Subversion of Powers in the United States

UPDATED:  Senator Byrd (!!) Seems To Agree.

Putting on the “Analyst Hat.”

I swore I was not going to join the “Obama Derangement Syndrome” bandwagon, but the historian in me is seeing dangerous things which need to be monitored very carefully.  If they move forward, Impeachment Proceedings would need to follow, and quickly.  That may sound extreme.  However, if these same actions were taken in, say, Eastern Europe, or Turkey (where Erdogan is actually moving to rapidly consolidate power), or any of the other places our spooks watch like a hawk, the analysts’ articles would already be hitting the presses.

To Wit:

  • RAT in the Stimulus Bill.  The legal language appears to have been changed per Volokh, but the political ramifications remain clear: such boards remain political and legal cover for a  politically-motivated IG to go to town, and legally to delay the IG’s investigatie work during a board hearing which could be dragged out interminably, and, as I read it, w/o any recourse on the IG’s part.

That by itself would be mere overreach, except for both:

Obama and Biden will create a White House Office of Urban Policy to develop a strategy for metropolitan America and to ensure that all federal dollars targeted to urban areas are effectively spent on the highest-impact programs.

This is a direct assault on the authority of state governments, and in setting up such an office, the President explicitly violates the federal-state contract guaranteed in the Constitution.  On its own, it might be discounted, were we not informed that the stimulus bill contains provisions expressly intended to bypass State executive authority.  These manuvers have not gone unnoticed, and the  Oklahoma House of Representatives has already declared that it intends to assert its rights as protected under the 10th Amendment,


Emphases in the following are mine: 

We will use the new tools that the recovery act gives us to watch the taxpayers’ money with more rigor and transparency than ever. (Applause.) If a federal agency proposes a project that will waste that money, I will not hesitate to call them out on it and put a stop to it. 

And I want everybody here to be on notice that if a local government does the same, I will call them out on it and use the full power of my office and our administration to stop it.

Given that the definition of “wasting resources” is defined on an inherently political basis, this is a direct threat to city mayors (and was even reported as such on ABC newswire after the speech).  Given that the President has

  1. obtained legal power to order or hinder audits while requiring IG to justify counter-actions against the board (thus providing full legal cover to blatantly political auditing, known to have been abused on a widespread basis in both the 80s and 90s — Elizabeth Dole even made a joking reference to the practice on Letterman during her husband’s electoral run).
  2. President Obama has instituted an executive-branch office bypassing state authority
  3. President Obama has informed the nation’s mayors that he intends to exercise direct federal oversight of their budgeting.

He has violated his Oath of Office by directly moving to Undermine the Separation of Powers inherent to the Constitution.

This doesn’t inherently mean we need to get all paranoid, or buy into the wilder of the tinfoil-hat theories floating around.  Obama’s “private army,” for instance, was almost certainly mere campaign rhetoric, and essentially harmless rhetoric at that.

If one were a tinfoil hat type, one could posit that the banking crisis has been engineered specifically to create the “unusual circumstances” justifying the FDR-like rhetoric and unusual political moves (including the unheard-of instance of Congress rubber-stamping the president by voting on a bill wildly increasing federal authority, which just coincidentally they did not realize and were not provided time to read about ahead of time).  Even combined with the unheard-of move to put the Census, and thus the balance of political power, directly into the hands of an appointed political operative (this being the likely reason for Gregg’s “resignation,” as his position would have been completely untenable), we could be seeing significant coincidence at stake.  One should never assume conspiracy if incompetence and overreach explain things sufficiently.

That said, the United States has gone fascist in the past under Herbert Hoover, (e.g., the proto-Orwellian CPI )and while the US was fortunately able to roll that back during Harding’s “Return to Normalcy,” the precedents are here; the President has taken actions which would allow him to pull a Weimar on the U.S., should he obtain the political muscle to do so.  

That he will do so, does not seem likely.  That he has obtained the means to do so — recall that electoral backlash can be effectively neutered if one party alone controls the (incredibly important) Census — potentially paving the way for one-party rule, is unnerving, but possibly coincidental.  That he seems to have intentionally sought the means to do so while speaking in a manner consistent with those actions, is cause for legitimate concern, no matter where on the political spectrum an individual citizen may lay:  potential for abuse written into law tends to be maximally exploited over time, and even some liberal critics of the push for the renewal of the “Fairness Doctrine” have noted that it has been used in the past by both major parties to muzzle their critics.

