According to best estimates, the collapsed Deepwater Horizon oil rig is pumping about 210,000 gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico every day. But don’t worry, President Barack Obama has appointed an “independent” commission to investigate the spill. Our federal government will post an estimated $1.5 trillion budget deficit this year, and our debt is projected to equal 140 percent of gross domestic product within two decades. But don’t worry, President Obama has appointed a debt commission to solve the problem. Our nation’s southern border has degenerated into a violent, lawless and lethal zone. But don’t worry, Congress wants to empower a new commission to control the problem. And millions of Americans don’t know whether or not their health plan will be exempted from Obamacare. But don’t worry, faceless bureaucrats at the Department of Health and Human Services are already hard at work determining whether or not you will be allowed to keep your current health insurance.

Is this any way to run a country? Should the President of the United States be passing off responsibility to “independent” commissions? Should Congress be passing off responsibility for securing our nation’s borders to an unaccountable commission of experts? How is any of this consistent with our nation’s First Principles or the United States Constitution? It’s not. The authors of our Constitution never meant to create a federal government with the power to force you to buy health insurance, let alone one where it would be unelected bureaucrats who determine what type of health insurance you could buy.

Our Founding Fathers specifically created a Constitution dividing the legislative, executive and judicial functions of government into three branches so that the separation of these powers would limit the size and scope of the federal government. Americans would know who to punish for bad policies at the ballot box because it would be clear who was responsible for creating and enforcing them. But that is very obviously not the system we have today. Our federal government has devolved into an incomprehensible mish-mash of alphabet soup government agencies and commissions that no one American could possibly understand. Why is our country in this state? What happened?

The Progressive movement happened. Hillsdale College Associate Professor of Political Science Ronald Pestritto explains:

For the American pioneers of the administrative state–the Progressives of the late 19th and early 20th centuries–this older, limited understanding of government stood in the way of the policy aims they believed the state ought to pursue in a world that had undergone significant evolution since the time of the Founding. They believed that the role of government, contrary to the perceived ahistorical notion of Founding-era liberalism, ought to adjust continually to meet the new demands of new ages. As Woodrow Wilson wrote in The State, “Government does now whatever experience permits or the times demand.”

It is the Progressives’ desire to free bureaucratic agencies from the confines of politics and the law that allows us to trace the origins of the administrative state to their political thought. The idea of separating politics and administration–of grounding a significant portion of government not on the basis of popular consent but on expertise–was a fundamental aim of American Progressivism and explains the Progressives’ fierce assault on the Founders’ separation-of-powers constitutionalism. It was introduced into the United States by Progressive reformers who had themselves learned the principle from what was then the “cutting edge” theory of history and the state developed in 19th century Germany.

President Barack Obama, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) are the modern heirs of the Progressive campaign to eviscerate the rule-of-law-based limited government envisioned by the U.S. Constitution and replace it with an expert-ruled European welfare state. Everything this regime has done since assuming power (TARP, the Presidential Task Force on Autos, Obamacare, EPA global warming regulations) empowers unaccountable expert committees and commissions. Commenting on Congress’ new immigration commission, Rutgers University political science professor Ross Baker told The Washington Post: “It’s the ultimate expression for the need for political cover.” Enough cover. It’s time Washington is held accountable.

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