Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at thinking, intelligent individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

"No matter how vast your knowledge or how modest, it is your own mind that has to acquire it." Ayn Rand

15 May 2011

Senate Bill to Remove 200 Senate Confirmations Confirms Excessive Size of Government

Senate Bill 679 is a bipartisan effort to reduce the role of the Senate in confirming presidential appointments to Executive branch offices. It is called the Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act of 2011. The Senate has proven unable to keep up with its essential function as a check to the growth of Presidential power and has fallen badly behind on its vetting and confirmation responsibilities. Given the outrageous and cancerous growth of government, this is to be expected.

Under Kennedy the Senate had 286 positions to confirm. At the end of the Clinton presidency, the Senate had 914 positions to confirm.  It now has 1,409 appointments on which to exercise its overview function. It is clear, as S679 maintains, that the Senate cannot do a reasonable job of confirming 1,409 positions. So S679 wants to remove about 200 positions from those needing confirmation.

The Constitution allows the Congress to make a law to vest the appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, .... So the question here is whether the 200 Officers the S679 bill decides to let the President alone vest in office are inferior or not. I expect that most of them are inferior, but not necessarily in the sense of minor Offices.

I expect that Congress has passed laws previously vesting appointments solely with the President, to the courts, and to the Heads of Departments in numerous cases. After all, the Senate is only confirming about 1,409 employee positions in the federal government out of about 2,824,000 civilian positions and out of about 2,445,000 active military positions. [It is interesting that the government tells us how many people were employed in April 2011, but it can only tell us how many government employees there were in 2008 or 2009. Do they have some multiplying swarms of officers let loose upon the land and the People to hide?]

The expansion of government far beyond its constitutional scope and its exercise of powers not given to it by the Constitution is the cause of the Senate's inability to check on the wisdom of the presidential appointments. That growth has made it impossible for the government to rationally manage its operations. The President, the Senate, the House, and the Supreme Court are all overwhelmed with responsibilities that no mortal men can perform reasonably.

We have a massive failure of wisdom, which was wonderfully plentiful among the Framers of our Constitution. Such wisdom is sadly lacking in most of the politicians running our government today. Among the 200 positions S679 would end the Senate confirmation duty for there are surely many that are exercising powers not given them by the Constitution and which are therefore very critical offices very much in need of any checks they might be given. But, the Senate cannot do its job. The Senate should understand that this is a substantial reason why government should not be this huge and act to drastically cut its size. Instead, it wants to cut its responsibilities.

If we assume that all of the $3.4562 trillion spent in 2010 went through the hands of these 1,409 top appointees, they are in control of an average of $2.453 billion of taxpayer money. Maybe some of the 1,409 Senate confirmations influence the spending of much less of this money than the average, but it does seem a bad idea that someone controlling the spending of a substantial part of $1 billion has no vetting from Congress. Worse than the spending is the assumption of unconstitutional powers and the trampling of individual rights which these officers of the federal government are allowed to do, and do with little oversight even.  I seriously doubt that reducing the Senate's overview of 200 of these 1,409 positions will not result in much irrational spending and many additional unconstitutional acts by the Executive branch of the government.  Yet, at present, the Senate cannot focus properly on what may very well be the more important 1,209 positions.

This is an excellent case of the government causing a problem and then acting unwisely to fix the problem it has created.  It has grown too big due to taking on many powers not given to it by the Constitution and therefor powers that were reserved to the People or the States.  Because it has grown excessively and wantonly, it cannot fulfill its responsibility to check Presidential appointments to offices that wield great power, and in many instances, tyrannical power, over the People and the States.  So it responds with S679 to shirk its overview responsibility.  This confirms the generally dim view most Americans have of the Senate.

Government is all about the use of force. Because of this, it attracts people into its principal offices who love wielding force. In other words, it attracts bullies and thugs. Such people never willing give up power because it is the right thing to do. They only understand a superior force, which is still to be found in our ballot boxes, though not for much longer if we do not consistently use that power to force these thugs out of office. Unfortunately, the chief thug has a unbelievably high 42% approval rating. The thugs and con men are not doing too badly politically. 42% of the people conned can be a serious impediment to down-sizing our bubble government. It would be best to down-size it before it bursts, but this is going to be a closely run affair.

The following Senators are co-sponsors of S679:

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), Sen. Thomas Carper (D-Del.), Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Sen. John Reed (D-R.I.), Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).

There might be some excuse for any Senators on this list who are serious government down-sizers who wanted to clear their dockets for some serious cutting of spending and the bureaucracy.  Such a Senator might be able to eliminate 200 top positions easily and could then be justified in being in favor of S679.  I see no such Senator on this list, however.

2 comments:

Harry Dale Huffman said...

C. Northcote Parkinson was on top of the general phenomenon of expanding government back in 1957, when he published "Parkinson's Law". Your post here caused me to go to my copy of it, and on the cover is a quote from the New York Times, no less: "Makes wild and wonderful sense in a world awash with solemn nonsense." Parkinson himself, after presenting the mathematical formula involved -- "all of our researches so far completed point to an average increase of 5.75 per cent per year", and this "irrespective of any variation in the amount of work (if any) to be done" -- went on to note (or warn ominously), "The discovery of this formula and of the general principles upon which it is based has, of course, no political value. No attempt has been made to inquire whether departments ought to grow in size. Those who hold that this growth is essential to gain full employment are fully entitled to their opinion. Those who doubt the stability of an economy based upon reading each other's minutes are equally entitled to theirs....Parkinson's Law is a purely scientific discovery, inapplicable except in theory to the politics of the day. It is not the business of the botanist to eradicate the weeds. Enough for him if he can tell us just how fast they grow." Now, climate science, to consider another current example, cannot even do that much.

Charles R. Anderson, Ph.D. said...

It seems to me that we can view the government from the standpoint of the management of a company in some respects. The government is a huge conglomerate, but no conglomerate of anywhere near comparable size exists in the private sector of voluntary associations and competition. Why? Because its management team could never be expert in so many markets as the government political leadership pretends to be. A well-run company would require a focused management team. Our government has no focus. Its hand is in everything. The President and 100 Senators cannot hope to understand the business of the government. Even the 435 Representatives cannot. This is true even if each of them were an angel, which most of them assuredly are not.

If government grows at a rate of 5.75% a year, then there will be no private sector in time. The larger government gets, the slower the growth rate of the private sector and the less able it is to support the government growing faster than it. Our private sector sure has not averaged even close to a 5.75% growth rate in a long time. Such a growth rate for government is surely creating a bubble government, which must soon burst.