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Obama Proposes New Czar

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of


As the Obama agenda proves increasingly impotent, Americans have witnessed Obama's czars crash and burn or run for cover over the past thirty months.  From Van Jones to Kevin Jennings  to Nancy-Ann DeParle to Todd Stern to Ron Bloom, Obama's style of management--bypassing the senate-confirmed agency heads--has failed to yield the results promised to the American people.  You would think Obama would give up on the failed idea of using a curious collection of White House czars to manage complex economic and regulatory issues. No way.

Instead, in the American Jobs Act, Obama is proposing a new group of czars as a part of his "jobs" act-- the American Infrastructure Financing Authority (AIFA) czars.  President Obama’s newest czars will be given the authority to manage over a trillion dollars of federal funding for roads, bridges, buildings, waterways, dams and other infrastructure. 

Here we go again.  No doubt, Obama hopes that few legislators or American citizens will read the deadly details buried within the 199 pages of his proposed American Jobs Act that will establish this latest czar-ship, nor understand just how expensive AIFA is going to be.  

As with Obama’s other czars, the AIFA czar comes with infrastructure requirements of his own: staff, office space and technology needed to perform the job. Managing what is in reality a trillion dollar budget is going to require a huge new staff that will, essentially represent an entire new federal agency.  Of course, nowhere does President Obama tell us why a new czar is required to manage infrastructure projects.  More importantly, Obama does not explain why the vast federal bureaucracy now responsible for these activities must be bypassed and a new, redundant agency is built.   

Make no mistake: the AIFA Czar position is redundant.  All of the infrastructure projects and tasks identified to be performed by Obama’s new Czar are already the responsibilities of the Senate-confirmed heads of Department of Transportation, the U.S. General Services Administration and the Department of Energy.

Some of these tasks are:

  • "oversee entering into and carry out contracts, leases, cooperative agreements or any other transactions as are necessary"
  • to approve the acquisition, lease, pledge, exchange and disposal of real personal property
  • to review all financial assistance packages to all eligible infrastructure projects"  which includes “any non-Federal transportation, water, or energy infrastructure project, or an aggregation of such infrastructure projects, as provided in this Act.
  • the construction, alteration, or repair, including the facilitation of intermodal transit, of the following subsectors:

·         Highways or roads.

·         Bridges.

·         Mass transit.

·         Inland waterways.

·         Commercial ports.

·         Airports.

·         Air traffic control systems.

·         Passenger rail, including high-speed rail.

·         Freight rail systems.

·         Waterwaste treatment facilities.

·         Storm water management systems.

·         Dams.

·         Solid waste disposal facilities.

·         Drinking water treatment facilities.

·         Levees.

·         Open space management systems.

·         Pollution reduced energy generation.

·         Transmission and distribution.

·         Storage.

·         Energy efficiency enhancements for buildings, including public and commercial buildings.

What does Obama's decision to create a new agency entity with redundant responsibilities say about his confidence in his own Senate-confirmed appointees that currently lead DoT, DoI,DoE and GSA?  And just why is the President proposing to transfer all of the power and contractual authority held by the Secretaries of DoT, DoI, DoE, and the Administrator of GSA to a new White House Czar?

If the President is voting no-confidence in his Senate confirmed appointees, then they should go.  But the nation should not have to spend precious taxpayer dollars on yet another, flaky, Obama Administration scheme to create a new White House Czar that is simultaneously able avoid traditional  accountability to the American taxpayer, while at the same time seriously politicizing decisions under White House control at a scale never seen before.

We've seen how the president's czars respond to oversight from Congress. When Congress calls with questions and concerns, the White House staffer often hides behind the protection of Executive Privilege. And, the agency head, confirmed by the Senate, is held responsible. Agency heads and Cabinet officials must venture to the Hill and be accountable to Congress. Yet, the actual policy for that program has often been managed by one of the ubiquitous White House czars.

Obama has created yet another accountability challenge. In addition to their ability to hold positions on other Boards of both for-profit and non-profit corporations, AIFA not only has a Czar but also a 7-member Board of Directors, all with decision-making ability.  Often, when decision-making responsibility is divided among so many, accountability is reduced and the president can hide behind the skirts of a handpicked group of loyalists.  AIFA would essentially be a vastly more powerful NLRB complete with all of the known problems and dangers of a grasping group of unaccountable political cronies. 

When problems arise, a finger-pointing frenzy often ensues and the American taxpayer is left holding the bag.   Of course, you have to admire Obama’s scheme,  as noted in section 346 (on page 116), that offers token reports and evaluation of the success/failure of the Czar and Committee’s spending decision some  four years after implementation.  In this way, the final report card will only be issued long after all Obama devotees are out of office.

And what about the dedicated, trained, career employees at DoT, DoI, DoE and GSA who have been performing the tasks of contracting, construction proposal and prospectus review and development, government legal review of contracts and leases and repairs and maintenance? 

These career professionals possess some of the best technical minds in their respective areas of expertise.  The current system is mostly transparent.  And, it is only when the White House applies political pressure that these things go badly wrong (Solyndra anyone?).

Instead of respecting and utilizing the expertise of these career professionals, Obama has proposed a system wherein they become pawns to political posturing and every infrastructure decision has the potential to become politicized.

Just at a time when our nation should be talking about cutting costs, Obama has put in motion the wheel of a phantasmagorically, bloated, spending project, that increases, phenomenally, the size of government,  duplicates existing governmental functions, escapes honest accountability, all while subordinating all contracting, development, and infrastructure programs to a new White House Czar.  

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