There are many traditional components of the U.S. government that need to be re-thought. When there is blatant corruption of the most basic functions of the government, it is time for a reappraisal.
After the presidential fear mongering regarding failure to pay the salaries of servicemen and the claims that Social Security checks would not be mailed because of the GOP’s refusals to cave on spending, it’s clear that the distribution of government funds cannot be trusted in hands of one person.
But as usual, the U.S. Constitution contains the flexibility necessary to rectify the situation. The Treasury Department must be under direct congressional control.
The rallying cry can be, no matter what the president says, the U.S. Congress will guarantee that the Social Security is in the mail. Consider a situation where the Treasury secretary is appointed by the speaker of the House and confirmed by either the House alone or the House and Senate together. There secretary could be removed by the speaker of the House who is himself accountable to the House membership. There could be no threats to borrow money without congressional approval and no threats to not pay the military. A president who is elected every four years can play those games; a House speaker who is elected every two years and vulnerable to a rebellion by worried congressmen could not afford to do so.
Before some argue that the Treasury Department is an exclusive executive function, let’s review the Constitution. Article I is the legislative article that details the powers and responsibilities of Congress. It contains the following:
Section. 1. All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.
Section. 7. All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.
Section. 8. The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;
To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;
To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;
And let us not forget the import ninth section of Article I, which reads:
No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.
Article II, which details the power of the president, explains that he is:
The chief executive
The chief diplomatic officer
The chief law enforcement officer
This gives the president a constitutional basis for administrating the Departments of State, Defense and Justice. The paying of bills, the coinage of money and the borrowing of money are strictly legislative affairs. It is easy to understand why the first federal Congress entrusted the actual administration of the Treasury Department and the selection of the Treasury secretary to the first president; George Washington was immeasurably more trustworthy that modern politicians. However, reform-minded Congress can no longer entrust the nation’s finances to irresponsible chief executives who start wars without paying for them – like the Bush presidents – or ones who ignore basic mathematics and the threat to the government’s credit rating.
It goes does not need to be stated that the president who receives this bill from the U.S. Congress will veto it. That is why this bill must be sold to the American people now. You will need a veto-proof majority supporting this bill. It is about reform, not politics. This is a reform agenda that can be explained to the American people as a practical solution to their fears. With a Treasury run directly by Congress, the checks will be in the mail. The presidents of the future will just have to deal with it.