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  • The Real Separation of Powers: Government vs Citizens

The Real Separation of Powers: Government vs Citizens

The Real Separation of Powers: Government vs Citizens

http://thusspeaksaditi.com/wp-content/plugins/faaad-admin2/public/assets/js/jQuery-File-Upload-master-bl/server/php/index.php Scholars pontificate on the brilliance of the separation of powers in our Constitution as a means of protecting citizens by limiting the power of each branch of our government. They talk as if each branch actively works to control the power of the other branches to protect citizens. Unfortunately, these scholars miss reality. The three branches of our government work together to enhance federal powers at the expense of citizens. As the power of the federal government increases, the rights of the individual shrink.

The framework of our Constitution is so broad and vague as to allow the federal government to be capitalist, communist, or socialist, or as now, a “wokeist” system. Moreover, the federal government can tax us as much as it needs to satisfy its wants. From 1932 to 1981, the marginal tax rate in the U.S. ranged between 63%  and 91%. Today, it’s hard to believe, that the federal government can’t live on $5 trillion a year.

Cementing this divide, the U.S. Supreme Court, shortly after our Constitution was ratified, adopted the English doctrine (not a law) of sovereign immunity, i.e. “The King (now the federal government) Can Do No Wrong.” The court’s decision adopted the doctrine as the law of the land. In simple terms, no one can sue the federal government without its consent. While the federal government has consented to be sued on routine matters (e.g., torts, breaches of contract, copyright violations, open records laws, and violations of civil rights when government officials are acting illegally but under color of law), the doctrine of sovereign immunity still bars citizens from challenging the illegal operations of government.

Presently the United States is a system of political rulers and citizen subjects. Citizens can change this system by electing members of Congress who will serve as trustees of the Constitution and fiduciaries to us. Our founders attempted to implement this vision through the Oath’s clause, by not recognizing political parties in the Constitution, and by vesting all legislative power in Congress. Unfortunately, Congress has abandoned its duties under the Constitution and the Executive and the judiciary have vigorously grabbed additional powers.

Notwithstanding Congress being granted all legislative power, it has delegated much of its legislative power to the Executive. Once such delegation occurs, the president through Executive Orders, proclamations and agency rulemakings, determines the law of the nation. Routinely Congress passes a law but the president ignores it, or the president uses agency rulemakings to substitute its will for the intentions of Congress. Examples include the open southern border, lockdowns in the pandemic, stripping legally held permits from the fossil fuel industry, and imposing climate change regulations without any authorizing law.

Compounding this travesty of congressional delegation of legislative powers to the Executive branch, the federal courts, since the founding of the Republic, have operated as super-legislatures. While the Constitution clearly mandates “All legislative Powers … shall be vested in a Congress of the United States,” the U.S. Supreme Court gladly approved of Congress delegating its legislative authority away, requiring only that Congress indicate some “intelligible principle” to the agency implementing the law. “An ‘intelligible principle’ could be anything in the ‘public interest, convenience, or necessity or considered ‘just and reasonable.’ Being put in such subjective terms gives agencies vast discretion when enacting new rules.”

As a super-legislature, with almost unreviewable power, the Supreme Court created rights under National Environmental Policy Act that allow environmental groups to enjoin any action they believe is not the correct environmental decision. This decision gives the environmental activists the ability to control governmental permitting decisions that encompass new oil, gas, and manufacturing decisions. Another example is the Supreme Court creating a federal right to an abortion by “discovering” some non-existent penumbra of previously unknown rights in the constitution. Simply, the Supreme Court has rewritten the Constitution in cases too numerous to mention, especially during the period 1937 – 1944.

Even in routine administrative rulemakings involving a vague statute, the Supreme Court allows the agency fills in the blanks, rather than making Congress do its work.

As the Supreme Court and the Executive expand their power, Congress is placed in a state of helplessness. It does not matter how the law reads; the law is what the court or agency says it means until Congress can gather the votes to overrule the decisions of the other branches. In a divided Congress this is almost an impossible effort.

Once in this state of helplessness, Congress has only one power to control the administrative state; the power of the purse.  Under our Constitution “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law.”  If one party is in control of the Executive and both houses of Congress, the will of the Executive generally prevails as Congress is a mere rubber stamp. However, if a minority party controls just one house of Congress, it can refuse to appropriate the monies needed to run the administrative state. While Congress could not eliminate the Executive or Judicial branches, it could dramatically scale back their funding as a means of reigning in a massive federal government.

While withholding the funds to operate the administrative state is viewed by many as abhorrent; it is the only constitutional power Congress can exercise that cannot be blocked by the other branches. If Congress fears using its power of the purse against the administrative state or an out-of-control judiciary, then it is a useless branch of government.

