The Do-Everything President

Barack Obama campaigns against a “do nothing” Congress. The “do everything” president is the real problem.

“The truth is, we can no longer wait for Congress to do its job,” the president announced in his Saturday radio address. “The middle-class families who’ve been struggling for years are tired of waiting.”

The White House hammers the verbiage home on its website with the ubiquitous message: “We can’t wait on Congress: The time to act is now.” For the leader of the free world, like the leader of the Heartbreakers, the waiting is the hardest part.

So the president issues a series of frenetic executive orders. One involves limiting some annual student loan payments to 10 percent of debtor income. Another establishes a website. Another encourages community health centers to hire veterans.

This is what America has been waiting for?

It’s sad to see a president employing the impatient rhetoric of dictators. This is mitigated, however, by the meek deeds of a humbled chief executive. Actions speak softer than words here.

Perhaps we should be pleased that the president is going small. Launching an unauthorized war in Libya or using the Federal Communications Commission to impose internet rules that Congress had explicitly rejected were consequential usurpations. But shaving half of a percent off of a few students’ loans is Barack Obama channeling Bill Clinton on school uniforms. Who cares? 

Circumventing the legislative branch is a tacit admission of leadership failure. Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan convinced opposing party members in Congress to come along. But the president’s jobs bill—stimulus the sequel—couldn’t even make it through a Senate controlled by fellow Democrats. Barack Obama doesn’t mesmerize congressmen the way he does his cultists. The post-partisan president is really the purely polarizing president.

Meddlers long for appreciation but breed resentment. Just one in five Americans tells Gallup that they generally trust the federal government to do the right thing. Four in five don’t have faith in Washington to do the right thing. The blessing of an interventionist president is that he spoils the public’s appetite for government intervention. Interventionism is a disease that is its own cure.

The man who with “profound humility” marked his nomination to the presidency as the historic moment “when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal” has succeeded instead in reversing the tide of hubristic statism perfectly symbolized in that preposterous utterance.

Politics isn’t a panacea. A bill to create jobs is just the latest example of the administration putting its faith in Washington solutions. The problem-solver-in-chief ends up creating problems rather than solving them. Like the second baseman whose invasions of the outfield routinely transform routine pop-ups into hits, the good Samaritan often gets in the way. Some helpers become hurters. Do do-gooders do good?

President Obama made health care more expensive by taxing insurance plans, pharmaceutical companies, and medical-device manufacturers through a bizarrely named Affordable Care Act. He prolongs the housing crisis by incessant tinkering that keeps people in homes they can’t afford and encourages the reckless lending that led to the bailouts. His stimulus turned out to be a sedative.

We could have used a do-nothing Congress then. We certainly would have been better off with a do-nothing president. American enterprise needs benign neglect, not malign involvement. If a guy who had never worked for a business demanded to run your business, you would call him arrogant. There isn’t a word for a guy who has never worked for a private business seeking a hand in running all businesses.

When you try to run everything you run nothing well. This is compounded by the hastiness that characterizes the fidgety politician ever eager to be seen doing something. The real or imagined “do-nothings” he rails against actually have a better bead on matters than the restless do-everything president.

Barack Obama can’t wait. The American people can’t wait either. Election Day is twelve slow months away.