It is said that the president could use close to a trillion yen ($9 billion) at his discretion, without the approval of Congress. Has America now regressed to something like a dictatorship?
President Donald Trump has taken an unprecedented step to increase the funding for his border wall with Mexico in one swoop. It is the proclamation of a national state of emergency. It means that the president uses his authority to appropriate defense or other funding.
The U.S. Constitution does not clearly grant the supreme powers of a state of emergency to the administration. Since the national character is one that broke away from Britain's overweening power, it was supposed to have prevented such a concentration of power during America's founding era.
The current state of emergency is based on a law from the mid-1970s. An emergency lets the president respond speedily without procedures like congressional debate.
Until now, emergencies have been proclaimed in connection with sanctions against foreign countries, disasters, terrorism, epidemics and so on, but this one is totally different. It was declared as an instrument of political strife so the president could procure funds without congressional approval.
The democratic political system, built over the course of America's long history, has never been shaken. Unlike Japan, where the cabinet produces and submits the budget, the composition of the American budget is reserved for Congress. Trump's arbitrary decision amounts to a destructive act against that strict separation of three powers.
In any case, the situation at the Mexican border does not look like an emergency. The number of detained undocumented immigrants has greatly shrunk in the past decade. Much like the national security concerns used as an excuse for the high tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Japan and Europe, it is selfish reasoning.
Trump’s aim is to show that he is keeping his election promise to build a wall and to maintain his hardline base.
It is the duty of Congress to supervise presidential authority, but the ruling party’s leaders supported the proclamation. American politics are now so divided that the legislature is locked down by partisanship, even when its powers are threatened, and this winter it invited a long government shutdown. These narrow-minded politics, without regard for people’s lives, should be called a national crisis.
In the Trump administration’s “America First” diplomacy, America is bathed in a sense of isolationism. An administration that shows almost no interest in the principles of human rights and that demeans immigrants and refugees as criminals damages the national image as a poster child for freedom and equality.
The border wall is no longer just a budget battle but an issue involving tolerant pluralism and the separation into three powers that America has come to value.
The opposition party and some governors are appealing to the judiciary over the unconstitutionality of this proclamation. The world is watching to see whether the judiciary, which should supervise the president along with Congress, will demonstrate the ability to restore American democracy.