The word “czar” cannot be found in the United States Constitution, thank God. Neither can “tsar” for you spelling sticklers. That, alone, does not mean government czars are unconstitutional but they are nevertheless.
For example, the Marines are not mentioned in the Constitution but providing for the common defense is. The establishment, organization and funding of the Marines is merely one mechanism by which the specific duty is manifested.
Carried out logically, each of the Joint Chiefs of Staff could be viewed as the czar for each respective military branch. However, no one would seriously argue that any branch of the military, or any of the Joint Chief positions, is unconstitutional.
But a “green jobs” czar?
The first occasion I could find where an appointed official was called a “czar” was from the early 1970s when the press gave the nickname to John Love, President Richard Nixon’s in-house energy guru. Perhaps the most visible czar historically was William Bennett, President Ronald Reagan’s drug czar, who was part of a well-publicized effort to convince people, and especially children, to “just say no” to illicit drugs. President George W. Bush appointed numerous leaders to oversee various areas of government, some of which the White House described as “czars”, some the media merely dubbed as “czars”. Many were new appointments to old positions created by previous presidents. To my knowledge, none were approved by Congress.
It’s hard to know who is a “czar” since that title is not officially given. However, President Barack Obama has zealously appointed czarist leaders at an incredible pace. Indeed, we now have czars to oversee the auto industry recovery, climate, domestic violence, energy and the environment, restoration of the Great Lakes, executive pay, diversity of the FCC, and the aforementioned “green jobs” just to name a few. All of these czars have been appointed without congressional confirmation or direct involvement in the process.
It is clear based on the language of the Constitution that these positions are patently unconstitutional. And It doesn’t matter which president we’re talking about.
Apparently presidents don’t want Congress or the public to know about these appointments before they happen. How else to explain the appointment of avowed communist Van Jones as “green jobs” czar? Or John Holdren, the science czar who has advocated forced abortion and forced sterilization as acceptable methods of population control? Or Mark Lloyd, FCC diversity czar, who believes “white people” should “step down so someone else can have power”? There would be little mainstream support for such radicals to ascend to the highest eschelons of power if the public could scrutinize them. But they can’t before the positions are filled.
The problem, however, is not with the czars themselves. It’s with the federal government’s hegemony over areas of society and our lives that our founders never would have approved. And we know this because of our founding documents. The Constitution is a limitation on the powers of the federal government. Our founders knew that they could not account for every possible scenario and contingency so they divided specific, enumerated powers among the three branches and dramatically limited the areas over which the federal government would have control. Most governance obligations were supposed to exist locally, not federally.
It makes sense that some areas would fall under the exclusive province of the federal government. Immigration and border security, military and national defense, foreign policy and treaties, war and peace, foreign trade and tariffs, coining a standard currency–obviously having different states exercising their own powers in these areas would lead to unworkable disunity. That is part of the Constitution’s brilliant simplicity and design.
As the federal government has expanded into other areas, however, the Constitution has lost import and meaning to the point where this once great document has been rendered largely impotent. Take just the examples above. With the exception of energy, for which we have a cabinet level position, there is no authority for the federal government to have any role in climate control, creating “green jobs”, setting executive pay, bailing out the auto industry, or removing “white people” from positions of power so that others can take over.
The closest we can get to constitutional justification for federal involvement in these issues is in two places. The first is the Preamble which establishes one purpose of the Constitution, to wit: to “promote the general welfare.” The second is in Article I, Section 8, which authorizes Congress “to lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States.”
Liberals take these two phrases and extrapolate from them that the federal government has a role to play in anything that promotes or provides for the general welfare, including all of the above examples and much more. Doing so, however, ignores a couple of key principles. First, the “general welfare of the United States” does not equate to the specific welfare of any particular individual or group. It might be a laudable goal to establish, for example, a social safety net for the struggling, fund the growth of new technologies or stem-cell research, stamp out domestic violence or illicit drugs, prevent the spread of AIDS, or address “urban affairs” (whatever those are). All arguably could promote the general welfare. But if that’s the definition we intend to apply to constitutional terms, then the federal government has carte blanche.
Second, this dovetails with the unambiguous fact that the Constitution was designed and enacted to limit federal power, not expand it. Check the Ninth and Tenth Amendments if you doubt it. Unlike the Marines example which can be traced directly to a clearly enumerated power granted in the Constitution, liberals have to either fit these other powers in the vague “general welfare” category or use convoluted arguments in several steps to fit enumerated powers. For example, creating “green jobs” and bailing out the auto industry could both be considered national security issues since we are dependent on foreign oil, we seem to be the world’s poster child for environmental destruction (which is laughable), and the stability and growth of our economy is so vital to the world. Voila, the justification for federal control. All we have to do is appoint a czar.
But it is the very expansion and centralization of power in the federal government that has created a perceived need for these officials. No president can possibly maintain a handle on all of these issues. So expansion creates the need the president can fill extra-constitutionally because no one is complaining. And those pesky limits on federal power drafted by old, dead white guys? We can just ignore that part.
Well, I’m complaining and I’m not ignoring it. Neither should you. It’s time to scale back federal power to cover only those areas necessary for federal involvement. I’ve believed this for years but now that I’m “czar-struck” with the revelations about the radicals President Obama has appointed, I’ve reached my limit.
It’s time to depose the czars and eliminate their positions.
Let them go work for ACORN. I hear they have some openings.
Crossposted from The Los Angeles Examiner