Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

July 2, 2013

The Obama ‘War on Coal’ is a abhorrent government overreach

— — President Barack Obama continues working to destroy the coal industry, most recently by changing carbon emission standards in such a way that a) coal-fired power plants will be heavily affected, b) encourages plant owners to convert to natural gas, and c) will discourage the construction of coal-fired plants overseas.

Rather than work to solve the very real problems of the nation — like unemployment, the economy, his scandal-ridden administration and the troubles on the international scene — he chooses to fight a war on coal through agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency, which impose extreme regulations and severe penalties on the industry.

Federal agencies routinely put regulations in effect without regard for the chaos and harm they will cause. Coal mining and related job losses and other financial repercussions just don’t matter to the president and the bureaucrats. To them, the jobs of tens of thousands of Americans and the economies of 27 states are far less important than their narrow ideological goals.

These agencies criminalize behavior through regulations and impose fines or jail time as if those regulations were law. But according to Article I of the U.S. Constitution, only Congress can make law.

These agencies create regulations and penalties because Congress repeatedly fails to determine how measures it passes should be implemented, and allows or directs the executive branch to decide how to do that. But the Constitution does not provide the legislative branch the authority to transfer its law-making obligation to executive branch agencies.

The founders deliberately set up a tripartite government with specific and limited roles for each of the branches and a system of checks and balances specifically to prevent any of the three branches from assuming too much power, all based upon the concept of a limited government with few and specific responsibilities.

Briefly summarized, the legislative branch makes laws, the executive branch administers and enforces laws, and the judicial branch rules on questions of law and operates the court system.

By abdicating its duty to complete the lawmaking process, and leaving part of that function to the Executive branch, the Congress has failed in its fundamental duty, which is a basic tenet of the Constitution, and it abets the executive branch in developing its evolving tyrannical persona.

Since the nation’s law-making authority resides with the legislative branch, the rules and penalties federal agencies wield so freely and often arbitrarily are void of any true authority. It is time, therefore, for the people and the states to stand up and say, like Howard Beale in “Network”: “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

The federal government collectively does not have the authority to target a given industry for destruction, and the executive branch darned sure doesn’t have that authority all by itself.

If any one or more of the 27 states that mine coal want to continue doing so, they need to do it as responsibly as is possible and feasible, and tell the federal government officially and formally to buzz off. The time-honored mechanism for restraining an over-reaching federal leviathan is known as “nullification.”

The United States seems to be infected by a philosophy like that expressed by entertainer Britney Spears, whose inferior talent actually looks good compared to her abysmal thinking: “I think we should just trust our president in every decision he makes and should just support that, you know, and be faithful in what happens.”

Fortunately, Ms. Spears’ naive reasoning was not shared by Thomas Jefferson, who had a better idea and suggested that rather than just sit back and allow a president or Congress or judges to arbitrarily alter the meaning of the Constitution, we must make only those changes that have popular consent and do so through the amendment process, which the founders sensibly included in the Constitution.

Not all amendments have been good ones, of course, as evidenced by numbers 16, 17, and 18 (which was repealed), but that process is far superior to what we have done and are doing to the first 10 amendments the other way.

It is indeed sad to observe the embarrassing and shameful lack of knowledge and understanding of the founding principles of our country and how legions of Americans who don’t know or understand them threaten our very survival as a free nation.

But as bad as that is, it is far worse when our elected officials, who took an oath to “preserve, protect and defend” the United States Constitution, share in this ignorance. Or worse, if they ignore their oath in favor of not preserving, protecting and defending the Constitution in order to “fundamentally transform the United States of America” to meet some foreign ideological vision.

Just how many of our 535 elected representatives in Congress and the hundreds of thousands of other federal employees — including the president and his cabinet — really understand the supreme law of the land, the United States Constitution, is unknown. But watching Mr. Obama’s behavior and the behavior of the rest of the government suggests that number is horrifyingly small.

Ignorance is bliss, they say. But not in our government.

James H. “Smokey” Shott, a resident of Bluefield, Va., is a Daily Telegraph columnist.

1
Text Only
Columns
Editorials
Poll

What is your favorite fast food? After voting, go to facebook.com/bdtonline to comment.

Hamburgers
Sub sandwiches
Chicken
Tacos
Other
     View Results