More Czars than the Romanovs


The last Russian Czar and his family in 1914

Senator John McCain (R-AZ – perhaps you’ve heard of him) posted this quip on his Twitter page, “Obama has more czars than the Romanovs — who ruled Russia for 3 centuries. Romanovs 18, cyberczar makes 20.” Like most Americans I dozed off watching apology after apology and did not really realize what is going on with on the Czars until I read this little sarcastic joke.  Twenty czars?  Why so many?

To answer this question I had to understand the definition of a “czar.”   Technically I already knew but I wanted to understand why a president, any president, needed or wanted someone in this position.  A “czar” in the classic sense, is an absolute dictator, the term having originally been derived from “Caesar” and used in Russian as “Tsar”.  Merriam-Webster’s dictionary provides the American usage which applies in this discussion, “one having great power or authority.”  What Merriam-Webster fails to point out is that in American politics the term implies a person in a position of power and authority, who is accountable to no one other than the President.  The position enables the President to coordinate and execute his agenda vigorously and without Congressional encumbrances.

little czars 1942

A 1942 Cartoon published in a DC newspaper

The term was first used in the 1940s when, then President Roosevelt appointed a series of federal managers to coordinate the U.S. economy.  Apparently the press dubbed the new positions “czars.”  Roosevelt’s “czars” were temporary and the idea of a policy czar being more permanent did not come around until Nixon.  Every President since Nixon has used Czars to push through some policy or agenda.  As mentioned previously, these Czars answer to no one aside from the President.  Does this not strike anyone as dangerous?

As I contemplated my thesis today, it occurred to me that criticizing President Obama for something Roosevelt, Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II all did would be both hypocritical and overtly partisan.  Thus, the need to state that had it not been for the number and types of Czars recently appointed, the entire issue might have been off my radar.  Upon the application of critical thinking, the entire concept of a czar unaccountable to Congress or the American people is unconstitutional.

The Presidential Cabinet, (Article Two, Section 2), is accountable not only to the President, but through the confirmation process is also accountable to the American people (assuming Senators listen to their constituents.)  Creating a Cabinet position requires Senatorial approval, red tape, and permanence that any President would like to avoid.  Besides, the whole idea is to expediently execute policy.  However, what makes a czar attractive to a President is the problem with the position – a “Czar” is not accountable to anyone in the Cabinet, the Congress, or the American people.

Examining the titles of the various Czars being appointed gives telling evidence into the President’s agenda as well as their philosophy.  For example, Nixon appointed the first Drug Czar as well as an Inflation Czar.  In spite of the fact he was negative on the concept he employed these Czars to get what he wanted done.  G.W. Bush had his Education Czar and even a “War Czar” (yeah, I know he refused to call him that but he was just that,) to coordinate the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Czars provide a clear picture of what policy an administration is pursuing.

Now let’s look some of the czars in the long list of Obama Czars.

  • Drug Czar. Every President since Nixon has had a Drug Czar, the appointment of Gil Kerlikowske was accompanied by the lessening of the position’s importance from previous administrations.  Clearly drug enforcement is not a priority and the administration has made no claim that it is.
  • God Czar. I must admit when i saw this position I thought it was a joke.  President G.W. Bush created this position and Obama has continued it.  However, Obama doesn’t seek to use the “God Czar” to help religious organizations but rather to use them for social engineering objectives.
  • Border Czar. The objective is to decrease the flow of guns and drugs flowing over the U.S./Mexican border.  I didn’t hear any mention of stemming the tide of illegal immigrants that drain our resources and cheapen the hard fought status of legal immigrants.
  • Health Czar. The point-person tasked with pressing hard to make sure nationalized health-care happens sooner rather than later.
  • Bailout Czars. Government takeovers of big industries is a big job and for this Obama has appointed two gentlemen to manage the task.  I find this a very troubling positions since government acquisitions through bailouts are inherently anti-capitalistic and clearly a road-map toward a command economy.  If you are inclined to dismiss this as reactionary, think about this, Herb Allison is the former CEO of Fannie Mae.  Didn’t Fannie Mae fail and require a huge Bush bailout?  I suppose that is why he is an expert on bailouts.
  • Car Czar. The auto industry is failing and I thought this Czar was going to pursue policies to prevent that from occuring, instead the government has nationalized GM and is forcing another offshore.  My head spins in the understanding how bad this is for the country in the long-term.  Also troubling is the history behind the man holding this position.  Steve Rattner has a scandalous history that includes allegations of kickbacks.
  • Regulatory Czar. The new administration is making clear they intend to control everything in the U.S. economy and the creation of this position with the accompanying power is a bold statement.
  • Stimulus Accountability Czar. If only the Czar were accountable.
  • Compensation Czar. This is the newest and most troubling of all these new Czars.  The new czar, Kenneth Feinberg, will be tasked with limiting the salaries of American corporations which have received bailout money.
Kenneth R. Feinberg, AP image from NYT

