George Will

Congress, with the approval of a president who has waxed censorious about his predecessor's imperious unilateralism in dealing with other nations, has shredded the North American Free Trade Agreement. Congress used the omnibus spending bill to abolish a program that was created as part of a protracted U.S. stall regarding compliance with its obligation to allow Mexican long-haul trucks on U.S roads. The program, testing the safety of Mexican trucking, became an embarrassment because it found Mexican trucking at least as safe as U.S. trucking. Mexico has resorted to protectionism -- tariffs on many U.S. goods -- in retaliation for Democrats' protection of the Teamsters union.

NAFTA, like all treaties, is the "supreme law of the land." So says the Constitution. It is, however, a cobweb constraint on a Congress that, ignoring the document's unambiguous stipulations that the House shall be composed of members chosen "by the people of the several states," is voting to pretend that the District of Columbia is a state. Hence it supposedly can have a Democratic member of the House and, down the descending road, two Democratic senators. Congress rationalizes this anti-constitutional willfulness by citing the Constitution's language that each house shall be the judge of the "qualifications" of its members and Congress can "exercise exclusive legislation" over the District. What, then, prevents Congress from giving House and Senate seats to Yellowstone National Park, over which Congress exercises exclusive legislation? Only Congress' capacity for embarrassment. So, not much.

The Federal Reserve, by long practice rather than law, has been insulated from politics in performing its fundamental function of preserving the currency as a store of value -- preventing inflation. Now, however, by undertaking hitherto uncontemplated functions, it has become an appendage of the executive branch. The coming costs, in political manipulation of the money supply, of this forfeiture of independence could be steep.

Jefferson warned that "great innovations should not be forced on slender majorities." But Democrats, who trace their party's pedigree to Jefferson, are contemplating using "reconciliation" -- a legislative maneuver abused by both parties to severely truncate debate and limit the minority's right to resist -- to impose vast and controversial changes on the 17 percent of the economy that is health care. When the Congressional Budget Office announced that the president's budget underestimates by $2.3 trillion the likely deficits over the next decade, his budget director, Peter Orszag, said: All long-range budget forecasts are notoriously unreliable -- so rely on ours.

This is but a partial list of recent lawlessness, situational constitutionalism and institutional derangement. Such political malfeasance is pertinent to the financial meltdown as the administration, desperately seeking confidence, tries to stabilize the economy by vastly enlarging government's role in it.


George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
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