Writing on the Double Yellow Line

Militant moderate, unwilling to concede any longer the terms of debate to the strident ideologues on the fringe. If you are a Democrat or a Republican, you're an ideologue. If you're a "moderate" who votes a nearly straight party-ticket, you're still an ideologue, but you at least have the decency to be ashamed of your ideology. ...and you're lying in the meantime.

Location: Illinois, United States

Friday, March 08, 2019

The Wrong Emergency

The Wrong Emergency
©2019  Ross Williams

Democrats and quasi-libertarians are coming unglued about the prospect of President Donnie Combover using the National Emergencies Act of 1976 to unilaterally appropriate funds to build a wall on our southern border.

Democrats don't like it because it would permit Prez Cheeto to fulfill a campaign promise.

Quasi-libertarians don’t like it for any number of reasons.  The first, some say, is because what’s happening on our southern border isn’t an actual emergency and thus doesn’t qualify under the law.  Yet I cannot find in the statute any list of criteria necessary to occur before an event can legally be termed “emergency”.  I’m willing to entertain discussion from those more adept at navigating the hyper-loyyerist gibberish that passes for law today.  But until that happens, all that appears to be necessary is for the president to utter the magic words “National Emergency!”  …he may wobble his hands just so, and make spooky sounds as he utters these words at his prerogative.

Indeed, of the 59 uses of the National Emergencies Act to date, the majority are nothing more than a unilateral presidential appropriation of money to pay for the privilege of flopping our petulant national arms across our heaving peevish chest to pout about some foreign asshole, in his own country, being an asshole to his fellow countrymen.  These “national emergencies” have nothing to do with the United States at all, and therefore cannot constitute a national emergency.  They may be emergencies to the peasants and peons of those foreign countries ruled by the asshole, but they are not emergencies to the United States.  And it still doesn’t matter, because the law doesn’t specify what an emergency is.

A more popular reason quasi-libertarians don’t like it is because it violates law.  …which is wholly incorrect.  It follows the law.  By definition.  The law requires the president to utter the magic words “national emergency”… and he’s done so.  It then permits the president to abscond with unused monies from around the Executive Branch to deal with what he thinks the emergency happens to be… and he’s currently in the process of doing so.  So no, “violating law” is an infantile, “I never learned American Civics” response completely beneath the dignity of anyone claiming libertarian sensibilities.

Arguably the most popular quasi-libertarian denunciation is that President Cheeto is “abusing power”.  No, actually, he isn’t.  He’s using the power Congress gave to the president in 1976.  Now, on the other hand… was Congress permitted to give that power to the President…?  And were the courts called in to say whether it was proper and appropriate?

The reason I call them quasi-libertarians is because they don’t appear know enough about how our country was defined to operate to ask the proper questions.

No, Congress is not permitted to give their power to the president.  And no, without a USSC ruling declaring the law to be unconstitutional, it cannot be an abuse of power.  The abuse of power lies with Congress; the fault lies in no one challenging the law in the federal courts.  One would only blame the president if one was ignorant of the matter, or if one had a stick up his ass about who the president is.

I will be the first to acknowledge − and in many of my discussions with those who claim to be libertarian − the only to acknowledge that Congress is the sole branch of the government allowed by the Constitution to appropriate money.  But Congress has given away their Constitutional authorities to the Executive Branch for close to a century at this point, and the National Emergencies Act is, quite frankly, a fairly trivial example of it.  On an actual libertarian scale of priorities, it would be near the bottom of the list of Constitutional abuses to correct.

In all honesty, though, correcting this abuse the proper way would have the natural fallout of correcting the single largest abuse of our Constitution: abdication of Congress’s legislative authority to the Executive Branch.  But that’s for the end of this essay.  We have a lot more American Civics hand-holding to walk through first.

Under the best of all possible circumstances for the “abuse of power” crowd, let’s assume both Houses of Congress cobble together their necessary “concurrent resolution” to deny the president this one use of the National Emergencies Act.  The president will veto it, and Congress then amasses enough votes to override the veto.


They stopped the abuse of power!  No wall will be built − for now!  The rape centers and human trafficking may continue uninterrupted, just as democrats want.  Democrats, socialists and quasi-libertarians can then slap each other on the back over their job well done.

Then what?

