The year is drawing to a close with the administration's pledge to "save or create" millions of jobs ringing in our ears.
That is the claim.
The reality is that the U.S. economy has lost nearly 3 million jobs since February when the misnamed "stimulus" legislation was passed.
Unemployment, which the president promised would stay below 8 percent if the stimulus bill became law, has officially reached 10.2 percent, a 26-year high. And we know, because people who are working part time and want to work full time, and people who have stopped looking for work are not included in the official statistics, the real unemployment rate is much higher, possibly touching 17 percent.
However, the Obama administration has apparently succeeded in creating jobs in one sector -- the government. By the time Washington is done spending the $879 billion in the so-called "stimulus" bill, the federal government will have hired tens of thousands of federal bureaucrats to get the money "out the door" and the state governments will have hired hundreds more to take the money in.
But there is another area where the Obama administration is making its mark on the federal bureaucracy -- the mushrooming of so-called "czars" in the executive branch. It is truly hard to keep up, but we currently have about 45 "czars" in America.
To name just a few, we now have a "border czar," an "urban czar," an "infotech czar," a "faith-based czar," a "health reform czar," a "stimulus accountability czar," a "nonproliferation czar," a "terrorist czar," a "regulatory czar," a "Guantanamo closure czar," a "climate czar," a "car czar," an "economic czar," a "cybersecurity czar," a "water czar," a "weapons czar," a "safe school czar," a "science czar," and the list goes on.
Why do we need an "energy czar" when we already have a secretary of energy and several under-secretaries and assistant secretaries?
Why do we have a "TARP Czar" AND a secretary of treasury?
What qualifies the former 9-11 Victims Compensation Fund director to set executive salaries in the private sector?
We don't know the answers to these questions because unlike cabinet secretaries, judges, and hundreds of other presidential appointments, these "czars" have bypassed the Senate confirmation process.
And then we have another set of "czars": the "uber-diplomats." The Afghanistan-Pakistan czar is Richard Holbrooke. The Mideast peace czar is former Senator George Mitchell. The Persian Gulf-Southwest Asia czar is Ambassador Dennis Ross. The Sudan czar is Scott Gration. Who?
How does Secretary Clinton keep up with their activities?
Clearly, the president has the right to get advice from as many people as he wants. That is not new with our presidents and that is not a problem. Advisers are one thing, but policymakers beholden to the president are another thing altogether.
In my view, if someone is putting a policy in place then they should be confirmed by the United States Senate. That is what our Constitution demands. After all, Article II, Section 2 states in part that the president may appoint ambassadors and other public ministers with the "advice and consent" of the Senate.
I believe that every president has the right to pick his own team and advance his own agenda, but I also believe in "checks and balances." We in the legislative branch must exercise our constitutional authority to vet these unelected "czars," review their budgets and be given the opportunity to exercise our oversight responsibilities in public hearings.
For example, was anyone watching when the "Stimulus Accountability Czar," Earl Devaney, spent $18 million setting up a Web page? He certainly never asked Congress for the money. Each year every cabinet secretary must sit before several House and Senate committees to ask for and justify his or her budget. But not these "czars" -- to my knowledge not one has come before Congress.
Let's have transparency, accountability and balance!
By shining more light on who these people are and their role in the White House, the American people are in a better position to judge their qualifications, and yes, their performance. My hope is that this administration will meet its promises of openness and transparency that Americans expect.