Obama has gone czar crazy! The new administration is appointing Czars at a rate that would put Russia to shame. It has gotten so out of hand that even senior democrats are starting to complain.
(CBS News) Robert Byrd, the longest serving senator in history, criticized President Obama’s appointment of numerous White House advisors, also called “czars,” saying the presence of the czars gives the president too much power. In a letter to Obama, Byrd, a Democrat, said that the czar system “can threaten the Constitutional system of checks and balances,” Byrd added that oversight of federal agencies is the responsibility of officials approved by the Senate. “As presidential assistants and advisers, these White House staffers are not accountable for their actions to the Congress, to cabinet officials, or to virtually anyone but the president,” Byrd wrote. “They rarely testify before congressional committees, and often shield the information and decision-making process behind the assertion of executive privilege. In too many instances, White House staff have been allowed to inhibit openness and transparency, and reduce accountability.”
So here is a list of several high profile Czar positions currently in place under the new administration:
Nancy Ann Deparle, Health Reform Czar – DeParle will be charged with helping to craft and sell the administration’s ambitious effort to revamp the nation’s health care system to both extend access and rein in runaway costs. A veteran of the Bill Clinton health-reform wars, DeParle brings institutional memory to the job as well as an understanding of the arcane nooks of government-funded health insurance plans. She’s an expert on Medicare and Medicaid, and could help the Obama administration expand those programs while in pursuit of universal coverage. DeParle was previously commissioner of the Department of Human Services in Tennessee, and during the Clinton administration she oversaw Medicare and Medicaid as the administrator of the Health Care Financing Administration. Source: whorunsgov.com
Adolfo Carrion, Jr., Urban Affairs Policy Czar – The man who is President Obama’s newly minted urban czar pocketed thousands of dollars in campaign cash from city developers whose projects he approved or funded with taxpayers’ money, a Daily News probe found. He often received contributions just before or after he sponsored money for projects or approved important zoning changes, records show. Source: N.Y. Daily News
Read more: “Buildings sprang up as donations rained down on Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion” – http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/bronx/2009/02/28/2009-02-28_buildings_sprang_up_as_donations_rained_.html#ixzz0HUAsRfZy&A
Carol Browner, Energy and Global Warming Czar Global Warming Czar Carol Browner was — until last week — listed as one of 14 leaders of a socialist group that advocates what’s called “global governance” and says rich countries must shrink their economies to address climate change. The Washington Times reports Browner’s name and biography were listed on the Web page for Socialist International. Source: Fox News
John Brennan, Terrorism Czar – Brennan boasts a 25-year intelligence career and an expertise in counter-terrorism, skills that will make him an asset to President Barack Obama as deputy national security adviser for counter-terrorism. A fluent Arabic speaker, Brennan is known for being smart and tough-as-nails – according to George W. Bush CIA director George J. Tenet, Brennan once confronted a top Iranian spy in the streets of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. But his connections in the intelligence community have also gotten him in trouble. Brennan was Obama’s top pick for CIA director, but he withdrew his name in November 2008 after he was attacked for his earlier statements in support of the Bush administration’s advanced interrogation techniques. Instead, Obama appointed Brennan to a White House job that does not require Senate confirmation. Source: whorunsgov.com
Daniel Fried, Guantanamo Closure Czar – Of the czars, few will face as much pressure as Fried, who has been tasked with turning into a reality the President’s promise to close Guantanamo Bay prison within a year of taking office. As a State Department Special Envoy, Fried must convince America’s European allies to accept as residents in their countries about 60 of the detainees still imprisoned in Guantanamo. That concept faces significant pushback from some foreign leaders, who worry about potential threats posed by the inmates. Fried comes to this job with more than three decades of experience with Europe. A career Foreign Service officer, he has served throughout Eastern Europe, on the National Security Council, and most recently as Assistant Secretary for Europe and Eurasian Affairs at the State Department. Source: whorunsgov.com
Gary Samore, Non Proliferation Czar – His official title is Special Assistant to the President and White House Coordinator for Arms Control and Weapons of Mass Destruction & Proliferation. He leads a team of ten staff members and sits on the National Security Council. Though the position is new, Samore will be addressing issues that he worked on for years as a State Department official. Samore said Iran and North Korea’s nuclear ambitions were some of the biggest challenges facing President Obama. Just a few weeks later, he was tapped to join a team of White House officials, national security experts and State Department leaders entrusted with developing U.S. nuclear non-proliferation strategy, a top priority for the administration.
Alan Bersin, Border Czar – Bersin was the leader of Operation Gatekeeper in 1994, a major border crackdown in the San Diego border area. His job will be to try to slow down the drug and gun trade around the border.
Steve Rattner, Car Czar – Previously, an investment banker and N. Y. Times journalist, Rattner was picked to lead the recovery of the auto industry. Many believe he was the architect behind the firing of GM chairman Rick Waggoner.
Vivek Kundra, Aneesh Chopra, and Jeffrey Zients, Tech Czars – According to the administration the tech czars will be in charge of “setting technology policy across the government and using technology to improve security, ensure transparency, and lower costs.”
