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Paul Ryan: Restoring the Rule of Law

At 9:30 this morning, at the Constitution Day Celebration being held in Washington, DC, at Hillsdale College’s Kirby Center, Paul Ryan began speaking on the subject indicated in the title above. Here is the speech:

Thanks very much for your kind introduction. It’s always a pleasure for me to speak to Hillsdale folks. Your mission here at the Kirby Center is a great example of what Hillsdale College is all about – that is, in the words of James Madison, “liberty and learning, each leaning on the other for their mutual and surest support.”

In addition to those of you who’ve joined us today, I’m told that these remarks are being webcast live for the benefit of Hillsdale students back in Michigan, where it is currently 8:30 a.m. – or, as most college students call it, the crack of dawn. Your scholarly passion for human freedom must be powerful indeed.

This Saturday, we celebrate the 224th

 birthday of the Constitution written by the Framers in Philadelphia. In paying tribute to this inspired document, I want to talk about how we should think about the Constitution, and why that matters.Usually, our defense of the Constitution is presented as a defense of America’s founding principles and values, and rightfully so. But our constitutional system is not just a collection of principles; it embodies an approach to government with profound practical implications for both our freedom and our prosperity. When that system is threatened, both freedom and prosperity suffer.

Freedom is lost by degrees, and the deepest erosions usually take place during times of economic hardship, when those who favor expanding the sphere of government, abuse a crisis to persuade free citizens that they should trade in a little of their liberty for empty promises of greater economic security.

We all remember what Benjamin Franklin said about that trade – that those who would make it deserve neither liberty nor security. But in such cases, when liberty is lost, it is our fault as champions of the Constitution, for failing to mount a sufficiently persuasive and effective defense. And I believe our defense falls short when we fail to connect our timeless principles and values to the urgent economic issues facing the factory worker in Janesville, Wisconsin who is suddenly unable to provide for his family, or, in your case, the recent college graduate who finds herself in one of the worst job markets in recent memory.

PaulRyanAntidote.jpgWe can strengthen our defense of liberty if we remember to keep in mind those who are struggling to make ends meet. What makes our Constitution such an extraordinary document is that, in making the United States the freest civilization in history, the Founders guaranteed that it would become the most prosperous as well. The American system of limited government, low taxes, sound money and the rule of law has done more to help the poor than any other economic system ever designed. 

I want to talk today in particular about the last of those – the rule of law, which is absolutely essential to all the other benefits of our system, to the prosperity and freedom of our country, and to the well being of all Americans, especially the most vulnerable. 

What is the rule of law? When the Declaration of Independence cited as justification “the laws of nature and of nature’s God,” the Founders were channeling Aristotle, who wrote that the rule of law in principle means that, quote, “God and intellect alone rule.”

Aristotle defined the law as “intellect without appetite,” by which he meant justice untainted by the self-interest of those in power.

The great difficulty we encounter in striving to meet Aristotle’s ideal was best summed up by James Madison: “if men were angels, no government would be necessary. And if angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”

But, as Madison reminded us, men are no angels, and government is “administered by men over men.” Grounded in a proper understanding of human nature, our Founders tackled this challenge head-on with a brilliant Constitution and a healthy separation of powers, binding all men to the same set of laws and preventing any one man or group of men from gaining enough power to declare themselves above the law.

The Constitution secures other rights long understood to be essential to the rule of law, such as the right to due process, meaning that the laws of the land must be transparent, consistent, and equally applied to all men, so that no man may be arbitrarily deprived of life, liberty or property.

This constitutional cornerstone of our free society is also a critical precondition for a free and dynamic economy. Without the rule of law to safeguard the ownership of property and the enforcement of contracts, it makes little sense for an investor to put his capital at risk helping an entrepreneur to pursue a dream, advance an idea, and ultimately grow a business that creates good-paying jobs for Americans.

