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Subverting the Power of the Purse

Yuval Levin recently wrote TheFractured Republic, an intelligent look at the state of political discontent, and a recommended read.  He recently wrote Hillary Is an Embodiment of the Left’s Disdain for Democracy with coauthor Ramesh Ponnuru in National Review. He examines three reason why Hillary is the larger threat while acknowledging Trump’s significant shortcomings.

Excerpt:

Meanwhile, the administration’s implementation of the Dodd-Frank financial-regulatory reforms has empowered both old and new agencies to legislate, regulate, and adjudicate immensely complex and highly significant changes in federal law with very little oversight or accountability. But these are hardly the only arenas in which the administrative state is operating beyond the limits of our constitutional system. The immense freedom enjoyed by administrative agencies is a much more concrete and practical threat to our constitutional democracy than even the prospect of an incompetent demagogue in the White House — and it is actively championed and endorsed by Clinton and her party.

Increasingly, these agencies have absorbed portions of the “power of the purse,” which is supposed to belong exclusively to Congress. Some of them fund themselves through fees. When congressional Republicans sought to use Congress’s funding power to prevent the immigration bureaucracy from enforcing President Obama’s unilateral policy, one obstacle in their path was the fact that the fees that the bureaucracy charges go directly to it rather than to the Treasury, and so it could continue to operate as it wished without a congressional vote to fund it. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was the Left’s most prized achievement within Dodd-Frank. Simultaneously with its creation, it was given a statutory right to funding from the Federal Reserve rather than through congressional appropriation. In effect, it is an independent agency within an independent agency, well removed from effective congressional oversight.

The Obama administration has also pioneered another way for the government to direct money as it wishes without the involvement of Congress: reach legal settlements that include “voluntary” donations to selected nonprofit groups. Liberal organizations have received millions of dollars from Bank of America thanks to one such settlement.

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Betrayed by Elites

from The Betrayal of the Intellectuals by Victor Davis Hanson

So Beinart misses entirely what has angered the proverbial people about the so-called Washington–New York corridor’s political-media-academia elites. The people are not angry nativists opposing legal immigration, but they object to massive, illegal immigration that is neither diverse nor liberal, and whose architects never seem to experience firsthand the consequences of what they created.

Beinart worries about the corrosive effects of wealth on democracy; he should offer an extension course on how the Clintons accumulated a net worth of $150 million since Bill left the presidency, or on the methodologies by which once-convicted financial speculator and multibillionaire George Soros warps the democratic process. Or he might collate the political preferences of a Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, or Mark Zuckerberg. Perhaps he could recall who was the first presidential candidate in a general election to renounce public campaign funding in order to become the greatest recipient of Wall Street cash in election history.

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Executive Unilaterialism

Yuval Levin wrote The Fractured Republic, a very intelligent look at our political condition and highly recommended. Below is as excerpt from his recent article in National Review, Hillary Is an Embodiment of the Left’s Disdain for Democracy:

First, contemporary liberalism has come to ardently champion executive unilateralism. In some respects, this is nothing new. Modern progressivism has always idolized the presidency. Progressivism, as Teddy Roosevelt approvingly put it more than a century ago, is “impatient of the impotence which springs from over-division of governmental powers, the impotence which makes it possible for local selfishness or for legal cunning, hired by wealthy special interests, to bring national activities to a deadlock.” It therefore “regards the executive power as the steward of the public welfare.”

This enthusiasm has waxed and waned, and it is always stronger when Democrats are in the White House. But in the Obama years, it has reached heights unprecedented since at least the early days of the New Deal. Voicing the same kind of impatience TR did with the slow pace of American government, President Obama has repeatedly asserted his power to act alone. “We’re not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we’re providing Americans the kind of help they need,” he told his cabinet in 2014. “I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone,” he continued, pledging to use the federal bureaucracy to advance his agenda on his own if he had to.

In justifying these actions, Obama claimed merely to be setting a policy on how the executive branch would exercise its prosecutorial discretion. But he repeatedly undercut this justification by referring to his impatience with Congress and describing his own steps as a substitute for legislation. “To those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better or question the wisdom of [my] acting where Congress has failed,” he said, “I have one answer: Pass a bill.”

In justifying these actions, Obama claimed merely to be setting a policy on how the executive branch would exercise its prosecutorial discretion. But he repeatedly undercut this justification by referring to his impatience with Congress and describing his own steps as a substitute for legislation. “To those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better or question the wisdom of [my] acting where Congress has failed,” he said, “I have one answer: Pass a bill.”

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How to Reduce Inflation to Zero

Kevin Williamson’s Welcome to the Paradise of the Real was written over two years ago and I still refer it to readers.Sneaky Inflation is equal to that piece in bringing sound economic thought to bear on current issues with an engaging style.  Both pieces are in National Review.

An excerpt from Sneaky Inflation:

You see the same economics at work across all government activity. As Andrew Flowers reports at FiveThirtyEight, in 1998 about 60 percent of TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) spending went directly to poor people; today, that figure is only about 25 percent, with the rest of the money being diverted to other programs, many of which benefit important political constituencies rather than actual poor people. Medicaid isn’t a program for poor people, but a program for large, profitable, politically connected firms bidding on contracts worth hundreds of millions or billions of dollars.

The strange fact is that we are not seeing very much inflation at all except in those areas in which the government is trying to make things more affordable. We could probably get the inflation rate down to practically 0.00 percent — if only Washington would stop helping.

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“Talents for Low Intrigue”

from Mona Charen at National Review, What Are the Checks and Balances:

The Founders included the Electoral College in the Constitution to guard against demagogues, or in Alexander Hamilton’s words, men with “talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity” but lacking the requisite “ability and virtue.” The Electoral College, as originally envisioned, is a dead letter today. So much for that guardrail.

Is the press a check on abuse of power? Will it cover a Hillary Clinton presidency the way it covered Bill Clinton’s (aggressively) or the way it covered Obama’s (pusillanimously)? I’d guess the former, but who knows? Also, the press is held in such low regard by the public that it may not even qualify as a guardrail.

HKO

The best that may come out of this election would be a reflection on how we got here and an examination of these guardrails. One guardrail was an elite that understood their fellow citizens, their values and their virtues.  Now they hold the common brethren in contempt and this is guiding the reckless populism. Ultimately the voters are accountable but their choices have been severely limited by a dysfunctional nominating system.