"Independent agencies" occupy an odd corner of American government. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, National Labor Relations Board, Federal Communications Commission, and others are nominally "independent" of the president's control—usually thanks to limits on the president's power to fire the agencies' leaders—and thus enjoy seemingly unlimited discretion to regulate American industry.
Until last week, Mitt Romney had trouble getting potential voters to care so much that they would crawl over ground glass to get to the polling station and vote for him. But now, the man and moment may have come together, thanks to employees of the General Services Administration and the Secret Service.
Last Friday, President Obama asked Congress for the power to consolidate government agencies, saying he’d start by rolling Commerce and five lesser departments into a single business and trade department.
Looking at Washington these days, one suspects that this is the way things will be for a long time to come. Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day (and all that), the massive tangle of dependencies, entitlements, political payoffs, and perpetual pork barrel schemes that is our national government cannot be either taken down or rebuilt along rational lines – if, indeed, it is possible at all – in much less than the 50 years it took to create it.
CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley asked President Obama whether he “can tell the folks at home that, no matter what happens, the Social Security checks are gonna go out on August the 3rd?” President Obama replied that it wasn’t just Social Security checks that would need to go out and that “I cannot guarantee that those checks go out on August 3rd if we haven't resolved this issue, because there may simply not be the money in the coffers to do it.”
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell challenged President Obama’s claim to support trillions in serious spending cuts as part of a deal to raise the debt ceiling – cuts the president says show he’s ready to anger Democrats to get a deal.
There is something about big, splashy economic development (“eco-devo”) projects that causes even the most conservative politicians to lose their heads. On the stump, they rail against corporate giveaways and crony capitalism. In town halls, they decry backroom deals, preferential treatment, and earmarks. In practice, though, they just cannot resist the urge to spend taxpayer money on new stadiums, shopping malls, and other civic boondoggles that will supposedly jump-start economic activity and lead to massive job creation.
President Obama’s average annual deficit spending (including his proposed deficit spending for 2012) has been 9.7 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) — more than double the tally of any other president since World War II. In the wake of Obama’s spending spree, it’s therefore a bit disconcerting that the CBO writes in a newly issued report that “the continued aging of the population and growth in health care costs will almost certainly push up federal spending significantly relative to GDP.”