What would Jesus do?

Fiscal Conservatism 107

In this article, I want to explain why President Obama is wrong to take the law into his own hands, bypassing Congress, and make changes using his "executive orders."

"The rule of law" is an important idea in a democracy. No one is supposed to be above the law. We have a fair and impartial (although not perfect) judicial system to deal with disagreements and if everyone thought the system was corrupt or dysfunctional, anarchy would be the result and our society would collape (including all the beautiful "free markets" we had setup to make it run efficiently.)

So everyone should support lawful behavior, our process for changing laws, and making sure that our leaders live by the laws our society creates.

If someone vehemently disagrees with a law, they have the option of risking arrest by civil disobedience. But this action would not be appropriate, say, for police officers. If they decide to stop arresting people committing crimes because they personally disagreed with the underlying law, they should be fired and we should hire officers who will enforce the law.

Likewise, if President Obama personally disagrees with a law, he is free to resign his executive post and do what he wants as an individual. "Civil disobedience" is not an option for him as Chief Executive.

So why is Obama flouting the law with his executive orders? And why are Democrats in Congress and Obama supporters across the land not livid at his unilateral actions?

Clearly they support his intent, but frankly that is not good enough. This short-term thinking not only affects all of the rest of us with respect to following laws, but it also structurally harms our separation of powers in our society. If Obama can get away with this, what is next?

What is wrong legally with Obama's executive orders is explained very well in a Breitbart article (link below). In short, executive orders are meant to provide the President with the means to carry out the law, not to circumvent it, change it, or create new laws.

I want to explore why our Chief Executive could take such actions outside the Constitution and not have very strong pushback from all the people and all of Congress, not just the Republicans.

Obama rationalized his use of executive actions by saying that Congress is being obstructionist, isn't carrying out the will of the people, and that his supporters deserve action based on his own election as President. In this view, he is assuming that his supporters fully support whatever it is he wishes to do. For example, if he believes in open borders, he was elected President and therefore has a mandate to pursue that objective. If Congress won't play ball, he will work around them to achieve these goals. His mandate was presumed by his election and re-election, and "elections have consequences."

As a country, we try to setup rules that reflect what the majority of the country wants, and we do this through our complicated political system. Your support for (say) minimum wages might somehow translate into a Congress that passes minimum wage increases, but following your vote to that outcome is impossible. There are millions upon millions of votes that go into that result. We have hundreds of candidates, we have legal precedent, we have past laws that may conflict with proposed changes, and we have political compromises that occur.


Complicating this is the idea that you vote for a candidate and not every belief or position that candidate holds. Let's say Jesus Christ were to make his reappearance and run for President, and he were to get the vote of every Christian in the country. (I suspect there would also be a lot of converts if his reappearance was sufficiently spectacular.) But unbeknownst to the electorate, Jesus was not fond of the speed of modern travel. It scared and frightened him. So he decided to set the national driving speed limit at 20 miles per hour. He did this not by pushing such a change through Congress but by executive order.

No one in Congress supported this change (although the Christian members didn't say much in opposition), and polls showed the public overwhelmingly opposed, but Jesus had a pen and a phone and he made it happened by executive order. States were forced to comply under duress with the threat of withholding of federal highway funds. Kids were encouraged to call "911" on their cell phones if their parents' speedometer exceeded the new limit. Radar and street video were installed everywhere to make sure no one exceeded the new limit, or there would be escalating fines and then imprisonment.

When Congress raised objections, Jesus would often say "So sue me," as he traveled around the country trying to drum up popular support for his unilateral actions.

He realized that by the time Congress got around to actually doing anything, all the automakers would be out of business, highways would be reconverted to farmland, and thousands of lives would be saved. Essentially, his unilateral action would be all-but-irreversible.

Of course, Jesus would have some supporters who believed in this goal with him. Maybe some of the saints and apostles also reappeared on earth after thousands of years, and they felt the same way. Plus there would be plenty of evidence (overwhelming evidence, not even subjct to debate) that these lower speeds saved thousands of lives per year and caused far fewer serious injuries. Now that the public was paying for healthcare (Thank You, President Obama), this was also a strong financial incentive.