Kenneth R. Feinberg, AP image from NYT

It was the creation of this Czar position that rattled my cage today.  Like a camera that slowly brings a picture into crisp focus, each new Czar adds clarity and definition of the administration’s aims.  The left and the poor ignorant masses look to Obama to save the nation from economic disaster.  We all knew Bush could not do it and the press made sure he took full blame for the result of 20 years of trade policies that pushed productive business abroad and encouraged foreign dependence on everything.  Now Obama is saving us the only way a liberal college professor knows how, he is bringing socialism and doing so as fast as he can.  He knows he only has until 2010 to secure an economic entanglement so severe the election will not be able to alter its course.

Key to the achievement of this objective is health-care.  Yes, something needs to change in the American health-care system but socializing it is the wrong answer.  But rather than change the topic of this article let me remain on course.  The Czar positions have been created to aid in the transformation of the U.S. economy from capitalist to command.  A command economy is the term economist politely apply to what we in everyday America call communism.  It is economic communism without the associated despotic totalitarian government – at least we hope that is true.  Socializing health-care, especially in a hurried manner, places a huge portion of the American economy into the government’s complete and incompetent control.

As though this were not alarming enough, we must consider the long-term implications.  Conservatives like to point to long lines and postponed medical procedures that would result, just as they have in the United Kingdom, and yes, that concerns me as well.  However, there are scientific, political, and legal issues to consider as well.  For example, if health-care becomes nationalized as it is in Europe, what happens to incentive to find cures for health issues?

The profit motive eliminated, we will be forced to rely on government mandated research.  How effective might this be when the government knows that any treatment which only prolongs life without providing a cure, will result in sick, needy people continuing to be a drain on government resources.  Could we eventually find ourselves having treatments withheld because they delay death?

On the legal front we must consider malpractice litigation.  I contend tort is a major cause for the American health-care mess.  However, if bureaucrats and former attorneys control health-care policy and decision-making what recourse might future patients have when Mom is accidentally euthanized or the doctor makes a mistake that affects a patient’s quality of life?  Will rewards be severely limited or litigation curtailed.  Perhaps patients will be forced to arbitration through a hospital appointed arbitrator.

Finally, the political fall out is dramatic.  Once nationalized, any effort to limit costs or change the industry contrary to liberal designs will be demonized.  If Democrats decide to increase health-care expenditures 150% and Republicans counter with, say %100 increases, the attack is predictable.  The headlines will scream, “Republicans propose scaling back health-care by 50%” or “Republicans want to kill your children!”  Such a political tool could spell the end of the two party system and complete the journey to communism.

We stand at a critical juncture and I am afraid the American people have become too complacent to react or seriously consider the situation.  We’d rather read meaningless tweets and watch another edition of American Idol.  Content that all will be fine once the Health Czar is empowered to decide who lives, who dies, who gets health-care, who does not, who qualifies to pay nothing, and who is too rich and must pay far more.

  1. ha. Good post. The plethora and multiplication of czars, and the implications of such forms of executive management, does not get nearly enough attention in our political discourse.

  2. Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

    • Carner York
    • August 24th, 2009

    It does not surprise me but it definitely concerns me that the MSM does not even mention that one of the Czars, Van Jones was (and I am sure still is) an avowed communist. I not aware that Fox has either. Socialism is now seen as acceptable. I guess the C word is too.

