Opinion

Obama’s governing by decree must end

Jim Martin & Pat Boone 60 Plus Association

Last week, the president again elected to govern by decree, issuing an executive order to attack the Second Amendment. During his tenure, President Obama has eroded the system of checks and balances by three equal branches of government. Instead, the executive is all-powerful.

Writing laws via executive order is one thing, but when the Obama Administration ignores actual laws passed by Congress and signed by the president – that is a whole new level of hubris. This may not be surprising given the president’s high opinion of himself, but it is no less concerning.

And this is not some abstract debate on bicameralism and presentment. When the process by which laws are debated and codified is weakened, so too are the protections of the most vulnerable in society, such as seniors, who rely on a healthy proscription by government of predatory practices which leave them and their families at risk.

One blatant example of a unilaterally political decision that exposes the vulnerable was made by President Obama’s Justice Department on Christmas Eve in 2011. In a reversal of 50 years of consistent, bipartisan enforcement, the DOJ reinterpreted the Wire Act of 1961 to enable states to move lotteries online. More disturbing, however, was that the DOJ went further, noting that states could now conduct full gambling operations online. With the stroke of a pen, states could establish online casinos that include blackjack, roulette and poker – only sports betting is out of bounds.

This interpretation came at the behest of cash-hungry states looking for new ways to generate revenue, regardless of the cost. These states have been unable to restrain spending or balance budgets. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the President’s home state of Illinois – which has a $6.1 billion budget deficit and more than $100 billion in liabilities – was the first to act. Keep in mind that this is the same state that, just this year, bounced checks to lottery winners.

Delaware, New Jersey, New York and other liberal states were quick to follow.

But, Congress has recently started to take notice. In July, the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance held its first hearing on the DOJ’s hasty decision. The committee expressed concern that online gambling not only violates the 1961 Wire Act, but also the Unlawful Internet Gaming Act of 2006 (UIGEA), which outlaws transmitting or accepting Internet payments in connection with online gambling.

The proliferation of online gambling opens the country’s most vulnerable populations – notably seniors and the young – to scams and potential fraud. Seniors are already a target of online predators, but the administration’s decision opens the floodgates. And, it could potentially take tools out of the hands of law enforcement to find and charge these nefarious actors.

But, this isn’t just a case where the costs outweigh the benefits; this is a case where there are no real benefits. A year and a half after the Obama administration’s decision, it is clear that relaxing online gambling restrictions is not the answer to states looking to improve their budgets, but also not the right way to protect seniors and the young, who are sure to be exploited.

Some Members of Congress, like conservative Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), are pushing Congress in the right direction. “Shame on us if we don’t get something done on this,” she said at the hearing. And Senator Ayotte is right: Congress needs to reassert itself in the legislative and governing process. Standing up for consumers and affirming the Wire Act and UIGEA is the right place to start.

Jim Martin is chairman and founder of the 60 Plus Association. Pat Boone is the Association’s national spokesman.