What happens in five months when this same president uses the National Emergencies Act to flop our petulant national arms across our heaving peevish chest and pout about the foreign asshole in, say, Venezuela who is being an asshole to his fellow Venezuelans by making them eat their pets and wipe their butts with banana leaves?  He’d done the same exact thing twice thus far, once for the asshole in Myanmar [nee: Burma] and once for the asshole in Nicaragua.  What libertarian outrage greeted these abuses of power which, I should remind us all, came attached to an appropriation of money that would emasculate his wall emergency?

Exactly: none.  Not a libertarian whimper in the house.  So why not Venezuela?

Is there going to be enough sentiment in Congress to stop the same President Cheeto from checking the couch cushions of Executive Branch agencies for the same billions of dollars that law permits him to unilaterally appropriate without Congressional permission? …when the issue becomes pouting about a Venezuelan asshole, instead of irritating democrats?

If the past is any indication, absolutely not.

But isn’t it exactly the same abuse of power?

Yes it is.

So what changed?

Nothing.  …and let me immediately correct myself.  To quasi-libertarians nothing has changed.  The same exercise must be repeated, ad infinitum, every time a president wishes to unilaterally appropriate money by uttering magic words.  And to a disturbing number of quasi-libertarians, this becomes an exercise of “checks and balances”… advertising a grotesque misunderstanding of a constitutional republic.  Here’s a hint: one branch of government does not abdicate its powers in the first place in order to “check and balance” others’ use of those powers.

To democrats, socialists and world-government/open-borders simpletons, what changed is that the issue is no longer Donnie Combover getting in their way of open-border overrunning of the US.  And because quasi-libertarians don’t know enough about how our country is defined to operate and didn’t ask the right questions in the first place, they cannot foresee the ramifications of siding with the self-serving democrats, socialists and world government ninnies.

If the National Emergencies Act is an abuse of power − and it is, an abuse originating in Congress, not with the president − then the means of correcting the abuse of power is to go back to the source of the abuse, the law itself, and correct it there.

This can be done in one of exactly two ways.  First, Congress can repeal the law.  But there is nothing, then, preventing Congress from writing the same law next week, next month, next election cycle, or next century.  Additionally, and more to the cynical point, democrats, socialists and world-government creeps in Congress don’t want the law repealed.  Taking back this presidential power to unilaterally appropriate unused monies from various federal piggy banks would get in the way of the president of their party using this power.  And they don’t want that.  Power is for democrats, no one else.

The second − and best − way to properly correct this matter is for the courts to declare the law unconstitutional.  Of course, this presumes that at least 5 justices on the Supreme Court, where the issue would ultimately end up, are themselves more familiar with the Constitution than the average quasi-libertarian, and understands that Congress does not have the defined authority to give away its powers.  This is an iffy proposition at best, and it may take the better part of a generation in order to fully insinuate the notion of “Congress doesn’t have the power to give away its power” into the collective jurisprudential psyche of the US legal system.

But with this ruling, Congress would not be able to construct another National Emergencies Act.  The best part, though, from an actual libertarian perspective, is that it would lay the groundwork for the deconstruction of what is inarguably the biggest threat to liberty in the United States.  That threat is the Congressional habit of abdicating its legislative powers to Executive Branch bureaucrats to construct regulations − non-legislative rules with [according to federal courts] “the weight of law” − and which are, without exception, adjudicated in a guilty-until-proven-innocent manner.

What makes regulatory authority the most uniquely abusive of liberty is that the government, with a presumption of guilt backing it up, has far more loyyers than the citizen who is presumed guilty.  Both regulatory authority and National Emergencies are predicated upon Congress giving its powers to the Executive Branch. 

While both are examples of a craven Congress refusing to take responsibility for its constitutional responsibilities, regulatory authority has cost us trillions in bureaucratic busy-bodying, trillions more in salary to the bureaucratic busy-bodies, and multiple trillions more in lost productivity in complying with the bureaucracy.  National emergencies, on the other hand, have merely cost us several tens of billions for [primarily] the purpose of foreign policy posturing, and is only being opposed now, once, because − ultimately − the guy with the abrasive personality doing it has a campaign promise that democrats don’t want him to keep.  The notion that any principle is being furthered when this is the only use of the law ever challenged is preening hypocrisy.

An actual libertarian would try to repeal the law at the very least, if he were in Congress and had the capacity to do so.  If he wasn’t in Congress, he’d fire off letters to his House and Senate representation demanding they do so.  He would also begin an effort to challenge the constitutionality of the law in the courts.  And if he did not have legal standing or the financial wherewithal himself, he’d publicize the proper methods of addressing the issue so that those who did have these could act on it.

He would not be satisfied with the irrelevant preening for a one-off quibble.