The Liberty Amendments – Chapter Six

A continuing series of discussions of Mark Levin’s new book,
The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic

(Discussion #12 – Cutting Back The Bureaucracy)

Last week was a holiday week, so I was buried in code, and skipped the Monday Liberty Amendments article.

Apologies, but my excuse was related to finishing the ArticleFiveProcess website. The entire site is now fully functional. This includes the heat map (which now shows the “heat”), and your updates to the data engine (click on the blue shield to get there), where you can see—and update—the scoreboard. Tell all your friends! Please stop by and update your state legislator’s info (if you know his or her position on the Convention for proposing Amendments). It’s where the action gets posted, and where we can all watch the map heat up over the next year or so.

Now on with this week’s topic, which is Chapter Six of Mark Levin’s book. It’s time to get back to The Liberty Amendments.

Chapter Six

It’s a safe bet that nearly every politician wants his or her name on a “signature” piece of legislation. They want that legislation to live forever, with their name or names as the preferred moniker. For example, you’ve probably heard of (or been affected by) Dodd-Frank, McCain-Feingold and Sarbanes-Oxley. Such Acts of Congress are the Great Monuments to Bureaucracy to which so many of our senior Members of Congress aspire. They are purpose-built to stay in effect long after we’re all safely dead, so our children and grandchildren will be forced to deal with their increasingly useless and stifling effects.

Purpose-built? Most assuredly. For wouldn’t it be a simple thing, attaching a sunset provision to any piece of legislation? Yes, of course it would. Obviously the march of human progress, like time itself, soon renders these eponymous regulatory prescriptions into absurd anachronisms. Which is fair, since most of them are absurd to begin with.

Absurd anachronism or not, these increasingly massive compilations of legislative self-reference each leave behind a corpulent legacy: federal departments, agencies, and facilities. Collectively, these are called the bureaucracy. They are the immortal children of the cross-breeding between campaign cash and the quest for political power. Of course, somewhere, deep down in the gestation process you’ll often find a small kernel of an idea for fixing a problem of some sort; usually one of the big four: poverty, human behavior, the environment, and grievance. Once in a while they address something useful, like commissioning a new ship for the Navy. But most laws are about fixing the unfixable. Nature (AKA “the environment”) pretty much regulates itself, despite our attempts to control it. Poverty will always exist. A shortage of humans behaving badly has yet to attain. And with regard to grievance: bringing historical wrongs to book unfortunately requires time travel.

LincolnBoothIf time travel were possible, someone would have traveled back and made Booth or Oswald miss. Don’t hold your breath on that one.

So the immortal children of Congresses long past are with us still. And they grow larger and more unaccountable to the people with every passing day. They have alphabet names like EPA, TARP, and DHS. They generate their own regulatory environment, and their main purpose always grows to follow the Iron Law of Bureaucracy. The relationship between their budget requirements and their ability to provide more benefit to the people is inverse. With few exceptions, the only way to be rid of them is via the repeal process, which rarely happens (unless a much bigger, far less accountable bureaucratic nightmare is put in its place.)

Clearly, Congress is unable and unwilling to change this state of affairs. Hence the problem.

The solution is to put provisions in place that require Congress to address the unchecked growth in bureaucracy. An Amendment is required to do so, and Mark Levin proposes one in Chapter Six.

Levin’s proposed Amendment includes five sections, where the second through fifth detail how Congress will seat a committee for the purpose of putting all major regulations by the agencies and departments under Congressional approval. However, the first section is what I like to think of as the scythe of time. Levin details an automatic expiration of any department or agency that is not reauthorized every three years. It’s a bad haircut for overgrown bureaucracy, and it’s definitely about time. More importantly, it restores the balance between the Executive and Legislative branches, by placing a check on the agencies’ regulatory powers, which tend to expand geometrically without it.

So every department and every agency are included in the “scythe” clause. No exceptions; not even for the Military. Now, I’m sure some, “Living, breathing document,” clown will decide that this section allows them to simply pass a resolution declaring all agencies and departments to be fully authorized every three years. To prevent this, Levin uses the phrase, stand-alone reauthorization bills. This is important, because it means Congress cannot treat this responsibility as an automatic formality; specifically, a formality that disallows attempts by less senior Members to help squelch the Monumental Aspirations of the entrenched.

Everyone gets a scytheI told you: the guys get scythes!

Another aspect of this “scythe” concept reappears in the other four sections detailing the formation of the Congressional Delegation Oversight Committee. The job of this committee is to oversee major regulations coming from the federal agencies or departments. Levin uses economic impact as a trigger for placing a regulation under this scrutiny, by specifying a threshold of One-Hundred Million dollars of impact. Levin requires rotation in this committee by allowing only one three-year term to any House Member. If the committee does not manage to vote either for or against any proposed major regulation, the regulation falls under the scythe, and dies.

Now, pegging to economic impact the notion of whether a regulation is “major” or not is definitely non-robust. A regulation that kills a growing new industry in its infancy might fall below the $100M impact level, but the loss to the economy in the long term could be staggering. (For example, imagine how the auto industry would look today had the NRLB been in existence, and squelched the idea of assembly line manufacture before Henry Ford used it to mass produce Model T’s.) Also, such numbers can become out of sync with inflation or deflation periods. But unless someone comes up with a better triggering mechanism, economic impact certainly covers a huge range of bureaucracy-mandated reductions in Liberty.

The bottom line is that this amendment addresses a critical deficiency in the boundaries between the Legislative and Executive branches of government, and also restores some measure of accountability (meaning members of Congress could lose their seats) to the regulatory process.

I urge all of you to read this chapter carefully. Levin explains the current way the regulatory process works, and where the problems with it have become intransigent. He also provides the founder’s views on why regulatory power belongs to Congress, and not to some agency overseen by the Executive branch. Further, he provides a historical context showing how Progressives have steadily weakened the Constitution to arrive at this point where armed EPA agents can place you in jail without due process for breaking regulations you could not possibly know exist.

This is an important amendment, folks. The Convention must take up this idea and craft something that addresses the problem as Levin has done. This is why YOU need to be studying this issue with serious focus. (And more than a little prayer, I might add.) One among you may well be inspired by Levin’s work to come up with an even better idea. I promise you Mark Levin won’t mind. You see, you can’t wait and dream it up after the Convention is done. We need all hands on this now while the process is under way, because:


Discussion #11: ArticleFiveProcess site news
Discussion #10: The Article Five process is how we go on offense
Discussion #9: the filthy habit of continuing resolutions
Discussion #8: Naysayers
Discussion #7: Tracking Our Progress
Discussion #6: Amendments on Spending and Taxes
Discussion #5: How much power do the states have?
Discussion #4: What If They Hijack the Convention?
Discussion #3: An Invitation to Our Friends on the Left
Discussion #2: Run Away!
Discussion #1: Zombie Doctrine, Tactics, and the Liberty Amendments

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