If Congress wants him to stay within his constitutional boundaries, our philosopher-king reasons, they should enact his preferred policies themselves. Obama told ABC, “I am not going to apologize for trying to do something, while they’re doing nothing.”
Or as he put it in his weekly radio address Saturday, “[I]f it makes Republicans in Congress mad that I’m trying to help people out, they can join me, and we’ll do it together.”
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the kind of deep thought that qualifies one to teach constitutional law at the University of Chicago. Government overreach is just another word for the things we do together.
Unfortunately, the urge to do something so often trumps the niceties of constitutional law and limits on federal power. Republicans aren’t sticklers for these details when their party is in the White House either.
But it might help to point out that the people the president wants to help out often look very different from the struggling middle-class families he so often invokes. Occupy Wall Street might not realize it, but big government is the 1 percent.
The president says he is tough on Wall Street. But he supported the $700 billion bank bailout and remains wedded to the “too big to fail” status quo that leads to such expenditures.
Obama and his supporters boast of bailing out General Motors. “Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive,” Vice President Joe Biden crowed at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
Biden’s speech was delivered before General Motors began recalling 20 million vehicles a year and jihadists started recalling much of Libya and Iraq.
Obamacare is supposed to be tough on health insurance companies. But the federal health care law mandates and subsidizes the purchase of their product. The administration is ready to bail them out at taxpayer expense. There’s a reason pharmaceutical companies spent so liberally trying to help pass Obamacare.
The Obama administration is currently stumping for Export-Import Bank reauthorization. The biggest beneficiaries of Ex-Im are Boeing, General Electric, Caterpillar and Bechtel.
I thought, according to the president, “our economy doesn’t grow from the top-down, it grows from the middle-out?” Or that, “Rather than stack the decks in favor of those who’ve already succeeded, let’s realize that we are stronger as a nation when we offer a fair shot to every American.”
That’s why seemingly boring and obscure issues like the Export-Import Bank matter and arcane ideas like free-market or libertarian populism can help.
Like many Democrats, Obama presents his agenda as fighting big business and the super-rich to protect the economic interests of ordinary people. He wants to fight a “system rigged for those at the top, and rigged against the middle class” while Republicans just want to dole out tax breaks for millionaires.
What if the public saw how even liberal policies can actually contribute to the system being rigged for those at the top? And not just the incidental compromises the president must make to govern, but policies that define his administration, like Obamacare and cap and trade?
You can certainly find businesses and rich people who have opposed these policies, just as you can find middle-class people who now have health insurance through Obamacare. But big government can also make the rich richer, a part of the story that is less frequently told. Big government and big business sometimes have a relationship that is more incestuous than adversarial.
This extends even beyond subsidies that obviously constitute corporate welfare. There is a reason some businesses support a higher minimum wage — including some pretty big businesses — while their cash-strapped competitors don’t.
Such a revelation — combined with tax relief that more clearly benefits working families — might not revolutionize American politics. But it could certainly flip the usual script. Making government bigger is not necessarily about helping the little guy.
If Obama is a foe of big business, then Pope Francis is a Zen Buddhist.
W. James Antle III is the editor of The Daily Caller News Foundation and author of the book Devouring Freedom: Can Big Government Ever Be Stopped? Follow him on Twitter.