Tuesday, April 23, 2013

How progressives turned the veto and budget processes on their head

In "The Lesson of Popular Government", by Gamaliel Bradford, the following is written: (pages 366-367)
The present French President has no veto except upon subordinate councils, just as the prefects have upon the decisions of local councils. The French suspensory veto of 1789 was repeated in the Spanish constitution of 1812 and the Norwegian of 1814. The Swiss executive has no veto on the acts of the Assembly, but it rests with the popular vote in the referendum. In the United States the general principle, both in the federal government and in the States, except North Carolina, Ohio, Delaware, and Rhode Island, where no veto exists, is that the executive veto may be overcome by a competent proportion of the legislature, for the most part two-thirds of a quorum, with the provision that the act shall become a law unless returned by the executive within a specified time.

It is evident that a government cannot be carried on by negatives. That the head of a great system of administration should be obliged to sit waiting till a large body of men, in no wise responsible for that administration and with each of those men separately under strong pressure from local and private interests, can come to an agreement as to the rules under which that administration shall be carried on is almost sure to condemn it to impotence. It seems obvious that the head of the administration should himself prepare the rules which he thinks necessary for his action and submit them to the legislature for acceptance or rejection; in other words, that the veto should be applied the other way.

Again, after a legislature has taken the trouble to debate and go through all the procedure of passing a bill, to have it rejected and sent back by the executive cannot fail to excite hostility and conflict between the two branches, in which the legislature, which has command of the purse, is certain to get the upper hand at least as long as peaceful methods only are employed. The French suspensory veto must have greatly increased this exasperation, as the legislature could not know during two sessions whether its perhaps hardly contested decisions were to become law or not.

The veto again is defective because it does not throw any light from the wants of administration upon the process of framing and upon the discussion of legislation. As we shall see, it leaves to the incoherence and passion, to the compromises and intrigues of the houses, the making of laws which should be free from all those conditions. In a word, the veto power is merely an illustration of the dependence of an executive upon a legislature.

Like so many other progressives, Bradford was one of these intellectuals, proposing his own ways of removing government barriers that would set government free to wreak havok upon our liberties. It seems to me that Bradford means for the President to be the originating source of all legislation, yet if you look at the construct of this idea, this does appear to resemble what happened with the budgeting process. The US Constitution states the following: (Art. 1 Sec. 7 Cl. 1)

1: All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.

Yet how does modern Budgeting actually happen? Obama sends the budget. Many of the people within the Republican party are complicit in this unconstitutional behavior, many of which have even gone out to grandstand on this fact. Clause 2 of Article 1 Section 7 says this:

2: Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it.

He shall return it to that house in which it shall have originated. The Founders were very specific about this, were they not? The progressives do not care about that.

As was pointed out in the video above, and this article makes this easier to deal with in written form:

The modern executive budget process, requiring an annual White House budget submission to Congress, was established under the Budget and Accounting Act of 1921. The law also created the agency that would eventually become the White House Office of Management and Budget. And, every year since then, according to the Library of Congress and The New York Times, the President’s submission has represented the start of the budget process--until now.

From a legal standpoint, it is my understanding that "Shall" is rock solid, with virtually no wiggle room. This is how it's going to be.

Yet since the B.A.A. of 1921, the Constitution's Article 1 Section 7 has been re-written with a simple majority in congress and the senate, instead of the standard two thirds of both houses and the states involvement. How did this come to be? In "The decline and resurgence of Congress", by James L. Sundquist, the following is written: (page 38-40)

The responsibility of the Congress to authorize, finance, and supervise the activities of the executive branch has been called its "board of directors" function, as distinct from its strictly legislative duties. As the government grew, the sheer magnitude of its operations compelled its board of directors - like any board in a comparable situation - to delegate more and more authority to its general manager.

Even if such delegation is unconstitutional, does that even matter? Sundquist continues:

Unlike other boards of directors, however, and unlike legislatures in parliamentary countries, the United States government's board neither selects its general manager nor has the power to remove him under ordinary circumstances; and on occasion it may be in political opposition to him. Nevertheless, much delegation perforce has occurred, and the President has been steadily strengthened as the general manager of the government's vast establishment. What had been the President as an individual, aided only by a couple of secretaries and a tiny clerical staff housed in the President's own home - the White House - in the past half century has become the presidency, an assortment of managerial and directing agencies so large that they overflow even two large buildings that look down on and dwarf the White House.
The first major shift of managerial authority came in the fiscal field. Before 1921, a President did not have to have a program for the whole of the government, and none did; after that date, he was compelled by the Budget and Accounting Act to present a program for every department and every bureau, and to do it annually. That act made the President a leader, a policy and program initiator, and a manager, whether he wished to be or not. The modern presidency, judged in terms of institutional responsibilities, began on June 10, 1921, the day that President Harding signed the Budget and Accounting Act.

Page 40:

When President Taft took office, he made budget reform a matter of major concern. Among other steps, he appointed a Commission on Economy and Efficiency; it recommended that the executive branch be required to prepare a single budget, and Taft in his last week in office did just that, submitting his own consolidated budget for the executive branch as an alternative to the book of estimates.

This is the root of it in elective politics. Theodore Roosevelt's hand-picked successor, William Taft. (Who later on, Roosevelt got upset with because he was not progressive enough. But still too progressive for my tastes) Thankfully, Taft's initial proposal was ignored by congress. But the thing about progressives is that they are very patient. They will wait for the next opportunity, the next personality, and then they will strike. Sundquist continues:

As the deficits continued and as the size and the costs of government increased, however, public agitation for a comprehensive budget system grew.

This means that the Walter Lippmann media was out there reporting and teaching the citizens all of the wrong things, much like it does today.

By 1916, a pledge to introduce a "simple businesslike budget system" had found its way into the Republican platform(the Democrats only promised to consolidate appropriations responsibility in a single committee in each house of the Congress). Then came the explosive growth of government in World War 1, and the lack of management became intolerable. ... "The Government has been running wild, the ship has been rudderless, the captain has been off watch, and there has been no head who might be held responsible," declared Representative Martin B. Madden, Republican of Illinois, who served on the House Select Committee on the Budget.

So it was the progressives in the republican party who did this bit of the necessary work of setting the presidency free of it's constitutional restraints on the spending side. Martin B. Madden wasn't just an Illinois Republican, he was a Chicago Republican, from Hinsdale.

Government cannot be run like a business. It is not a business. Interestingly enough, the drive to do just that has led to a massive increase of government largess. Considering where we are today, with Obama running everybody over with the government steamroller, we can look back and see just how dangerous that Gamaliel Bradford's proposal really was. As to the veto process, if congress is vetoing the President's budget, that's not really how its supposed to work.

The Founders specifically gave this power to congress and congress alone to protect us, and with this one bit of protection being circumvented, it's easy to see how yet again, the Founders got it right.


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