the Whistle on Obama, Sort Of.

Heh. Faucahontas Warren has concerns about Wall Street Barack. Sen. Elizabeth Warren says she’s concerned about former president Barack Obama raking in a $400,000 fee for an upcoming speech at a Wall Street Conference:

“I was troubled by that,” the Massachusetts Democrat said Thursday on SiriusXM’s “Alter Family Politics.” “One of the things I talk about in the book (“This Fight Is Our Fight: The Battle to Save America’s Middle Class”) is the influence of money. I describe it as a snake that slithers through Washington and that it shows up in so many different ways here in Washington.”

While it’s reasonable to wonder what Obama delivers that justifies his lavish payday,  there are several odd things about Warren’s outburst of scruples. First, it’s a private organization and Barack Obama is now a private citizen. He does not wield the levers of government, oversee  lucrative public contracts, or steer large government grants.

Second, where was the good senator’s Wall Street phobia when the president peopled the highest ranks of his administration with bankers from the empire? When he refused for two terms to prosecute a single scoundrel with dirty hands in the 2008 financial crisis? Was she sounding the alarm about the potential for money influencing the president then, when he was the most powerful man on earth?

For that matter, how was the “troubled” senator able to rouse herself to be Hillary Clinton’s biggest champion and surrogate during the 2016 campaign? Hillary gave $2 and $3,00,000 speeches to rich and powerful interests with regularity. And this at a time she was expected to be the next president of the United States. Clearly there was a lot more for potential sale in her tawdry transactions than there is now in the former president’s portfolio.

And lastly, while Warren fashions herself, with enthusiastic media complicity, as the scourge of the wealthy and the champion of the little guy, the facts are pungent with a different aroma. Warren is no stranger to the perks of privilege and ways to work the system. The fair haired Oklahoman’s career has benefited greatly from her undocumented claim of Indian heritage. She made a small fortune in distressed real estate, employing the buy-low-sell-high tactics that any good operator would, but that seem to gratingly clash with her pronouncements against profiteering and taking advantage of the poor and vulnerable.

Most recently she used creative accounting to avoid disclosing a $1.3 million line of credit on her $2 million Cambridge home. Rhetoric aside, Warren is no slacker in the ways of the shyster. Watching so many rich operator politicians criticize rich operator business people in a play for the support and votes of working Americans, one can’t help but think it’s all a cynical charade. Maybe that’s why they’re losing their audience to Trump and they’re in a panic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Statements From Trump On Korea

Two statements on South and North Korea from Donald Trump in a single evening:

“It’s a horrible deal. It was a Hillary Clinton disaster, a deal that should’ve never been made. It’s a one-way street. We’ve told them that we’ll either terminate or negotiate. We may terminate. I will do that unless we make a fair deal. We’re getting destroyed in Korea.”

“There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely. We’d love to solve things diplomatically but it’s very difficult,” followed by a reference to Kim Jong Un, “He’s 27 years old. His father dies, took over a regime. So say what you want but that is not easy, especially at that age. I’m not giving him credit or not giving him credit, I’m just saying that’s a very hard thing to do. As to whether or not he’s rational, I have no opinion on it. I hope he’s rational.”

Make of these what you will but this is not your fathers Oldsmobile.

Dems In Congress Will Support A Shutdown Over Healthcare Reform

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the Democrat whip, has allegedly sent an email to his caucus stating “If Republicans announce their intention to bring their harmful TrumpCare bill to the House Floor tomorrow or Saturday, I will oppose a one-week Continuing Resolution and will advise House Democrats to oppose it as well. Republicans continue to struggle to find the votes to pass a bill that will kick 24 million Americans off their health coverage, allow discrimination against those with pre-existing conditions, and impose an age tax on older Americans. That’s why they are trying to jam it through the House before their Members can hear from the American people this weekend about their opposition to this horrible legislation. If Republicans pursue this partisan path of forcing Americans to pay more for less and destabilizing our county’s health care system — without even knowing how much their bill will cost — Republicans should be prepared to pass a one-week Continuing Resolution on their own.”

It is unlikely the GOP could gather the votes to pass a one week continuing resolution without Democrat participation – consequently the threat here is essentially that if the reform of Obamacare is voted on prior to the continuing resolution to fund the government the Democrats will oppose it. The assumption is that we should then enter into yet another government shutdown.
Donald Trump responded via Twitter; “As families prepare for summer vacations in our National Parks – Democrats threaten to close them and shut down the government. Terrible!”
This will be a put-up-or-shut-up moment for the GOP and will test the political skills of Donald Trump. With a series of continuing resolutions the Democrats will be in a position to threaten this each and every time legislation is presented which they oppose – tax reform, immigration, so on and so forth. It will be endless if not successfully dealt with this week.
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