  3. Thanks Carner,

    Van Jones, communist and Green Jobs Czar. No one is reporting that – except Glenn Beck. And look what they are trying to do to him. You tell the truth and the SS, er, Left come after you and try to destroy you. When this was written Jones had been appointed.

    Oh, and thanks Sandra for the nice comments!

    • Mark
    • September 2nd, 2009

    Thanks for this post. When I first read it, I disagreed with your contention of unconstitutionality, but upon reflection I deem it worthy of discussion. I think the appointment process more dubious than the position itself. Art. 2 Sec. 5 gives the President the authority to nominate and appoint an unspecified variety of advisors and ministers “by and with the consent of the Senate.” However, he already appoints many powerful confidantes, like his Chief of Staff, without Senatorial confirmation. I think the Czar role, in my limited understanding, falls between his personal staff and the Head of a Cabinet department, who controls a lot of people and money. Senate consent would lay the issue to rest, but Obama has not sought that. I don’t think the Supreme Court has ruled on the matter, which would also more or less close it.

    • My biggest issue is the lack of accountability. The President has been given a position of power I think our founding fathers would have found intolerable. The Czars create a level of insulation that I think is potentially dangerous. Great power without congressional accountability seems very like the perfect setup for abuse of power. And this is really not a partisan concern. But my fears are heightened when we have a paranoid administration that collects the names of enemies and labels his opposition terrorists, racists, and the like. Last President that kept an enemies list had to resign in disgrace. It was his own paranoia that brought him down. Now a Czar could abuse power on behalf of the President and the President can hide in the insulation that the decision for wrong-doing came from an autonomous Czar.

      • ConstitutionMan
      • September 15th, 2009

      Another bit of news has me all confused about the Czar situation. It was my impression that “Czar” is a term used to describe a variety of appointed advisors who do not face Senatorial confirmation, but may have a big say in the way federal dollars get spent or policy gets made. However, I noted in the news that the “Regulatory Czar,” Cass Sunstein, was confirmed by the Senate. So, I think there’s a language problem here if some of the so-called “Czars” are facing senatorial confirmation and some aren’t. I just don’t see the same problem if a position faces Senatorial confirmation, unless you can plausibly argue that the exercise of the position is usurping power that rightfully belongs outside the executive branch. What do you think?

    • ConstitutionMan
    • September 2nd, 2009

    You are making a number of bold and unsubstantiated claims that what the present administration is seeking a “command economy.” If the financial crash of Sept 08 was not a slap in the face of deregulation, I don’t know what would be. I’m all for the creative destruction of the market, but I think we can agree that the kind of destruction of the early ’30s was not so creative. I want the government out of the financial/automotive/insurance markets ASAP, but I also want some kind of assurance that companies controlling multiple trillions of trusting people’s money aren’t allowed to throw it away in the scandalous manner they were employing throughout the 2000s. A size cap would be nice — in fact there is one, but it has been waived to let some of the financial behemoths merge (not over 10% of total national deposits, I think). It is at least a plausible interpretation of government intervention over the last year that the intent was to stabilize the markets, not to create a command economy. Of course, we could impute communist motives to the administration, but why would we? Nationalizing a healthy company/industry in normal times would be one thing, bailing out these too-big-to-fail greed pits to save the poor folks dependent on them is quite another. Thoughts?

    • Thanks for the comment. Regulations are essential in a capitalist economy, no doubt. The amount of regulation is the topic for debate. I don’t think the government can successfully run business. They have a long track record of inefficiency and incompetency. Any attempt to take over a business – even to save it – is socialism. It might slow down or temporarily halt economic doom but ultimately the correction has to occur. I think the government can do a whole lot more good regulating the economy by using more traditional tools such as monetary policy, tax policy, and trade policy. For 30 years we have been shifting the burden of government from foreign imports to individual taxation. Direct taxation was never part of the founding father’s vision yet since 1919 it has evolved into the primary source of revenue. Much to our economic distress.

      I am concerned by the people Obama has surrounded himself with. He has not approached the economy with capitalist tools or ideology. He has approached decisions (as I see it) with the view that the best solution is a government solution. Rather than uses tax policy to encourage business growth he has thrown tax dollars at them and taken ownership. To me this is a move toward command economics. You final point helps make my case. You said, “Nationalizing a healthy company/industry in normal times would be one thing…” Nationalizing health care, which is an industry not in financial distress, makes the case that this administration is moving in the direction of a command economy.

