The poetry of politics is the most visible and entertaining part of the American presidency. It is a multi-city tour at home and abroad, where even the most ordinary venue can seem venerable, what with the banners and bunting; what with the rows of flags and the flourishes of a rousing introduction; what with the sight of the “Blue Goose” (the lectern bearing the Presidential Seal) and the slow approach of Air Force One, which elicits a loud and spontaneous burst of applause, as the U.S. Marine Band plays “Hail to the Chief”; what with the appearance of the president himself, shaking hands and smiling, as he makes his way to the stage and walks toward the microphone, and greets the crowd with his indomitable style.
As exciting as the poetry can be, we must never forget the influence of the prose: the less visible—but no less important—job of governance. For the White House must try to liberate the people from the permanent and unelected government that rules by fiat, makes policies by audit, and has no respect for the Constitution.
President Trump has a chance to fulfill some of the central promises of his speeches by changing who runs the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). That chance starts by having Congressman Scott Garrett (R-N.J.) head this organization, instead of trying to have him run the Export-Important Bank (ExIm).
Both positions require Senate confirmation, where Garrett would sooner have the votes to lead the former than the latter. His appointment would also be a pointed rebuke to a self-identifying Native American, whose role as the senior senator from Massachusetts includes liaising with the Bureau of Indian Affairs on behalf of the tribal nation of Harvard Law School. It would be a rebuke because Senator Elizabeth Warren is the founder of the CFPB.
Rather than sacrifice Garrett to those who oppose his ExIm nomination, thereby giving Warren a scalp to parade before the Left in the aftermath of Roy Moore’s Senate loss in Alabama, the president can preempt this war dance—and remake the CFPB from within. Let Garrett dismantle this fiefdom, whose very name is an oxymoron in which benevolent words masquerade bad deeds.
Let him shift the debate by abolishing what amounts to a protection racket for the Democratic Party, and rid ourselves of the the lie that it exists to protect consumers from deceptive practices. This is a test of whether we can protect ourselves from the government. Let him be the president’s advocate for ending this part of the administrative state.
The issue is one of transparency—not a transparent attempt to rescind the rights of consumers by replacing the red tape of big government with the terms and conditions of a contract too difficult to read, because the print is too small to see; because what we do not see, we cannot know—until we imprison ourselves with debt by confining ourselves to a jailhouse with no bars, but unlimited jurisdiction.
Picture, then, the scaffolding that covered the dome of the U.S. Capitol building: An exoskeleton of metal pipes and tubing, with tens of thousands of pins and plates, this crisscross pattern of brackets and braces was a necessary but temporary structure. In addition to its steel bolts and wooden floorboards, as well as its many ropes, chutes, and ladders, the 1.1 million pounds of scaffolding enabled workers to repair 1,300 cracks on the cast iron exterior of the dome. They also repainted the surface and restored the grandeur of the interior, from the Rotunda and Statuary Hall to the friezes and copper and gold filigree.
The CFPB is like that scaffolding, minus a building underneath. If we do not remove this thing—if we do not have someone who will at least try to demolish this monument of excess—we need not bother with anything bigger.
Perhaps its repeal is impossible, because so few believe (or think it is unwise to believe) that it is possible to roll-back the alphabet agencies of the federal behemoth. Perhaps we should surrender the prose not to the pros, as there is so little talent among this class of professional bureaucrats, but to the reality that we cannot win; while we satisfy ourselves with the poetry—and the pageantry—of the fantasy of self-government.
We can hold rallies, and rally to hold more rallies, provided we suspend disbelief. We can be like the docents who give guided tours of the Capitol. They know the history of the building and have access to almost every room in the building. They have cards and passes, so they can pass with ease between the House and Senate. They have all the trappings of power, except one: power.
No tourist will visit the CFPB. No photographer will record this construction project. No one will pay attention to this matter, until we belatedly discover we do not have a government of limited and enumerated powers.
The illusion is, in fact, over. It works, to the extent anything broken can work, by only as we see what we want to see. The dysfunction and acrimony, the assaults against privacy and personal freedom, all of these things—including the CFPB—have a single cause.
We can either flee from this menace, hoping it does not reach us, or we can fight by taking the fight to its civil conclusion; by using legal means to end extralegal policies that neither preserve, protect nor defend the Constitution of the United States.