FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Government Without Laws

by RALPH NADER

Over thirty years ago, a book came out titled How the Government Breaks the Law by Jethro K. Lieberman. Even then it was old news and the examples cited seemed small compared to today’s chronic law-breakers in the White House and at many federal departments and agencies. Many recent books have been written on the expansive outlaw behavior of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

Less attention has been devoted to the explosion of unauthorized actions by the Executive in recent years. What should be the most frequent question by reporters to government officials — namely, ?By what authority are you acting?? ? is the rarest of inquiries.

A two part series on Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. in the Washington Post by David Cho in late November brought this point out in a stunningly frank admission by the Corporate bailout czar himself.

Speaking of the takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,  as well as other megaseizures of failing Wall Street firms, Mr. Paulson expressed these anarchic words: “Even if you don’t have the authorities ? and frankly I didn’t have the authorities for anything ? if you take charge, people will follow.”

Whew! There you have it! He becomes the law and the law is what he says it is because no one ? neither a rubber-stamping President, nor a supine Congress, nor any citizen, deprived of any standing to sue, is going or can do anything about it.

Reporter Cho goes on to write: “Senior government officials said Paulson helped craft rescue programs for financial firms, though he was not sure he had an unquestionable legal basis for the initiatives including the bailouts of the failing investment bank Bear Stearns in March and the wounded insurance giant American International Group (AIG) in September.”

Mr. Paulson went further. Playing Congress, he backed the Federal Reserve ? already a government within a government funded by banks? to unprecedented unilateral expansion of its powers and  its self-made assets. The Post reported that officials from the Treasury and the Fed ?never knew whether they had the legal authority to interfere with the market for  such derivatives but did so anyway because the opaque trading threatened the wider financial system.”

Unauthorized Executive Branch actions tend to be contagious. Noticing that the crisis left Wall Street on its knees and willing to unilaterally assume over $8 trillion in a variety of loan, subsidy and capital obligations, the Bush regime kept making more of its powers all by itself. Why not, they may have been thinking? Look what they’ve gotten away with in the areas of military and foreign policy actions.

Weekend gigantic corporate bailouts ? a more recent one being the $300 billion plus assumption of Citigroup’s financial risks ? engineered by Citigroup co-boss, Robert Rubin–were very secret affairs.

The  more public grab of power was the $700 billion goliath to rescue the casino capitalists on Wall Street which was submitted in only 3 ½  pages of proposed legislation to Congress by Paulson and Ben Bernake, the Fed’s chairman in September.

This was too much for the ideologies of House Republicans who beat it on the first round. Even the spineless Democrats thought the requested authority was too much of a blank check. So what happened? Bush told Paulson to give various members of Congress “sweeteners” such as pork and tax breaks for favored lobbyists to get the required votes.  Consequently, Paulson was granted staggering discretion to spend the $700 billion when, where and to whom he wanted under whatever conditions or no conditions at all.  All in the name of socialism saving capitalism from massive collapse.  Ironic.

Mr. Paulson came away from Capitol Hill with Congress in his hip pocket ? not exactly what the framers of our Constitution had in mind in 1787.

Thus embolden, Paulson initiated a unilateral, administrative repeal of a Congressional enactment in the tax code ? section 382 ? to give the banks a huge windfall of about $140 billion. George K. Yin, former chief of staff of the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, rejected the legality of the Treasury Department’s decision. He told the Post: “I think almost every tax expert would agree that the answer is no. They basically repealed a 22-year-old law that Congress passed [and Reagan signed] as a backdoor way of providing aid to banks.”

Section 382 of the Tax code ?sharply restricts a company from using the tax losses of a company it acquires to reduce its own tax liability,” according to the respected Citizens for Tax Justice. The Treasury’s two-page notice generated a brief specialized display of outrage from members of the Tax writing committees in Congress and a hundred national, state and local organizations signed a joint letter to Congress demanding the legislators reverse the Treasury? unauthorized edict.

So what did the House of Representatives do?  It passed, later rejected by the Senate a provision in the auto bailout bill, a provision that would have extended the unauthorized  Treasury ruling to the automobile industry!

