Our founders established a national government grounded in the rule of law, where legal rules are made in advance, binding both government and the citizens, thus allowing the citizens to know exactly what they must do or not do to avoid running afoul of the government. They rejected a system of arbitrary rule, where the government decides how to act on an ad hoc basis, leaving decisions to the whim of whatever administrator happens to be in charge. President Woodrow Wilson, founder of the progressive movement, wrote in 1891: "Give us administrative elasticity and discretion, free us from the idea that checks and balances are to be carried down through all stages of organization." The progressive system discards the rule of law in favor of the administrative state. President Obama, as demonstrated below, favors the Wilson model.
In May of last year, following the BP oil spill, President Obama ordered a six-month moratorium on all drilling in waters deeper than 500 feet. Judge Martin Feldman of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana blocked Obama’s moratorium on deep water drilling, on the basis that it was overly broad. Obama immediately announced a new ban on deep water drilling that expired last October. The Interior Department has not issued any permits since the moratorium expired, effectively creating a stealth ban on all offshore drilling. In a recent ruling, Judge Feldman said that the government's conduct amounted to contempt of court.
June 10 will be an anniversary worth noting by those alarmed at last year's assault on free institutions. It was last June 10 that the federal government tossed aside the option of proven and workable bankruptcy procedures in order to nationalize Chrysler on behalf of its union allies. The Obama administration confiscated the property of Chrysler’s bondholders in order to provide preferential treatment to its union cronies. These bondholders believed that their interest was legally secured and that they stood at the head of the line in the event of the auto company's failure simply because that was the law. The cost of corporate borrowing was clearly headed upward as the U.S. for the first time imitated those third world despotisms where economic rules can be changed without warning at the ruler's whim and convenience.
Senior U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson recently declared the Obama administration’s health care overhaul unconstitutional, siding with 26 states that sued to block it. In ruling against President Obama’s health care law, federal Judge Roger Vinson said the principal dispute in the case was not whether Congress has the power to tackle health care, but whether it has the power to compel individual citizens to purchase insurance. Vinson quoted Obama as saying during his campaign ‘If a mandate was the solution, we can try that to solve homelessness by mandating everybody to buy a house’. In the meantime the Obama Administration continues to take steps to implement it, offering waivers from some of the requirements of the healthcare law to favored constituencies, especially unions. Unions account for 40% of those with exemptions, even though fewer than 10% of the workforce is unionized.
According to the Washington Times, The Black Panther voter intimidation scandal is approaching the boiling point. Evidence grows that the Department of Justice is using illegitimate means to obstruct a legitimate investigation. In late January, Judicial Watch, a private watchdog group filed a brief in its case seeking release of DOJ documents that, it argued, would show political interference in DOJ’s decision making process in and its efforts to avoid public scrutiny of that interference. According to the U.S Commission on Civil Rights the DOJ "doggedly continues to obstruct this investigation. Even the privileges that are recognized law (as opposed to being newly invented) are not valid against the commission." DOJs own Office of Legal Counsel has issued at least two opinions that came to the same conclusion.
Just last month, the Environmental Protection Agency began regulating greenhouse gas emissions from any new or expanded power plants. According to a recent article in The Washington Examiner the EPA has just issued its first exemption. Apparently EPA decided that it was appropriate to "grandfather" projects such as the Avenal Power Center, a proposed 600-megawatt power plant in the San Joaquin Valley. This particular project will be a combined-cycle generating plant consisting of two natural gas-fired General Electric 7FA Gas Turbines with Heat Recovery Steam Generators (HRSG) and one GE Steam Turbine. It should be noted that GE CEO Jeff Immelt, a broad supporter of Obama’s agenda was recently appointed to the new position of Jobs Czar, but that probably had nothing to do with the exemption.
There are numerous other arenas in which the Obama Administration has sacrificed the rule of law for political expediency. It has rejected the Constitution’s appointments clause to install its favored bureaucrats as assistants and czars with rule-making authority at regulatory agencies. It has joined with the ACLU and Mexico in a suit against Arizona for attempting to enforce immigration laws that the he has decided not to enforce. The Federal Communications Commission is moving forward with internet neutrality regulations, despite an earlier decision by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals that it doesn’t have the authority. The FCC has decided to get around that ruling by effectively classifying broadband as telephone service.
The Constitution emphasizes a government of limited powers, grounded in the rule of law, with three coequal branches (legislative, executive and judicial), each with clearly defined powers. Increasingly, effective power is seen to be in hands of what President Reagan called "a fourth branch of government added to the traditional three" --- "a vast federal bureaucracy". Despite Mr. Obama's campaign against the excesses of the Bush White House, he is now making a major contribution to the construction of a system of arbitrary rule, in which decisions are made by an imperial presidency and its appointed administrators.