For decades, the U.S. economy has been a magnet for investors, entrepreneurs, and workers, because we enjoy some of the strongest and most transparent legal protections in the world. These protections provide a stable environment for business investment – stability that is undermined when the discretionary power of bureaucrats is enhanced.

Many countries around the world remain mired in grinding poverty for lack of the institutions necessary to guard property and contracts from the appetites of local despots and their cronies. Their economies are highly unstable, and the fate of business investment is often subject to the whims of a single person, or a small group of bureaucrats.

The good news is that the United States still enjoys an enormous edge over most of the world when it comes to the strength of our institutions and our reputation for respecting the rule of law. But we are moving in the wrong direction, and we would be fools to believe that job creators haven’t noticed.

Let me give you just a few examples of how the rule of law in this country has been degraded over the past few years, and replaced by the rule of man.

Monetary Policy

The first is in the area of monetary policy. I’m not suggesting the Federal Reserve has done anything illegal, treacherous, or even treasonous. But I do believe that Congress has delegated too much arbitrary authority to the Fed – and that, in recent years, the Fed has trended too far toward discretionary and away from rules-based monetary actions.

Small changes in monetary policy can have big economic consequences, and the central bank can serve as a major source of economic instability. In 1993, Stanford economist John Taylor developed a rule to improve the stability and predictability of U.S. monetary policy. An untold economic success story in the 1990s is the Fed’s adherence to price stability, thanks in large part to Taylor’s key insights. 

Unfortunately, the Federal Reserve abandoned the so-called Taylor Rule near the end of the century after the tech bubble collapsed, and a growing body of evidence supports the idea that the Fed kept interest rates too low for too long throughout the past decade, helping to fuel the enormous housing bubble that caused the financial crisis of 2008.

The central bank continues to pursue a misguided policy of arbitrary decision-making that is contributing to economic uncertainty and, in my opinion, causing more harm than good.

Energy

Next, energy and environmental policy: I think the Obama administration’s actions here offer a perfect example of what happens when you concentrate too much discretionary power into the hands of unaccountable bureaucrats.

In 2007, a wrongheaded Supreme Court decision cleared the way for the Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA, to unilaterally regulate greenhouse gases if the agency found that such gases “may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.” As soon as Obama’s EPA chief took office, “reasonably” was unreasonably defined, and the agency issued finding after finding that would produce real economic harm in exchange for distant – and dubious – environmental ends.

With Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid running Congress, the Administration first pushed for legislation resembling the European Union’s cap-and-trade system. Because of the EPA’s power grab, affected industries faced the “good cop, bad cop” routine: It was either play ball with Pelosi, or else the EPA could be counted on to come up with something worse. Given the options, it’s no surprise that a “Who’s Who” of big corporations lined up to support the bill once their priorities were met, even though most Americans remained strongly opposed.

This bill passed the House, but it was unable to overcome bipartisan concerns in the U.S. Senate. Cap-and-trade legislation was deemed costly, economically harmful, and ineffective in its means and goals. But instead of accepting this verdict on its preferred policy, the Administration decided to let the EPA carry on with its harmful plan to impose unilateral emissions restrictions on American businesses, raising the question: Why does the Constitution establish a lawmaking body at all?

While the EPA is busy punishing commercially competitive sources of energy, the Department of Energy under President Obama has been acting like the world’s worst venture capital fund – picking winners and losers, but mostly losers, by spending recklessly on uncompetitive alternatives. For evidence, look no further than Solyndra, a solar-panel company that received $500 million in stimulus-funded loan guarantees. Last month, Solyndra filed for bankruptcy and laid off its employees.

The federal government’s job is to make and enforce sensible rules of the road, so that markets are fair, transparent and competitive. When bureaucracy is empowered to reward politically well-connected firms at the expense of economically competitive ones, this weakens the rule of law, wastes taxpayer dollars, and makes sustainable job creation that much harder.

