On the Rule of Law
Paul Ryan celebrates the wisdom of the Constitution.


Paul Ryan

Health Care
Last case: the president’s health-care law. This one is a doozy. Let me share with you a figure that serves as a devastating indictment of the new law: So far, over 1,400 businesses and organizations have been granted temporary waivers from the law’s onerous mandates. These waivers do not guarantee relief in the future, which is why I refer to them as “stays of execution.” Nor do they help those firms that lack the connections to lobby for waivers. The powerful discretion assumed by the Department of Health and Human Services to play judge in determining these stays of execution does tremendous damage to the rule of law.

The president’s health-care overhaul undermines the rule of law in other ways as well. The new law empowers a panel of 15 unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats in Washington to cut Medicare in ways that will deny benefits for current seniors. The new board’s recommendations would become law unless a supermajority voted affirmatively to replace these recommendations — a high hurdle that raises constitutional questions about whether Congress can legitimately grant this much lawmaking power to an unelected agency.

Look, I am not trying to question the intentions of those who have decided to make Medicare spending less accountable to the democratic process. I think they truly believe that it is better to let government-appointed experts make these kinds of decisions, free from the checks and balances that define our messy democratic process.

But in weakening the rule of law in the United States, their intentions are totally irrelevant. The damage they have done is real. And the relevant question we have to ask ourselves is whether, as Reagan put it, “we believe in our capacity for self-government, or whether we abandon the American Revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.”

If we succumb to this view that our problems are bigger than we are — if we surrender more control over our economy to the governing class — then life in America will become defined by a new kind of class warfare: A class of bureaucrats and connected crony capitalists trying to rise above the rest of us, call the shots, rig the rules, and preserve their place atop society at the expense of working Americans, entrepreneurs, and the small businesswoman who has the gall to take on the corporate chieftain.

The Constitution’s Framers knew that there is a human inclination to increase personal power at the expense of law, so they created Congress as a decentralized and internally divided institution, but they granted it ample authority to secure the rule of law in every case. Congress holds the power of the pen as well as the purse. It has the power necessary to address attacks on the rule of law in our executive bureaucracies and even in the courts. The Constitution provides us with the power to solve these problems; what we need, is the will to do it.

The solution, the defense of the rule of law, will have to involve alternative ways to address the public problems that too many on the Left want to solve by delegating power to bureaucrats. For every government curtailment of our liberty through the discretion of bureaucrats, there are alternative reforms that could address the same problems within the framework of the rule of law, and indeed they could address those problems more effectively.

House Republicans have proposed a policy agenda to do just that: reclaiming America’s exceptional promise, charting a path not only to fiscal sustainability, but also to renewed prosperity.

Restoring the rule of law — reducing the influence of bureaucrats in the lives of Americans and empowering them to take more control over their own lives — is central to the budget we passed earlier this year. In fact, such reforms go hand in hand with our efforts to lift the crushing burden of debt, secure our social safety net, and spur job creation and sustained economic growth for all Americans.

In monetary policy, Congress must refocus the Federal Reserve on price stability within a framework of clear, rule-based actions, because businesses and families alike need sound money to invest, grow, and prosper.

In energy, Congress must limit the EPA’s discretionary power to impose a unilateral version of the job-destroying cap-and-trade program.

In financial services, Congress needs to establish a regulatory environment that is fair, predictable, and reasonable.