Of all the troubling aspects of the Obama presidency, none is more dangerous than the president’s persistent pattern of lawlessness, his willingness to disregard the written law and instead enforce his own policies via executive fiat.
Mr Obama recently acted unilaterally to raise the minimum wage paid by federal contracts. The president’s taste for unilateral action to circumvent Congress should concern every citizen, regardless of party or ideology. The great 18th-century political philosopher Montesquieu observed:
“There can be no liberty where the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person, or body of magistrates.”
America’s Founding Fathers took this warning to heart, and the Americans should too.
Rule of law doesn’t simply mean that society has laws; dictatorships are often characterized by an abundance of laws. Rather, rule of law means that the Americans are a nation ruled by laws, not men. That no one—and especially not the president—is above the law. For that reason, the US Constitution imposes on every president the express duty to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”
President Obama has openly defied this by repeatedly suspending, delaying and waiving portions of the laws he is charged to enforce.
When Mr Obama disagreed with federal immigration laws, he instructed the Justice Department to cease enforcing the laws. He did the same thing with federal welfare law, drug laws and the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
On many of those policy issues, reasonable minds can disagree. Mr Obama may be right that some of those laws should be changed. But the typical way to voice that policy disagreement, for the preceding 43 presidents, has been to work with Congress to change the law. If the president cannot persuade Congress, then the next step is to take the case to the American people. As President Reagan put it:
“If you can’t make them see the light, make them feel the heat”.
President Obama has a different approach. As he said recently, describing his executive powers: “I’ve got a pen, and I’ve got a phone.” Under the Constitution, that is not the way federal law is supposed to work. The Obama administration has been so brazen in its attempts to expand federal power that the Supreme
There is no example of lawlessness more egregious than the enforcement—or non-enforcement—of the president’s signature policy, the Affordable Care Act. Mr Obama has repeatedly declared that “it’s the law of the land.” Yet he has repeatedly violated ObamaCare’s statutory text.
The law says that businesses with 50 or more full-time employees would face the employer mandate on January 1, 2014. President Obama changed that, granting a one-year waiver to employers. How did he do so? Not by going to Congress to change the text of the law, but through a blog post by an assistant secretary at Treasury announcing the change.
The law says that only Americans who have access to state-run exchanges will be subject to employer penalties and may obtain ObamaCare premium subsidies.
This was done to entice the states to create exchanges. But, when 34 states decided not to establish state-run exchanges, the Obama administration announced that the statutory words “established by State” would also mean “established by the federal government.”
The law says that members of Congress and their staffs’ health coverage must be an ObamaCare exchange plan, which would prevent them from receiving their current federal-employee health subsidies. At the behest of Senate Democrats, the Obama administration instead granted a special exemption (deeming “individual” plans to be “group” plans) to members of Congress and their staffs so they could keep their pre-existing health subsidies.
Most strikingly, when over five million Americans found their health insurance plans cancelled because ObamaCare made their plans illegal—despite the president’s promise “if you like your plan, you can keep it”—President Obama simply held a news conference where he told private insurance companies to disobey the law and issue plans that ObamaCare regulated out of existence.
In other words, rather than go to Congress and try to provide relief to the millions who are hurting because of the “train wreck” of ObamaCare, the president instructed private companies to violate the law and said he would in effect give them a get-out-of-jail-free card—for one year, and one year only.
In the more than two centuries of America is history, there is simply no precedent for the White House wantonly ignoring federal law and asking private companies to do the same.
Eleven state attorneys general recently wrote a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius saying that the continuing changes to ObamaCare are “flatly illegal under federal constitutional and statutory law.” The attorneys general correctly observed that “the only way to fix this problem-ridden law is to enact changes lawfully: through Congressional action.”
Many in Congress—and the press—have chosen to give President Obama a pass on his pattern of lawlessness, perhaps letting partisan loyalty to the man supersede their fidelity to the law.
Is the Obama presidency failing? In a word, ‘yes’. And if, as Luce claims, Obama is relegated to “permanent lame duck status”, so be it. That may give the country an outside chance to survive this administration.
In all of this one is reminded of the wisdom of Bible’s Book of Proverbs, which warns that “pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” The president has been shown to be a man out of his depth time and again. But here’s the problem: Mr Obama’s failures have inflicted great and durable harm on the United States. This may be worth keeping in mind the next time an eloquent community organizer decides he’s ready to be commander in chief.
STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS
The following are highlights from U.S. President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address in Washington on Tuesday.
JOBS AND THE ECONOMY
Obama would create a “starter” retirement savings account available through employers for workers who can afford to save only small amounts at a time.
He also wants to drop retirement tax breaks that apply to wealthy Americans.
Obama would raise the minimum wage for workers holding federal contract jobs to $10.10. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.
Obama will start four more manufacturing innovation institutes this year and wants Congress to create up to 45 more.
He also will pursue a trans-Pacific partnership and an agreement with the EU to boost US exports.
Obama urged Congress to pass an extension of emergency unemployment insurance.
He also called for bringing outsourced work back to the United States and advocated discrimination protection for women and gays at the workplace.
Obama said a further 15,000 schools and 20 million students from kindergarten through 12th grade would have access to high-speed internet service in the next two years.
Apple, Microsoft, Sprint and Verizon will be part of the education-tech push and more partnerships will be announced soon.
CLIMATE AND ENERGY
Obama proposed incentives for medium- and heavy-duty trucks that run on alternative fuels and he will continue his broader campaign to move America toward clean energy sources.
He also called for safe natural gas production.
Obama renewed his call for securing US borders, cracking down on those who hire illegal immigrants and offering a path to citizenship, saying such reforms would create thousands of jobs and boost the economy by $1 trillion over two decades.
GUANTANAMO AND FOREIGN POLICY
Obama said the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, should be closed this year. He did not mention plans for troop levels in Afghanistan, but said America must move off permanent war footing. He stood by an international interim agreement to get Iran to curb its nuclear programme.
He would continue working for voters’ rights and against gun violence. Obama renewed his call to wind down mortgage-finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.