Financial Services

Another example: We have seen a lot of damaging economic adventurism in the area of financial services lately. The Troubled Asset Relief Program was supposed to be confined to a narrow emergency and used to avoid precisely the kind of situation I described at the beginning of this speech – an economic calamity in which politicians promising security in return for a loss of freedom would do enormous damage to the cause of liberty.

Needless to say, it was disappointing when the Bush Administration approved the use of TARP funds for the bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler. This entrenched the idea that TARP could be used as a slush fund for just about any kind of economic intervention, regardless of the fact that the original bill charged the program to, quote, “purchase… troubled assets from any financial institution.”

That was bad, but the greater damage came later, when the Obama Administration used that bailout to trample the rights of Chrysler’s secured bondholders – including state pension funds – in order to give politically favored groups a better deal than they were entitled to receive under the bankruptcy law, making it less likely that institutions tasked with safeguarding people’s life savings will invest that money in ways that create jobs in the United States.

The Dodd-Frank financial-services overhaul only made matters worse. Dodd-Frank involves radical changes to financial regulation – changes that will affect every feature of our financial-services industry, increase the power of current financial regulatory agencies, and create new ones.

For example, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation may now take control of any financial institution if a panel of regulators under the Treasury Secretary sees a danger of “systemic risk,” which is up to regulators to define. Moreover, smaller institutions do not receive the protections given to big firms under this law, resulting in unequal treatment as well as higher borrowing costs compared to their larger competitors. Dodd-Frank promotes the rule of bureaucrats to our economic detriment, inviting political corruption while further degrading self-government.

Labor

 The next case involves the troubling overreach we’ve seen lately from this Administration’s appointees to the National Labor Relations Board, or the NLRB. The most notorious case involves Boeing, which the NLRB is suing over its decision to locate a new factory in South Carolina instead of union-friendly Washington State. The Board’s actions are threatening hundreds of jobs.

But this isn’t the only example of the Board’s overreach. Early in his Administration, the President promised labor leaders that he would work to pass a card-check bill to make union-organizing easier. But just like cap-and-trade, card-check failed in Congress – so the NLRB simply issued new union-election rules that would, in the words of one former Board member, “achieve the primary objectives of [card check] by administrative rule, without the need for tough congressional votes,” unquote. Again, with agencies like this, what do you need Congress for?

More generally speaking, we should not be surprised to find organized labor leading the charge for more bureaucratic discretion in federal rulemaking. An agency that is free to broadly interpret its statutory authority is one that can unilaterally broaden its size and scope – and in the process, it can increase the size and influence of the public-sector unions to which its employees belong.

Health Care

 Last case: The President’s health care law. This one is a doozy. Let me share with you a figure that serves as a devastating indictment of the new law: So far, over 1,400 businesses and organizations have been granted temporary waivers from the law’s onerous mandates. These waivers do not guarantee relief in the future, which is why I refer to them as “stays of execution.” Nor do they help those firms that lack the connections to lobby for waivers. The powerful discretion assumed by the Department of Health and Human Services to play judge in determining these stays of execution does tremendous damage to the rule of law.

The President’s health care overhaul undermines the rule of law in other ways as well. The new law empowers a panel of 15 unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats in Washington to cut Medicare in ways that will deny benefits for current seniors. The new board’s recommendations would become law unless a supermajority voted affirmatively to replace these recommendations – a high hurdle that raises constitutional questions about whether Congress can legitimately grant this much lawmaking power to an unelected agency.

Look, I am not trying to question the intentions of those who have decided to make Medicare spending less accountable to the democratic process. I think they truly believe that it is better to let government-appointed experts make these kinds of decisions, free from the checks and balances that define our messy democratic process.

But in weakening the rule of law in the United States, their intentions are totally irrelevant. The damage they have done is real. And the relevant question we have to ask ourselves is whether, as Reagan put it, “we believe in our capacity for self-government, or whether we abandon the American Revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.,”

If we succumb to this view that our problems are bigger than we are – if we surrender more control over our economy to the governing class – then life in America will become defined by a new kind of class warfare: A class of bureaucrats and connected crony capitalists trying to rise above the rest of us, call the shots, rig the rules, and preserve their place atop society at the expense of working Americans, entrepreneurs, and the small businesswoman who has the gall to take on the corporate chieftain.

