Having worked with members of Congress for a term, Lee is convinced a lot of them have no clue what’s in the Constitution. He described how it is the new normal for legislators to write humongous bills that nobody can understand and leave it to the courts to strike down any portion thereof that might be construed to be un-Constitutional. The problem with that is, most people don’t know what’s in the bills, so they don’t know what to bring before the courts.
Another reason for out-of-control government involves the dysfunctional relationship between federal legislators and voters. Narcissists and control freaks are attracted to seats of power. The desperate among them will promise the sun, the moon, and the stars to get it. And then, once in office, they will keep their promises by passing legislation that says they delivered – and then pass the dirty work of figuring out and enforcing the details to unelected bureaucrats, often referred to as the alphabet soup of regulatory agencies overseen by the federal executive. This keeps the legislators untarnished for the next election cycle and the people unable to recall those responsible for trying to force the sun, the moon, and the stars to work as legislated.
A new twist to Congress’ abdication of its Constitutional duties is executive overreach. Lee tells how the president assumed unauthorized legislative authority with Obamacare at least nine times by, “changing the deadline to buy health insurance, postponing the starting date for the small business exchange, ordering states to allow people to keep canceled insurance plans, expanding subsidies to cover enrollees not covered under the statute, extending the deadline for the expiration of high-risk insurance pools, pushing back the enrollment period in 2014 until after the midterm elections, delaying enforcement of the law’s ban on discrimination by employers against low-level workers, extending the deadline for the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, and once again delaying part of the employer mandate.” Lee said the president’s dissing of separation of powers, “turns citizens into subjects by denying their directly elected representatives the exclusive authority to make the laws.”
One recourse legislators can use against an unwieldy executive is impeachment. Another is the power of the purse. But that did not play out well in fighting Obamacare, either. Lee tells how Congress used to approve an entire budget and then vet different departments’ appropriations separately. The process allowed elected leaders to call out and defund mismanagement. But when Republicans, intent on defeating the flawed and power-grabbing Obamacare bill, offered to compromise by approving every single budget item for the year except Obamacare; the president responded by vowing to veto any proposal short of one all-comprehensive budget bill with full funding for Obamacare. Lee called this “extortion.”
As Republican legislators resisted, the federal government “ran out of money” and began a shut-down. Writes Lee, “For example, while allowing a liberal protest on the National Mall for immigration reform, the administration spent large amounts of money erecting and manning barricades around the World War II Memorial on the National Mall; . . . the NSA continued to monitor phone calls; . . . [and unelected] federal regulators even managed to create over a hundred federal regulations, adding more regulations in a week than they had ever added when the government was operating at full capacity.” With help from “a compliant press corps,” Republicans were demonized for the shut-down, and Obamacare was unleashed to, as its opponents had tried to prevent, “kill jobs, reduce wages, raise taxes, explode spending, hurt competition, inflate premiums, cancel popular insurance plans, and force religious people to fund contraceptives . . .”
Lee says it is rather easy to sort out which politicians will uphold the Supreme Law of the Land. He suggests asking candidates what they feel the role of the federal government is. All candidates will want the same thing, but the good candidates will speak, as it were, of government to limit government. “When Congress does its job well, it helps us get to that place – not because Congress has the power to legislate into existence all of the precise means by which people become prosperous and well-educated but because federal power properly exercised leaves individuals free to so what they do best without interference from (a) Congress or (b) the kinds of problems that Congress is duly and uniquely empowered to address.”
One attempt afoot to reclaim power inappropriately relegated to unelected bureaucratic agencies is the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act. If passed, it would require Congressional approval for any federal regulation with an economic impact of more than $100 million. Costs of compliance with standards imposed by alphabet-soup regulatory agencies now act like a hidden tax sucking $2 trillion out of the economy every year.
Lee is no stranger to games and setups played by “those who traffic” in government. The first part of his book examines what he considers the “Lost Clauses” of the Constitution; namely, that all legislative powers of the federal government are to be vested in a bicameral house, that all revenue bills should originate in the House of Representatives, that Congress’ inability to establish a state religion has neither bearing on what states want to do nor power to compel the federal government to forbid the free exercise of religion, that government shall be required to have a specific warrant to invade personal privacy, that the federal powers not expressly enumerated in the Constitution devolve to the states or the people, and that the Interstate Commerce Clause was not intended to grant Congress the power to do everything. Lee explains the origin of each of these in a short, simple history that makes their current, activist interpretations look ludicrous.