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Checks and balances? What checks and balances?

America's government is a carefully crafted system of checks and balances, as laid out by the Constitution -- well, in theory at least.  However, in recent decades, the executive branch has tended to do what it wants while the grumbling legislation is placated by piles of tax loopholes for their campaign donors and special interest handouts for key local constituents.

I. Cybersecurity Bill - Down, But Not Out

Take the "Cybersecurity Act", bill, S.2105 [PDF], for example.  A redraft of earlier House bill H.R. 3523, the Act gained the support of the President by modifying its proposed implementation to include funneling more of Americans' private data through the increasingly Big Brother-esque U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

While the President was delighted by the promise of the DHS gaining more access in the name of fighting a shadowy, vague Chinese threat, privacy advocates and fiscal conservatives were horrified by the bill.  Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) called the bill "Big Brother writ large."

The bill also stalled in the Senate thanks to growing concern from the corporate community, who urged their affiliated Republican Senators to move to block the bill.  Business leaders supported some of the provisions that would tear down legal barriers between government and private sector information sharing.  But they balked at the proposal of mandatory security guidelines -- another key part of the bill.

Well, bill or no bill the Obama administration is confident they can put the policies in place.  The key to subverting the stubborn legislature, argues administration officials is to substitute executive orders in the place of Senate votes.

Homeland Security
President Obama hopes to use executive orders to expand the DHS's cybersecurity role.
[Image Source: CyTalk]

White House press secretary Jay Carney says that executive orders have not been ruled out, assuming the Senate continues its freeze on the bill.  He comments, "In the wake of Congressional inaction and Republican stall tactics, unfortunately, we will continue to be hamstrung by outdated and inadequate statutory authorities that the legislation would have fixed."

Obama's slogan on this and other issues is "we can't wait."

II. Continuing the FDR Legacy

Indeed the White House will likely move aggressively to put in place executive orders with agencies such as the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to put in place systems forcing businesses to meet security screening.

Even the prohibition on sharing consumer information with the DHS may be able to be torn down by executive order.  By making the program "voluntary" with incentives, the White House could circumvent laws prohibiting the executive branch from forcing unwanted, unlegislated regulation on businesses.

If President Obama does choose to bypass Congress, the approach may draw criticism.  Senator Susan Collins (R- Maine) -- one of the co-sponsors of the bill -- said she would not be comfortable with that approach, despite her support for the provisions.  She comments, "I'm not for doing by executive order what should be done by legislation."

One of the Democratic co-sponsors -- Senator Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) -- seemed okay with the idea, though.  Asked if she would approve of executive orders as a substitute, she said, "I suppose if we can't [pass the bill], the answer would be yes."

Here's a quick rundown on recent President's use of the executive order [source]:

Executive orders per year
[Image Source: Jason Mick/DailyTech]

Of course these recent numbers pale in comparison to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who put in place 3,467 orders during his twelve years in office.  He may have propelled the nation out of a depression, but he set a costly precedent with those orders, one that his successors have followed -- to a lesser extent -- to this day.

Source: The Hill



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RE: I fear for the future...
By wallijonn on 8/8/2012 1:16:26 PM , Rating: 2
50 years ago we weren't out sourcing jobs, either. In case you missed it there's been an economic depression the last few years - many former upper middle class citizens are on food stamps, hitting the food kitch lines, etc. Somewhere there must be some ex-millionaire who is now working at McDonalds for $7 an hour. 50 years ago public FDIC insured banks weren't trading stocks, taking risks in derivatives, etc. How many people have lost their homes, have lost their jobs, have lost their medical insurance, have lost their pensions? 50 years ago we had pensions, not 401Ks...

You want to break the cycle of gov dependence? Start by taxing corporations higher rates for overseas income than they pay if the product is made in the USA. Get rid of all tax loop holes. Make Social Security and Medicare income un-limited: the guy who makes $10,000 a year pays the same 6.25% as the millionaire - no limit on income, all must pay it.


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