DRAFT LEGISLATION WOULD SUSPEND CONSTITUTION IN AN EMERGENCY
WASHINGTON-Attorney General William French Smith recently voiced his alarm at Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Louis Giuffrida's proposal to crown himself the nation's "emergency czar" in the event of war or natural disaster.
Smith's legal and constitutional sensibillities were offended by the thought of the civil defense agency usurping the powers of Cabinet-level departments, emergency or not.
But the attorney general will be positively stunned when he learns of Giuffrida.s latest plan. It would suspend the Constitution and give the president as much arbitrary power as Hitler or Stalin ever exercised.
This blueprint for autocracy is in the form of "standby" legislation drafted by FEMA's eager empire-builders. That means it won't be submitted to Congress in advance--when its drastic provisions would certainly spark debate and draw opposition from conservatives and civil libertarians alike.
Instead, it is intended to be held on "standby" until an emergency arises. Then a panicky Congress will presumably be ready to abdicate its responsibilities under the Constitution and vote for a dictatorship.
Our associates Donald Goldberg and Indy Badhwar have seen the draft legislation, which would be titled disingenously the Defense Resources Act. Here are some of the specific outrages:
-Private property would be effectively abolished. Real estate and personal belongings "that shall be deemed necessary for national defense purposes" would be confiscated by the government. And there'd be no haggling or taking it to court.
"Upon or after filing the condemnation petition," the standby legislation reads, "immediate possession may be taken and the property may be occupied." There goes your house. There goes your car. There goes the neighborhood.
-The bureaucrats at FEMA want to nationalize the means of production. If a factory owner proves reluctant to turn out what the bureaucrats dictate, the president "may take immeidate possession of such plant, mine or facility and operate it for the production of such materials or services as may be necessary."
-Just to be fair, FEMA proposes nationalizing labor as well. The government would be empowered to set limits on the number of employees in any type of work, and in fact restrict workers to "activities essential to the national health, safety or interest."
And if anyone lies to a federal bureaucrat about the availability of manpower, it'll rate either a $10,000 fine or a one-year hitch in the gulag. The right to strike will, of course, be revoked. Violators will be declared felons in the same class as those who try to overthrow the government.
[Condensed by LRW]