What Are the President’s Limiting Principles?

by Peter Kirsanow

As the nation awaits the next imperial edict from the White House it’s worth contemplating whether the president recognizes any limiting principles to his ability to make, amend, or nullify the law. It’s also worth considering why the president insists on engaging in mere half-measures on policies he proclaims to be wonderful and beneficial for America.

For example, yesterday the president issued an executive order (probably preempted by the Fair Labor Standards Act, Service Contract Act, Davis-Bacon Act while violating the Walsh-Healey Act) raising the minimum wage for employees of certain federal contractors to $10.10 an hour. He did so, according to the text of the Order, to increase productivity and improve the economy. If a $10.10 minimum wage for a narrow sliver of the workforce will improve the economy, why not raise it to $20.10? Come on, boost it to $50.10 and really get the economy humming. A Mercedes in every garage.

Then there’s Obamacare. The president’s granted so many waivers and extensions completely contrary to the plain text of the statute it’s hard to keep track. He’s ostensibly done so to, among other things, give individuals and businesses time to comply with the law and avoid some of the immediate costs associated with compliance. Again, why stop with Obamacare? Why not extend this year’s income-tax filing deadline to 2017? Give taxpayers more time to comply and adjust to the costs of compliance. It’s the right thing to do.

What about amnesty? Why limit it to children of illegal aliens? Why not grant amnesty to all 11 million illegal aliens? And if, as the president claims, granting amnesty to 11 million illegal immigrants at a time of historic wage stagnation and persistent long-term unemployment is terrific for the economy, shouldn’t we be encouraging millions more to come here illegally? Given the abysmal state of the labor force, the addition of another 30–40 million ought to really spike wage rates and bring us to full employment in nothing flat.

And don’t forget the tremendous kick unemployment benefits give to the economy. As Nancy Pelosi notes, extending unemployment benefits “is one of the best ways to grow the economy in a very immediate way.” Then what’s the delay? The economy’s been in the doldrums for more than five years. If 99 weeks of unemployment didn’t get the job done, 990 weeks surely will. In a very immediate way.

Last week’s CBO report showing that Obamacare will result in the equivalent of 2.5 million fewer jobs because of the law’s “perverse” incentives was really promising, but still not ambitious enough. Although the White House claimed the equivalent of 2.5 million dropping out of the  labor force was a good thing – -indeed, liberating — consider what a boon 10 million more idle Americans would be to our nation. Mr. President, please use your pen and your phone to raise those subsidies and lower the eligibility criteria, thereby ushering in a golden age of leisure and freedom.

A democratic republic will become something other if its elected officials do not take care to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution and faithfully execute the laws. Since the president isn’t doing so, it’s up to members of Congress. Where are they?