The separation of powers concept, so fundamental in our Constitution to checking government power grabs, seems to be on life support. The reason I say this is that for separation of powers to work, each branch of the government has to, you know, actually monitor and try to check power grabs in other branches. What I see today are three branches that have kind of reached some sort of peace treaty, agreeing to let the others run amok as long as it is allowed to do so itself. To support this hypothesis, I make the following observations:
- The executive branch continues to try to accumulate power, adding "indefinite detentions without trial" and "warrantless searches" to its arsenal, justifying nearly anything with the blanket argument that "the world is different post 9/11." The Supreme Court has generally proved itself unwilling to do anything about it, which should be all the more the case in the future since both Bush appointees seem very comfortable with accretions of executive power. Even the opposition party, though willing to make verbal assaults, seems unwilling to take any real measures.
- Congress seems perfectly willing to spend their time wallowing in pork and dreaming up new earmarks to satisfy prominent donors. The current budgeting process is a fiasco, and the executive branch seems unwilling to exercise any adult supervision, including an incredible record of zero vetos is nearly 6 years. Congress has shied away from working on any issues of any seriousness (e.g. Social Security) which is perhaps good for us, since their only attempt to fix runaway spending in Medicare resulted in them adding an expensive and ridiculously complex drug benefit. Congress and the President conspired to pass the egregious McCain-Feingold speech limit bill, which effectively helps protect the job of Congressional incumbents and protects them from 3rd party criticism when approaching an election.
- With Congress unwilling to address any legislative issues of substance, the judiciary seems perfectly happy to take their place, creating new law in hundreds of areas. And Congress seems willing to let them. It can only be dangerous for a Congressperson to deal with hot-button issues like gay marriage and abortion - its much better to let the judiciary do it for you. Often Congressman can get the outcomes they want, without actually having to create a legislative record on the issue that might come up in a campaign.
The whole situation depresses me just writing about it.