Via Conn Carroll and Twitchy, the key bit comes at 1:10:45 below. Look at it from O’s perspective: If you’re going to steal lawmaking power from Congress on an important issue like immigration, why wouldn’t you also steal power on an issue like taxes that’s at the very core of the liberal agenda? Not only have Republicans in Congress failed to stop his earlier power grabs, they’ve actively humiliated themselves in trying. It’s pure win for the White House. And success, as the saying goes, breeds success.
It’ll be nice, though, to have a Democratic-endorsed precedent like this authorizing executive power grabs for taxes on the books for when President Walker takes office in 2017. Now that we’ve entered an era of soft autocracy, we might as well start making a Christmas list of presidential orders to override Congress of our own. Top of mine: De facto flat income tax rate of 15 percent. If the legislature doesn’t like it, good luck passing a bill and then overriding a White House veto.
“The president certainly has not indicated any reticence in using his executive authority to try and advance an agenda that benefits middle class Americans,” Earnest said in response to a question about Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) calling on Obama to raise more than $100 billion in [corporate] taxes through IRS executive action.
“Now I don’t want to leave you with the impression that there is some imminent announcement, there is not, at least that I know of,” Earnest continued. “But the president has asked his team to examine the array of executive authorities that are available to him to try to make progress on his goals. So I am not in a position to talk in any detail at this point, but the president is very interested in this avenue generally,” Earnest finished.
All Obama power grabs have several things in common. One, of course, is that he thinks the public will side with him on the merits. It’s not true that O sees fewer limits on his power these days; it’s more accurate to say that he sees fewer legal limits while still respecting the political limits that popular opinion imposes on him. If there’s any sort of tax hike that could and should be done by executive order to advance the Democratic agenda, it’s an order to raise extra money from the middle class, where the real money is among the electorate. That’s basically impossible for Congress to pass but not so impossible for a lame-duck president. O would never do it, though, despite his thirst for more revenue. It’d damage his legacy and potentially hurt his party if voters held the lame duck’s actions against Democrats. Only corporate tax revenue is politically safe, so that’s what Obama will stick to.
Another hallmark of O’s executive overreaches is that they always start slowly, with lots of uncertainty like you hear from Earnest here, just so that the White House can point back to their hesitance later when they’re accused of taking separation of powers lightly. O’s executive amnesty was famously preceded by 22 different statements from the man himself that his power as president to change the law unilaterally was circumscribed. Only after 18 months of congressional stalemate on comprehensive immigration reform did Obama realize that, you know what, he has the power to rewrite the law after all. Same deal with executive action to close loopholes in the corporate tax code: Earnest’s been flirting with that idea from the podium for at least six months but remains noncommittal. That’s because even when Obama ends up on the other side of an issue from his base/the media, he strives to be seen as cautious, deliberative, and conscientious about his position. It buys him enormous amounts of leeway with the ruling class whether he’s taking a dump on Congress’s constitutional lawmaking power or defending dropping bombs on people in Pakistan because their movements kinda sorta look terrorist-y from 10,000 feet above. It’s one thing to grab power from another branch impetuously, but to do it “reluctantly,” after careful consideration of all the angles? That’s just sound intellectual presidentin’ there.
And the third hallmark of Obama power grabs is the inevitable, egregious Democratic cheerleading from the branch that’s supposed to be checking the executive, up to and including obsequious appeals from left-wing lawmakers for Obama to seize more power from Congress for the common good. The reporter in the clip mentions Bernie Sanders pleading with Obama to blow up the gridlock in Congress that voters have created by issuing his own orders on corporate taxes. Six months ago, Elizabeth Warren, Dick Durbin, and Jack Reed sent a similar letter to O. When a legislature passes an enabling act, they’re at least following a simulacrum of democratic process. Nowadays, Democrats don’t even bother with that. On more and more of their pet issues, they want Obama to pretend that he has enabling power by dint of gridlock itself.
All that said, this is actually good news. The more Obama abuses his authority, the more seriously I suspect the five conservatives on the Supreme Court will take that amnesty lawsuit that’s trickling its way up through the Fifth Circuit. The further rogue Obama goes, the more pressure the Court’s majority may feel to wade into this and pull him back. Here’s hoping, because lord knows Congress won’t do anything to stop him.