Have a good day.

Leave a comment


  1. Mike

     /  February 21, 2009

    Yeesh, go thing I ate already. This is enough to make one lose ones appetite. The thing that is really spooky about this for me is the long term look. If he gets (or has already got) these powers, I don’t really think he is going to use them. But someone WILL. Maybe the next President, maybe someone 100 years down the road. Government NEVER gives up anything once they get their hands on it, especially power. I don’t think Obama is going to try and push this as far as he could for a varity of reasons, but if the powers exist on the books they are going to get used eventually. THAT is the scary part becuase Obama in many ways is something we can understand and deal with (i.e. a Chicago Politician). What if we finally get someone who we don’t really get? What, sorry I meant when.

  2. Yes: when the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed, critics claimed that it would be used as a political weapon against liquor stores, strip clubs, and other unpopular businesses. Those passing the ADA said it wouldn’t: time has proven the cynics correct.

  3. Mike

     /  February 22, 2009

    Bleah. Time to buy more silver and ammo.

  4. Silver maybe, gold no. Lentils would be a better buy if you’ve a basic stock of ammo (if it actually got that bad, previous experience shows that you’d be getting most of your ammo off the bad guys anyway).

  5. Zathras

     /  February 23, 2009

    You need to connect more dots for this to be a coherent argument. What does the legislation re: IG’s have to do with a new Office of Urban Policy?

    The “New tools” he mentions are a completely separate portion of the legislation.

    There is no violation of federalism here: Congress can put conditions on how money it gives to states can be spent. This is nothing new. Conditioning highway funds on a state legislature’s passing of a 21 drinking age is a much more serious intrusion than what is mentioned here, and that was unanimously upheld by SCOTUS.

  6. blackpine

     /  February 23, 2009

    I’ll shout a question from the cheap seats. My sleep deprived, coffee stained encephalon sees the threat coming from Congress. The states can always refuse the money in order to ensure their sovereignty. The “waste” provision is creepy though. That is a sure sign of impending selective enforcement.

  7. drteine

     /  February 23, 2009

    Three states (MI, LA, SC) have rejected the money and thus don’t have to abide by these rules. Looking more selectively one could say that if you’re going to get this money that you don’t have to pay back – there is a price to be paid. Either you’re willing to pay that price or not. Take your pick and move on.

  8. Mike

     /  February 23, 2009

    To quote an awesome quote “TANSTAAFL!”

  9. Mike

     /  February 23, 2009

    Now, if we could just get someone to explain that one to Congress we might have something.

  10. Zathras: you’re absolutely right. As it stands now, there’s no problem. If the dots are actively connected, we’ve got a hell of a problem.

    For instance, the legislation says that governors’ vetos/objections can be ditched around by state-legislative votes, by a party which has garnered plenty of “um, huh?” from making an openly-political move on the Census (source of all legislative districting, state and federal). If a politico **wanted** to connect these dots, the tools are there. That the President has been talking as if he sees the dots as connected (which he did in his threat to the mayors, in which “stimulus” money was NOT specified), that’s something a responsible citizen puts a red flag on and observes in case of future trouble.

  11. blackpine

     /  February 23, 2009

    I worry about Pelosi and Congress as most of those morons can be elected again and again. Obama is eight years max. Pelosi is an inveigling shrew.And she can be there as long as Thrumond is she has the money and the tools to disrupt opposition. She’s going to have monetized every flunky she has, built her war chest and reduced the avenues to point out her own graft when this is done. Whether we have an economy or not, they’ll be entrenched.

  12. drteine

     /  February 24, 2009

    Yes Mike, TANSTAAFL! is indeed something that should be ingrained in human psyche. I’m thinking instead of having bumper stickers made for my cars as my own little attempt at educating the public.

    Oh, and I miss-wrote. The three states that rejected the funds were MS, SC, and LA. MI is Michigan which is taking the money (and the hooks that come with it), MS is Mississippi. I meant Mississippi but mis-wrote the abbreviation.

