President Obama did what the White House had been promising all week and used the State of the Union address to outline at least a dozen initiatives he plans to put into law unilaterally, bypassing Congress and violating the constitutional separation of powers.
Among the plans are the increasing of the minimum wage for federal contract workers, the order for which Obama already issued before the State of the Union. In his speech, Obama urged Congress to raise the minimum wage across the board.
It’s unclear if the president is eyeing unilateral action for the overall federal minimum wage, but the implication seemed to be there. Obama was full of platitudes about the idea helping families and giving workers more money to spend at stores, but anyone with a smattering of economic sense is aware that raising the minimum wage historically has only resulted in lost jobs and inflation.
In addition to bad economic policy, the president talked about bringing more high-speed Internet access to schools, passing amnesty and, perhaps most alarmingly, using his executive orders to pass gun control laws that have not been able to make it through Congress.
Obama’s plans to usurp Congress’ authority to make legislation is all part of what the White House is calling the “year of action.”
Recent polls have found that most Americans think Obama is at best a weak leader and can’t be trusted to make the right decisions.
After consultations with members of his own party, the president and his advisers came up with the notion that Americans just want to see the president get something passed and aren’t particular about what.
“Let’s make this a year of action,” Obama said. “That’s what most Americans want: for all of us in this chamber to focus on their lives, their hopes, their aspirations.”
The speech overall was light on specific proposals and heavy on flattery and credit-taking. The president still found room to blame Republicans for his own policies, though, when he talked about the federal shutdown when he ordered the closing of national parks, monuments and public services rather than any substantial cuts.
“When our differences shut down government or threaten the full faith and credit of the United States — then we are not doing right by the American people,” he said in a riff that came across like Lex Luthor blaming Superman for launching a nuclear missile intended to make California sink into the Pacific. Hey, Kryptonite happens.
Through it all, the Democrats jumped up and down like applauding jack-in-the-boxes. The assembled military guests notably sat on their hands throughout much of the speech, particularly when Obama tried to paint his failed withdrawal strategies in Iraq and Afghanistan as some sort of victory and an end to “America’s longest war.” Deafening silence also met his false claim that the U.S. was working with Syrian “rebels” who reject terrorism when the world knows he has been funding al-Qaida-linked mercenaries.
The most depressing thing about the speech, however, is that Obama stood up before the world and repeatedly threatened to sidestep Congress to make his agenda happen … and the members of both chambers of Congress did nothing about it.
So really that’s it, then. Congress is a figurehead, a rubber stamp and nothing else. If Obama orders something even more outrageous than is the norm for him, Congress may make some noises about investigations or even impeachment.
But that’s all it will be is noise, because we now effectively have two branches of government, and it’s anybody’s guess how long it will be before Obama castrates the Judicial Branch as well.