Contrary to what conservatives are suggesting, "Czars" have always starred in America's politics
A Czar is born! Sorry, couldn’t help it. I’m also getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning.
Last week, I was talking to a Republican friend and she asked me what I thought of the Ebola “crisis.” I didn’t have much to say since the few individuals who have actually come down with the virus are the first cases in the United States. I said that it would take some time to train an entire health system what to do; if they suspect that someone should be quarantined or not, protective clothing, disposal of waste and probably a lot more I don’t even know about.
I did express my outrage that the United States currently does not have a Surgeon General because the nominee, Vivek Murphy, M.D., believes gun deaths are an epidemic and subsequently had his nomination blocked by the NRA’s pet Republicans. That started a whole “they’re coming to take our guns!” discussion, but I digress.
Then she brought up that President Obama had appointed an Ebola Czar, Ron Klain. This was her proof that the President is a communist, because the word “Czar” was being used. I looked at her oddly and just said, “What?” Her response was, “I have NEVER heard of any President appointing a Czar in my lifetime!”
Since World War II, Presidential administrations have been appointing Czars to perform specific tasks or to oversee departments. What piqued my interest was how few Czars there were under Herbert Hoover (none shockingly) compared to today. I looked at my friend and told her she needed to educate herself about history, not revise it. Then she wanted to agree to disagree. About what I don’t know. I guess like many Republicans, facts are liberal and both get blanket denial.
So I went home and started reading about the topic of Czars, why we need them, if they need to be confirmed, and which presidents have appointed and used them. Franklin D. Roosevelt had 19 Czars while Dwight Eisenhower had one. The number of Czars has gone up and down depending on how complicated and massive the Federal government is at that given time. Most of the Czars that Franklin Roosevelt had were for the New Deal.
Sixty years later, along came our good friend, and gift that keeps on giving, George W. Bush, who exploded with 49 Czars! For what? Even his dad, George H.W. Bush only had three and they were all Senate approved. It appears some of these Czars usurped the authority of already existing departments, duplicated their work and, in some cases, used their position for personal advancement. You could say Bush had Czars in his eyes!
Look, if we have a Department of Health and Human Services, why would there be a need for a birth control Czar whose real title is Deputy Assistant Secretary of Population Affairs? Just the title is creepy but no matter, the position only lasted from 2006-2007 for some reason.
Then came the crash of 2008. George W. Bush, who authorized the first bailouts had positions for all kinds of TARP Czars to manage the auto (Car Czars) and financial industries and a boatload of other bailout recipients. As a result, President Obama eliminated some of the Czars but had to keep most of them due to events still in play previous to his administration. The individuals have since changed, but the position and title has not been eliminated in most cases.
I was under the impression that things were getting more automated, so therefore the government would be smaller. It seems to be the reverse as technology has brought with it the need to have more expertise in areas where needed. Or when one single issue like copyright infringement needs to be focused on singularly.
That doesn’t excuse the fact that we don’t have a Surgeon General. But hey, I’m sure glad we have an Ebola Czar who isn’t a physician and has as much experience as FEMA director Michael “heck of a job Brownie” Brown did when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. We know how well that worked. I am just glad that the Ebola panic is not a true crisis in the United States.
The point here is that Czars have always starred in America’s politics. The trick is to make sure that the Czar is capable of performing the duties they are assigned to.
Otherwise that Czar won’t go far.