Undesignated Driver

chrysler The other day the President decided to bypass the limitations placed upon his office by virtue of the Constitution, and to funnel taxpayers dollars into private concerns General Motors and Chrysler.  Even more (or perhaps, less) surprising, Congress has permitted this to happen without even so much as an indignant  whimper.  I believe that this action portends poorly for the separation of powers that we hold so dear, and that a challenge to to this usurpation of authority by the Executive is not only warranted, but imperative. 

 As Article I, Section 9, subsection 17, of the Constitution of the United States makes abundantly clear:  “No money shall be withdrawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by law….”  You should look it up. 

George Bush decided to steer funds that Congress had allocated to bail out financial institutions to replenish the coffers of General Motors and Chrysler, stating: “Allowing the auto companies to collapse is not a responsible course of action.” Bankruptcy, he said, would deal “an unacceptably painful blow to hardworking Americans” across the economy. ” 

That may well be the case, but it was not Mr. Bush’s decision to make. Congress, for good or ill, had decided not to fund a rescue of the automobile manufacturers with taxpayer money, and the Executive Branch had no authority to contravene the express wishes of the the people’s representatives.  Left unchallenged, Mr. Bush’s decision will further diminish the ability of Congress to act as a check on Executive power.  It does not take a fevered imagination to conjure up circumstances where a future president might choose to re-allocate funds authorized by Congress to pay Peter in order that his own favorite Paul might benefit as well.  If you don’t think it could happen, then explain to me why the line-item veto is still unconstitutional.

Frankly, my dear, this whole bailout deal is complete and utter bullshit, and it may represent the last straw between me and Mr. Bush. But I am just as shocked that our dearly beloved Congress, those same individuals that will lay down their very lives and reputations over such judge-made rights as personal privacy and affirmative action, would just roll over when  their all of their incessant deliberations finally mattered.  Don’t tell me that I simply do not understand the severity of the situation.  I do.  And I also understand that it is YOUR job, Mr. and Ms. Representative,  to convince us, your constituents, that your plan for action will provide a worthwhile benefit for the nation as a whole.  Not only have you failed to do so, but you ran away from your responsibility and permitted a short-lived executive to make your decision for you.

That’s a 1948 Chrysler above.  Congratulations, America. You own it now, and forever.



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10 responses to “Undesignated Driver

  1. spd:

    A few random thoughts:

    1. I could just kill you for giving me this much to think about when my house is full of children and grandchild and I’ve had essentially zero sleep 🙂

    2. For the past however many years, you’ve had about the same take on Teh Shrub as my esteemed spouse (IOW, he and I fight a lot when the subject comes up :p). He gives him credit on the national security thing but is (IMO) unduly harsh in some other areas. I understand the concerns. It’s just that I have never had it satisfactorily explained to me what the alternative workable plan was in any of the cases where he isn’t happy with the outcome. He just ain’t happy – and often, neither am I. He admits no one else – no one – has been willing to tackle any of the really hard problems. There’s a reason for that (what, oh what could that be?). But there’s precious little willingness to admit how few real options there are. To me, woulda/coulda/shoulda ain’t a viable work plan in the real world. You deal in reality and compromise, ugly as that often is. I believe Ronald Reagan was quite eloquent on that topic – it got him in hot water with his own party on more than one occasion.

    3. I defer to you on the subject of law and the Constitution and I will have to think on this some more. But I do have a thought that has troubled me for some time regarding the auto bailout. As much as I’m an advocate of maintaining a free market economy, I also believe certain core competencies are vital to our national security, and they are dying: namely, steel and heavy industry. I watch what Gates is fixing to do to the military (which is dumb) and I recall how we always seem to be fighting the last war.

    And then I wonder: what if the next war is NOT a counterinsurgency but a world war, as seems likely? We can’t rely on other countries to retool and restock our outdated heavy arms and motor pools. Where will we get the steel? From whence will come the planes? The trucks? France? If the auto industry tanks, it will very likely kill the u.s. steel industry as well. It is already faltering.

    Can we really afford that?

    Abraham Lincoln had an interesting take on the Constitution: that in times of national emergency the President can “bend” the Constitution a bit (IOW, things that would normally not be Constitutional, become Constitutional). Yes, it’s dangerous.

    So I guess I am posing a question: this is exactly what al Qaeda wanted to do to us – wreck our economy. They didn’t bring this on, but it has happened and it has definite downstream national security implications. My question is, viewed in this light, is this an impermissible use of executive authority? Historically it’s hardly unprecedented.