The Constitution’s Framers knew that there is a human inclination to increase personal power at the expense of law, so they created Congress as a decentralized and internally divided institution, but they granted it ample authority to secure the rule of law in every case. Congress holds the power of the pen as well as the purse. It has the power necessary to address attacks on the rule of law in our executive bureaucracies and even in the courts. The Constitution provides us with the power to solve these problems; what we need, is the will to do it.

The solution, the defense of the rule of law, will have to involve alternative ways to address the public problems that too many on the Left want to solve by delegating power to bureaucrats. For every government curtailment of our liberty through the discretion of bureaucrats, there are alternative reforms that could address the same problems within the framework of the rule of law, and indeed they could address those problems more effectively.

House Republicans have proposed a policy agenda to do just that: reclaiming America’s exceptional promise, charting a path not only to fiscal sustainability, but also to renewed prosperity.

Restoring the rule of law – reducing the influence of bureaucrats in the lives of Americans and empowering them to take more control over their own lives – is central to the budget we passed earlier this year. In fact, such reforms go hand in hand with our efforts to lift the crushing burden of debt, secure our social safety net, and spur job creation and sustained economic growth for all Americans.

In monetary policy, Congress must refocus the Federal Reserve on price stability within a framework of clear, rule-based actions, because businesses and families alike need sound money to invest, grow, and prosper.

In energy, Congress must limit the EPA’s discretionary power to impose a unilateral version of the job-destroying cap-and-trade program.

In financial services, Congress needs to establish a regulatory environment that is fair, predictable, and reasonable.

In labor policy, Congress needs to rein in an agency that is threatening job creation by overreaching its mandate, and to make sure we have a public sector that works for the people it serves – not the other way around.

And in health care, Congress must repeal the President’s disastrous new law, diminish the power of unelected bureaucrats over the system, and give that power to individuals and families by advancing reforms that harness the power of choice and competition in health care.

Rather than increasing the size and scope of central administration, let us champion an agenda guided by the American Idea of equal rights under law. Let’s begin to remove the hurdles that government has erected. Legislative reform should empower people, families, and communities, not bureaucrats and their cronies.

The American Idea unites liberty and law in a bond that must not be severed. America can win back the promise of individual liberty – a promise we have and continue to shed blood to defend. But the time has come to honor our Constitution’s limits on arbitrary bureaucracy and return the rule of law to the center of our government.

Looking out on the faces here today – and knowing that some of you woke up at 8:30 to watch online – I am hopeful that a new generation is coming to the study of politics with a real appreciation of the Constitution and its centrality to ensuring justice and security in our communities… to promoting the welfare and the prosperity of all the people… and to securing the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our children.

By respecting the rule of law, reclaiming the prominence of our Constitution, and reforming our government, I have no doubt that we the people, working together, can help ensure that the next generation of citizens inherits a stronger, freer, more prosperous America, and a more perfect union.

Can you imagine either of the serious contenders for the Republican Presidential nomination giving so thoughtful a speech? Does either have any clear idea of what needs to be done? It has long been my judgment that Barack Obama’s Presidency could be saved only by the Republicans. Those in the House and the Senate have done splendidly in this particular — far better than I expected. But the Presidential field is still weak. There is nothing in Romney’s background to make one confident that he fully shares Ryan’s sentiments. Perry may well agree with Ryan, but he has not yet displayed a genuine capacity for making the argument.

  1. Songwriter

    Since Mr. Ryan has made it clear he will not run for the President, we must take heart in the knowledge this remarkable man will be serving in Congress and in a position to advise and work with  a new Republican President.

