RUSH: Daniel Henninger: ‘Congress’s Broken Windows — The president must have power over the budget to make spending reform work.’ This is not an excuse piece for Republicans in the House. Don’t misunderstand. Henninger writes, ‘Here’s something most Republicans don’t want to hear: There is no way the born-again, straight and sober Republicans of the 112th Congress are going to get spending under control unless they involve the fellow at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The spending reforms that Speaker John Boehner and his counterinsurgency lieutenants have proposed — spending reductions to offset any mandatory increases or stated budget limits for the current fiscal year –are terrific. But if you think Congress, by itself, is going to sustain this discipline over time, I have a bridge in Alaska I’d like to sell you.
‘Congress is a legislative body. Like legislative bodies from ancient Rome till now, its DNA is not to forgo things but to do stuff. Everyone agrees that Congress holds something called the ‘power of the purse.’ And don’t they know it. Nowhere in the Constitution will you find that phrase. Nor in the Constitution that they are reading on the House floor Thursday will you hear the words ‘spend,’ ‘programs’ or ‘outlays.’ All this, though, is what Congress has been about since anyone can remember. The reform groups and blogosphere are threatening hellfire for any Republicans who cross them on spending, but take my word for it: Once any Congress makes it to the budgeting ‘out years,’ all that hellfire will be just a puff of smoke. James Buchanan, the father of public choice theory, won a Nobel Prize for unraveling this reality. It is not hopeless. The locus of hope, however, lies with the Executive, a word at least nominally associated with responsibility. In an article on these pages recently (‘Time for Emergency Economic Reform’), a successful political executive, Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana, identified the sine-qua-non reform to sustain spending discipline: presidential impoundment power.’
The way this is explained, Congress appropriates but the president doesn’t have to spend it all if he’s got the power. The president does not right now, 43 governors do, and Chris Christie is one of them, do have the power to not spend all that their legislatures budget. You can call it impoundment, you can think line-item veto, although it doesn’t have to be that. But they have control over what is spent. Federally Congress has control over what is spent. So they budget it, they appropriate it, and they spend it, but ‘However you define the idea — impoundment, rescission, the line-item veto — it is the power of a president or governor to zero out some of the spending pile that a legislature dumps on the front lawn. It is executive pushback against wretched legislative excess. ‘Presidents once had the authority,’ Mr. Daniels wrote, ‘to spend less than Congress made available through appropriation. On reflection, nothing else makes sense.’
‘Ask New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie about the impoundment power. He has it, and he’ll tell you it is indispensable to what he is trying to do in his hopelessly profligate state. Absent that impoundment power, a lot of the Christie pitch would be just rhetoric. Before getting into why 43 governors, but not the U.S. president, have this power, a comment on those who say that impoundment is a pop-gun, that it can’t control entitlements or mega-programs. Perhaps you have heard of the ‘broken windows’ theory of urban chaos. It says that in a neighborhood wracked with murder and mayhem, it is important to repair broken windows. The idea is that leaving small matters like broken windows unrepaired tells criminals that no one cares if they break the neighborhood further, and it tells the people there is no hope of fixing the big things. In New York City, this worked. Earmarks, pork, corporate carve-outs and all that are Congress’s broken windows. Every knowing article written on this subject points out what a ‘small’ percentage of spending this stuff is.’ Earmarks, it doesn’t add up to much, can’t close the deficit with it, ‘But the behavioral incentives for big-time criminals in the Bronx and big-time spenders in a legislature like Congress are the same.
‘An annual federal budget of $3.5 trillion is a towering monument of broken windows.’ They’re looking for ways to cut the budget, get this: ‘Federal highway spending has been on automatic pilot for nearly 20 years. Sen. Tom Coburn has a long list of programs uselessly duplicated across the government; nine agencies run 69 early-education programs.’ Cut 68 of ’em! ‘There’s no place to cut the budget Mr. Limbaugh, it’s just too much, every dime is terribly necessary. ‘ Wrong. The redundancy in the federal budget is just… early education programs. How about all the school breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner programs? How about all of the highway spending, farm spending, it goes on and on and on. Now, the reason that this executive impoundment doesn’t exist is mainly two reasons.