        • ConstitutionMan
        • September 15th, 2009

        I certainly agree that government has a track record of running certain organizations in an inefficient manner. Personally, however, I would prefer a year of government intervention in a given industry, say, the financial sector, to the whole house of cards collapsing and leaving us with a hole that it takes five or ten years to get out of. Free market can be brutal as well as creative, and a lot of people without resources would sink in such a case. I would really rather that the market function on its own without direct govt. intervention, but there’s always a danger of bust, greed being what it is.
        Are you advocating that we substitute income tax revenues with tariffs (which would be more feasible if the government were smaller, but still)? That would be a tough sell at the WTO. Protectionism doesn’t comport well with the other principles of the free market (though I guess you could advocate nationally free, but internationally protected).
        It does seem that “this administration is moving in the direction of a command economy” with respect to health care — i.e. more gov’t involvement and regulation. There is a very very long way, however, between here and a true command economy like the Soviet one. It’s a little like saying that every time you go east you’re moving in the direction of Africa. Yes, true, but chances are good you’re going to stop before you get there. Anyone with even a sliver of a brain can see that a true command economy does not work, but we have plenty of relatively robust examples of economies with more government intervention than ours– i.e. the “perfect” socialism of Scandinavia, or Britain and its NHS, etc. Not that we should imitate them — we would lose a lot if we did in every particular, though their health care systems are more command-y and still seem to give better results on the whole. Health care is more of a cultural problem than a political one, I think. In sum, I think we need to be careful about what we say. It’s not as though every move to deregulate is a “move towards anarchy.”

        • Some? I cannot think of a government organization that is run efficiently, from $1200 toilets to $1400 wheelchairs that list for $400. If you are expecting a year of intervention on behalf of the banking industry, well, I hope you are right. I think we’re looking at far more. True, the free market can be and often is brutal. banking is one industry where the government has to jump in so we’re not really arguing about this. Should the govt have bailed out AIG? No. The auto industry? Yes and no. No they should not have bought into them nor protected the unions. They should have never allowed unfair trade from the far east. Tariffs balance the differences in standards of living and fund the government. Screw the WTO, they are not looking out for our interests. They are only helping third world slave masters and the multinationals who buy from them. Import tariffs funded the majority of the federal budget for well over the first 150 years of our nation. The income tax changed all that. I would not view tariffs as much protectionism as creating fairness and an even playing field. true they do stiffle trade but the lack of tariffs creates direct taxation – something the founding fathers opposed. The lack of tariffs also created a massive third world slave labor market.

          I know this article made it sound as though I feared Obama was the next Lenin. However, that is not the case. I feel our democracy is strong enough to survive Obama and Obama is not about to throw us all in concentration camps as some believe. What I do fear is that the level of national debt being created is unsustainable and will ultimately result in national default. We may have already crossed the point of no return and if we haven’t we will before 4 years is over. I do think Obama believes in a socialist economic system, perhaps European in design but I suspect more similar to what India had pre-1992, but without the associated protectionism.

          Odd that you believe “Anyone with even a sliver of a brain can see that a true command economy does not work.” I have had discussions with many liberals (especially college professors) who have told me the Soviets did not execute their command economy correctly. Given the right leadership such an economy is feasible. Yes I actually have heard that from at least 4 liberals in the past 15 years. Three of them since Obama was elected.

          There is no perfect NHS. Government inefficiencies and the bureaucratic need to reduce costs – not from within the bureaucracy but from the patient and/or provider – create treatment delays and denials. In spite of the President’s objections this is documented. What is needed is a Medicare that fills the gaps in coverage. A medicare that does not pay higher than market prices for everything, does not rent rather than buy patient equipment, and the elimination of exclusive contract between Medicare and medical supply companies. Tort reform is critical to any overhaul of the system. We should begin by eliminating legal commercials designed to troll for medical malpractice cases. Someone who has been wronged will seek an attorney!

          In conclusion, I am not in favor of deregulation in every industry some industries need a watchdog. insurance and banking have proven themselves untrustworthy. So we may have some common ground – perhaps more than you suspected.

