On Friday, March 16, 2012, Barack Obama signed an executive order that reiterates federal government control over all the nation’s resources, production, and technology. While merely updating already-existing powers, the Order has served as an eye-opener for many people as to how vast the federal government’s control really is.
While the shocking powers were reported in a few outlets—here and here, for example—and then widely repeated on social media, the reality is that these powers are not new and the order merely updates older orders to account for the existence of the department of homeland security.
HotAir.com has done a good job showing why major media outlets did not pick up this story: the order expands no powers, but merely modernizes them.
Nevertheless, the order comes as a wake-up call to just how much power the federal government already has, and has had for over sixty years.
Specifically, the government has control over the “domestic industrial and technological base” including “the most critical resource and production sources, including subcontractors and suppliers, materials, skilled labor, and professional and technical personnel.”
And although this order is written ostensibly in the name of national security, entitled “National Defense Resources Preparedness”—indeed it is built on the back of the 1950 Defense Production Act—it nevertheless applies “in peacetime and in times of national emergency.”
The order delegates authority to and directs the heads of major government agencies to create detailed plans and implementation procedures “to ensure that critical components, critical technology items, essential materials, and industrial resources are available from reliable sources when needed to meet defense requirements during peacetime, graduated mobilization, and national emergency.”
Agencies are to be prepared “to promote the national defense over performance of any other contracts or orders, and to allocate materials, services, and facilities as deemed necessary or appropriate to promote the national defense.”
Buried in the Order are umbrella definitions like this: ”‘Civil transportation’ also shall include direction, control, and coordination of civil transportation capacity regardless of ownership.” And,
“Food resources” means all commodities and products, (simple, mixed, or compound), or complements to such commodities or products, that are capable of being ingested by either human beings or animals, irrespective of other uses to which such commodities or products may be put, at all stages of processing from the raw commodity to the products thereof in vendible form for human or animal consumption. “Food resources” also means potable water packaged in commercially marketable containers, all starches, sugars, vegetable and animal or marine fats and oils, seed, cotton, hemp, and flax fiber, but does not mean any such material after it loses its identity as an agricultural commodity or agricultural product.
These vast powers can be implemented “to promote the national defense, under both emergency and non-emergency conditions.”
In short, whether during peace or war, in time of emergency or not, as long as it is in the name of “national defense,” everything within the jurisdiction of the U.S. government is public sector.
The real issue here is not some new Obama martial-law conspiracy. The real question is, Why have Americans tolerated such massive levels of Federal control over their life, liberty, and property for so long?
The HotAir.com article cites OutsideTheBeltway.com blogger Doug Mataconis:
The fact that the President of the United States is still exercising authority granted during the Korean War and the height of the Cold War is yet another reflection of how power, once assumed by the Imperial Presidency, is never surrendered.
The fact that an Executive Order like this was released on a Friday afternoon and has been largely ignored by the traditional media is an indication of just how easy it is for politicians to manipulate the news cycle.
And the idea that the government has authority like that described in this document, even only in theory, and that most Americans aren’t even aware of it, is a reflection of just how little we know about the things that are done in our name.
Those are all legitimate issues, but they go far deeper than this one relatively innocuous Executive Order.