“Change This Law!” “OK” “You’re Not Allowed to Change It!”

GOP members of the House are planning to sue President Obama for his decision to delay enforcement of the employer mandate in the ACA for a year. 

I don’t understand this. I don’t see how it makes sense on legal, political, or governmental grounds. 

Legally, doesn’t one have to have standing to sue? Wouldn’t you have to be a business owner who was somehow harmed by this change, or maybe a private insurer harmed by the lessened requirements? And then, what are they suing for? Monetary damages? An injunction? Reinstatement of the requirement? And why sue? If he’s done something outside of the bounds of the President’s authority, isn’t that sufficient grounds to impeach Obama? Surely, if lying about having an affair (something that has absolutely nothing to do with governance), is good enough to justify impeachment, violating the Constitution and usurping legislative authority would be sufficient cause?

Politically, there are two obvious problems with this.

First, the GOP is suing to reinstate something they don’t want, which is part of something else they really don’t want. I’m not sure the political calculus on this. Maybe they want the ACA to be as onerous as possible, so they can point at it and say “see? look at how awful the Dems’ ideas are!” But that’s quite a balancing act: they’re counting on people to blame the party that enacted the law but was willing to recognize a problem and modify it, and not blame the party that reinstated the problem part of the law that they’re busy pointing at and telling us is horrible.  

Second, one of the big arguments of the GOP is that “activist judges” are ruining America by overreaching the judicial role and imposing their will on the other branches of government. So they need to thread the needle of arguing that a judge should overrule the President, who enacted a clearly populist measure which hasn’t been challenged by the people in any significant numbers, in order to re-enact a very unpopular measure, while arguing that in this case it’s not “judicial activism” even though the people’s representatives had previously tried to enact exactly the same measure, claiming that it was what people wanted.  

Governmentally, their argument is about the balance of power between the branches of government. As previously mentioned, they need to argue that a judge intervening in this case is different from a judge intervening in other cases. There clearly are differences, of course, but that doesn’t make it an easy explanation, and it’s not clear that the differences are germane. They also need to make an argument that this particular executive order is somehow illegal, while continuing their argument that executive orders in general are just fine (because otherwise W’s record comes up, and/or they hamstring a future GOP President with a Dem congress. Not to mention, they need to do all this without anyone bringing up the “unitary executive” theory that they only recently supported. And they need to explain how an executive order that modifies a law is different than a signing statement that modifies a law. And, finally, they need to explain why neither enacting a law to overrule the executive order—something that has been done in the past—nor impeachment are possible solutions to this problem. 

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Where are the Facts?!

I’m listening to the Presidential debate, and I keep waiting for, you know, some facts to turn up. I expected Romney to dodge the details: “I’ll cut healthcare costs, guarantee people get coverage, and do it without the federal government, because the states can handle it better.” And so on. But I was surprised at the degree to which Obama didn’t rebut him with facts.

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Dear Mr. President:

During the campaign, you said you would literally stand—or walk—with workers if their rights were jeopardized. Corporations, with the collusion of politicians, have been nibbling away at the ability of the average American to even survive, much less thrive, for decades. And now Republicans across the country have decided to stop nibbling around the edges and attack the very concept of workers having any say whatsoever in their lives. Where are you? I don’t expect you to walk a picket line, but I do expect you to make a proud, unequivocal statement of support. I expect you to stand with the likes of Kucinich and Feingold and the late Wellstone and say “corporations are not valuable in and of themselves; they are merely a means to an end. That end is making goods, providing services, and providing a living for their employees, the people that make up this country. ”

You are already taking the blame for siding with the workers; nothing you can do will earn greater conservative support or lessen GOP criticism. So, do what you will be tarred with anyway and stand with the workers, loudly and clearly. Earn the support of the working people of this country — who are, after all, 80+% of the populace.

By taking a public stance against corporate influence, you can reshape this debate, and remind people that public and private workers aren’t enemies, but allies in the struggle to take our country back.

Please show us that Democrats really are different than Republicans.

Obama Fudd

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, double shame on you. Fool me three times—ok, you got me that time, but that’s the last time. Fool me four times—wow, i really thought you meant it this time. Fool my five times—ok, now I’m starting to think you’re doing it on purpose. Fool me six times…

In principle, I’m all for taking the high road, and trying to inculcate a better environment in politics. But at some point, when the folks you’re trying to work with continually fail to come through with their half, you’ve just got to recognize that compromise isn’t possible. What particularly baffles me about Obama’s behavior is that the Republicans aren’t even trying to fool him, as near as I can tell. It’s not like they’re doing a Bugs Bunny routine, and are so clever and quick-tongued that they’re tricking Obama with subtle stances or bait-n-switch positions. They’re more like the Tasmanian Devil, with all the subtlety and fury (and careful consideration) of a tornado, bent on destroying every piece of government that they can, and making no secret of it.

Obama’s no dummy, so is he just too much of an idealist? Does he think that he’s currying favor with the electorate by failing to get things done? Doesn’t he realize that passing half-assed bills in an effort to appease the GOP risks creating legislation that is destined to fail, and taints the actual idea at its core, when going all-out might have resulted in something that actually made a huge difference? He ends up pleasing no one, which is worse than pleasing half the people.

The noises I hear coming from the right are a lot less like “we’re interested in working with you, if you’ll meet us halfway” and a lot more like “our way or the highway”. When his political opponents repeatedly and consistently say “sure, let’s compromise: we’ll do it our way”, what makes Obama think there’s room for compromise? And when they repeatedly and consistently make it clear that they’d rather nothing got done than something that they don’t like got done, why even try to work with them? For that matter, we’re talking about a political party that would rather prevent even a policy they originally proposed from being enacted, if they think their opponents might somehow benefit from the enacting.

To quote Free To Be…You and Me: Some kind of help is the kind of help we all can do without. It may be too late now, with a divided Congress, but I don’t understand why, after a couple months of disruption, Obama and the Democrats didn’t just say, “Fine, you’re not interested in helping us, we’ll just do our own thing,” have the courage of their convictions, and pass the bills they wanted.

Compromise in a Two-Party System, or, How to Lose Elections

What’s the Matter with Kansas?, by Thomas Frank, is a book that I’ve known the gist of probably since it came out: more and more people in this country have been voting into power politicians with a track record of policies against these voters’ own interests; why is this? And, as I understood from the interviews, etc., at the time of the book’s release, the author’s assertion is that, sometime in the 80s, a large faction of social conservatives started voting based on social, rather than economic, issues. OK, that makes sense, as far as it goes. But, leading up to the 2010 election, I decided I should read the book for myself, so I could understand and judge the arguments myself. So far—i’m 2/3rds done—I’m impressed with the research in the book. And he makes a very detailed examination of the people voting along social-values lines, how they do and don’t fit with traditional conservative voters, and how not-particularly-socially-conservative politicians have co-opted these voters. This last part is something I hadn’t really been aware of, prior to reading this book: he gives numerous examples of politicians not merely failing to pass their constituents’ social “reforms” into law, but not even trying.
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