Op-Eds

Article 1 Project - Reining in Government

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Washington, February 29, 2016 | comments

By Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R - GA)

Run exclusively in the Marietta Daily Journal

The legacy of the Obama administration may very well be his successful use of executive action to advance his progressive agenda. Whether through his extensive use of executive orders and directives, or the myriad of new regulations imposed by the 438 federal departments and agencies, he has transformed the office of the president into one that has, not only, executive power, but legislative as well.

Charles Montesquieu, an 18th century political philosopher, described the unification of these powers as tyranny, “When the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person, or in the same body of magistrates, there can be no liberty…” While prominent philosophers such as Montesquieu, Locke, and Blackstone had great influence on our founders, it was ultimately their experiences under the tyranny of the British crown that formulated their resolve to separate the powers of government.

Today, we look at the Declaration of Independence as a visionary document that describes a revolutionary form of government. While this is true, it is also a manifesto against the unification of legislative, executive, and judicial powers. In the Declaration, Jefferson listed 27 specific acts of executive overreach by the British crown, with the first seven being encroachments by the king into legislative authority.

Our founders saw that with the powers of state combined into one office, there would be no constraint on the size and power of the government. This is evidenced in the 10th grievance of the Declaration, “He has erected a multitude of new offices and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.” However, it doesn’t take a historian or a Constitutional scholar to see how the government the founders established has grown exponentially -in size and power.

When the Federal Department of Agriculture was established during the Lincoln administration, there was one bureaucrat for every 225,000 farmers; today there is one for every eight. When the Bill of Rights was adopted, there were more members of Congress than employees in the entire federal government. Today, there is more than 7,800 federal employees to each member of Congress, which equates to one federal employee for every 76 citizens of the U.S.

The physical growth of government isn't the only crisis we are facing. The rampant expansion of regulation is having a drastic impact on the economy and the quality of life for every American. Today, the average American family pays over $15,000 in hidden regulatory taxes and fees; and, according to a recent study, over 60 percent of the cost of a new home is due to government regulations. Overregulation by the federal government is also the main reason that businesses are moving to countries which offer lower taxes and fewer onerous regulatory controls.

While this administration has taken executive overreach to a new level, Obama has only accelerated a trend that started in the 1930s. Clearly, by all accounts, the massive growth in size and scope of the federal government is primarily due to decades of Congress slowly abdicating its Constitutional authority to the office of the President, mostly for political convenience.

With a massively large federal bureaucracy, decades of deficit spending, and a $19 trillion dollar debt, we cannot sustain a Constitutional republic much longer, under these conditions.Next month we are expecting the birth of my second grandchild. The moment she is born, she will be responsible for $61,000 of the nation’s debt. That will put my son’s family of four almost a quarter of a million dollars in the hole; and, with an average family income, they will never be able get above water.

However, we have a window of opportunity to change course and restore to the people the limited government our founders purposed. Recently, Washington insiders were floored by the announcement of the Article 1 Project (A1P), a new collation of House and Senate conservatives whose goal is to regain public control of the government, by restoring the Constitutional authority of Congress. The 10 members of A1P are putting aside our own self-interests to collectively use Congress' powers of legislation, oversight and investigation, to rein in the out of control regulators and regain Congress’ fiscal responsibility. A1P will develop and advocate specific, structural reforms – large and small – in four key areas, which are the root of the dysfunction in Washington. These are; reclaiming the power of the purse, reforming legislative “cliffs,” restoring congressional power over federal regulations and regulators, and reining in executive discretion.

For several months prior to the announcement of A1P, I worked with Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) on developing specific initiatives to achieve our goals. While there will be more information to come on each specific issue, we are crafting legislation to address the culture of corruption in the regulatory agencies, and impose fiscal accountability at all levels of government. Other members of the project will also be formally announcing their contributions in the coming weeks.

While we will continue to deal with a monolithic government through the duration of this presidency, I am encouraged by the prospect that, with coalitions such as A1P, we can have significant impact on the direction of America,and ultimately restore a nation that is free, safe, and full of opportunity.

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