Before he became President, Senator Barack Obama was a strident critic of George Bush's use of Executive Orders to get around Congressional participation in policy making.
“The biggest problems we’re facing right now have to do with George Bush trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch, and not go through Congress at all,” the then 2008 presidential candidate Obama said. “That’s what I intend to reverse when I’m President of the United States of America.”
The sharp contrast of this earlier sentiment with his current “have pen, will rule” stance was brushed aside as “a phony issue” by President Obama. “The crucial point is the ends to which the power is used. Executive Orders that thwart social justice and progressive policies are clearly abusive. However, when it is clear that those wielding legislative authority refuse to support these goals it is incumbent on the President to shoulder the burden. So, I'd have to say that given the differing circumstances there is no contradiction.”
“In fact, as well-informed observers have pointed out, my post enactment amendments to the Affordable Care Act are both 'wise and courageous,'” the President added. “As MSNBC's Chris Matthews put it, 'we have in President Obama a bold leader willing to break free of the chains of stale legalistic formalism and blaze a new path of governance.' Why shouldn't I use every means I can to ensure that the best policies are implemented?”
NSA's Revenue Generating Potential Being Explored
The Obama Administration is reportedly evaluating the possibility of using data gathered by the National Security Agency (NSA) to help fund the government.
NSA Deputy Director Richard Ledgett says that “for too long we've been overlooking the commercial opportunities of this vast surveillance project. We know what web sites people have been visiting. We know who they've been calling on their cell phones. And in many instances we've been reading their emails. There has got to be a lot of businesses that would pay substantial sums to have a peek at this information.”
Ledgett speculated that “the obvious customers for purchasing this information would appear to be corporations seeking probable buyers of their products or services. But on the flip side we believe that there may be a market amongst persons wanting us to withhold release of data that might be inconvenient or embarrassing. We haven't yet developed a refined plan for realizing the full revenue potential, but we are seriously exploring options.”
Jason Furman, Chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers, sees the revenue potential as “a heretofore untapped resource. As changing lifestyles diminish the traditional methods of funding the government, as more people choose subsidized leisure over gainful employment, the idea that we can support the public sector by simply taxing productive effort is becoming out-dated. In our so-called 'information age' it seems fitting that we exploit the information the government has gone to such great lengths to acquire in order to help finance the government's needs.”
Campaign Finance Law Enables IRS Harassment of Conservatives
The impetus behind the passage of federal laws to regulate contributions to political campaigns was the idea that this would prevent the surreptitious influence of big money in elections. By requiring donors identities to be disclosed to the Federal Elections Commission voters would be able to find out who was backing a candidate or a cause. That the government might use this information to punish dissent was overlooked.
Anonymity has long been a method by which persons critical of the government have protected themselves from retaliation. Pamphleteers of the American Revolutionary Era often used pseudonyms for this purpose. The failure of proponents of the campaign finance laws to consider why this was done has had pernicious effects.
Cleta Mitchell, member of the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on Election Law, says that “many donors to conservative causes and candidates are showing up as targets of IRS audits. The increased frequency of this type of thing is disturbing. The message that is going to be taken from this is that daring to assist an opponent of the Democratic Party is an invitation to increased harassment.”
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen rebuffed GOP complaints saying that “there is nothing in the statutes that guarantees an equal distribution of audits among persons of various political leanings. If these GOP donors have done nothing wrong they have nothing to worry about.”
Mitchell wasn't reassured, however. “An IRS audit is a grueling ordeal even when the taxpayer has totally complied with the complex tax code,” she observed. “By itself an audit is viewed as a punishment by the person undergoing the scrutiny. In the absence of probable cause one would hope that the selection of audit targets would be done in a random manner. That political factors might be used is abusive and tyrannical.”
President Urges Congressional Allies to Ignore Political Cost of Supporting His Agenda
With polls showing plunging support for his policies and programs, President Obama attempted to soothe the fears of Democrats facing reelection battles in November.
“The Democratic agenda is more important than whether any specific member of our Party wins in November,” Obama declared. “I'd even go so far as to say that whether we have a majority in either House after November is largely irrelevant. My Executive authority is sufficient for the implementation of our agenda.”
Obama reassured that “those of you who are retired against your will by the voters of your state or district can count on me to find you a comfortable post within the Executive branch.”
The President discounted the risk that “even should the Republicans gain a nominal majority in Congress I doubt we have much to fear. Many of the GOP leaders have privately assured me that we are on the same page with where we want to take the country. In some ways, allowing them to take over the Legislative branch could be optimal. I could still rule by Executive Order while they could futilely rant against my usurpation of their authority. Effective opposition would be totally neutralized.”
Not all Democrats were mollified by Obama's reassurances. Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich) urged the President “to deploy the IRS to crack down on right wing political organizations in the months running up to the November elections. Short of secret arrests and assassinations, the IRS is the most potent weapon in the government's arsenal. If we want to ensure that the champions of progressive policies can continue to hold onto the reins of power we need to use this weapon.”
Statistics from the 2012 election cycle appear to bear out Senator Levin's perspective on the importance of the effective use of the IRS. During that cycle 100% of the political organizations subjected to IRS audit were conservative or “right-leaning” in their politics. While these right-leaning groups were otherwise preoccupied with fending off IRS harassment, President Obama sailed to reelection for a second term.
US Falls to 46th in Global Press Freedom Rankings
The annual report of Reporters without Borders rates the amount of “freedom of the press” that exists in each nation. In this year's rankings the United States fell to 46th-- meaning that 45 countries have a greater degree of freedom of the press than the US.
Included among the countries ranking as more free than the US are former Communist nations (Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Latvia, and Romania) and third world nations (Jamaica, Costa Rica, Namibia, Cape Verde, Uruguay, Ghana, Belize, Suriname, Antigua and Barbuda, El Salvador, Samoa, Botswana, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, and Papua New Guinea).
Press Secretary Jay Carney said “the Administration has mixed feelings about these results. On the one hand, we are very happy with the kind of relationship we have with this country's media. On the other hand, this ranking does give a negative impression, but at least we are ahead of Russia and China.”
Russia ranked 148th and China 175th in the report. Finland ranked 1st.
Gay Athlete as “Courageous as a Combat Soldier”
The public announcement of Missouri football player Michael Sam that he is gay was lauded as “courageous as a combat soldier” by Paulette Aniskoff, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Public Engagement this past week.
“I'm not saying that our troops aren't brave,” Aniskoff explained. “Sure, they could get shot or blown up, but this happens out of view in some far off land. Michael Sam's gayness is on full public display right here in America. There's no way for him to escape into anonymity.”
Ironically, “anonymity” regarding Sam's sexual orientation is what he sacrificed by his unsolicited announcement. “That's what makes his announcement so heroic,” Aniskoff insisted. “He gave up his privacy in a way that helps advance the President's push to normalize homosexuality. Boys look to athletes as role models. If a high-profile player is gay then it signals to every young man that being gay is okay, even admirable. In the grand scheme of things this accomplishes more than any soldier can achieve just by doing his job, even if he might be killed or wounded in the process.”