Americans for Prosperity’s Vice President for Policy Phil Kerpen has become a good friend of mine over the last 4 years. He decided to give me an advance copy of his book, Democracy Denied (list price $24.95, Kindle version $9.99), a look at how President Obama is abusing the regulatory process to implement what the voters explicitly rejected in the 2010 elections (and indeed, what Congress rejected when his party controlled it). It’s out today, so go grab it.
One of the first things I tend to notice when reading political tomes is the footnotes. The number of them tends to reflect how well-researched the tome is, and Kerpen did a lot of research. The notes section starts on page 275 and extends for a full 40 pages.
A helpful touch Kerpen included are liner notes scattered throughout the 275 pages of text. I won’t lie; it really helps in doing a quick-read book review. It also helps in highlighting, in sound-byte form, the particular point Kerpen is making in the section.
Books of this type typically explore the problem at length before setting out the proposed solution. Kerpen chose a different path; after a brief explanation of the problem of no legislative (Congressional) oversight of executive-branch rulemaking, he set out the case for a solution – the REINS Act. The story behind the REINS Act is not your typical one; its source was not from DC, or even a statehouse (though it is somewhat similar to Wisconsin’s legislative review of any proposed rule). Rep. Geoff Davis (R-KY) and Kentuckian Lloyd Rogers were separately wondering how to fight back against EPA overreaches like forced stormwater consent decrees. I’ll let Kerpen take over:
Then, the answer came to him (Davis) from Rogers. It happened in late August 2009, when Rogers called Davis and requested a meeting. Rogers talked about one of their favorite topics–the consent decree and the enormous impact it was having on fees. And then Rogers, according to Davis, laid out a very simple–profound, really–proposition.
Rogers said: “How come you guys can’t vote on these things?” and he handed Davis a piece of paper with a paragraph of text. It was the big idea, the idea that would become the REINS Act. This is, verbatim, what the piece of paper said:
In adherence to the U.S. Constitution, Article 1, section 1…”All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.” All rules, regulations, or mandates that require citizens, state or local governments financial expenditures must first be approved by the U.S. Congress before they can become effective.
The real meat of the book is the numerous avenues of overreach Obama and his administration have taken. From the never-in-writing-until-imposed carbon dioxide regulations to the attempt to silence dissent on the internet, from the attempt to force unionization down businesses’ throats to PlaceboCare, from Dodd-Frank to land-and-ocean grabs to put America in the dark, Kerpen outlines the attempt to get the Obama agenda rammed through by every means available. From the initial attempts to get each piece through Congress legislatively when Democrats had total power to how (outside PlaceboCare and Dodd-Frank) the pieces initially failed, from the extra-constitutional attempt to implement the legislatively-failed agenda items through executive agencies to how the pushback has begun (in some cases, somewhat-successfully) and how in each case it must continue, Kerpen outlines the recent history of each piece of Obama’s agenda.
The last full chapter illustrates how even Obama and his fellow Democrats realize that this process is quite unseemly. Of course, their idea is to spray the proverbial potpourii to merely mask the odor; Kerpen quotes Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) to illustrate; “[Obama] senses what the public wants. And it is a little bit Nineteen Eighty-Four-ish. He’ll tell you he agrees with you, while at the same time doing the exact opposite. So, a lot of big words and high-flowing rhetoric, but not a lot of substance.”
Kerpen closes with a powerful call to arms:
Turning (Robert) Higgs’s crisis theory on its head, we may have now reached a crisis point in the workings of our system of government, a crisis of unchecked regulartory power that threatens to render Congress irrelevant and trample our economic freedoms. This crisis, made clear by the ambitiousness of Obama’s “fundamental transformation” can, if well communicated, arouse enough opposition to reverse a multi-decade trend toward ever-greater regulatory power.
This time, it can be different. This time we can win.