Column: Signs of grown-ups in charge
Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, chairman of the Financial Services Committee, has told Richard Cordray not to bother. This is part of the recent evidence that government is getting some adult supervision.
President Barack Obama used a recess appointment to make Cordray director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. But a federal circuit court has declared unconstitutional three other recess appointments made the same day because the Senate was not in recess. So Hensarling has told Cordray not to testify before his committee: “Absent contrary guidance from the United States Supreme Court, you do not meet the statutory requirements of a validly serving director of the CFPB, and cannot be recognized as such.”
Last week, the Federal Aviation Administration promoted chaos in travel by furloughing air traffic controllers, supposedly because the sequester cuts — 4 percent of its budget — cannot be otherwise implemented. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., notes that the FAA says its 15,000 air traffic controllers must be furloughed in the same proportion as its 32,000 other employees, who include librarians, historians, speechwriters, PR people, congressional and White House liaisons, and many others perhaps less essential to the FAA’s primary mission than are people in O’Hare’s control tower.
On Friday, the eve of its recess, Congress fixed this problem, explicitly granting the FAA flexibility it already had. Then the legislators dashed to Washington’s airports. Amazing, the dispatch with which the government acts when its stupidities inconvenience the rulers as much as the ruled.
The rest of the sequester will still be administered so as to make the government as painful as possible to the public, in the hope that the public will support more spending by and for the government. Obama may think his powers of persuasion can convince people that as chief executive he is a mere bystander in this executive branch sadism. But about those powers . . .
In 2009, he flew to Copenhagen to give a speech about himself (he referred to himself 26 times in 48 sentences), expecting this to enchant the International Olympic Committee into awarding Chicago the 2016 games. Unenthralled, the committee made Chicago the first city eliminated from the competition.
Since then, Obama has campaigned for Obamacare without making it popular and against Republican candidates without success in 2010. Still, his faith in the potent ointment of his words is probably unshaken by even the failure of his barnstorming in support of gun legislation almost weirdly unrelated to the event — Newtown — to which it was supposedly a response.
Last week, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the Finance Committee, announced he will not seek a seventh term next year. Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., Baucus’ tax-writing counterpart, is term-limited by Republican rules as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. So the two most important people in the most urgent legislative project — tax reform to ignite economic growth — have parallel incentives to work quickly. And if Democrats still control the Senate in 2015, Finance, the Senate’s most important committee, probably will be chaired by Oregon’s Ron Wyden, who has the intellectual power and political independence of such previous Democratic luminaries on Finance as Louisiana’s Russell Long, Texas’ Lloyd Bentsen and New York’s Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
In a burst of the bipartisanship we are told to revere, a coalition of Republican and Democratic senators rose above party differences last week to affirm class solidarity. They moved toward a tax increase of at least $22 billion to benefit the political class at the state and local levels. Because Baucus opposes the legislation to enrich state and local governments by subjecting Internet commerce to state and local sales taxes, Majority Leader Harry Reid brought it directly to the floor, bypassing the Finance Committee. One reason the Republican-controlled House should reject this tax increase is that much of the revenue will be passed on to public employees and, through their unions, to Democrats’ campaigns.
Finally, last week Earth Day passed with less notice than was given to the approaching death of another planet-saver, Fisker Automotive Inc. The electric car maker’s slide toward Solyndra-style bankruptcy has been greased with $192 million in government loans. Fisker is a redundant demonstration of the government’s incompetence as a venture capitalist, and of the decay of environmentalism into cranky gestures. Although electric cars are 40 percent powered by coal, that being the percentage of U.S. electricity generated by coal, Fisker was supposed to combat global warming, of which there has been essentially none for 15 years. As adult supervision returns, Washington may take seriously the bad news about its harebrained green investments and the good news that refutes the argument for more of them.
George Will is a member of the Washington Post Writers Group, 1150 15th St. N.W., Washington, D.C., 20071. His email address is email@example.com. His column appears most Mondays and Thursdays.