April 25, 2008



Fencing off our democracy
by Jim Hightower

Good grief, it's bad enough that the Bush/Cheney regime keeps usurping power to create an imperial presidency, but it's far worse that our Congress critters have been weaker than Canadian hot sauce, meekly giving away their own constitutional power to the autocracy.

Take "The Fence," the 40-foot wall being built along 700 miles of our border with Mexico. This thing is monstrous, but even more monstrous is the unprecedented dictatorial authority that Congress handed to the Homeland Security czar to erect it. In 2005, our legislators gave carte blanche to Czar Michael Chertoff to — get this — overrule any of our laws that he thinks might interfere with building this border barrier. Environmental law, labor law, property law — you name it — all can be voided on the unilateral say-so of Chertoff. Even Cheney, who claims to be his own branch of government, can't do that.

To make Chertoff's power absolute, Congress also took the astonishing step of banning federal courts from reviewing his decisions. And the czar has not been modest about asserting this autocratic rule, having already suspended more than 30 of our laws.

Two environmental groups are challenging this anti-democratic absurdity, arguing that Congress cannot hand over unbridled power to the executive branch. While a federal appeals court has ruled against the groups, they've appealed to the Supreme Court, which has never upheld such a wholesale delegation of power. Even though

Congress itself surrendered its power, one of the Supremes wrote in a similar case that "Abdication of responsibility is not part of the constitutional design."
Congress's fence law sets a precedent that is an insult to our democratic ideals and a threat to our liberty. To learn more about the effort to overturn it, contact the Sierra Club: 415-977-5500 or www.sierraclub.org.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work — and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown— visit www.jimhightower.com


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