Friday, June 12, 2009

16 Czars and Counting

Call me oblivious, but I never realized that past presidents had appointed czars. In my defense, the most that had previously been appointed by any administration were four (George W. Bush appointed a National Intelligence Czar, a Cybersecurity Czar, an AIDS Czar, and a Drug Czar). Now, being president is a tough job, and I'm sure extra help is appreciated. On the other hand, last time I checked, the Constitution called for three branches of government, not one.

Let's take a look at the latest list of Obama czars.

President Obama: 16 Czars (and counting)

* Drug Czar- Gil Kerlikowske, former Seattle police chief

* Energy and Environment Czar - Carol Browner

* Homeland Security Czar - John Brennan

* Health Czar - Nancy-Ann DeParle

* Urban Affairs Czar - Adolfo Carrion, Jr.

* Economic Czar - Paul A. Volcker

* Regulatory Czar - Cass R. Sunstein

* Technology Czar - Vivek Kundra

* Government Performance Czar - Jeffrey Zients

* Border Czar - Alan Bersin

* WMD Policy Czar - Gary Samore

* Intelligence Czar (Director of National Intelligence) - Dennis Blair

* Car Czar - Steven Rattner

* Pay Czar - Kenneth R. Feinberg

* Great Lakes Czar - Cameron Davis

* Cyber Czar - TBA

As David Rothkopf Notes on Foreign Policy, he's created more czars than the Romanov Dynasty.

Get to Know Obama's Czars by Benjamin Sarlin is a nice piece on The Daily Beast that introduces us to some of the czars. Thus far what I've seen hasn't left me particularly comforted.

I realize that each of these issues that he has appointed a czar for is certainly important, but none of them occur in a vacuum. You can't isolate them from the conditions surrounding them. Our country and our economy functions as a system, not a collection of independent actions. Artificially manipulating different facets of the economy will have far-reaching, potentially devastating effects.

To me these czars seem to represent a heretofore unseen grab for power and control, subverting the oversight of the other branches of government. A President's main advisers are supposed to be his Cabinet, whose appointment is approved by Congress. It's called Checks and Balances.

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