What is going on here is a revolutionary coup d-etat of our legal system by executive branch diktats.

Is the organized legal profession through their bar associations in challenge mode? Are law professors churning over this mockery of the legislature and executive branch administrative law? Are conservative groups ? always upset about judicial activism ? going into high gear against the new monarchy in and around the White House in downtown Washington, D.C.? Are all those futurists worried enough about the trillions of debt dollars being piled on our children and grandchildren to protest and act?   Not really.

Obviously, all this is a developing story. Stay tuned, unless you are willing to be turned out.

RALPH NADER is a consumer advocate and three-time presidential candidate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
April 28, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Slandering Populism: a Chilling Media Habit
Andrew Levine
Why I Fear and Loathe Trump Even More Now Than On Election Day
Jeffrey St. Clair
Mountain of Tears: the Vanishing Glaciers of the Pacific Northwest
Philippe Marlière
The Neoliberal or the Fascist? What Should French Progressives Do?
Conn Hallinan
America’s New Nuclear Missile Endangers the World
Peter Linebaugh
Omnia Sunt Communia: May Day 2017
Vijay Prashad
Reckless in the White House
Brian Cloughley
Who Benefits From Prolonged Warfare?
Kathy Kelly
The Shame of Killing Innocent People
Ron Jacobs
Hate Speech as Free Speech: How Does That Work, Exactly?
Andre Vltchek
Middle Eastern Surgeon Speaks About “Ecology of War”
Matt Rubenstein
Which Witch Hunt? Liberal Disanalogies
Sami Awad - Yoav Litvin - Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb
Never Give Up: Nonviolent Civilian Resistance, Healing and Active Hope in the Holyland
Pete Dolack
Tribunal Finds Monsanto an Abuser of Human Rights and Environment
Christopher Ketcham
The Coyote Hunt
Mike Whitney
Putin’s New World Order
Ramzy Baroud
Palestinian, Jewish Voices Must Jointly Challenge Israel’s Past
Ralph Nader
Trump’s 100 Days of Rage and Rapacity
Harvey Wasserman
Marine Le Pen Is a Fascist—Not a ‘Right-Wing Populist,’ Which Is a Contradiction in Terms
William Hawes
World War Whatever
John Stanton
War With North Korea: No Joke
Jim Goodman
NAFTA Needs to be Replaced, Not Renegotiated
Murray Dobbin
What is the Antidote to Trumpism?
Louis Proyect
Left Power in an Age of Capitalist Decay
Medea Benjamin
Women Beware: Saudi Arabia Charged with Shaping Global Standards for Women’s Equality
Rev. William Alberts
Selling Spiritual Care
Peter Lee
Invasion of the Pretty People, Kamala Harris Edition
Cal Winslow
A Special Obscenity: “Guernica” Today
Binoy Kampmark
Turkey’s Kurdish Agenda
Guillermo R. Gil
The Senator Visits Río Piedras
Jeff Mackler
Mumia Abu-Jamal Fights for a New Trial and Freedom 
Cesar Chelala
The Responsibility of Rich Countries in Yemen’s Crisis
Leslie Watson Malachi
Women’s Health is on the Chopping Block, Again
Basav Sen
The Coal Industry is a Job Killer
Judith Bello
Rojava, a Popular Imperial Project
Robert Koehler
A Public Plan for Peace
Sam Pizzigati
The Insider Who Blew the Whistle on Corporate Greed
Nyla Ali Khan
There Has to be a Way Out of the Labyrinth
Michael J. Sainato
Trump Scales Back Antiquities Act, Which Helped to Create National Parks
Stu Harrison
Under Duterte, Filipino Youth Struggle for Real Change
Martin Billheimer
Balm for Goat’s Milk
Stephen Martin
Spooky Cookies and Algorithmic Steps Dystopian
Michael Doliner
Thank You Note
Charles R. Larson
Review: Gregor Hens’ “Nicotine”
David Yearsley
Handel’s Executioner
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail