This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight was published April 17, 2016 by The Washington Times.
Barack Obama has about nine months left as president, and his administration is working overtime to abuse current regulatory machinery and create new rules that will “transform” America beyond recognition without any say by Congress.
“Nearly 4,000 regulations are squirming their way through the federal bureaucracy in the last year of Barack Obama’s presidency,” Politico reported in January, “many costing industry more than $100 million — in a mad dash by the White House to push through government actions affecting everything from furnaces to gun sales to Guantnamo.”
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is preparing a crushing new form for businesses requiring 3,360 data points about employees instead of the current 140. The idea is to create statistics that left wing interest groups representing feminists and various minorities can use to sue over alleged discrimination. It’s no coincidence that trial lawyers donate heavily to the Democratic Party.
Mr. Obama is doing via bureaucratic dictate what radical feminists have unsuccessfully tried to accomplish through the proposed Paycheck Fairness Act, economist Diana Furchtgott-Roth warns in a Wall Street Journal article.
First introduced in 1997, the Act would give federal bureaucrats vast new powers with which to micromanage workplaces in the name of gender equality. The bill’s current incarnation does not have a prayer in the Republican-controlled House or Senate, so the EEOC is going ahead as if the bill were law, similar to the way Mr. Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency began regulating carbon emissions even after the Democratically-controlled Congress explicitly rejected cap and trade legislation.
In a 2010 New York Times column, Christina Hoff Sommers skewered the legislation:
“The Paycheck Fairness bill would set women against men, empower trial lawyers and activists, perpetuate falsehoods about the status of women in the workplace and create havoc in a precarious job market. It is 1970s-style gender-war feminism.”
So it makes perfect sense for Mr. Obama’s EEOC minions to design new regulations to achieve the same result as the failed bill.
Elsewhere, the Justice Department is extracting billions from large banks over the government-instigated mortgage crisis that led to the Great Recession. This past week, Goldman Sachs agreed to pay the government $5.1 billion to settle a claim that the financial giant sold packages of bad loans. It was the fifth award bagged by the Obama-created Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group, which already nailed JP Morgan Chase for $13 billion, Bank of America for $16.6 billion, Citibank for $7 billion and Morgan Stanley for $3.2 billion.
Sure, there’s no shortage of corporate greed, and some bad actors took advantage of a bad situation. But absent from most reports is any clue that Democrat-engineered government pressure forced banks to give loans to people who couldn’t pay them back, thus creating a mountain of bad debt.
So the legislators who concocted the toxic Community Reinvestment Act in 1977 and those who defended Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac before the crash (read: Barney Frank) have skipped away scot free while the Obama Administration hangs total blame on the banks. This reinforces the Democratic talking point blaming the “1 percent” for the last miserable seven years of a wheezing economy.
Mr. Obama’s Internal Revenue Service, which still has not punished anyone for targeting tea parties and other conservatives before and after the 2010 election, is blocking inquiries into a deal it cut with an atheist group to harass pastors. The Freedom from Religion Foundation sued the IRS in 2014, demanding “church investigations” over possible political activity that could jeopardize the churches’ nonprofit status.
In a lawsuit filed last week, Judicial Watch and the Alliance Defending Freedom seek IRS documents outlining procedures the agency uses for inquiries into alleged violations of the Johnson Amendment. That’s the provision that then-Texas Senate candidate Lyndon B. Johnson inserted into the IRS code in 1954 that effectively muzzled preachers and others critical of him. It’s long overdue for repeal.
In the current case, the IRS is again stonewalling, withholding 10,000 of the 16,000 requested documents and heavily redacting many others, according to the lawsuit. So it’s business as usual at the all-powerful agency that Mr. Obama has been using as a political goon squad.
The administration’s example has not been lost on other Democrats. California Attorney General Kamala Harris ordered an April 5 raid on Center for Medical Progress journalist David Daleiden’s apartment. Agents seized his computer and hard drives related to his undercover videos that exposed Planned Parenthood executives discussing the sale of aborted babies’ organs.
In 2014, Ms. Harris attempted to force conservative non-profit groups to turn over donor lists, the better to subject them to harassment from left-wing bullies.
In March, Ms. Harris launched an investigation into ExxonMobil’s donations to groups whose research challenges the claim of man-caused global warming, and then joined 15 left-wing attorneys general in the “AGs United for Clean Power,” who threaten to fine people who question climate change theory.
As November approaches, expect more overt power grabs by progressive politicians — from the top down — who regard elections and the legislative process as little more than speed bumps.