Jason Richwine explains how Obama’s new overtime regulations don’t amount to much of anything policywise. In other words, this is yet another example of Obama sounding like he’s doing really important things unilaterally but in reality he’s just moving some paper around. I wrote about this a while back in a column on Obama’s incredible shrinking imperial presidency:
Some of his unilateral actions are a bigger deal, of course. The Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to treat carbon dioxide as a “pollutant” is an outrageous expansion of executive power. But Obama doesn’t tout that as a bullet point; he let the EPA take the political heat for that decision a while ago. His multiple unilateral revisions to Obamacare run the gamut from desperate tinkering to outright lawlessness. But flop-sweat panic to compensate for executive incompetence and to fend off a rout in the midterms doesn’t exactly project presidential boldness either.
The “Year of Action” should actually be seen as a replay of President Clinton’s small-ball comeback after the 1994 midterms. Clinton picked micro-initiatives — school uniforms, the V-chip, etc. — that poll-tested well but amounted to very little in terms of policy. The clever twist Obama is putting on his micro-agenda is doing it in a way that successfully baits opponents into making the case that he’s more powerful and relevant than he really is.
Basically, I think the rule of thumb during this “Year of Action” should be this: If Obama says a decision of his is a small adjustment or some form of technocratic good government (such as, say, delaying the health mandate), assume he is hiding something significant. But if he goes around talking about how he’s doing something hugely significant and dramatic for the American people (raising the minimum wage for new federal contracts etc), assume it’s a poll-tested pissant policy designed solely for political gain.