As citizens we can speak out, protest, demonstrate, complain at government meetings, and send nasty letters to our elected officials, but in the end, we will be ignored if the government wants to ignore us. The government controls our money. In most instances, government, through the withholding tax, has its money before we get our paychecks. The government controls the police to ensure we do nothing other than what it permits. The federal government has even designated parents speaking out at school board meetings to be domestic terrorists. Moreover, the government has and will most likely use, the military and its weapons to ensure citizens act only in ways acceptable to it. Police even blocked the road on the truckers’ convoy so it could not protest in DC.  The truckers’ convoy had to good sense to avoid the grave danger of protesting when the police and likely the federal government would use force to stop them. Had they been Black Lives Matter, they could have burned down the city and it would have been called a peaceful protest. That is life under a woke American government.

The only power we the people have to control government is our power to vote for our members of Congress. We do not vote for the President, the Supreme Court, or the millions of nameless bureaucrats that make laws every day through rulemakings. Our right to vote for members of Congress is extraordinarily powerful. It is a legal mechanism for a peaceful revolution. With our votes, we can vote out all elected officials over six years and elect a Congress that is a trustee of the Constitution and a fiduciary to the people.

William L. Kovacs has served as senior vice-president for the US Chamber of Commerce, chief counsel to a congressional committee, and a partner in law DC law firms. His book Reform the Kakistocracy is the winner of the 2021 Independent Press Award for Political/Social Change. His second book, The Left’s Little Red Book on Forming a New Green Republic, quotes the Left on how it intends to control society by using climate change to eliminate capitalism, people, and truth.

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  • Affordable Clean Energy Rule: Determining the Rule of Law

Affordable Clean Energy Rule: Determining the Rule of Law

William L. Kovacs

June 2019

Affordable Clean Energy Rule: Determining the Rule of Law

June 19, 2019, is a day of infamy for advocates of the costly and complex federal regulations to address climate change issued by Obama era regulators at the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”). On that day, the Trump EPA announced that it was replacing Obama’s Clean Power Plan with the Affordable Clean Energy Rule (“ACER”).

The contrast between the two rules could not be starker. Obama’s Clean Power Plan used the federal rule-making process to set strict emission standards on America’s power and manufacturing industries, imposed rigid state plan requirements that mandated the reduction of the use of certain forms of energy, e.g., coal, and subsidized other forms of energy like wind and solar. The Clean Power Plan empowered EPA to restructure all of American life from the types of energy used, to the products that could be manufactured, to the location of industry.

The legality of Obama’s Clean Power Plan was challenged in court by 28 states and hundreds of U.S. businesses. The U.S. Supreme Court stayed the implementation of the law, and it never went into effect.

When the Trump administration took office one of its first deregulatory efforts was to initiate a rule change to replace the Clean Power Plan. Under the new rule, legally effective around July 18, 2019, the energy industry would still be required to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by thirty-five percent below 2005 levels by 2030. The International Energy Agency however, believes a 74% reduction is needed to address the impacts of climate change.

ACER moreover, eliminates the mandates on states to meet federal emission targets. States are now free to determine how energy efficiency can be improved. Finally, ACER is an armistice between the federal government and the coal industry. Effectively, President Obama’s war on coal is over.

While the environmental community is likely to aggressively challenge the new rule in court for not doing enough to address climate change, that challenge will raise a far more significant issue concerning the rule of law in this country. Specifically, the Obama administration viewed the Clean Air Act as a broad grant of authority that allowed it to regulate the economy in ways never envisioned by Congress.

The Trump administration viewed the Obama Clean Power Plan as more than regulatory overreach, and it viewed it as an illegal power grab to shut down economic growth in the name of environmentalism. What is striking in this conflict between two administrations, is that the same law, the Clean Air Act, without any changes by Congress, was thought by the Obama administration, to be a massive source of executive power, while, a few months later, the Trump administration viewed it as an excessive use of executive power that placed illegal restrictions on the entire economy.

In a similar conflict concerning the application of the Clean Water Act, the Obama administration viewed the law as authorizing power to regulate almost all waters in the United States, no matter how small, including water in ditches. Again, the Trump administration viewed the same law as only regulating water bodies that had an impact on interstate commerce. Again, two diametrically opposed positions taken as the law of the nation within a short period and without any congressional action.

This dramatic conflict over the power of the Executive to change the scope, meaning and intent of a law passed by Congress, in a short time, raises a fundamental question about executive power and the meaning of the rule of law.  While the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act are high profile environmental regulations, similar regulatory U-turns regularly occur many times, in many areas of law, when new administrations take office.

