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Editorial: Obama’s declaration of independence

If Congress won’t help him, President Obama declared this week, he’ll try to get the economy moving on his own. By executive order he intends to raise the minimum wage for federal contractors and help workers save for retirement and train for good jobs. “Wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do,” he said.

It was a declaration of independence simultaneously encouraging and bleak. Encouraging that the president does not intend to sit idly by while Congress is, again, determined to do nothing. Bleak that the only way to accomplish anything in Washington these days is to simply ignore one of the three branches of government. And bleak again that the president’s goals, given the intractability of Congress, are necessarily small, even in his so-called “year of action.”

Obama’s opponents in Congress and are already raising concerns about the use of executive orders. The Republican attorney general of Oklahoma called it a “direct threat to our liberty.” But such unilateral action isn’t new, isn’t confined to one party or the other and, given the circumstances, isn’t hard to understand.

What have presidents accomplished via executive order? Thomas Jefferson negotiated the purchase of the Louisiana Territory. Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Harry Truman desegregated the military. Bill Clinton expanded the nation’s inventory of public lands. (On the somewhat less sweeping end of the spectrum, Obama last summer prohibited certain imports of Burmese jadeite and rubies – take note.)

More well-known, perhaps, are the sort of executive orders that ping-pong back and forth between administrations of different parties. Consider, for instance, the “global gag rule” first issued by Ronald Reagan by executive order in 1984. The measure prevented the United States from funding family-planning services overseas at clinics that also offered abortion-related services, including counseling. The measure was reversed by Clinton, renewed by George W. Bush and repealed by Obama. Not exactly the consistency our allies elsewhere in the world might hope for.

Indeed, executive orders sometimes feel flimsier than actual legislation, but even these are often difficult to reverse for reasons of politics. George W. Bush, for instance, wanted to reverse a Clinton-era order limiting the acceptable amount of arsenic in water but was forced to leave it be.

Obama’s unilateral effort on the minimum wage, the most dramatic of those outlined Tuesday night, will necessarily affect a small group of people: workers for companies that win new or renewed contracts with the federal government. But the results might be slightly more far-reaching. By setting an example, albeit limited, the president may encourage states, including New Hampshire, to raise their own minimum wage laws without waiting for Congress to act. He might also convince some private employers to do better by their workers without the goad of any law at all.

Either way, the president’s go-it-alone plan was no doubt the opening salvo of the 2014 election campaign. As voters watch the goings-on in Washington over the next year, it will be important to pay attention not just to what’s getting done but to who’s making it happen.

Legacy Comments11

Some people might be "schooled " but others do not seem to be very educated. The "spin" on the Brooking's article was put on by the far right paper the Washington Examiner ( is it still owned by the Moonies?). There was no implication that Brookings is far right. Why can't righties just go to the original article instead of having to have it interpreted for them by a right wing paper?

No, I believe it was the Washington Times at one point was owned by the Moonies and also some bakery that distributes to grocery stores nationwide. What difference does that make? You can't be a Moonie if you want to? Why can't progressive posters here go to the source instead of parroting the opinions on Left wing blogs?

Why couldn't Pete Seeger be a Communist if he wanted? Righties seem to think the Constitution is only for their side, it also works for people you don't agree with. You misread Bruce's post. He never said Bookings was a rightwing group. He said their findings was misinterpreted by a right wing newspaper. Some people here seem to just read headlines and never go any farther, when obviously a headline writer for a right wing paper will put the best spin on a report.

LOL, you will find that minimum wage jobs really don't exist in many if any of the federal contractor companies. I can't believe that people are cheering for Obama to trash the Constitution and take away freedoms, rights and representation of the people.

ITSA - Due to the absolutely awful Davis Bacon Wage act that statement is 100% true. Federal contractors have to produce a weekly multi page complicated form that proves they pay the prevailing wage as determined by the Govt index. That form often requires bigger companies to have extra staff just to prove compliance. No jobs are minimum wage in that index

Editorial is Another False Premises. HEADLINE: "How Harry Reid is Destroying the Senate" democrat Majority Leader has used this tactic—filling the tree—80 times. To put this in perspective, the six previous Majority Leaders filled the tree 49 times—combined. Senator Reid has filled the tree on 30 more occasions than all of the six previous Majority Leaders did cumulatively over their tenures. DEMOCRATS OBSTRUCTION OF CONGRESS is well documented yet media will have you believe it is the Responsible Republicans. Hint - if you dont know what filling the tree is - you may be a LIDV.

Sail - here is where we differ so much. At no point do you state your against "filling the tree", you appear to only be against it because the D's have used it more right now. I'm against tacking on amendments to ANY bill especially one that is non-related. Let every amendment get voted on - stop politicians from being allowed to say "oh, I was against that but in support of the other part so I had to vote for all of it". People that are for “tacking” on these amendments loose the right to complain, cause sometimes you get to tack and sometimes you get tacked by allowing it.

I post the articles to prove that it is indeed the democrats that are the obstructionists in Congress. Here are a few more to read. 1) "Sen. Tom Coburn blasts Harry Reid: We have a czar running the Senate" 2) "Brookings study points to Harry Reid and Senate Democrats as source of gridlock" Trust is the currency of the legislative process, and Obama and the democrats have thoroughly debased that currency. When legislators say that they cant pass immigration reform because they cant trust that Obama will follow the law as written then our nation is already run by NObama tyranny.

Once more, the poster demonstrates an inability to separate fact from opinion, while playing fast and loose with truthfulness and accuracy. The Brookings study cited in the post below and the scholars cited there looked at the committee process in the Senate. Blaming Harry Reid and the Democrats for gridlock is the unwarranted spin put on the study of that process from Brookings by a far-right newspaper's opinion piece, and by no stretch of the imagination does it constitute "proof" of anything claimed. Instead, the poster has an extraordinarily low bar for 'proof' when it comes to anything having to do with Democrats and Obama. Yet on the science of climate change, for example, no amount of factual evidence will ever be sufficient. The poster's incessant claims of "proof" on any given topic he touches, at a minimum, ALWAYS need qualification, and frequently need correction.

It is a fact that Harry Reid refused to allow any of the Republican budgets to come to a vote, whether you believe they were good or bad, that is not good leadership and not good governance. No fewer than 70 times he has either tabled or announced that legislation from the House is "dead on arrival" as has Obama. The House is the "peoples" house, it is representative of the people, no matter which way it leans. Reid is very partisan and in essence a "bully" but he is excused as he is the progressive kind of "bully" which refers to the fact that the end justifies the means. Neither side gave in, so one side can not be the obstructor. Moderation is not one side of the aisle always reaching Left. Reid never moderated, that is also a fact. From Wikipedia: "As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, Brookings describes itself as independent and non-partisan. A 2011 study examining think tank employee donations from 2003 to 2010 showed that 97.6% of Brookings's employees' political donations went to Democrats and described the think tank as "liberal."


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