It’s not every day that the federal government tells a private company where it can, or cannot, build a new factory and hire a thousand new workers.
But that is exactly what the National Labor Relations Board did last month when it filed a complaint against Boeing Aircraft Co. demanding the famous firm build a new plant in Washington state as punishment for trying to put the facility in South Carolina instead.
While even The New York Times described the NLRB demand as “highly unusual for the federal government,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., took to the floor of the Senate to defend the decision:
“The founders created a system of checks and balances — three branches of government — precisely because they anticipated these passions. Long after that system was created, a new independent federal agency was created in the same spirit of checks and balances. That agency is the National Labor Relations Board, and it acts as a check on employers and employees alike.”
Reid has it exactly wrong. As a single administrative agency, the NLRB’s authority from Congress includes creating rules (a legislative act), enforcing them (an executive act) and adjudicating cases concerning them with its administrative law judges (a judicial act).
Not only is the NLRB not in “the same spirit of checks and balances” that our founders had in mind, it is the exact opposite. Federalist Number 47 reads: “The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many ... may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”
But early progressive President Woodrow Wilson, while still a college professor, pleaded in 1891: “Free us from the idea that checks and balances are to be carried down through all stages of organization.”
Just days after the 2010 election, the Center for American Progress published a report explaining how by “concentrating on executive powers,” President Barack Obama could bypass “the unappetizing process of making legislative sausage,” yet still “deliver results for the American people.”
Under Obama, the FCC issued its first-ever Internet regulations, the IRS is going after charitable donation write-offs and the EPA has furthered its regulations. And, of course, the NLRB has Boeing in its cross-hairs.
This is not what the founders had in mind. They grounded American government in the rule of law, where citizens know exactly what is expected of them.
Congress must stop passing the decision-making buck to administrative agencies. Our senators and representatives should also restrict how many issues on which they legislate. Doing so would return Congress to the founders’ vision.
Conn Carroll is associate editorial page editor of The Washington Examiner.