Instapundit pointed me to this Washington Post editorial today about the downfall of the EPA. Here’s the Post’s conclusion from the recent EPA blunders involving the Sacketts and Mr. Arminderiz, which I wrote about earlier:
The lesson for Ms. Jackson and her boss, President Obama, from these two episodes is clear: The agency’s officers must have a clear sense when to deploy its mighty power and when to exercise discretion. That’s true for the sake of the economy and to ensure that the EPA will be able to continue its necessary work for years to come.
I agree that the EPA has a necessary job, but it’s how the EPA “deploy[s] its mighty power” that bothers me. Having authority is a matter of federal law, not the result of some whimsical judgment from a politically appointed administrator. Unfortunately, what we are seeing with the EPA in particular is the growth of bureaucratic authority from within the bureaucracy, rather than through authorities granted by congress and the president. And what we’re seeing from our congress is the passage of laws that leave the underlying authority as a broad, unanswered question, which will be determined internally by the bureaucracy. The Affordable Care Act is a perfect example where congress wanted some broad goal to be realized, and left the issues open ended for the bureaucrats at Health and Human Services to resolve. The result often, and increasingly, is a massive disconnect between the governed and the government as our elected congress passes the buck to unelected, unresponsive, and unaccountable bureaucrats.