Paul Greenberg

Who says Occupy Wall Street hasn't accomplished something specific?

You can put a number on it, or at least The Associated Press did. Talk about redistributing the wealth: According to the AP, the first two months of the nationwide Occupy Wall Street protests cost local taxpayers across the country at least $13 million in overtime for police work and other such expenses.

That's $13 million in public services the Occupy crowd has accomplished right there.

At least since Huey Long's late great Share the Wealth clubs, there have been those convinced that the 1 percent are holding down the 99 percent. Their solution, now as then, is to redistribute the wealth. As if the American economy were one great pie rather than a dynamic, always-changing system, forever poised between growth and decay.

But it's not true that Occupy Wall Street and its various local franchises have no respect for private property. They have so much respect for it they'd like government to send more of it their way -- so they could respect it even more. Up close.

It's not just wealth that the redistributionists would redistribute, but constitutional powers. With or without the consent of the governed. The other day our president announced the appointment, effective immediately, of four top federal regulators, also know as czars these informal days -- as in car czar, health-care czar, AIDS czar ... and so interminably on.

These latest four czars are what's known as recess appointments -- appointments made while Congress is not in session. That is, in recess. Nothing wrong with that. A president is permitted to fill vacancies in office when Congress is in recess.

There's just one small problem: Congress isn't in recess. Not formally. Indeed, the Senate, which is supposed to approve such appointments, can't be in recess because the House hasn't agreed to adjourn, and neither house may recess for more than three days without the consent of the other. As the Constitution prudently provides.

Those cagey Founding Fathers were scarcely strangers to political intrigue, having engaged in it with some regularity, and with some relish, too. They were determined to erect safeguards against a president's trying to get around Congress' constitutional powers, as all chief executives are tempted to do. The framers built well; it's still hard to get around the Constitution's limits, though Lord knows presidents will try.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.