    I doubt it will be checked.

    But the question remains: is it Constitutionally impermissible?

  2. spd rdr

    Are you proposing that the executive is exercising its authority as a matter of national security? Because, if so, that becomes a much closer constitutional question. I know that the Big Three tried to make that an issue on Capitol Hill, but it never took off, largely because the Big Three don’t do much defense work. I do not recall that Bush ever brought the subject up, either. Rather, he stated that the bailout was to prevent further economic harm from being done.

    It’s not that I do not understand his sentiment, it’s that I question his authority to act. What should have happened is that Congress should have been forced to stay in session until they had a workable deal. Instead they skipped town for the holidays. Politics, not policy, is running this game.

  3. It is my ill considered opinion that congress will gladly abdicate it’s authority to the executive or judicial branch on any issue that might be thorny.

    Then if it works they can take credit, when it doesn’t they can cast blame with an air of smug superiority.

    And get reelected.

  4. I agree with you spd, but who has the authority to “force” Congress to stay in town and finish their veggies? Bush?

    I am thinking of my neighbor across the street. He is in the steel business and they are not sure how much longer they can survive if Detroit goes under. Autos are not all of their business, but industries often succeed or fail on the margin. To my north is Pennsylvania. Again, steel.

    I was pleasantly surprised recently to find out how many of my neighbors are Republicans in this crunchy granola neighborhood. I was unpleasantly surprised to find out how many of them are facing unemployment right now through no fault of their own – all downstream effects of the auto crisis. Scary, scary stuff.

  5. And for whatever it may be worth, I wrote a paper on the core competencies idea in college (a pure free market vs. limited protectionism in the name of national security). So my question truly isn’t motivated only by the current crisis. It’s something I’ve wondered about for a long time.

  6. spd rdr

    Ya know, you asked a good question. Here in the Old Dominion, the Governor can call the General Assembly back for a Special Session at any time, or can extend a session. I can’t honestly say whether the President has any authority to do the same. But by golly, I’m going to find out!

    As “core competancies,” I think your argument may have legs in certain areas (such as ship building and aerospace), but I’m less convinced that the folks who brought us the Aries K car, Pinto, and Vega are deserving of that consideration.

    But I’m listening.

  7. Don Brouhaha

    Well, it certainly is a separation of powers issue. And GWB has certainly stepped over the line in using TARP funds for this. I hope it stops the inevitable, but I have little doubt that in six weeks or less we will be seeing this issues re-surface. But then the issue will be that of President Obama, and the Democrat controlled Congress. They would just as soon log roll the whole thing, as I don’t see much in the realm of “leadership” from Pelosi and Reid.
    Wrong outcome altogether, but I don’t see the whole steel industry failing at this point. It is much more resilient than it was 8 or 9 years ago. My nephew works for AK Steel and my brother in law works for Republic Steel, and they are still working, although they are filling orders for March and April now. I see them closing the mills for 4 – 6 weeks in January-February, but restarting again in March.

  8. spd rdr

    Don, we are going to discuss this further, I promise. But right now I am AWOL from the holiday tradition of proving me to be a thoughtless heel.

  9. KJ

    I’m with Pile’s comment 100%.

    This is similar to what Congress did post-9/11. Congress should have acted immediately with a legislative approach to try un-uniformed terrorists. Instead, it did nothing and forced the Executive to make up the rules as it went along. That earned obvious charges of “unconstitutional” trials from some — but regular civil court by Article III judges was never going to be an option unless forced by the SCOTUS. Congress abdicated, though it has done some legislating in the second term, much of which has been gutted by the SCOTUS. Go figure.

    The bailout – similar stuff. The Core Competancies issue is something I have wondered about also — but no one in the Executive has made that argument in the bail out usurpation. I think only Congress has the power to stop it however. I think this would be a “political question” — using old Supreme Court language that justified the SCOTUS’s refusal to decide questions that were capable of being worked out in the old fashioned political boxing ring. The Policitical Question was called a cop-out by some, and a proper self-imposed limitation by the Court of its own power. Those cases however were never followed by the later Renquist and post-Renquist court.

    It seems that the current Court simply can’t find a case that it doesn’t have the right to decide.

  10. Well, yes, I d agree with that entirely, and it s certainly something that Lenin articulated rather well.

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