Follow Up on Jeb and Congress

I’m on airplanes all day today, making my way to Michigan where, it turns out, I’ll be meeting John in a bar late tonight. (This is how conspiracy rumors get started. Stand by for some clandestine video.) Meanwhile, I note a great letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal this morning from Laura Hirschman making the same point I did here last week (“Bush League De-Regulation?“) about Jeb Bush’s inadequate re-regulation agenda:

Jeb Bush’s “How I’ll Slash the Regulation Tax” (op-ed, Sept. 23) does a good job of outlining the damage overregulation does in our economy. While I applaud his proposal to repeal many of these rules, he does not address the fundamental problem. Rather than doing a better job regulating the regulators, perhaps their legislative authority should be repealed. Let’s face it, these “rules” are laws. While Mr. Bush focuses on regulations originating in the Obama administration, this didn’t start with him and won’t end when he is gone unless legislative authority is shifted back to where it belongs—in Congress.

Creating and funding the multitude of alphabet agencies in Washington has birthed a shadow government not accountable to the people. I am not a constitutional scholar, but the way I understand the intent of the three branches of government is that Congress is the legislative body. Not the executive. Not the judiciary. And certainly not an army of unelected bureaucrats and regulators.

Kudos to Ms. Hirschman for understanding and expressing the problem better than just about every DC Republican. I wonder if Ms. Hirschman is a Power Line reader? I hope so.

Also, take note of the Journal‘s first editorial, noting that for all of the disappointments of the GOP Congress, they deserve some credit:

But note what happened starting in fiscal 2012. Total federal outlays fell two years in a row—from $3.6 trillion in 2011 to $3.45 trillion in 2013 before starting to rise again to $3.51 trillion in 2014. The spending decline was even more marked as a share of the economy, falling for three straight years—from 23.4% in 2011 to 20.3% in 2014.

What explains the decline since 2011? Defense spending has ebbed, but by only about 0.8% of GDP from 2009-2013. That means domestic spending fell by about 2.8% of GDP during the same period. One glib explanation is that the 2009 stimulus was supposed to phase out after two years, but don’t forget the stimulus included “maintenance of effort” mandates that obliged states not to cut from previous levels. Does anyone believe the Pelosi Congress would have allowed similar spending declines?

But the lesson of these numbers is that the Republican House has fulfilled its promise to restrain federal spending. In other words it has used its power of the purse under the Constitution to shrink the burden of government—despite ferocious opposition over four years from a Democratic Senate and President. We recognize this won’t matter to those who make a living by pretending that Republicans are no different than Democrats, but it is the truth.