Shellacked Obama Readies His Regulatory Runarounds
The big media question after the mid-term shellacking wasn't so much whether President Obama would move to the middle, but how far to the middle he would move (for the record, I never thought he would moderate at all and still don't). The answer is now becoming clear. On high profile issues where the people's representatives actually get a vote and the press spills lots of pixels, he'll move as far to the middle as he must to maintain a veneer of bipartisanship and reasonable compromise. But on lower profile issues where the people's representatives don't get a direct vote, he will stay over on the hard left and dare anyone to challenge him. If his actions survive a Congress or two, they'll live on long after his presidency ends.
That is precisely what the president has done on two fronts this week. In the first, his appointees to the Federal Communications Commission voted along party lines to insert itself as a regulator of the Internet. The rules they adopted were only delivered to commissioners late the night before the vote, which also seems to be a strategy that the Democrats under Obama have mastered: Delay disclosure so that hardly anyone knows what they're actually voting on. They did this with ObamaCare, they did it with omnipork, they did it with the DREAM Act, and they did it with the net neutrality rules. So much for transparency.
As John Fund notes, there has been no public outcry to get the government involved in Internet regulation, but various voices on the left have been pushing for "net neutrality" for years, and now they have nearly all that they wanted. Net neutrality's roots are anything but neutral.
The net neutrality vision for government regulation of the Internet began with the work of Robert McChesney, a University of Illinois communications professor who founded the liberal lobby Free Press in 2002. Mr. McChesney's agenda? "At the moment, the battle over network neutrality is not to completely eliminate the telephone and cable companies," he told the website SocialistProject in 2009. "But the ultimate goal is to get rid of the media capitalists in the phone and cable companies and to divest them from control."
A year earlier, Mr. McChesney wrote in the Marxist journal Monthly Review that "any serious effort to reform the media system would have to necessarily be part of a revolutionary program to overthrow the capitalist system itself." Mr. McChesney told me in an interview that some of his comments have been "taken out of context." He acknowledged that he is a socialist and said he was "hesitant to say I'm not a Marxist."
So Obama's FCC has taken action that began with agitation from the far, far left, and over the objections of both the courts and a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, 300 of whom have gone on the record against net neutrality. The most likely impacts of net neutrality include chilling of innovation and empowering of centralized government bureaucratic authority, and rising costs due to compliance with whatever the FCC ends up dictating to ISPs. Regulatory regimes tend to grow, and hardly ever shrink, over time, so now that the FCC has inserted itself on the net, expect its tentacles to slither about and keep growing and growing and growing. Unless either the Republican House or the courts put a stop to it, anyway.
On another front, Obama's Environmental Protection Agency is getting set to target your light switch on January 2. The EPA is gearing up to impose regulations that Congress hasn't approved or even discussed much, other than to attempt to halt the EPA from doing any such thing.
The Obama administration is expected to roll out a major greenhouse gas policy for power plants and refineries as soon as Wednesday, signaling it won’t back off its push to fight climate change in the face of mounting opposition on Capitol Hill.
The Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to a schedule for setting greenhouse gas emission limits, known as “performance standards,” for the nation’s two biggest carbon-emitting industries, POLITICO has learned.
...Starting Jan. 2, EPA will begin regulating large stationary sources of the heat-trapping emissions, but those requirements only apply to new and upgraded facilities and will be determined on a case-by-case basis, so it’s unclear how deeply they will slash emissions. The forthcoming standards would set industry-specific standards and could require some of the oldest, dirtiest facilities to clamp down on carbon dioxide.
Even Democrats like Sen. Jay Rockefeller have tried to stop this, but it fulfills another of Obama's far left visions of imposing onerous regulations on business in the name of dubious environmental effects by whatever means necessary. Congress failed to implement his insane cap and trade scheme, so he'll use the EPA to impose as much of it as possible anyway, and dare Congress to stop him. The EPA's move all but guarantees more court battles with energy exporting states like Texas, which won't help the already reeling Texas Democrats, and more importantly won't help the national economy anywhere. In fact, it's not out of bounds to view the EPA gambit as a direct economic attack on the energy producing states.
Watching the patterns that have developed over the two years since Obama became POTUS, it's clear that he is every bit the devious far left ideologue that some of his most vocal critics claim, and the mid-terms haven't changed that a bit. The same holds true for the Democrats as a party. The shellacking only changed his tactics, not his goals. He'll bow on the Bush tax cuts fight, knowing that being seen as willing to compromise will buy him a little goodwill and a bump in the polls, while the Senate Democrats pushed that last-minute omnipork and the DREAM Act and the START treaty and DADT to flood the zone, while Obama uses his appointees within the executive branch to jack up taxes and grow the leviathan state in other ways anyway. Obama's Democrats haven't moderated at all, and they're still on the warpath for more government power and against economic growth.
The incoming House Republicans will find themselves facing war with the administration on several fronts, which also seems to be by design. They're already pledged to de-fund ObamaCare, and now will be squaring off against the FCC and the EPA. None of these stands by Obama enjoy mainstream support, but the evidence says that he doesn't care. If he wanted broad support, he would use the bully pulpit to seek it. He hasn't. He will do what he believes he can get away with, forcing the Republicans to fight him in ways that will allow him to cast them as either fighting for dirty air and water or for big business. In other words, the "post-partisan" president is setting up 2012 to be every bit as partisan and nasty as the first two years of his presidency have already been.
Oh, and while some of Obama's appointees show that if nothing else they're shrewd and effective bureaucratic fighters, Obama's top national security officials remain national embarrassments. That tells us which tasks President Obama sees as more important: He put his most talented troops to work growing the regulatory state, while handing the unimportant task of keeping the nation safe to his cronies and hacks.