  2. The Mugwump

     It’s hard to defend the rule of law when activist judges believe it’s their prerogative to legislate from the bench in the name of social justice.  Job one for the next president will be to appoint as many conservative judges as possible.  But how do you take on the law schools that produce social activists?

  3. Robert Lux

    A tingle went up my leg when he mentioned Aristotle. 

  4. Gus Marvinson

    Needless to say, it was disappointing when the Bush Administration approved the use of TARP funds for the bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler. This entrenched the idea that TARP could be used as a slush fund for just about any kind of economic intervention, regardless of the fact that the original bill charged the program to, quote, “purchase… troubled assets from any financial institution.”

    So why did Ryan–who is supposed to be smarter than us rubesvote for TARP? All, and I mean all, of my blue-collar conservative buddies and I predicted where TARP funds were headed. This looks like Paul Ryan covering his rear to me. Just another politician abdicating responsibility for his own actions.

  5. Duane Oyen

    Actually, I can.  Either Pawlenty, were he still in (this is exactly his kind of deal; he is a policy wonk more than a retail politician) or Romney definitely could have and probably would have.

    Santorum?  Probably, had he chosen to talk economic and philosophy instead of his normal over-focus on social issues (“over-focus” because that is not the most important set of imminent problems).

    Huntsman, not sure.  Bachmann, Perry?  No way.  Cain, quite possibly, though he usually doesn’t get quite so detailed.  Paul?  He would have gone overboard on how most of the programs are unconstitutional and not explained the examples clearly.

    Of course, Daniels would have done it well.  Palin would have done about 60% of it, and done pretty well.

  6. Paul A. Rahe
    C
    Gus Marvinson: Needless to say, it was disappointing when the Bush Administration approved the use of TARP funds for the bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler. This entrenched the idea that TARP could be used as a slush fund for just about any kind of economic intervention, regardless of the fact that the original bill charged the program to, quote, “purchase… troubled assets from any financial institution.”

    So why did Ryan–who is supposed to be smarter than us rubesvote for TARP? All, and I mean all, of my blue-collar conservative buddies and I predicted where TARP funds were headed. This looks like Paul Ryan covering his rear to me. Just another politician abdicating responsibility for his own actions. · Sep 15 at 8:07am

    TARP was, at least on paper, targeted. What Bush and Obama did was illegal. Perhaps, Ryan can be blamed for not foreseeing what they would do, But what they did was not what he voted for — and what he voted for was arguably necessary. Had the big banks gone down, it might well have taken a lot more with it.

  7. Gus Marvinson
    Paul A. Rahe

    Gus Marvinson: Needless to say, it was disappointing when the Bush Administration approved the use of TARP funds for the bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler. This entrenched the idea that TARP could be used as a slush fund for just about any kind of economic intervention, regardless of the fact that the original bill charged the program to, quote, “purchase… troubled assets from any financial institution.”

    So why did Ryan–who is supposed to be smarter than us rubesvote for TARP? All, and I mean all, of my blue-collar conservative buddies and I predicted where TARP funds were headed. This looks like Paul Ryan covering his rear to me. Just another politician abdicating responsibility for his own actions. · Sep 15 at 8:07am

    TARP was, at least on paper, targeted. What Bush and Obama did was illegal. Perhaps, Ryan can be blamed for not foreseeing what they would do, But what they did was not what he voted for — and what he voted for was arguably necessary. Had the big banks gone down, it might well have taken a lot more with it. · Sep 15 at 8:23am

    Ryan relied on government restraint?

  8. Gus Marvinson

    The grand thesis of this Constitution of which Ryan spoke is that government is to be actively restrained because it knows no such thing as self restraint. That’s about as basic as it gets; one needs expert help to miss it. And if banks had failed, and took at lot more with them, it would have been a decisive sink or swim moment, instead of this dog paddling in a rip tide that we are stuck in now.