‘In the early 1970s, Richard Nixon tried aggressively to impound spending, touching off a war with Congress’s ‘prerogatives.’ Then Watergate broke. In a fury, one of the most liberal Congresses passed the Budget Control Act of 1974 (which should be repealed). It transferred most spending ‘control’ to Congress, which one commentator at the time called ‘congressional government — and chaos.’ Second, the Constitution is ambiguous on how to divide this authority, and the Supreme Court, in coin-flip decisions, has sided with Congress. All the congressional names above –‘ and he lists a lot of people here who have supported, I didn’t read to you, including Paul Ryan, ‘– have tried to thread this legal needle. But it doesn’t exist because the bipartisan pig-out caucus — in hiding now — won’t let it happen. Yes, this week the GOP Congress is talking about a lollapalooza annual budget cut of $100 billion. Go for it! But let’s hear Barack Obama put the impoundment power back in play in his State of the Union address — for this presidency and however many presidents are left in the future of our broken-windows capital.’ So the point is that if Congress maintains 100% authority over spending what they appropriate, it’s a roundabout way of getting to the line-item veto or what have you.
Now, a companion story, Chris Christie, from Mark Hemingway, the Washington Examiner: ‘The four-year-old state Division of Minority and Women Business Development has been quietly dismantled by the administration of Gov. Chris Christie, which continues to register small businesses and help them obtain state government contracts on a race- and gender-neutral basis.’ So Governor Christie has just scuttled the Division of Minority and Women Business Development.
There’s a story out of New Mexico yesterday, and they have agency out there in New Mexico called EIB, and when I read the headline — in fact, paraphrase this ’cause this governor has just eliminated EIB. I read that, ‘Whoa!’ I found out there’s a name of an agency out there that’s a total liberal Democrat worthless agency, and she just ended it, the new Republican governor out there. Presidents can’t do that. They can go the other way. Obama can create stuff by legislative fiat or executive fiat, which he will do.
RUSH: By the way, the Budget Control Act of 1974 also created the Congressional Budget Office. The Democrats back then wanted to stop Nixon from limiting spending. Then Watergate came along, the Republicans got trounced, and so the Budget Act of ’74 gave total spending authority back to Congress. Democrats created the Congressional Budget Office — ha-ha — totally, ostensibly, ‘nonpartisan.’
Here it is. This is from the AP. The headline: ‘New Mexico Governor Removes EIB Members.’ Shocking headline! ‘New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez on Tuesday took aim at the controversial Environmental Improvement Board, announcing that she was removing all members over concerns about the board’s approval in recent months of what she considers ‘antibusiness’ policies.’ I loooove this governor. ‘The board — made up of members appointed by former Gov. Bill Richardson — was at the center of a heated debate last year over whether New Mexico should regulate greenhouse gas emissions.’
So this governor came in and just wiped it out. The Environmental Improvement Board is gone because she was concerned ‘about the board’s approval in recent months of what she considers ‘antibusiness’ policies.’ She ‘issued an executive order Saturday halting all pending regulations by executive branch agencies under her control to determine whether they hurt businesses in New Mexico. She also directed agencies to review rules and regulations that are in place and determine by the end of the month which ones should be scrapped to improve economic development and job growth.’
So here’s a new Republican governor who’s looking at the state, looking all these regulations and all the things that liberal Democrats have done and said, ‘Look, anything that is hampering the creation of jobs and growth I’m wiping out if it’s under my control.’ She’s just doing it. You know, some people go back and forth arguing for presidents to have that kind of power, line-item veto — and you get into monstrous scholarly, constitutional, legal debates over that vis-a-vis the Constitution and so forth — but states have the right to set themselves up however they wish and do that. In many cases, they do. Forty-three governors have the ability to just not spend what their legislatures appropriate. Seven states… Well, no, 43. So 14 states (that would be 57) do not.
Back after this.
RUSH: This New Mexico governor that just wiped out this bogus environmental board on the basis that the things the people were doing there were anti-business, just wiped it out. One of the most underreported stories of 2010 was the flip from Democrat to Republican in so many statehouses: governors and legislatures, and 700 seats in state legislatures. We’ve talked about it here, how big the shellacking was, but it was largely underreported ’cause it’s not good news for the left. It’s a horrible harbinger for the Democrats. This Jersey Governor Chris Christie is doing stuff like this and the new governor in New Jersey, Martinez, I mean wasting no time. And these new arrivals, Republicans in Congress, are just like this. I don’t think the media and the Democrats really have any idea what happened in this election. I don’t think they understand the level of commitment. We have a group of people that ran for office saying they’re gonna do X and Y and they start out doing X, Y, and Z. They’re committed, and they know that they’re gonna get an excrement sandwich every day from the media, and an anal exam, but they’re prepared to deal with it. And once this stuff starts happening, more and more freedom and liberty is gonna be breaking out all over the country at state and county, even city levels.