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FDR and the "National Emergency"
By Chuck Morse - 08.18.01
To criticize the emergency legislation of the first 100 days of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Administration, euphemistically known as the "New Deal," is to open the door to the accusation "right wing extremist." Yet nothing could have been more right wing, in the literal sense, or extreme, than the legislation itself, which was rammed through Congress during the depression months of March-June 1933. Emergency acts, codified into law, would set the stage for a transfer of rights and responsibilities from the States and the people to the Federal Government. The result has been an ongoing proliferation of federally run economic, military, and social programs.
Under the guise of remedying the economic depression, The Emergency Banking Relief Act would be passed into law on May 9, 1933 after only 40 minutes of debate and without a single congressmen reading it. This bill would contain language activating the Trading with the Enemy Act, previously implemented by Congress in 1917 as a response to World War I. The Trading with the Enemy Act, perfectly constitutional, grants the President special powers in a declared War. FDR would establish wartime emergency powers in peacetime by legally classifying the American citizen, rather than a foreign power, as the enemy of the federal government! This amazing situation remains largely in place to this day.
These war powers would be used to redefine the concept of private property in this country. The federal government would assume the power, under the "national emergency," to seize the property, without due process, of any citizen not in compliance with the law. Examples include routine seizures by the Internal Revenue Service of homes, cars, bank accounts etc. The RICO statutes allow the government to seize the property of an accused drug dealer before conviction. Forfeiture laws allow the seizure of property by police over as small an infraction as the possession of marijuana joint. All of these statutes derive their authority from the "emergency" which has co-opted, in these cases, the constitutional principle of due process.
US Senate Document 43, Senate Report 93-549, an analysis of the emergency legislation states the following on page 9:
"The ultimate ownership of all property is in the State; individual so-called 'ownership' is only by virtue of the government, i.e., law, amounting to mere user…"
This report, which was written as an examination of the scope of the emergency powers concludes with the following:
"Under these powers the president may: seize property, organize and control the means of production, seize commodities; assign military forces abroad; institute martial law; seize and control all transportation and communication; regulate the operation of private industry; restrict travel; and in a plethora of particular ways, control the lives of all American citizens."(Senate Report 93-549)
The "emergency" allowed for the creation of the rest of FDR's "New Deal" programs. The "emergency" would be the basis by which President Harry S. Truman would set up much of the internal "national security" apparatus, including such permanent agencies as the CIA, NSC, DEA, and others. Truman would also send the military to Korea without the benefit of a Congressional declaration of War.
The emergency provided the foundation for the "war on poverty" of President Lyndon B. Johnson, which would establish federal welfare. Johnson's Civil Rights legislation would involve the Federal government in many aspects of the citizen's personal life including where he worked and where he attended school. The Vietnam War was made possible as a result of the "emergency."
President Richard M. Nixon would continue to stretch the "emergency" powers with the EPA, escalation in Vietnam, and direct intervention in the economy with wage and price controls, and other programs. President Jimmy Carter would create the Department of Education, which constituted a move toward completely federalizing education. President George H. W. Bush would launch the "War on Drugs" among other things.
President William J. Clinton would attempt a colossal seizure of authority for the Federal Government with his Health Security Act, which would have created the largest and most powerful bureaucracy in history. As part of the health plan, Clinton sought the creation of a National Identity Card, which would have served as an internal passport similar to the type issued by the Nazi's and in Communist countries. Clinton would issue more executive orders, deriving his authority from the emergency, than any President in history.
Clearly, there is no emergency today. In a country that prides itself on freedom such emergency powers should not be needed. Is there any doubt that these emergency powers have resulted in a lot more harm than good? Congress should repeal the emergency legislation so our government can be returned to "we the people."