Bypassing the checks and balances imposed by America’s founders, the executive branch has come to new heights of power.
Historians may look back on Jan. 14, 2014, as a tipping point in American history. On that day, President Barack Obama urged his cabinet to help him identify ways to advance economic recovery by circumventing the legislature.
“We’re not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we’re providing Americans the kind of help they need,” the president told reporters before his cabinet meeting. “I’ve got a pen, and I’ve got a phone. And I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions and administrative actions that move the ball forward in helping to make sure our kids are getting the best education possible, making sure that our businesses are getting the kind of support and help they need to grow and advance, to make sure that people are getting the skills that they need to get those jobs that our businesses are creating.”
No president since World War ii has openly justified executive overreach by saying that it was necessary to circumvent legislatures because they refused to do what he wanted!
In saying this, President Obama was articulating the philosophy that has increasingly defined his presidency: I can’t wait for Congress to do its job, so where it won’t act, I will.
Two weeks later, during his State of the Union address, President Obama notified both houses of Congress of his decision to go it alone in areas where they refused to act to his satisfaction. One would think an announcement in such blatant violation of America’s tripartite system of checks and balances would elicit an outcry, or at least stunned silence. Instead, the floor of the House of Representatives erupted in thunderous applause. It really looked like America’s lawmakers were delighted at the notion of a president usurping unprecedented and unchecked powers at their expense.
Georgetown law professor Jonathan Turley, a political liberal, was one of the few legal minds at the time warning of the danger behind this executive power grab. “The system of separation of powers was not created to protect the authority of each branch for its own sake,” he wrote in a Los Angles Times editorial. “Rather, it is the primary protection of individual rights because it prevents the concentration of power in any one branch. In this sense, Obama is not simply posing a danger to the constitutional system; he has become the very danger that separation of powers was designed to avoid” (March 9, 2014).
In the same editorial, Turley warned: “The United States is at a constitutional tipping point: the rise of an über-presidency unchecked by the other two branches.” America has moved into a dangerous era where the only constraints on presidential power are no longer constitutional—merely political.
Expanding Executive Privilege
As president, Mr. Obama has modified and ignored various provisions of the Affordable Care Act with barely a pretense of legality. He has launched a military campaign in Libya without congressional approval. He has appointed “czars” as a means to evade the constitutional requirement that the Senate confirm high-level government officials. He has asserted the right to kill American citizens without due process if a “high-level official” says they pose an imminent threat to the nation.
When confronted in 2014 about his record of executive overreach, the president taunted his critics: “Middle-class families can’t wait for Republicans in Congress to do stuff. So sue me.”
Apologists for the Obama administration will claim this executive action was no different from previous executive actions enacted by former U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. What they fail to notice is that both Reagan and Bush were instructing the executive branch to enforce somewhat ambiguous aspects of immigration law that had already been passed by Congress. President Obama’s action was truly historic in that Congress had already declined to pass an immigration reform bill. As he himself admitted, his executive order truly did take “an action to change the law.”
Under the U.S. Constitution, Congress writes laws, the court interprets laws, and the president enforces those laws. Executive action is not illegal as long as it falls within the parameters of enforcing laws already passed by the legislature. Creating new law via executive fiat, however, is the very definition of an imperial presidency!
Sprawling Bureaucratic State
The president’s power to direct the executive branch to take legislative action is even more worrying when you realize how big, and dangerously off kilter, the executive branch has become over the last century. When certain U.S. presidents in the pre-World War ii progressive era tried to circumvent Congress, they had nowhere near the executive power at their disposal that President Obama has today.
Today, there are about 30,000 federal employees in the legislature branch, 32,000 staff members in the judicial branch and an astounding 2,618,000 non-military workers in the executive branch.
While the country’s population has increased about 80-fold in the past two centuries, the size of the executive branch has exploded to almost 3,000 times its original size. In 1790, there were about 1,000 non-military workers in the executive branch. Today, there are well over 2 million non-military civil servants in the executive branch—spread across 15 departments, 69 agencies and 383 non-military subcommittees!
“The growing dominance of the federal government over the states has obscured more fundamental changes within the federal government itself,” wrote Turley in a Washington Post editorial. “It is not just bigger, it is dangerously off kilter. Our carefully constructed system of checks and balances is being negated by the rise of a fourth branch, an administrative state of sprawling departments and agencies that govern with increasing autonomy and decreasing transparency” (March 24, 2013).
This so-called fourth branch of government now has a larger impact on American citizens than the other three branches combined.
The legislative branch no longer issues the vast majority of “laws” governing the United States. Instead, these “laws” are issued as “regulations” crafted by thousands of unelected, unreachable bureaucrats.
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Constitutional Tipping Point
Under the current presidential administration, Congress has been reduced to an almost decorative element of America’s government. The erosion of the U.S. Constitution hasn’t happened because of a coup or a secret plot. It has happened because American citizens have changed. After two centuries of luxury and abundance, we have largely forgotten God and His laws. As a nation, we have trashed traditional values and morals. Great numbers of people have effectively become hostile to biblical principles like personal sacrifice and individual responsibility.
As a result, we have looked to the government to provide for us, instead of relying on God. By delegating more and more power to the central authority of a human-run government, American citizens have created an administrative state with the power to confiscate the freedoms of those who oppose it. A presidential administration that is able to muster support from half the electorate can now operate without constitutional constraints!
In the book of Psalms, God warns: “Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help” (Psalm 146:3).
Americans have forgotten the maxim, a government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take away everything you have.
Only the law of God can bring true happiness and freedom to humanity. The framers of the U.S. Constitution understood this to a large extent. They crafted a document to restrain the power of carnal leaders who would seek dictatorial powers, guided only by their own human reasoning, to create their own version of utopia.
In his Farewell Address, President George Washington warned that if respect for the Constitution eroded to a point where the rule of law no longer restrained political parties, there would be no guarantee of liberty!
“It is, indeed, little else than a name, where the government is too feeble to withstand the enterprises of faction, to confine each member of the society within the limits prescribed by the laws, and to maintain all in the secure and tranquil enjoyment of the rights of person and property,” he said. “I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the state .… The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.”
The rule of law has disintegrated to the point where the nation could descend into a civil war between feuding political factions that put their trust not in a legal framework that protects their freedom, but in authoritarian politicians.
We must see what is happening in America as God does. He does not blame Barack Obama or any other politician to the same extent that many political commentators do. In the end, these nation-destroying problems are actually correction from God to help us see our sins and repent. The spirit of lawlessness that has taken hold in America can only end in the erosion of our freedoms. We must realize that there is no freedom without law. We must also realize that there is no hope in man. Once the failures of human rule have reached their climax, God will intervene. “The kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ” (Revelation 11:15). Then God be able to teach us the way to true peace, joy and prosperity! ▪
Full article: Rise of the Superpresident (The Trumpet)