Crises Bring Out the Toddler in Power-Hungry Politicians
The closest approximations to eternal toddlers in our society may be government officials told there are limits on the extent to which they can screw with human lives. They rant, they pout, and sometimes they even vow to poke and prod others anyway, daring anybody to make them stop. The distilled essence of a thwarted brat was on prominent display last week when New York City’s mayor raged at the United States Supreme Court for daring to say that, even during a time of perceived crisis, a government agency can’t unilaterally let people squat on private property.
“A group of right wing extremists just decided to throw families out of their homes during a global pandemic,” Mayor Bill de Blasio responded to a decision voiding the Biden administration’s extension of the national eviction moratorium. “This is an attack on working people across our country and city. New York won’t stand for this vile, unjust decision.”
The reaction was especially off the wall given that the Supreme Court warned that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have no authority to suspend property rights. Even President Joe Biden conceded that his executive branch didn’t have the authority the CDC asserted during both his and the preceding Trump administration.
“The bulk of the constitutional scholarship says that it’s not likely to pass constitutional muster,” the president admitted on August 3. Not that a lack of authority held him back.
“But, at a minimum, by the time it gets litigated, it will probably give some additional time while we’re getting that $45 billion out to people who are, in fact, behind in the rent and don’t have the money,” Biden added, explaining that he was going ahead with the eviction moratorium despite a lack of authority to do so because it’s all for a good cause.
That should be an interesting precedent for future officials who decide that a lack of authority is no reason to refrain from bypassing checks and balances or even outright ignoring fundamental rights while the matter “gets litigated.” After all, Biden is far from rare among government officials in invoking good intentions as justification for wandering far beyond the bounds of permissible authority.
“Today’s decision is a direct threat to public safety and the lives of innocent Californians, period,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom snorted after a federal judge struck down the state’s ban on some semi-automatic rifles. He ignored the court’s finding that the type of
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