Welcome Back, Carter. Nixon, Too
It's almost a cliché at this point to mention this similarities between Joe Biden and Jimmy Carter. Not that that's stopped us, nor will it when the observation is accurate. But it is worth pointing out that the president isn't the only elected official who seems hell bent on recreating America's most disastrous decade since the close of the Second World War, that is, the 1970s.
The House's Democratic majority overcame some internal opposition to pass legislation on [May 19] addressing high gas prices by cracking down on possible price gouging from oil companies. The bill was approved along party lines in a vote of 217-207. Four Democrats -- Texas' Lizzie Fletcher, Jared Golden of Maine, Stephanie Murphy of Florida and Kathleen Rice of New York -- joined all Republicans in the chamber in voting against the legislation.
The Consumer Fuel Price Gouging Prevention Act, introduced by Reps. Kim Schrier, D-Wash., and Katie Porter, D-Calif., would give the president the authority to issue an energy emergency proclamation that would make it unlawful for companies to increase fuel prices to "unconscionably excessive" levels.
"The problem is Big Oil is keeping supply artificially low so prices and profits stay high. Now I think that when the market is broken, that's when Congress has to step in to protect American consumers," Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., the chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said in a hearing on Monday. "And that's what this bill does: It empowers the FTC to go after the gougers and empowers the agency to effectively monitor and report on market manipulation."
If you're old enough to have watched Rhoda or owned a record by Bread, this move might sound familiar to you. That's because the Nixon administration introduced price controls on gasoline and other consumer goods in the early '70s, while regulations grew up to strangle the expansion of the oil and gas industry throughout the decade. It was a spectacular failure, as anyone with any grasp on basic economics could have predicted. That's why one of the most recognizable images of the decade -- right up there with with the Bee Gees and John Travolta on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack -- is motorists lined up for miles waiting for gasoline.
The president of the United States is nearly 80 years old, the speaker of the House is 82, as is the House majority leader, while the Senate majority leader is a comparatively sprightly 71. They were all adults in the 1970s. Indeed, they were all working in politics at the time. You'd think they would remember what a disaster it all was. Isn't the purported advantage of a gerontocracy that the agèd rulers would be able to recall the mistakes of the past and, more importantly, how to avoid repeating them? Perhaps President Biden isn't the only powerful person in a state of cognitive decline.
GOP Asks the Supes to Bring the EPA to Heel
It's about time:
The Supreme Court on Monday considered whether an Obama administration regulation to regulate carbon emissions from existing power plants gives the Environmental Protection Agency such authority. Coal companies and several Republican states, led by West Virginia, want to limit the Clean Power Plan from 2015 that never took effect due to a volley of lawsuits. If the Supreme Court were to rule against the EPA, the move would restrict the agency's ability to control climate-warming carbon emissions based on health, workplace safety and other conditions.
So what's the fuss all about?
During over two hours of oral arguments, the justices focused on how to interpret Section 111 of the Clean Air Act, the statutory source of the federal government's authority to regulate emissions from power plants. The states and coal companies prefer a narrower reading adopted by the Trump administration. That interpreted Section 111 as only allowing requirements at individual plants rather than regulating the industry, as the Environmental Protection Agency intended during the Obama administration by offering power plants credits for generating power from sources that emit less carbon dioxide than coal.
Many of these troublesome agencies date from the Nixon administration, which in 1970 unleashed not only the Environmental Protection Agency but also OSHA on an unsuspecting American public. Unconstitutional from the start, these meddlesome bureaucracies quickly took on their primary task, which was empire-building. As the U.S. has moved from a constitutional republic to a regulatory state, civil liberties have been corroded and diminished, and control has been ceded from the popular will of the people to the entrenched bureaucracy based in Washington, D.C., but with tentacles now firmly grasping all 50 formerly sovereign states.
Such beasts have been a godsend to the lawfare crews of the left, which can sue private companies out of existence for falling afoul of this or that "interpretation" of what Congress half a century ago "meant" in irresponsibly establishing quasi-immortal fiefdoms whose primary task would be self-perpetuation, since the problem it was created to address could, in fact, never be solved.
The current fight is among the Obama, Trump, and Biden administrations and their civil-service drones; as each party succeeds the other in the White House, the rules change and change back, keeping the lawyers happy and the paper-pushers busy but otherwise accomplishing nothing.
The Obama administration had planned to require states to lower carbon dioxide emissions by replacing coal power plants with green energy sources. About 62% of U.S. electricity comes from burning fossil fuels, according to government statistics. According to the EPA, electricity production is the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, behind transportation.
West Virginia Solicitor General Lindsay See told the justices they should overturn a federal appeals court decision saying the EPA could issue such plans. See argued that only Congress has the authority to set energy policy. "This is a major question because it is a new exercise of authority and a transformative result in an area of traditional state authority," See told the justices.
He's right of course. But Congress has long since abdicated its core legislative functions, preferring instead to create monsters such as the EPA in its Laboratory of Democracy and then leave the details to others while the Capitol Hill solons scheme for ever-higher electoral office. Every one of them dreams of being the next Nancy Pelosi or Mitch McConnell. And given that a lifelong hack like Joe Biden now sits in the Oval Office, they can dream, can't they?
Meanwhile, the rest of us suffer. And pay.