Considering last week was Obama’s 5th State of the Union address, I feel that at least mentioning it on here would be a worthwhile. Here are my initial reactions:
The most striking and unique aspect of it in my view (and the views of countless others) is the tone of executive independence and autonomy it struck, in contrast to previous SOTU addresses. When reading up on all the different proposals, the foremost thoughts in my mind weren’t about the efficacy or value of the policies (many of which have long been advocated for by the administration), but about Obama’s stated strategy for implementation: getting it done, with or without Congress. Specifically, my immediate reaction:
- is this really such a smart move, considering Republicans score political points by blaming you for using federal bureaucracies to bypass the legislative process to implement policy (think EPA)?
- doesn’t this have echoes of the Bush-era “unitary executive” approach, where the executive goes it alone?
- regardless of the merits of proposed policies, do you really want to advocate the idea that some ideas are too good to be subject to the established democratic process?
- where exactly is the boundary of what can/cannot be legislated and how much power the executive actually has/should have?
Of course, we must bear in mind that Obama is hardly the first President ever to seek to maximize executive power and to try and act in constitutionally-questionable ways. However, this still does not excuse such behavior. What’s really bothering me about this administration in particular is its apparent disregard and contempt for rules and boundaries. For example, consider the case of drug policy in the US. Legally, the sale and possession of cannabis (marijuana) is illegal according to federal law. However, despite written law, the administration has unilaterally relaxed enforcement to allow states to experiment. Now, I’m all for states experimenting, but as long as the law is the law, it should be treated as such. Not enforcing what is in the legal code undermines the code, a violation that should not be treated lightly. It also creates confusion as to what will/will not be enforced. Similarly, the administration bypassed the inability of Congress to pass cap-and-trade legislation or other regulations of greenhouse gases by having the EPA issue regulations and guidelines that did so. What merits actual legislation now is apparently up for interpretation. Again, this “legislation via bureaucracy” is definitely not a new phenomenon that is unique to the Obama administration. However, I would have to argue the scale and scope is unique.
I will post more about SOTU soon and dive into the actual policy proposals and my thoughts/reactions to them.
On a random note: that stock market correction I “predicted”would happen in the spring or fall? I think it’s happening now.