By Nathan Barton
I call it “Barton’s Theory of Organizational Personality,” and first developed it as a young (but experienced) 1st Lieutenant with six years of college, two years of industrial work, and three years of military active duty behind me. “The “personality” (atmosphere, mores, motives, internal and external interactions) of any organization (military, government, business, or private), once established, will not change unless there is a virtually complete replacement of all personnel and loss of all historical identity.” I saw it in units I served in and with, in companies I worked for and with, schools, other government agencies, churches, and in history. Unless there is a massive, catastrophic change in personnel (not just the leadership) and all records of past behavior and events are lost, an organization just will not change the way it treats its employees, owners, managers, customers/clients, vendors, and competitors. An organization CAN change very slowly (over years and decades) through decay and deterioration, but even that is a legacy of its personality: a defect which may take a very long time to fully destroy the organization.
Nowhere is that easier to see than in the United States Congress, and especially in the Senate.
Mama Liberty recently sent me this article from The Hill: GOP considers holding off on repealing ObamaCare taxes. Her thoughts: “And I have a feeling that whatever they decide to replace it with will be as bad or worse.” She is no doubt correct, although I question whether The Hill is honestly reporting on this situation. But it is no surprise. Congress has demonstrated a remarkable and growing amount of cowardice in facing the Executive Branch, the Supreme Court, special interest groups, and the Street Senate, especially since about 1980. Hence my commentary’s title.
Following the lead of the Articles of Confederation, the US Constitution of 1787 saw Congress as being the dominant branch of the federal government; at a minimum first among equals. Its power was much greater than that of the other two branches, and indeed it exercised a great amount of power over both the President and his staff, the Supreme Court and all its lower courts.
But the history of American government is (among other things) a study of the steady decline of the power of Congress (together with the decline in the power and sovereignty of the States). As the states surrendered more and more control to the FedGov, so Congress surrendered more and more of its power to the Supreme Court (and all the other courts) and especially to the Executive Branch.
Some of this transfer of power goes all the way back to 1803 and the administration of Thomas Jefferson. First, in their decision on Marbury vs. Madison, the Supreme Court usurped authority it was NOT granted in the Constitution, and Congress failed to slap them down. And, although I much admire Jefferson and believe that he was a supporter of liberty and fought for and aided the cause of liberty, his actions in the Louisiana Purchase were in violation of the constitution and he should have been, at a minimum, slapped severely by Congress, if not impeached. But Congress did nothing in either case. These were small but significant milestones, and actions by Jackson, Lincoln, T Roosevelt, and ESPECIALLY Wilson and F D Roosevelt, saw Congress become the coward, refusing to take action to control the unconstitutional actions of the courts and the sitting presidents.
World War Two, indeed, saw Congress permanently reduced to a tertiary role in the Federal Government. And in the last 70 years, it has just grown steadily weaker – AND more and more unwilling and incapable of even speaking out effectively on behalf of the people (for the House) and the states (for the Senate). Which is why they deserve the title of “The Cowardly.” Indeed, just as the British Crown has abdicated its powers and responsibilities to the House of Commons, so in the Fifty States, the Congress has given up virtually everything to the White House.
We could point out many milestones, but some are the 1913 direct election constitutional amendment, and the Federal Reserve and Income Tax of that same year. Congress allowing the President to declare unlimited states of emergency multiple times over the past 100 years further eroded their power. They allowed Truman to go to war in Korea in 1950 without a declaration of war, and haven’t declared war since. The extension of the power of “Executive Orders” to apply to private citizens and government outside the Executive Branch has truly made EVERY administration an “Imperial Presidency.” The cumulative effects have been devastating. There is little true power left in Congress.
And what power it HAS left, it has constantly refused to use; the power of the purse being the most greatest and with the worst history.
As a result, Congress today “reigns” but does not rule. This is one of many reasons the Republic has died. There is no reason to think that Congress in 2017 and beyond will do anything different with Trump in office than with the last seven or eight occupants of the White House.
Mama’s Note: How sad that so few people understand that the complete elimination of the NON-VOLUNTARY government, at every level, is the only solution for this and so many other problems. That, of course, would require that people accept personal responsibility for themselves and their families/communities. Not sure just what would bring that about, but I suspect very few want that, even if they understand it. Oh yeah, people want to be “free,” but at someone else’s expense and retaining the ability to control others when their ideas of “free” don’t quite mesh.