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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Do we need nearly three dozen czars?

Here we go again. By my count, President Obama has appointed nearly three dozen czars to deal with myriad policy issues, from technology to restructuring the auto industry. Now, Congress is keen to add to the stable of existing czars yet another Slavic potentate, the insurance czar, who would be given sweeping new powers to oversee the medical insurance industry.
Czars are a terrible idea.
The old adage used to be that not everyone could be a chief. But in the Obama administration, everyone can be a czar. Each week, it seems, the president announces yet another one. Historically, there was only ever one omnipotent czar at a time. Obama's czars, in contrast, have neither autonomy nor clear authority and seem only to erode the statutory responsibilities of Senate-confirmed Cabinet members.
Do we need czars?The idea of yet another czar brings three questions immediately to mind.
• How will the president ensure that the various czars' responsibilities do not duplicate the efforts and responsibilities of Senate-confirmed Cabinet members?
• How can accountability be ensured when so many responsibilities are divided among so many masters?
• Where's the funding for this new position and its accompanying infrastructure?
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