    • bert
    • September 12th, 2009

    The command economy to which you refer is the doing of the globalists that pull Obama’s strings for he is no more than a puppet…. if you like he’s the perfect puppet, and just one more in a long line that have been dictating the course of world events for the economic gain of a few major families.

    The Obama Deception

    • Even before I saw your link I knew you had seen the Obama Deception. My friend Brenda Bowers ( had this video on her blog. I found the video very interesting. I nearly posted it, but I have a strict “no crazies” policy and when I saw this was connected to Alex Jones – a 911 Truther – I decided not to give it any more credence. I don’t doubt that conspiracies are possible and when one looks at Obama’s connections – especially the ACORN and SEIU links – there is a conspiracy going on. I just don’t know if it is the one Jones makes the case for. Either way the conspiracy to destroy the American way of life seems real enough.

      • Politics is show business for an innoragt audience. Both Dem’s & Repub’s / left & right rail against each other in the media but each day they take the same donations/bribes from the exact same business interests. Each day and night they have breakfasts, lunches, dinners, meetings, attend social functions together and call each other friend behind the scenes. The Divide & Conquer’ dog & pony show is just for the suckers dumb enough to believe it. They do anything to keep the unsophisticated public from what’s really gong on. Politicians are a criminal class & a quick check of the facts & criminal backgrounds, lawsuits, misdeeds, voting records will prove that. A president is just a puppet whether they be vanilla, chocolate, strawberry the same crooked actions behind the scenes take place. The poor flag waving, Fox news watching blogger above won’t accept his culpability in voting for Bush TWICE ! He thinks that civil rights, women’s rights, health rights, anti pollution laws, fare wages and on & on came from Republicans. Yes nowadays a Dem & Repub are the exact same thing but this LEFT he rails against IS America. Fox news openly ADMITS ( check the facts ) that over 70% of it’s programming is classified as entertainment and NOT news. These are THEIR ( fox news ) words. But this guy can’t understand that. He’s thinks of himself as a Man but they do his thinking for him. And let him believe his fantasy because he needs it and can’t function in the real world without it. And they know it.I notice that he post a link to the U.S. Army here I dare him to watch Beyond Treason on YouTube. Or better yet Century of the Self by Adam Curtis on YouTube. Or ask himself why building 7 wtc magically fell ( and note that the latest government issued report concludes that they CAN NOT explain it either ). It is a true Coward who can not face the truth and look at who he really is. Again I dare you, coward.

        • You wrote, “place. The poor flag waving, Fox news watching blogger above won’t accept his culpability in voting for Bush TWICE ! He thinks that civil rights, women’s rights, health rights, anti pollution laws, fare wages and on & on came from Republicans. ”

          Typical ralling of a weak argument. The first part attempts to be insulting by referencing Fox, then goes onto to assume a series of “facts” about me, of which most of which are wrong.

          I could respond in kind like a 1st grader, “yeah? Well you’re a MSNBC-watching-commie, who must have no respect for the Constitution, because you voted for Obama twice.”

          Rather, I will tell you I watch a variety of news sources and make my own opinions. Bush disturbed me more than you know and the constant erosion of our rights that began with Teddy Roosevelt in 1901 and has escalated under both Bush and Obama will lead us eventually to a true dictatorship if we aren’t already there.

    • Bill
    • October 26th, 2009

    All these worries could be solved by changing the name from “Czar” to “Faciliator.” LOL

    • Not quite. In the case of pay czar, Feinberg, you have a non-government agent (czar/facilitator/unconstitutional-government-regulator/whatever-label-you choose) administering the executive pay scale for private companies beyond the scope of government bailout recipients and without regard to the success or failure of company strategy. This is over-reaching and in my estimation this crosses the line between socialism and communism. The current regime has dropped all pretense of capitalistic support and is aggressively pursuing a Marxist agenda. I was trying to hold a moderate view toward the Obama administration but I have been converted to the viewpoint that this is the first American Marxist President. It is very chilling when an Administration official, czar or cabinet member announces that they do not believe in free markets and openly declare they espouse the Maoist view that “power comes from the barrel of a gun.” The pattern is too clear to be missed.

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