President Humpty Dumpty
Posted in the Chicago Forum
#1 Aug 7, 2014
President Humpty Dumpty
Obama meant to make the anarchic mess we have.
6 August 2014
Anyone who believes the talk about how Barack Obama is already a lame-duck president, detached and irrelevant, is deluding himself. President Obama has accomplished more or less what he set out to accomplish. He has made himself the most consequential and transformative president since Lyndon Johnson. His foreign policy has been more systematically destructive of the world order and American power than LBJís Vietnam War. His wrong-headed domestic policy has proved more catastrophic and intentionally hard to correct than Johnsonís madcap War on Poverty, whose consequences still bedevil our society.
On the domestic front, Obama has overturned American health care, one-sixth of the nationís economy and an industry that affects everyone. True, Obamacare is a mess, but it has destroyed the existing health-insurance system, and it will take the next administration, along with the health and insurance industries, a long time both to figure out what a crazy tangle Obamacare has created and then to untangle the confusion, some of it intentional, some inadvertent. Do we want employer-funded health insurance? Mutual insurance companies? An individual tax deduction for health-insurance premiums? Catastrophic care coverage? National rather than state-regulated insurance companies? What do we do about those with pre-existing conditions? What do we do with those supposedly ďcoveredĒ by Obamacare? Obama has preempted the option of a slow, Burkean evolution to a better and more rational arrangement from the employer-paid system that grew half-accidentally out of World War II price controls. Now we have anarchy, and it will require leadership and vision beyond what America usually can call upon to hose out Obamaís Augean stables and create order.
Meanwhile, the president has overturned the Constitution to keep his command-and-control health-insurance scheme alive. The law that Congress wrote (but didnít read, under the shameless leadership of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi) turned out to be, as was inevitable, filled with holes and errors. No matter: a presidential edict a day keeps collapse away. But the Constitution doesnít allow for government by executive edict. Thatís for monarchy or dictatorship. Nevertheless, after such an example, it will take us some time to reestablish the principle that the presidentís duty is to see that the laws are faithfully executed, and that his power doesnít go beyond thatódoesnít extend, for example, to abolishing our national border.
Now that the days of Henry Clay, John Calhoun, and Daniel Websterónot to mention Sam Ervinóare almost mythical memories, we live in the less lofty era of Elizabeth Warren and Charlie Rangel, and under the shadow of the 1974 Budget Act, by which the House of Representatives threw away its power of the purse, weakening the Madisonian machinery of checks and balances. As a result, we have a presidency more imperial than Richard Nixon would have dared imagine, and it will take time to restore something resembling our constitutional order. History will remember Reid and Pelosi as being nearly as important as Clay or Calhounóbut with a completely different valuation, diminishing the power and prestige of their institutions by abusing them, like Joe McCarthy or Martin Dies. And if the administrative state conceived in the Progressive Era, and brought to fruition by the New Deal, intentionally overturned the Founding Fathersí constitutional order,
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