  9. Paul A. Rahe
    C
    Gus Marvinson

    Paul A. Rahe

    Gus Marvinson: 

    So why did Ryan–who is supposed to be smarter than us rubesvote for TARP? All, and I mean all, of my blue-collar conservative buddies and I predicted where TARP funds were headed. This looks like Paul Ryan covering his rear to me. Just another politician abdicating responsibility for his own actions. · Sep 15 at 8:07am

    TARP was, at least on paper, targeted. What Bush and Obama did was illegal. Perhaps, Ryan can be blamed for not foreseeing what they would do, But what they did was not what he voted for — and what he voted for was arguably necessary. Had the big banks gone down, it might well have taken a lot more with it. · Sep 15 at 8:23am
    Ryan relied on government restraint? · Sep 15 at 8:35am

    Not government restraint. He expected the President to obey the law. What Bush and Obama did was unlawful. There is a difference between exercising the legitimate powers of government in an unrestrained manner and simply breaking the law.

  10. Think So
    Paul A. Rahe

    Gus Marvinson: …So why did Ryan–who is supposed to be smarter than us rubesvote for TARP? All, and I mean all, of my blue-collar conservative buddies and I predicted where TARP funds were headed. This looks like Paul Ryan covering his rear to me. Just another politician abdicating responsibility for his own actions. · Sep 15 at 8:07am

    TARP was, at least on paper, targeted. What Bush and Obama did was illegal. Perhaps, Ryan can be blamed for not foreseeing what they would do, But what they did was not what he voted for — and what he voted for was arguably necessary. Had the big banks gone down, it might well have taken a lot more with it. · Sep 15 at 8:23am

    I do believe Ryan as being sincere. Voting for TARP may have been a matter of misplaced trust as Mr Rahe suggests, possibly even naively. However, he is speaking about the right things and pushing the right issues. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt for that.

  11. Gus Marvinson

    I cannot argue against Ryan’s smarts, but being wrong is not the exclusive purview of the stupid. At best he showed a lack of wisdom, at worst he has given government a wider berth, far beyond Constitutional original intent, than I am comfortable with.

  12. michael kelley

    This is an excellent and thoughtful speech.  Thank you for posting it.

  13. michael kelley
    Gus Marvinson: I cannot argue against Ryan’s smarts, but being wrong is not the exclusive purview of the stupid. At best he showed a lack of wisdom, at worst he has given government a wider berth, far beyond Constitutional original intent, than I am comfortable with. · Sep 15 at 9:17am

    Edited on Sep 15 at 09:19 am

    Gus, one one level, I am inclined to agree with you.  The lack of accountability and the wide ranging latitude taken by our political class is disturbing.

    Call to mind, though, Alexander Hamilton and his ideas on political economy.  He was pretty much a government activist in his promotion of the government’s role in the success of American prosperity.

    There is a proper role for our government in the general economy.  TARP may have been a mistake and its implementation may very well have overstepped boundaries but this type of intrusion is definitely not without precedent.

  14. Paul A. Rahe
    C
    Gus Marvinson: I cannot argue against Ryan’s smarts, but being wrong is not the exclusive purview of the stupid. At best he showed a lack of wisdom, at worst he has given government a wider berth, far beyond Constitutional original intent, than I am comfortable with. · Sep 15 at 9:17am

    Edited on Sep 15 at 09:19 am

    How did TARP as a law exceed original intent? Congress has the power to regulate “commerce among the states,” and it has been involved in banking matters since the administration of George Washington. Do you really think that the federal government should stand by while there is a general collapse of banking throughout the country? Not everything that turns out badly is unconstitutional. Your quarrel is with Bush and Obama, not with Ryan.

  15. Caryn

    “Can you imagine either of the serious contenders for the Republican Presidential nomination giving so thoughtful a speech?”

    The sad thing is that I can not imagine many voters listening to such a thoughtful speech.  Ricochet, and certainly Hillsdale College, too, exists in a rarefied atmosphere.  We are, to use a cliche, in a bubble.  It’s a lovely one that I enjoy greatly, but we are by no means nearing a voting majority.  Our educational system and the entertainment business have assured us of that status.  The political left cheers.  I have frequently observed, sadly, that conservatives fear that the public doesn’t know the truth, while “progressives” fear that they do.