  13. I’m not quite so pessimistic: the districting that creates safe seats also creates intractable factions — while Pelosi’s seat is safe, her office in the congress is not (as the flaming wreckage of the ’94 “revolution” proved, once(immediately) the repubs started betraying Gingrich). So long as we have such irreconcilable factions, they’ll be so busy fighting, to use Russ’s words “over where to point the Leviathan” that in the long run what one party farks over the other will undo. Not that we’ll have the kind of liberties the nation started with, but at least the effects will waver, rather than settling down in the nice Orwellian way that liberty’s disappearing in England (for example).

  14. happycrow

     /  February 24, 2009

    If, ten years ago, I’d told folks about the state-sponsored human rights abuses that would occur regularly in Canada and England, people would have thought I was a complete kook.

    Thus my post. Eternal vigilance, and all that.

  15. Superbiff

     /  February 24, 2009

    I know that this will come as something of a shock to those who know me as a rabid libertarian type, but I don’t find this particular combination of things to be that damning..

    1. The IG having final authority is a key protection in that passage. They may have tried to neuter the IG’s more but it obviously didn’t work. I don’t think the IG having to justify its decision is particularly nebulous since this would more than likely be handled by a cavalcade (sp?) of staffers that every Fed office seems to have now.

    2. Again, this seems more rhetoric than threat. Obama/Biden will strategize to ensure Federal dollars are spent effectively. Well sure that’s another of their “we emit rainbows” type of statements, but there’s nothing new here. The Fed has been setting restrictions on monies to state projects for decades now; I myself worked as a contractor on one of these projects (building a web tracking system for the USDA’s Empowerment Zones and Enterprise Communities project). Putting restrictions on Federal funding ‘given’ (blech) to states rather than simply stroking a blank check seems a lot more economically conservative in nature than we saw under Bush, who flung money everywhere.

    3. The state legislatures’ having the power to accept the money even if the Governor refuses it is an interesting one, as I would have thought that the legislature would already have this power by the very nature of separation of powers. Had Governor WhateverHerIncompetenceWas of LA refused Federal assistance funds after Katrina, the state legislature could absolutely have overridden her by crafting legislation that explicitly accepts those funds. Maybe someone smarter than me can cite something to the contrary, but I believe this is merely a statement of a power that already existed.

    4. “And I want everybody here to be on notice that if a local government does the same, I will call them out on it and use the full power of my office and our administration to stop it.” This one depends entirely upon what happens with it.. Mostly empty rhetoric as usual.

    Mind you, I think this stimulus plan is an unmitigated disaster waiting to happen. We have an essentially ignorant populace when it comes to political theory and economics in general. It sickens me that because of this, Bush is still considered a ‘conservative’ by the bulk of the country. Obama was swept into an office under a ‘change’ mandate. Combine those two things and what we get now is Obama having an almost blank-check to ‘change’ the economic policies of the country from conservative principles (which Bush was ignoring completely) to more economically-liberal ones (which Bush was following near-exclusively). So in short, to overcome the economically liberal policies, we’re now going to enact even more economically liberal policies.

    Because, you know.. That has worked out very well so far.

  16. Superbiff

     /  February 24, 2009

    Oh and the next person who shrieks at me about how Bush “de-regulated everyrhing” is getting kicked in the kneecap.

  17. Mike

     /  February 24, 2009

    I’ll second that motion.

  18. Motion carries. You can probably call a lot of things conservative: Wilsonian foreign policy tied to economic protectionism and LBJ-style entitlement spending isn’t one of them.

  19. Mike

     /  February 25, 2009

    I’d sure hope you wouldn’t tie that one to conservative. Dumb-a$$@# maybe.

    (Editor: Cleaned up the double-post.)

  20. In fact, I didn’t, Mike. But claiming those things as conservative, as many of the shills for the Republicans claimed, is indeed dumbassed.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

  • Featured Eyeballs

  • What’s today again?

    February 2009
    M T W T F S S
    « Jan   Mar »
  • Archives

  • Blog Stats

    • 133,076 hits
  • Recent Comments

    Cults and Context |… on So, about that Bruce Jenner…
    Cults and Context |… on Yes, I AM, in fact, looking at…
    Cults and Context |… on How The Internet Says “D…
    Kat Laurange on Hungarian Military Sabre …
    Kat Laurange on Rose Garden! The Home Edi…
  • Advertisements
    %d bloggers like this: