Before going ahead, I need to make an upfront disclaimer; I am an avid supporter of Obama's Presidency and am a foreign policy convict of his, who admires his foreign policies' successes like a child who has just been fed Halloween Candy. At the same time, I am a realist regarding Obama's administration shortcoming with respect to his handling of the economy; but hardly at the strength at which Mr. Kerpen has been. For this and other reasons, I believe it is essential that I debate Mr. Kerpen's assessments of Obama's efforts in governance. As I link Mr. Kerpen's assessment with groups that the nation must pay attention to, not because they contribute much to the debate on democracy as they will like to believe; but because of the havoc their selfish holier than thou attitude is doing to this democracy.
Here are some excerpts from Mr. Kerpen's publication that I am taking issues with, a more comprehensive documentation can be found at the link: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/oct/25/the-congress-optional-president/ :
“On Oct. 11, after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had taken extraordinary measures to stall an embarrassing vote as long as possible, the Senate decisively rejected President Obama’s “jobs” plan. The same day, in Pittsburgh, Mr. Obama explained to his union allies that he would move forward regardless. “We’re not gonna wait for Congress,” Mr. Obama explained. “We can act administratively without additional congressional authorization and just get it done.” Now we know that part of what he meant was yet another mortgage bailout – one that will cost bond investors billions – via subsidized refinancing.
This remarkable disregard for the rule of law and proper constitutional procedures fit a familiar pattern in this administration: What it cannot achieve legislatively it will attempt to do by regulatory fiat. Congress must actively assert its legislative prerogative or be relegated to the sidelines.
One year ago, the American people decisively rejected Mr. Obama’s big-government agenda in a landslide election. Surely, most voters thought that election would at least halt, if not reverse, the country’s profound lurch toward a larger, more intrusive and more expensive federal government.
Unfortunately, Mr. Obama has chosen to moderate his rhetoric only somewhat and his actual policies not at all. And Congress, institutionally weakened by decades of delegating legislative power, capped by two massive new grants of regulatory power to the executive branch in Mr. Obama’s health care and financial regulation bills, has thus far proven unwilling – at least on the Senate side – to stand up to him.
Consider that the day after last year’s election, Mr. Obama explained to the press corps that his signature cap-and-trade energy rationing legislation – which cost dozens of House Democrats their seats in Congress and was decisively rejected by the American people – was “one way of skinning the cat; it was not the only way. It was a means, not an end.” He clearly instructed his Environmental Protection Agency to go ahead and act as if the cap-and-trade law had been passed, even writing its emissions abatement schedule into the EPA budget.”
“Even that symbol of Bush-era executive power – the signing statement – has reached a new level of abuse under Mr. Obama. In April, Mr. Obama and House Republican leadership concluded tense negotiations on a funding bill to avert a government shutdown. Part of the deal the president specifically agreed to was language blocking funding for four of the president’s policy advisers – czars, colloquially. Mr. Obama agreed to the language but after the bill’s passage, he used a signing statement to explain that he would simply disregard it. [!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!].
Now our Congress-optional president is moving forward on his latest bailout-and-stimulus scheme without congressional authorization. Enough is enough. Congress must assert its responsibility under Article I, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution. It is Congress, not the president that is vested by the people with legislative power. The Senate must do what the House has repeatedly done and stand up to this administration – or voters must elect a Senate that will.”
To appreciate my discussion of Phil Kerpen's take on President Obama's Administration, it is important to know what stock Mr. Kerpen is made of; and or, where he is coming from with respect to his criticism of Obama’s Administration. Mr. Kerpen is affiliated with the right wing think tank, Americans for Prosperity. Credit for his publication announces him as a Vice President of the think-tank group. He recently published what any objective observer will consider a hatchet job on Obama's Administration, with the title: “Democracy Denied: How Obama is Ignoring You and Bypassing Congress to Radically Transform America – and How to Stop Him”. Like Congressman Paul Ryan, who has chosen to criticize the President of United States for starting a class war by asking, just like Warren Buffet suggested, that the rich pay more of their fair share in taxes, Mr. Kerpen shows a lot of disdain for the welfare of the working class? What makes sense for majority of Americans hardly make sense for Phil Kerpen, like the House Budget Committee Ranking Republican Paul Ryan (WI), since they both share the same maitre: my way or the highway!
Mr. Kerpen criticizes President Obama for by-passing congress, by using executive administrative power in bringing about reprieve for millions of Americans who have their homes under water. What Kerpen fails to appreciate simply is this: without any improvement in the housing market, there is very little change that will take place in the economy and unemployment will continue to remain exasperatingly stubborn! For Mr. Kerpen’s information, when a leader is unable to get the led to buy-in into his proposal, like in the job’s plan bill, the leader takes the initiative to become a catalyst for the change process. Obama wants to bring about change, because of the poor culture of recalcitrance in congress. What is the beef about subsidizing home owners’ mortgage refinance? Is it alright to bail out the banks, finance houses and the insurance companies, but not the masses of Americans with their homes under water? Mr. Kerpen is obviously doing the bidding for the rich and far right; and, this is why his argument here falls shallow or should hardly be taken seriously.
In the opinion of Mr. Kerpen, there is a pattern of disregard for the rule of law and proper constitutional procedures in Obama’s Administration. Unfortunately, he has hardly backed up his assertion, considering that Mr. Kerpen’s assessment is based on a series of innuendoes and not facts. Current Congressional session should long have been relegated to oblivion as it has abdicated its obligation to enact bills that address the welfare of the majority of voters who brought them into office. The complexities that President Obama has faced in effort to pass laws addressing important issues facing majority of Americans have not only been daunting; they have made him resolve to creative means in addressing his administration wishes to make impact on their welfare. Providing a forum of debate for the lackadaisical attitude found in congress, especially among Republicans to scuttle any effort by the Obama’s Administration, is in order; and the President consistent message that If congress won’t act, he will, is not only relevant, it is probably one effort essential to help veterans find jobs and struggling homeowners, begin anew.
In an age of 617 lobbying and influence groups working to undermine the Congressional Super committee’s effort to resolve fiscal issues in our budget, who can blame Obama’s Administration for tuning down its rhetoric regarding effort made to jump start the economy, since congress has failed to act. We have an army of right wing interest groups working hard to undermine the interest of over 90% of Americans, yet Mr. Kerpen expects the President to look away in effecting executive power. Early in President Obama’s Administration, it was more important for the President to extend olive leaf to Republicans in congress to achieve the goal of passing bills. Attempting to find other means for persuading lawmakers to do the right thing for the sake of the people is a sign of leadership in governance. To build commitment among the Americans for an agenda to change the direction of the economy, when congress is so much interested in lobbying groups to do their jobs, is not only important, it is probably the only remaining way to move this country ahead. To criticize the President for showing leadership in the face of adversity is a sign of disloyalty, if not treason.
Mr. Obama came into office when the recession was taking hold of the economy; and, his decisiveness to respond to the turmoil that nearly dragged the auto industry into malaise is not only a master craft in leadership, it is probably one of the acclaimed effort of this administration that has saved the economy from going into another or double dip recession. Just as his cap-and-trade energy legislation has caught the dire of Mr. Kerpen, there are millions of Americans who are very concerned about climate change and the greenhouse effect of carbon-based fuel use expansion that continue to pollute our environment and destabilize the climate regime and ozone layer. The inspiring vision of articulating that there are more than one way to skin a cat, may be offensive and unacceptable for Mr. Kerpen; however, for many Americans who love this country, it is vey compelling. The change anticipated to preserve the environment may not have been achieved due to the failure to pass the cap-and-trade law in congress; however, it does not say that an effort to bring about this law was not relevant and essential, if we are to leave a better climate and environment for succeeding generations of Americans. President Obama’s leadership has been insightful and the resistance to his effort from Congressional Republicans and the far right can only be seen as shameful and uncalled for, if the effort is to bring about needed change in the welfare of Americans.
Communication is an important aspect of leadership. Suspecting the intention and communication aspect of a negotiated plan, hardly seem an effort to rescind negotiated agreements or disregard some aspects of the constitution. If Mr. Kerpen reiterate that Mr. Obama’s negotiations with House Republicans were tense, how are we sure that both parties were on the same page regarding denial of funds for the presidential policy advisers? How would the President agree to undermine his advisers when he actually needs those advisors to make reliable and effective public policy? Agreeing to cut funds to his advisers will be out of character for President Obama, considering and knowing his leadership style since taking office; and, how much his advisers mean to his success. Mr. Kerpen is not in position to know all the communications and negotiations that went on with the President and House Republicans, except he was present at every of their meeting; a claim that seem unlikely. To arrogate to himself the know all and end all stance, regarding a language in a bill agreed to by President Obama actually leaves much to demand. President Obama has not undermined or undercut the democratic process; rather, he has made all efforts to work within the system. Congress passes bills into law and the President signs it. The President is not obligated to negotiate provisions in a law; although he can veto parts of the provisions in a law or the totality of the law. To turn around to say the President renege on a negotiated promise in a bill about to be passed in congress, is despicable and unwarranted.
In an era of winding social and income inequality, critics expect President Obama to refuse to exercise the little option available to the executive branch to make a difference in the lives of Americans. Mr. Kerpen, being one of such critics, does not see the essence of the President moving on the bail out and stimulus scheme without congressional approval. This is rather sad, considering what has been going on in congress since Obama took office. Mr. Kerpen is probably in the group of Republicans who want Obama to be a one term President. The two laudable actions taken by Obama, the mortgage refinance opportunity for home owners about to lose their home and those who are already under water, and the student loan relief and refinance advancement, are criticized as an overstepping of the Presidential power by the executive branch. This is probably one reason for the venom from Mr. Kerpen that: “Congress must assert its responsibility under Article I, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution. It is Congress, not the president that is vested by the people with legislative power. The Senate must do what the House has repeatedly done and stand up to this administration – or voters must elect a Senate that will”. What else does this wing nut expect, when the average undergraduate debt after graduation is hovering around twenty-five thousand dollars for in-state tuition?
There are probably two ways to address the winding wealth and income inequality among Americans: 1) Meritocracy, where every man is for himself and God for us all or, you either swim or you sink doctrine; 2) Income or wealth redistribution, through taxation or public policies that address the winding gap in income between the haves and have-nots. Neither of these two options is perfect; however, to ignore both in light of the current challenges to Obama’s Administration from congress must be considered a dereliction of duties on the part of the President. The fact that the President has taken the change initiatives, doing all he could through executive fiat and calling on the rich to do more to help the nation get over the current hump, is very laudable and appreciated by many who are perceiving this country as going down the tube due to the recalcitrance of House Republicans and some US Republican Senators. What Obama has done recently increases the probability that some of the headaches in the economy can be addressed; and, his effort to do all in his power to bring about change in the welfare of Americans, further opens up conversations regarding the social and income inequality gap in America.
The Occupy-the-Wall-Street Groups are saying so much by their commitment to shine lights on those issues that are making lives unbearable for millions of Americans, including students with huge college loan problems. It is true that a robust change cannot be effected in some of the programs that the President has initiated through executive power to bring about relief in the sufferings of the 99% that is crying for help in the face of congressional Republican tyranny. The biggest error in Mr. Kerpen’s assessment of President Obama’s leadership as seen in the above excerpts is that, he continues to overlook the dire circumstance that millions of American households are forced to live; many people have lost their jobs and their homes and there is virtually nowhere to turn. It is important that their President take initiatives to forestall further sufferings and the going under of many more Americans, due to the failure of Wall Street and the effrontery of the right wing, to demand: my way or the highway! Mr. Kerpen may be tough minded or just mischievous; however, his current assessment of Obama’s leadership is completely in error and totally uncalled for. The truth of the matter is, President Obama is playing the political game based on the cards dealt to him by the House Republicans and extreme right wing thinkers like Mr. Kerpen. To repeat the White House catchphrase of the day, "We can't wait!" We can’t wait for right wingers like Mr. Kerpen to hold their breath as the nation attempts to find its way out of this puzzle!! We can't wait for naysayers to hold water in their mouth before it freezes over!!! Need I say more?