We have a pretty good idea of what President-elect Trump’s priorities are:
- Faster Economic Growth, accomplished with tax and regulatory reform, to create more jobs and higher paying jobs for the blue-collar middle class.
- Rethinking NAFTA and TPP to make sure that American companies and workers are not being penalized by unfair trade agreements.
- Immigration Reform to make sure that law-breaking illegal immigrants are deported and then figuring out some sort of legal (guest worker?) status for the remainder.
What remains to be determined is the role of Congress under the new administration. Utah’s Senator Mike Lee makes a very strong argument that one of the biggest problems with American government is the weak authority of Congress in recent years and the need for Congress to reassert itself.
With a new president who is more populist than partisan, now is an excellent opportunity for Congress to do exactly this. Here is what Congress should do:
- Reinstitute annual budgeting and appropriations for executive branch agencies. This is essential for controlling how the funds are spent.
- Pass new legislation for healthcare, tax reform, immigration policy and financial regulation, giving up lazy policy delegation to the executive branch and relearning the art of legislating and collective choice.
- Cry foul if President Trump tries to settle these and other momentous matters through Obama-style executive decrees without legislative input.
Conclusion. Our system needs the disruption which Donald Trump will provide and that is why he got elected. But at the same time Congress has a golden opportunity to restore its prerogatives which have withered away in recent years. It would be a shame if Congress doesn’t take this golden opportunity to get this done.
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Most of the time on this blog I address what I consider to be our country’s two biggest fiscal and economic problems: 1) economic growth which, at 2% per year for the past seven years, is too slow to create enough new jobs and higher wages for middle- and lower-income workers and 2) massive and rapidly growing debt, now at 75% of GDP, the highest since the end of WWII.
But from time to time I take a broader look such as:
- James Piereson’s contention that the New Deal liberal consensus has broken down and we are headed for America’s Fourth Revolution.
- Yuval Levin’s argument that both progressives and conservatives are stuck with a mid-twentieth century nostalgia to which it is impossible to return.
- Senator Mike Lee’s (R, Utah) belief that Congress is itself responsible for its shrinking powers vis-à-vis the President and the Supreme Court.
Along this line, Yuval Levin and Ramesh Ponnuru have a powerful essay in the latest issue of the National Review saying that “Mainstream liberals now advance a vision of American government that is increasingly contemptuous of our system’s democratic character and seeks to break through the restraints of the constitutional system in pursuit of their policy ends.”
This vision is advanced in three key ways:
- Executive unilateralism, for example, by President Obama with respect to status of illegal immigrants, various suspensions and waivers in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and net neutrality regulations.
- The administrative state referring to the tangle of regulatory agencies that populate the executive branch. These agencies issue thousands of regulations per year which, given the vagueness of major legislation, means that the agencies legislate through their rules. Examples are the immense power of the Environmental Protection Agency and the implementation of the Dodd-Frank financial-regulatory reforms.
- Liberal judicial philosophy understands the courts to be in the business of advancing what is properly understood as a legislative agenda. For example, two Supreme Court cases, a health-care related case (King vs Burwell) and a same-sex-marriage case (Obergefell vs Hodges) turned out this way.
Conclude Messrs. Levin and Ponnuru: “That the constitution makes the work of progressive ideologues frustrating is not an excuse for ignoring and subverting it. Arguments for doing so amount to unprincipled excuses for lawlessness.”
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