Payback can be ugly. The free-for-all in Washington has been over for nearly a year, and the strain on the president is showing. With guaranteed approval of spending bills a thing of the past, the White House is compensating by grabbing all the power it can, passing executive orders, seizing authority, and wielding the Justice Department like a club over states that refuse to step in line with administration policy. What will the president do if his plan to spend on public sector jobs continues to languish on the sidelines? Will we see a White House national jobs emergency?
It was easy to spread the cash around when a Democratic Congress effortlessly handed over billions for infrastructure, teachers, and first responders. The president has his back against the wall now and needs to be creative, given his lack of appropriation and legislative powers. “We Can’t Wait” is creating heaps of publicity for the Obama campaign. The list of interventions is growing, and already boasts White House actions on student loans, underwater mortgages, hard-to-find pharmaceuticals, and illegal immigrants.
Do we need to be concerned about how frustrated our president has become, and to what lengths he is willing to go to fulfill his agenda? His pronouncements are sounding more and more like threats. Consider these remarks made at a Halloween signing ceremony for his drug shortage order:
Now is not the time to abandon these proven pro-growth policies. Actions have consequences, and so does inaction.
Congress has been trying since February to do something about this. It has not yet been able to get it done. And it is the belief of this administration, as well as folks like Bonnie and Jay, that we can’t wait for action on the Hill — we’ve got to go ahead and move forward.1
His pre-Halloween address last Saturday morning warned Americans what will happen if the economy refuses to comply with White House demands to create jobs:
But, listen, we’re not going to wait, though. We’re not waiting for Congress. Last month, when I addressed a joint session of Congress about our jobs crisis, I said I intend to do everything in my power right now to act on behalf of the American people — with or without Congress.2
A president’s powers include declaring a state of national emergency, something Barack Obama is already familiar with after the preemptive 2009 declaration over swine flu. Harry Truman attempted to seize the steel industry because of a national emergency in 1952. Other presidents have passed wage and price controls and fired air traffic controllers en masse. Turning the public sector downturn into a national jobs emergency may have already crossed the president’s mind:
We’re in a national emergency. We’ve had — we’ve been grappling with a crisis for three years, and instead of getting folks to rise up above partisanship in a spirit that says we’re all in this together, you got folks who are purposely dividing — purposely — thinking just in terms of how does this play out in terms of this election?3
While the president will have problems finding a way to pay for public sector jobs, we have already been warned about the impact of teacher and first responder layoffs. Will growing White House “We Can’t Wait’ charges of congressional inaction justify a move to keep public sector workers on the job? Given the administration’s zeal for interfering with states that do not see eye to eye with the president, can Barack Obama find a way to nationalize the public sector workforce under the guise of ensuring that services are delivered during a national jobs emergency?
Even if a White House effort to fund a jobs emergency fails, just think of the press releases and media coverage that would result from a presidential move to ensure that our education system does not collapse and that criminals do not run rampant through our streets. White House charges that “Republicans Fail to Act During National Emergency” against a backdrop of Occupy Wall Street tent cities may be the next Obama administration ploy to retain public support.