Tyranny by Decree
This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight was published January 2, 2011 on The Washington Times website.
Over the past year, it has become obvious that what leftists cannot win at the ballot box, they will accomplish via bureaucratic dictate. After the U.S. Senate in 2009 rejected the massive cap-and-tax scheme on carbon credits, the Obama administration rode to the rescue of global-warming fanatics. On Dec. 7, 2009, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa P. Jackson issued a ruling that the EPA would begin regulating five “anthropogenic” (man-made) greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, the air we exhale. The EPA based its finding on research from the now discredited U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and rejected at least 10 petitions for reconsideration.
So the EPA is now preparing to hound power plants and refineries by drafting carbon-emissions limits by July 2011, with a final rule due by May 2012. Never mind the faltering U.S. economy and China’s growing economic power. The greenhouse gods must be appeased.
Not to be outdone, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in December began regulating the Internet. Ignoring a recent court decision and Congress’ pointed refusal to grant the FCC this power, the Democrat-dominated body simply voted 3-2 on Dec. 21 (the darkest day of the year) to adopt “net neutrality” rules.
They stopped just short of redefining the Internet as a telecommunication carrier, much like telephone services. But the FCC’s move puts the federal government in a position to begin meddling with content, something the left has salivated over ever since President Obama began stacking the FCC staff with veterans of Marxist Robert McChesney’s Free Press think tank and the far-left Center for American Progress.
Finally, the dreaded “death panels” are back. Recall that on Christmas Eve 2009, Nevada Democratic Sen. Harry Reid’s U.S. Senate rammed through the national health care system takeover. They ignored public opposition and mocked the idea that federal bureaucrats would institute end-of-life counseling. But, in deference to the public’s growing alarm, they took out Section 1233.
It was a bait-and-switch. A year later, on Christmas Day 2010, The New York Times broke the story that Donald Berwick, Mr. Obama’s unvetted czar who heads the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, issued a rule to pay doctors for end-of-life counseling. That was the essence of Section 1233. The Times acknowledged that the counseling “may include advance directives to forgo aggressive life-sustaining treatment.” Exactly.
This is the same New York Times that devoted a lengthy article in 2009 disparaging The Washington Times editorial board, the American Spectator, Sarah Palin and health-policy expert Betsy McCaughey for sounding the alarm on death panels.
This time around, New York Times reporter Robert Pear, acting like an actual reporter for a reputable news service, related that supporters of the policy fear the public will find out what they’ve done. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, Oregon Democrat, and Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, West Virginia Democrat, had urged the adoption of the policy under the Medicare wellness benefit.
As Mr. Pear reports:
After learning of the administration’s decision, Mr. Blumenauer’s office celebrated ‘a quiet victory,’ but urged supporters not to crow about it.
While we are happy with the result, we won’t be shouting it from the rooftops,” Mr. Blumenauer’s office said in a November e-mail. “We would ask that you not broadcast this accomplishment out to any of your lists, even if they are ‘supporters’ … Thus far, it seems that no press or blogs have discovered it, but we will be keeping a close watch and may be calling on you if we need a rapid, targeted response. The longer this goes unnoticed, the better our chances of keeping it.
With such allies, the “most transparent administration in history” is seizing ever more power by bureaucratic fiat and scheming to keep it from the public.
In the American Spectator, Phil Klein reported that the 2,700-page health care bill includes more than 1,000 power-granting references to the Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary. Here’s the breakdown: The secretary “shall” (700 references); the secretary “may” (200) and the secretary “determines” (139).
This gives HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who issued threatening letters to insurance companies during the health care debate, enormous unilateral power to set policy.
No wonder Mr. Blumenauer’s office doesn’t want to let the cat out of the bag on the death panels. No wonder the FCC kept the discussion of their Internet takeover behind closed doors. No wonder Mr. Reid and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s Congress cheered on the EPA’s massive power grab.
The incoming Congress has several ways to deal with these usurpations. They can defund any of the rogue agencies or portions of their budgets that fuel the policies. The 1996 Congressional Review Act also gives Congress the authority to veto bureaucratic rulemaking that exceeds authorized powers.
The new House should propose legislation and hold hearings as soon as possible, before the sticky web of bureaucratic tendrils gets too dense to penetrate. Knowing they’re on a shorter leash, bureaucrats at the EPA, HHS and FCC and countless other agencies are busy concocting ever more rules as the new year dawns. Tyranny by decree is so much easier than having to persuade the people.