Czar Watch: The Pay Czar

May the Lord bless and keep the Czar … far away from us!

That line from Fiddler on the Roof applies more and more to the Obama administration.  The White House has announced yet another czar to exert power without Congressional oversight, and this one should get everyone’s attention.  Kenneth Feinberg will enforce administration policy on executive compensation for TARP recipients:


The Obama administration plans to appoint a “Special Master for Compensation” to ensure that companies receiving federal bailout funds are abiding by executive-pay guidelines, according to people familiar with the matter.

The administration is expected to name Kenneth Feinberg, who oversaw the federal government’s compensation fund for victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, to act as a pay czar for the Treasury Department, these people said.

Mr. Feinberg’s appointment could be announced as early as next week, when the administration is expected to release executive-compensation guidelines for firms receiving aid from the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program. Those companies, which include banks, insurers and auto makers, are subject to a host of compensation restrictions imposed by the Bush and Obama administrations and by Congress.

Wall Street has been anxiously awaiting more details on how the rules will be applied. “The law is confusing and a bit ambiguous, and so we’re looking for certainty as to how to structure pay incentives,” said Scott Talbott, senior vice president of government affairs for the Financial Services Roundtable, a trade association.

And how will Feinberg’s power be defined?  As broadly as possible:


Mr. Feinberg will report to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, but he is expected to have wide discretion on how the rules should be interpreted. Firms likely won’t be able to appeal decisions that Mr. Feinberg makes to Mr. Geithner, according to people familiar with the matter.

No right to appeal?  Pick any other area of law enforcement where defendants have no right to appeal, let alone get a fair hearing of their grievances.  The IRS allows appeals, for instance.  Hell, even the detainees at Guantanamo Bay have the right to appeal decisions by military tribunals to the federal appellate court. The appointment of czars means an unconstitutional application of power almost by definition, as the positions deliberately bypass Congressional oversight, and now apparently the judiciary as well.

This demonstrates why I’ve been warning about the czar culture at the White House. It puts power into the hands of one man, Barack Obama, and eliminates any accountability for his actions.  In order for Congress to stop the actions of any czar, they would have to impeach Obama first, a highly unlikely scenario while Democrats control Congress, and hope that Joe Biden would get the message.  Otherwise, the branch that represents the people have no control over the law-enforcement actions of their government, and the courts would have no clear entry point to check executive power.


We’re now getting a czar a day.  How many days until Congress figures out that they’ve been stripped of their power?

Update: Okay, this is the best pun of the day, and it’s even on topic — from The Corner:

I see the beleaguered Gordon Brown has now followed the Obama path and introduced to British government the concept of “czars” – or, as he spells it (presumably to avoid confusion at the first G7 czar summit) “tsars”. Mr Brown has made Alan Sugar Britain’s “Enterprise Tsar” – or, as Jonah would say, the head of the Tsar Ship Enterprise.

The incomparable Mark Steyn, of course.

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