Herb Allison and Earl Devaney, Bailout Czars – Allison is the former CEO of Fannie Mae so he was the perfect choice to be the TARP Czar. Devaney is the new stimulus accountability czar. He is a former Secret Service agent who investigated infamous lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Joshua DuBois, God Czar – According to Time magazine, he will lead a group that will seek to generate policy recommendations on four issues: “domestic poverty, responsible fatherhood, reducing the need for abortion and preventing unintended pregnancy, and inter-religious dialogue and cooperation.”
Gil Kerlikowske, Drug Czar – He is the new drug czar. He previously served as the chief of police in Seattle.
Cass Sunstein, Regulatory Czar – Harvard Law School professor and intellectual has been tapped to be the regulatory czar.
Kenneth Feinberg, Pay Czar – The Obama administration plans to appoint a “Special Master for Compensation” to ensure that companies receiving federal bailout funds are abiding by executive-pay guidelines. The administration is expected to name Kenneth Feinberg, who oversaw the federal government’s compensation fund for victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, to act as a pay czar for the Treasury Department. Mr. Feinberg’s appointment could be announced as early as next week, when the administration is expected to release executive-compensation guidelines for firms receiving aid from the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program. Those companies, which include banks, insurers and auto makers, are subject to a host of compensation restrictions imposed by the Bush and Obama administrations and by Congress. Wall Street has been anxiously awaiting more details on how the rules will be applied. “The law is confusing and a bit ambiguous, and so we’re looking for certainty as to how to structure pay incentives,” said Scott Talbott, senior vice president of government affairs for the Financial Services Roundtable, a trade association. Source: Wall Street Journal
Cyber Czar – President Obama announced on Friday the creation of a “cyber czar” to oversee an enhanced security system for U.S. computer networks. Obama said he will pick the person he wants to head up a new White House office of cyber security soon, and that person will report to the National Security Council as well as to the National Economic Council, in a nod to the importance of computers to the economy. Source: Fox News 5/29
This is not the complete list but you get the point. The Obama Administration is certainly not the first to create or appoint these positions but they have taken it to a new level. I have listed 15 and there maybe as many as 20 of these positions in his administration.
However, there have been so many of these positions being added to the Executive Branch of the government that it has resulted in an increased level of discomfort in the other branches of the government as well as the private sector.
March 17 (Bloomberg) — President Barack Obama’s decision to place czars above Cabinet-level agencies presents dangers beyond confusion over who’s in charge and an organizational chart that looks like pasta carbonara. There’s also the potential for a constitutional crisis.
Obama’s czars, the most ever appointed by an administration, are likely to have the authority to influence or make decisions for Cabinet-level agencies. Yet they aren’t confirmed by Congress and don’t have to respond to pesky requests to testify before oversight committees.
“What you are having here is a supplementing of the power vested in agency heads with someone in the White House you can’t talk to,” said Morton Rosenberg, a former Congressional Research Service regulatory analyst. “It troubles me.”
This scenario lends credence to the concern that czars will add a layer of opaqueness and unaccountability to a rule-making system that’s largely incomprehensible to the outside world and a puzzle even to seasoned pros representing industry groups, companies and the public.
“Every time you add another variable, you will have trouble sorting out what had influence on a rulemaking,” said Cornelius Kerwin, president of American University in Washington who wrote the book, “Rulemaking: How Government Agencies Write Law and Make Policy.” “It’s not like legislative or judicial decisions.”
The Chamber of Commerce plans to tell the Obama administration it should disclose oral and written communications among executive branch employees, including those operating under the radar.
“The czars’ enormous ability to influence rulemakings without accountability to the public is, at best, problematic and should be rectified through any new executive order,” said the chamber’s draft comments.
The part that I find most concerning is that these appointees are not properly and publicly vetted. In some cases, they also appear to have sweeping authority granted by the president’s proxy over legitimate cabinet posts.
Of course, the businessman in me has other questions like:
Are these positions budgeted? (This is a rhetorical question)
How much do these people earn?
What kind of benefits do they get?
What’s the process to justify the positions?
What’s the pay back?
In any well run business these are the questions that are asked before personnel requisitions are approved.
Of course, the government is not a well run business. In fact it is not supposed to be a business at all. But maybe with the process of nationalizing so many industries – cars, energy, banks, healthcare, insurance companies, etc. the administration decided they needed more of a pseudo business structure. You know a bunch of high paid executives each with their own “area” of expertise managing that area so the big boss can fly around and look for new acquisition targets. Oh wait, this is supposed to be an article about government posts, the government doesn’t make acquisitions – do they? Or maybe when you have such an inexperienced leader you need to surround him with a lot of help.
By the way, can we at least start referring to them differently, you know like “pseudo V.P. of Energy” for example? I know that the administration did not coin the term “Czar” but I am sick of it, especially given the word’s Russian roots. It’s just kind of offensive since I still identify with my American heritage and don’t believe that there is a place for “Czars” in a democracy.
In any case, this is not how our government is supposed to operate. It is supposed to be mostly managed by our elected representatives. However, it is getting harder and harder to tell who is in charge and how we can hold them accountable. The fact that we “need” all these positions is the first sign that government has gotten too large. The only positive in the whole mess is it might make it harder for the lobbyists to figure out who to bribe.