CZARS; out of Control

Article excerpt

The Environmental Protection Agency has 17,000 employees and a budget of $10.5 billion.

Apparently, that's not enough. President Barack Obama had to appoint a Great Lakes czar, a California water czar and a Green Jobs czar.

In fact, according to a list provided by U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., the United States has 28 czars.

Many have apparently overlapping duties.

There is, for example, a New TARP (federal bailout of financial institutions) czar and a TARP oversight czar. There's a weapons czar and a nonproliferation/weapons of mass destruction czar.

Nothing, it seems, is too parochial to get its own federal czar.

And that's only the official czars. Six others have the functions of a czar, but apparently have never been given the designation by the administration, Kingston says.

DUPLICATION

Former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Carol Browner is officially the energy czar (not to be confused with the energy secretary).

But, the media also call her the climate czar. Kingston says he didn't count her as a climate czar because the administration has never given her that moniker.

"As climate czar," CNN says, she's "working inside the White House on policy issues."

Newsweek says she has the "power and budget to clean up the environment."

So, what's the purpose of having an EPA?

Apologists say czars have been around since the Reagan administration. True. But the previous four presidents had only nine czars combined, Kingston reports, a fraction of the number created by Obama.

LACK OF ACCOUNTABILITY

Why do czars matter? Let's mention a few reasons:

- The Constitution requires that Cabinet members, who are supposed to be the ones advising the president, be subject to approval by the Senate. Using czars avoids that constitutional requirement.

- Czars are expensive. They make up to $172,000 each, says Kingston, and are provided "staff, office and travel budgets."

That doesn't look good when deficit spending has spiraled out of control and a high unemployment rate is causing economic hardships among nongovernment workers.

- Their spending habits, in some cases, are grandiose - and would be, even in good economic times. The stimulus accountability czar, Kingston says, spent $18 million setting up a Web page.

Think of it this way: There are 28 czars with big budgets and considerable power. …