Under this policy, our country would also achieve full energy independence. And even though a 20-mph speed limit greatly reduced carbon emissions, the "climate change" lobby was pushing for still more reductions to prevent all the near-term calamaties they predicted.

Most people accept a few thousand roadway deaths a year as the price of modern travel, of getting goods and services efficiently across the country, and the freedom citizens have to assume risk. Otherwise, we would ban all dangerous activity (and I'd start with football.)

But Jesus loves everyone so even one unnecessary death per year is too many. So by executive order, the speed limit goes down to 20 mph all across the country and nobody is happy about it except for 13 guys and Mary Magdalene. (And John Podesta, who was brought on to help expand Presidential authority under the savior.)

Keep in mind that in this example, Jesus is absolutely convinced he is right. He has lots of evidence to backup his belief, evidence that everyone agrees with. And he could probably commission a poll or two that would be sufficiently ambiguous that he could claim some popular support. ("Do you favor having thousands of people die a needless death, and millions of accidents that cost billions of dollars in health care that you have to pay for, or not?")

Supporters of the law could argue that the electorate had voted for this since they overwhelmingly supported Jesus for President. Surely they knew...or should have known...about his position on the speed limit. He never lied or hid his concerns. (Perhaps they would have gotten a clue when Jesus was on the campaign trail riding a donkey?)

So it is false to say that when a candidate gets elected, voters automatically support whatever his position is on every issue. And therefore President Obama does not have a mandate to pursue his own personal goals, even if he clearly articulated them on the campaign trail.

Now President Obama is certainly free to bring up any law he wishes to create, change, or cancel, but he does so in a democracy in which he has a certain role to play. He is not our King, he is not Jesus Christ, he does not get to make all the decisions. We have a Congress that has also been elected by the people and their role is to offer a check and balance to Obama's power. Obama is charged with approving the laws, vetoing proposed laws (which can be overriden by Congress), and enforcing the laws. Creating laws or eliminating laws are specifically not within his power.

Breitbart has a good piece on why Obama's flurry of executive orders are unconstitional. See http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2014/08/04/The-Truth-About-Obama....

What I find disturbing is not only that President Obama is doing this, but he is doing so with the approval and support of the Democrats in the Senate. They are allowing this to happen. And the media seems fine with it too, as if this is a natural outgrowth of his election and besides, he is issuing fewer executive orders than former-president Bush, the evil one. But clearly, what Obama is doing is much different than what his predecessors did.

Conservatives suspect that the media know this is different but are focusing on the red herring of "how many executive orders" as if this is the fundamental issue, which it clearly is not.

Why aren't the Democratic Senators more concerned with following the Constitution, with upholding Congress' rights as a separate but equal branch of government, with following the rule of law, and with setting bad precedents that could be used for further abuses in the future?

Maybe our political leaders "live for the day" and only care about winning and not these esoteric concerns like political balance or checks and balances. Surely Senators who have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution should be much more concerned than the average citizen or liberal media reporter? (See https://www.senate.gov/reference/reference_index_subjects/Oath_vrd.htm).

Or perhaps it is something different. Perhaps the Democratic Senators really do believe that President Obama is the messiah, despite six years of perfectly clear evidence (at least to most of us) that he is not.

NEXT: The right not to buy: http://www.actonforum.com/blogs/allenn/why-not-let-government-do-it

Previous articles in this series:

PART ONE (Introduction): http://www.actonforum.com/blogs/allenn/political-philosophy-fiscal-conse...

PART TWO: http://www.actonforum.com/blogs/allenn/free-100-bills

PART THREE: http://www.actonforum.com/blogs/allenn/mountain-full-donkeys

PART FOUR: http://www.actonforum.com/blogs/allenn/you-didnt-build-those-cabins

PART FIVE: http://www.actonforum.com/blogs/allenn/jack-kemp-american-hero

PART SIX: http://www.actonforum.com/blogs/allenn/what-socialism-and-why-it-so-bad

PART SEVEN: http://www.actonforum.com/blogs/allenn/rich-versus-poor

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