  16. Gus Marvinson
    michael kelley

    Gus Marvinson: I cannot argue against Ryan’s smarts, but being wrong is not the exclusive purview of the stupid. At best he showed a lack of wisdom, at worst he has given government a wider berth, far beyond Constitutional original intent, than I am comfortable with. · Sep 15 at 9:17am

    Edited on Sep 15 at 09:19 am

    Gus, one one level, I am inclined to agree with you.  The lack of accountability and the wide ranging latitude taken by our political class is disturbing.

    Call to mind, though, Alexander Hamilton and his ideas on political economy.  He was pretty much a government activist in his promotion of the government’s role in the success of American prosperity.

    There is a proper role for our government in the general economy.  TARP may have been a mistake and its implementation may very well have overstepped boundaries but this type of intrusion is definitely not without precedent. · Sep 15 at 9:44am

    Every bad idea has a precedent. Much of wisdom is recognizing patterns, then, based on those patterns, acting in anticipation of future events.

  17. Duane Oyen

    As TARP was presented, Ryan’s vote in favor was a perfectly reasonable position. 

    In fact, the Bachmann screeds against it, as she presented them, were what was irresponsible. 

    And the constitutionality is not at issue at all.

  18. Crow

    Excellent speech–hopefully the Kirby center will make either the audio or video of it available widely in the coming days. As usual, Rep. Ryan has made the case from every angle–both practical and moral.

    “There is a difference between exercising the legitimate powers of government in an unrestrained manner and simply breaking the law.”

    A very Lincolnesque argument, and agreed in full. Outlining a proper vision of a limited but energetic government has always been the charge of conservatives.

    “Congress has the power to regulate “commerce among the states,” and it has been involved in banking matters since the administration of George Washington. Do you really think that the federal government should stand by while there is a general collapse of banking throughout the country?”

    Gosh, Prof. Rahe, people are really going to start suspecting that you score near Jack Kemp on Prof. Groseclose’s scale….

  19. Aaron Miller
    Paul A. Rahe

    He expected the President to obey the law. What Bush and Obama did was unlawful. There is a difference between exercising the legitimate powers of government in an unrestrained manner and simply breaking the law. 

    Without consequences, there is no significant difference. The President’s power is not defined by the Constitution alone. Presidents expand the power of the office whenever they perform an illegal act and suffer no consequences for it. The same goes for the other branches of government. Precedents define expectations.

    Case in point: the passing of Obamacare before anyone had read the entire bill. That action was a flagrant violation of our most democratic principles. By reason, Obamacare is illegitimate. Legally, however, Republican politicians have accepted it as legitimate and now rely on the Supreme Court to be the sole arbiters of legal reality.

    The precedent has been set. It is now legal for legislation to be passed and orders to be signed without having fully read, let alone debated, their contents. How will Paul Ryan and his allies undo such precedents?

    If the Supreme Court upholds any portion of Obamacare, I will consider this entire government illegitimate.

  20. liberal jim

    TARP was purposely written so vaguely as to allow the use of the money for almost any banking related matter. Paulsen argued that it would be necessary to allow maximum flexibility if the law was to work. The Auto companies had finance arms and this is used to justify the bailouts.  It might be noted that the one thing TARP money was never used for is to purchase trouble assets.   Ironic?  Today most laws are purposely written in this vague fashion giving the executive branch almost unlimited flexibility.  This is at the root of what Ryan is criticizing.  Trying to argue Mr. Ryan with 15 years of legislative experience was unaware of this when he voted for TARP and that the fault lies with Bush and Obama because they broke the law is a bit much.  I think he was wrong when he voted for it, but he may well be proven correct for believing gradual de-leveraging can work in the long run.  If it ends up working the auto companies and other minor fiascos will be a small price to pay.

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