Wednesday, October 02, 2013

The Power of the Purse

I can't comment on the mess in Washington except to say that it seems like politics as usual, and the gov't has been shut down before, so the hysteria by CNN yesterday or articles bewailing that the pandacam at the National zoo is now off line seem to be merely the sycophant press doing it's thing.

However, Instpundit links to an article on a lawblog about the "power of the purse" and the constitutional insistance on checks and balances. Here is an excerpt:
In the case of the government shutdown, the GOP-controlled House of Representatives has no constitutional or other obligation to pass a funding bill that includes funding for Obamacare or any other particular government program. Part of the reason why the Constitution gives Congress the power of the purse is so they can decide which government programs are worthy of funding, and which are not.
If this sounds familiar to me, it's because I was listening to a lecture on Milton, and the "glorious revolution". The link is "The Power of the Purse": in England, the king granted the power to fund the gov't to the House of Commons, and this gradually evolved to a check on his power, and when the king tried to butt heads with the Parliement, the "glorious revolution" resulted.

      It was the financial crisis which brought to a head the constitutional crisis between king and parliament.  The king would not respond to the grievances of his subjects and parliament would not provide the king with the steady flow of money needed to run the government.  The king's efforts to raise the royal revenue on his own authority threatened the very existence of Parliament.  A cycle of mutual distrust and recrimination developed.  Where was the power of the purse located? ...
As King James I had succinctly put it:  "no bishop, no king."  The logic of this position is that there is only one religious authority.  If this is true, then the Roman Pope has the strongest claim to that position.  All religious dissent and all religious practices contrary to the one true religion must be wiped out.
         All Protestants, in varying degrees, take issue with the above. ...
The Church is not "mater et magistra" (Mother and Teacher) but a community of individual believers, each seeking his own salvation in Christ. 
         There is an implicit individualism and anti-authoritarianism within the Protestant churches.  This anti-authoritarianism and individualism are precisely what Charles I feared.  The logic of the Calvinistic Protestants could not be reconciled with absolute, monarchial government.  Charles' determination to wipe out dissent and to assure religious conformity produced the Revolution in England.
so what does religion have to do with a strong presidency? Well, Obamacare is on a collision course with the Catholic church and many other people of faith (evangelicals and Muslims) over the question if abortion is just routine medicine or a type of murder.

So the backstory is that this 'shutdown" is not between the Neanderthal Republicans and the enlightened president, but about slowing down or preventing the power of the executive branch to rule with little or no input by the people's representatives.

Some see the teaparty as the prelude of a civil war: I always thought they were nuts, since most of this group are small business owners who have had enough taxation and regulations.

Yet the parallels between the small minority of Puritans and the teaparty does bring  a shudder up my back.

         The kings collection of money without Parliamentary approval and the collection of a forced loan united men of property in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords against the king.  Arrests of the king's opponents without trial further embittered relationships.  Parliament responded to the king's actions with its own unprecedented claims.  The Petition of Rights was drafted in 1628 and forced on a reluctant king.  Each parliament convened by the king was rapidly dissolved by him.  A real constitutional crisis had erupted.  In 1629, Charles dissolved his Third Parliament and proceeded to rule on his own authority. ..

 And 11 years later, the Long Parliement took action, and it slowly morphed into a war not just over religion but about who ran the government.
         "During December of 1641 for the first time the offensive epithets "Roundhead" and "Cavalier" were heard in the streets of the city--the one a phrase of denigration for the shorn heads of the London apprentices, the other synonymous with cavaliero, the brutal Spanish and Catholic butchers of godly Protestants in Europe."  (Smith, p. 241)  Increasingly violence was talked about as an acceptable method of settling the political disputes.

Ironically, I'd be a Cavalier here, but never mind.

Update: Austin Bay on the debt as a national security threat.


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