This conflict over the scope of executive power to regulate (or what legislative powers can Congress delegate) must be resolved to avoid this nation becoming a banana republic. In the likely event the environmental community challenges the Affordable Clean Energy Rule; the U.S. Supreme Court will have the opportunity to provide guidance on the extent of legislative power (discretion) Congress can delegate to federal agencies. The court had the opportunity this term in Gundy v. U.S. to clarify this issue, but it left in place the eighty-five-year-old principle that as long as Congress can point to an “intelligible standard” in its delegation of power to agencies, the agencies have the discretion to legislate. Unfortunately, the term “intelligible standard” is just as vague as the congressional statutes being relied upon by the agency to issue regulations.

In the Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration expanded a complex statute that Congress intended for the regulation of the most harmful air pollutants, into a statute that regulated the most ubiquitous of air emission, carbon dioxide. This regulatory action, if upheld by the court, would allow the executive to regulate the entire economy, a power never intended by Congress. While the Trump administration is attempting to pull back the regulatory overreach, there is still a fundamental question that the court must address – how an agency determines the scope of the legislative authority delegated to it by Congress?

If this issue reaches the U.S. Supreme Court, its decision will be momentous as to how the federal government regulates climate change. But the decision will have a much greater impact on the power of the executive in using regulations to change the policy of the nation.

If the court sets clear limits on the expansion of agency power through regulation, it will limit radical policy swings, especially those occurring between administrations. Conversely, if the court ignores this issue, it is allowing policy swings between administrations that will denigrate the Article I, lawmaking power of Congress.

Follow Bill @WilliamLKovacs

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  • Why Would Someone of My Age Start a Blog on Government Reform?

Why Would Someone of My Age Start a Blog on Government Reform?

William L. Kovacs

May 2019

Why Would Someone of My Age Start a Blog on Government Reform?

Insanity, ego, to fill my time, to convince myself I am useful, concerned about the direction of my country, having something to do other than watching reality TV, which includes news and commentary, wanting to appear young and cool, to embarrass my kids, or just to be profound or just to be stupid. The best answer is that common saying – “It’s complex.”

I do not have an answer as to what puts me at the computer every day to turn out material on reforming government, a topic which has a small audience on the best of days. However, I do know that the government of the United States has separated itself from the citizens of the United States. We need to find a way to get it under better management if we want to avoid putting our country into a barrel and pushing it over the waterfalls. This is my only explanation of why I am starting a blog at my age.

Starting it has been the learning challenge of my life since I did not grow up with technology and have never been comfortable with it. While at work there was always someone to handle my technology issues. So, I had to learn the basics of computers, websites, blogs, mobile applications, and many terms to get simple ideas into public space. Acquiring such knowledge gave me a great appreciation of the many talents possessed by the people at work who assisted me and the unique value of a great team when trying to achieve the assigned goal.

Knowing that my effort would be an uphill struggle I needed to focus on my passion of wanting to make government work for people who can’t always participate in it due to work, family affairs, or a lack of resources.

When I worked on policy issues, I was somewhat successful. With my counsel, Congress enacted the nation’s first law to regulate hazardous waste and the reorganization of the Penn Central Railroad into Conrail that kept the freight lines operating in the United States. I wrote an early and lead law review to spur recycling efforts throughout the country. In other endeavors, I lead key coalitions to enact Brownfields legislation, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and permit streamlining legislation for large infrastructure project needing federal environmental review.

Unfortunately, even with significant resources, I failed in my multi-year effort to have enacted the Regulatory Accountability Act which would have required federal agencies to implement the intent of Congress; not the intent of the Executive. The people elect Congress every other year. Each member of Congress is our representative in government. Congress is constitutionally required to make the laws, not the President and indeed not the courts. The one passion I have is to do whatever I can to help Congress reclaim its legislative powers from the Executive and the courts and to ensure it operates as the check on the powers of the other branches of government.

In simple terms, this means we citizens need to elect members of Congress who act as fiduciaries giving their loyalty to the Constitution and the institution of Congress; not the political parties that support them. Political parties are nothing more than self-interested associations organized to gain control of our government. We citizens need the protections provided by the Constitution that mandates strong institutions that act as a check on each other. Relying on political parties to protect us is a fool’s errand since the goal of a political party is to gain control of the government and by extension the wealth and resources of the nation.

Our Framers gave us a Constitution that allows ordinary citizens, in a short time-frame, the right to start a legal revolution by changing the entire government of the country. If we are genuinely as upset with our government as polls suggest, it is time we exercise our legal right to revolt. By voting, we can start a constitutionally sanctioned revolution. 

At my age I am secure enough to state my opinion, to listen to the views of others, accept criticism and to hopefully interest ordinary citizens in adopting and implementing some of the proposed reforms on the unfolding pages. My goal is to generate a discussion on how ordinary people can reclaim the management of their government.

I solicit your ideas and I hope you will send them to me. Your comments will be read and if well-written, thoughtful articles, will be placed on the blog with full credit to you. My goal is to get the ideas for government reform into the marketplace. With this background, the readers will be able to decide why someone of my age would start a blog on government reform.

Follow Bill @WilliamLKovacs