Separation and limitation of powers was one of the key concerns our nation's founders had when they met in Philadelphia during the spring, summer and early fall of 1787 to hammer out the U.S. Constitution. In particular, leaders such as James Madison, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin wanted checks and balances to keep Congress reined in.
It turns out they were worried about the wrong branch of government.
President Barack Obama and others in his administration have revealed killing the coal industry will be a top priority of his remaining years in office.
They didn't put it that way, of course. Obama, during a speech in Berlin, said the U.S. and other nations must do more about global warming. "We know we have to do more - and we will do more," he said.
Then, the president's senior energy and climate adviser, Heather Zichal, revealed details. More money for "renewable" energy is part of the plan. So is coming down harder on coal-fired power plants.
Now, you may recall that Obama has insisted he and the Environmental Protection Agency have nothing against coal, per se. But now the gloves are off. "The EPA has been working very hard on rules that focus specifically on greenhouse gases from the coal sector," Zichal said.
Here's the scary part: Zichal made it a point to stress none of what Obama plans will require new funding or any other action by Congress. His initiative will be solely by executive orders.
No one can do anything to stop him, in other words.
Think about what the president has in mind. Already, many utilities have announced they will close some existing coal-fired power plants. No electric company in its right mind plans new coal-fueled generating stations. With natural gas relatively abundant and cheap, why do battle with Uncle Sam?
Of course, someone - that would be utility customers - has to pay for all those new gas-fired power plants. And as their number increases, the price of gas will go up. Almost undoubtedly, electricity from natural gas will cost substantially more than from coal.
Tens of millions of Americans will pay hundreds, perhaps thousands, of dollars a year more for electricity. Tens of thousands of businesses, small and large, will pay more - and that will mean many will lose their competitive edges and will fail.
Places where coal is vital to the economy, such as West Virginia and Ohio, will lose jobs by the tens of thousands. Already, because of Obama's existing war on coal, thousands of coal jobs have been lost.
And he plans to intensify the assault.
Did the founders intend for one person, the president of the United States, to have that much power? I don't think so. Reading through proceedings of the Philadelphia convention reveals delegates were very aware of the peril of the national government taking actions - on tariffs, for example - that could affect even tens of thousands of people adversely. Even trade treaties negotiated by the executive branch have to be ratified by Congress.
Again, however, delegates to the constitutional convention were worried most about Congress going too far.
They also spent many days attempting to erect barricades against federal action, taken with support from a majority of Americans, that would harm minorities.
Now, it appears the minority numbers in the tens of millions - and the oppressor is the president of the United States, acting unilaterally.
Some of the power he has stems from congresses in the past voluntarily handing legislative jurisdiction to the executive branch, as in the Clean Air Act of 1970. But much of Obama's administration has been focused on claiming new authority for the executive branch. This may be the biggest power grab of them all.
Where are the Madisons and Jeffersons when we need them?
Not in Washington, D.C.
Myer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.