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Deconstruct the administrative state
by Rich Lowry
Feb 28, 2017 | 41 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Steve Bannon blew a dog whistle for constitutional conservatives when he spoke of "deconstructing the administrative state" at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Although not everyone got the reference. Trump haters interpreted the line as an incendiary call to decimate the federal government, when "the administrative state" was a more specific reference to a federal bureaucracy that operates free of the normal checks of democratic accountability.

The administrative state has been called "the fourth branch" of government. It involves an alphabet soup of executive agencies that wield legislative, executive and judicial powers and thus run outside of and counter to our constitutional system. The agencies write "rules" that are laws in all but name, then enforce them and adjudicate violations.

Boston University law professor Gary Lawson describes how this works in the case of, for instance, the Federal Trade Commission:

"The Commission promulgates substantive rules of conduct. The Commission then considers whether to authorize investigations into whether the Commission's rules have been violated. If the Commission authorizes an investigation, the investigation is conducted by the Commission, which reports its findings to the Commission. If the Commission thinks that the Commission's findings warrant an enforcement action, the Commission issues a complaint. The Commission's complaint that a Commission rule has been violated is then prosecuted by the Commission and adjudicated by the Commission."

Welcome to government by commission. James Madison called such an undifferentiated accumulation of powers, which the Constitution is meant to avoid, "the very definition of tyranny." In his epic scholarship on the administrative state, Philip Hamburger argues that it is "a version of absolute power." Constitutional law arose, Hamburger writes, to check the prerogative power of the British crown, and now the federal bureaucracy is replicating that prerogative power in extralegal practices.

If progressives in the Trump years were truly concerned with reaffirming the democratic accountability, they'd be delighted with a prospective deconstruction of the administrative state. But they built it and rely on it. A century-old ideological project, its roots are in the Progressive Era, and it grew apace during the New Deal and the Great Society. The idea was to circumvent the frustrations of constitutional government, with all its natural obstacles to action, and to institute rule by experts.

The administrative state is the friend of anyone hoping to aggrandize government. President Barack Obama would have been hobbled without it. He used the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Communications Commission to institute sweeping new regulatory regimes on carbon emissions and the internet. He imposed his preferred social policies on schools and universities through "dear colleague" letters issued by middling bureaucrats. The administrative state was exactly what he needed -- a way to govern without Congress.

A hostility to the administrative state isn't necessarily a natural for Trump, who isn't a limited-government conservative or a constitutional purist. Yet he campaigned against regulation, he scorns the elite, and federal bureaucrats have already made clear their desire to frustrate his plans. Dethroning the administrative state fits into a populist program to restore power to the people through their elected representatives.

It is chiefly Congress that needs to reassert itself vis-a-vis the administrative state. It has delegated its legislative powers over the decades, and needs to pull them back. As Adam White writes in an essay for City Journal, it should pass the REINS Act to require congressional approval for major new regulations. It should revisit laws like the Clean Air Act and the Communications Act of 1934 that give regulators too much leeway. It should limit the deference that courts give to administrative agencies.

None of this is the stuff of fire and brimstone, rather the mundane work of slowly lurching the wheels of the federal government back onto a constitutional track. Something as entrenched as the administrative state won't be "deconstructed" in one presidential term, or two. If it can be dialed back, though, it will be a significant victory for old-fashioned representative government.

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Trump should work for better relations with the press
by Cal Thomas
Feb 28, 2017 | 38 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Before becoming a newspaper columnist I was a broadcast news reporter for local TV stations and occasionally appeared on the NBC radio and television networks. I have some experience at being on the receiving end of hostilities directed at the media.

At a pro-Nixon, pro-Vietnam war rally I covered in the early '70s, a demonstrator looked at the NBC logo on my microphone and called me a "communist." We had never met. He knew nothing about my politics or the quality of my reporting. He assumed that because I was covering the event for NBC I must be a left-wing radical.

While there is little doubt in the minds of most conservatives that a large majority of reporters and anchors at the national level hold liberal views, the way labels are applied to journalists does little to improve the quality of journalism, a profession that was once considered a craft before it became big business, eventually devolving into just another political megaphone.

The Trump administration has probably extracted maximum benefit from its frontal assault on the news media. It will not win converts by continuing the bashing. Even press critics must acknowledge that a free press is essential to a strong democracy.

Here is my proposal to simultaneously preserve and strengthen democracy, while encouraging the media to do a better job.

Reporters, producers and TV bookers are people with families and, in my experience, a sense of duty. Mostly, they are friendly people who are interested in finding and reporting the truth. Granted, their view of truth might be far different from most conservatives, but let's start there.

The administration and other press critics should make a list of federal programs and the philosophies associated with them and conduct an objective study as to whether they have produced the advertised results. Feelings, intentions, even ideology should have no part in the study. Did the program and associated spending solve a problem? In terms of social services, were sufficient numbers of people helped and did those programs assist recipients to escape from government assistance and find jobs, or did they result in people becoming addicted to government, reducing their motivation?

How credible is it that someone would favor a program or support a philosophy that costs too much and delivers too little? Is the private sector having greater success in achieving certain desired ends far better than government? Many states are doing better than Washington in solving some problems. National reporters could be shown what success looks like outside the Beltway. They might ask members of Congress why they won't embrace these models in the states they and their colleagues represent.

I have never seen anger and opposition convert anyone. Persuasion requires a relationship that includes respect for the other person and learning how they arrived at their point of view. I suspect most people don't take the time to contact, much less develop relationships with journalists, or even know many people with views different from their own. Find something you can admire in a journalist's reporting and send them a note that says so. It can include a suggestion of something they might have missed in their coverage. A reporter is more likely to consider such a suggestion if it is accompanied with praise, rather than a heavy dose of bile.

The media aren't going away and while conservatives can -- and should -- continue to call out errors and bias, they ought to be at least as interested in changing hearts and minds, even minds that already seem made up.

Cal Thomas is the host of “After Hours with Cal Thomas” on the FOX News Channel. Readers may e-mail him at tmseditors@tribune.com.

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Corinth's Aundrea Adams scored 24 to lead Northeast Monday night in the JC state tournament at Jones JC in Ellisville but the Lady Tigers lost the game 78-67 in overtime. Coach Brenda Mayes' team will now await word on a seeding in the upcoming Region 23 Tournament.
Corinth's Aundrea Adams scored 24 to lead Northeast Monday night in the JC state tournament at Jones JC in Ellisville but the Lady Tigers lost the game 78-67 in overtime. Coach Brenda Mayes' team will now await word on a seeding in the upcoming Region 23 Tournament.
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Lady Tigers Lose To Hinds In OT
Feb 27, 2017 | 95 views | 0 0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Corinth's Aundrea Adams scored 24 to lead Northeast Monday night in the JC state tournament at Jones JC in Ellisville but the Lady Tigers lost the game 78-67 in overtime. Coach Brenda Mayes' team will now await word on a seeding in the upcoming Region 23 Tournament.
Corinth's Aundrea Adams scored 24 to lead Northeast Monday night in the JC state tournament at Jones JC in Ellisville but the Lady Tigers lost the game 78-67 in overtime. Coach Brenda Mayes' team will now await word on a seeding in the upcoming Region 23 Tournament.
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