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Ruling Like Royalty: The Rise of the Imperial Presidency

Recently I picked up a book that reinforces the perception millions of Americans have of the modern American Presidency: that it is becoming imperial. The book, written by former Reagan advisor Robert Keith Gray, is titled Presidential Perks Gone Royal. This timely volume examines the ironic rise of the royal presidency in a nation conceived in the belief that all men are created equal. It is not only ironic that a nation founded on the principle of equality under law is embracing a de facto monarchy; it is the beginning of the end of free and responsible government on this continent.

Gray’s book, which is meticulously researched, indicates that the British spend approximately $56 million per year maintaining the Royal family, while American taxpayers shell out over $1.4 billion to maintain the presidency. The days of George Washington rejecting the kingship are long gone, and the republic is going the way of them. That’s because the massive public expenditures on the perks of the presidency are mere symptoms of the larger problem: that power is consolidating at the White House, while the people’s representatives in Congress are becoming increasingly irrelevant.

Take, for example, the fact that President Barack Obama has appointed over 50 czars to oversee Federal bureaucracies that he alone created. These unelected, unaccountable Federal executives are making daily decisions that affect the lives of all Americans, and the American People don’t have a voice in the process. From a “Green Jobs Czar” to a “Car Czar,” the President has put his “assistant presidents” in place across the government to implement his will, regardless of what Congress says or does. Perhaps the most illustrative example of executive overreach is how the President and his “Car Czar” restructured formerly private companies like GM and Chrysler, while unilaterally overturning 200 years of bankruptcy law in the process.

During the auto bailout, President Obama fired the head of General Motors, replaced him with a political hack, and worked with the new CEO, the “Car Czar” and other Administration officials to force bondholders to sign over their claims, so that the labor unions could get a sweetheart deal. This is in spite of the fact that bankruptcy proceedings already on the books provide that creditors (like bondholders) receive payment before employees of a company. This inconvenient truth didn’t matter to the President and his royal court of advisors, the Congress and court precedents be damned.

The only way for the runaway power of the presidency to be curtailed, and the people’s voice in their own government restored, is for the Congress to check the executive branch. This means clipping the President’s power to appoint unelected “czars,” enhancing congressional oversight of existing Federal agencies, and holding renegade Administration officials like Attorney General Eric Holder accountable. If Congress continues to play petty political games, they will lose more than their own offices; they will have lost the Republic for millions of Americans who yearn to live in liberty.

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