Think Freely Media presents Common Sense with Paul Jacob

Like Motel Matches

matchbook, Congress, term limits, legislative, power

When President Trump announced he was slapping a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum, a friend asked me how the president could possibly possess such unilateral authority. 

That was my first thought, too, before surmising that Congress had again given away its constitutional power, as its habit, thoughtlessly — like motel matches.*

Writing in National Review, Jay Cost confirmed my suspicion, “Over the past 80 years, authority over tariffs, as well as over all manner of properly legislative functions, has migrated to the executive branch, away from the legislative.”

When FDR sought greater power over trade, Cost explained, “It was as if Congress threw up its hands in exasperation and said to the president, ‘We cannot handle our authority responsibly. Please take it off our hands, for we will screw things up and lose reelection.’”

Ah, the laser-like focus of modern career politicians . . . on what’s most important . . . to them.

“Nobody looks to Congress for redress of grievances anymore …” Cost wrote. “Congress has systematically shrugged power off its shoulders over the past 80 years, and it inevitably screws up the handful of authorities it retains . . .”

Why? What has led our first branch of government, over the last 80 years or so, to surrender its authority?

Congress has become much more “experienced,” evermore a career destination. And a lucrative one.

We desperately need term limits. And we need smaller districts where individual citizens matter more than money and special interests.

Save Congress from itself — before it sets the country afire.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob. 


* My mind jumped to Elvis Costello’s song, Motel Matches: “Giving you away, like . . .” what, precisely, in this case? The authority in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution: “The Congress shall have the Power to lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises….”

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By: CS Admin


  1. JdL says:

    “We desperately need term limits. And we need smaller districts where individual citizens matter more than money and special interests.”

    Paul, that wouldn’t fix the problem. Money always speaks loudest when legislators have the power to bestow favors in return. The only solution is to strip away 99% (at least) of the spending power Congress has. In other words, return the government to Constitutional levels, where they don’t stick their noses into everything under the sun.

    • Pat says:

      In order to strip away Congress’ spending power, you would need to undo McCulloch v Maryland, an early case where Chief Justice John Marshall decided Congress had unenumerated powers.  In other words, Congress could do whatever it wanted that was ‘necessary and proper’.   The 10th Amendment was eviscerated. Our leaders are not about to amend the Constitution to limit their own power.
      As for smaller districts, Congress would have to act there too – by allowing for more than 435 voting members of the House of Representatives.   Since many of those would go to states that already have large numbers of members in the House, the smaller states are likely to fight it, since they would be further marginalized.   Their votes would count for less, both in the House and in the Electoral College.

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