State of the Dictatorship
President Obama is a big proponent of recycling -- and he's proven it with his last several State of the Union speeches. While America's problems keep piling up, the White House keeps trotting out the same tired solutions. Early reports of tomorrow's address suggest that the President is intent on regifting the failed priorities of the past five years -- only this time, he isn't asking Congress, he's telling them.
Legislating is tough business -- too tough, apparently, for President Obama. This year, the White House has a not-so-new strategy for muscling through its agenda: unilateralism. Tomorrow night, as part of his push for climate change, infrastructure spending, and education, the President plans on declaring his independence -- from Congress. Taking what his staff calls a "pen and phone" approach, the administration is gearing up for a season light on consensus and heavy on executive orders. "We need to show the American people that we can get something done, either with Congress or on our own," said the White House's Dan Pfeiffer.
Unfortunately, this we-can't-wait strategy is nothing new for Americans, who've watched the President circumvent Congress so much that he could have built a permanent bypass around Capitol Hill. But if legislators are angry about being cut out of the process, you wouldn't know it by Democrats' reactions. "People are mad at government," said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). "Why? Gridlock, things not getting done. So I think the public would welcome things he could do on his own rather than doing nothing."
Like us, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) doubts any American would "welcome" the idea of this President single-handedly rewriting the separation of powers. "He says, 'Oh well, it's hard to get Congress to do anything.' Well, yeah, welcome to the real world. It's hard to convince people to get legislation through. It takes consensus. But that's what he needs to be doing is building consensus and not taking his pen and creating law." Good leaders don't bully their way past the process; they work within it. While the President tries to rebound from a year of failure with "a year of action," Tuesday's viewers can expect a lot of talk about education, income inequality, and immigration reform. According to Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the administration will harp on the theme of "shared prosperity" -- a twist on the wealth redistribution so close to the President's heart.
The goal should be increasing prosperity for all. But the best way to shrink the income gap isn't expanding the size and reach of Washington-- it's promoting relationships that create income in the first place: intact married families. And lower taxes, less regulation and freer markets would help. Instead of sowing more big government liberalism, it's time for the President to make the connection between America's financial mess and its cultural one. While the Left looks for the answer to poverty in welfare programs, our nation's greatest hope continues to be in the home. What's necessary, social science tells us, is a married mother and father -- an advantage only 45% of this generation enjoy.
But don't take our word for it -- take Harvard University's. In its latest analysis, experts insist that single parenthood is one of the largest obstacles in moving up the income ladder. "The study found the prevalence of single parents to be a much larger factor in determining social mobility than income inequality -- something President Obama and Democrats speak of ad nauseum." That also helps explain why Americans have thrown $20 trillion at the war on poverty with next to nothing to show for it. Why? Because money can't replace marriage as a lasting antidote to the poor's problems. In this instance, we do need government -- a government that won't devalue family or stand in the way of its formation. A government that is more committed to affirming the family than infirming it.
Supreme Court Ruling Second to Nun
In the battle between the Obama administration and Little Sisters of the Poor, bet on the nuns. The Supreme Court did -- granting an extremely rare request to shield the group from the President's contraception-abortifacient mandate until the case works its way through the courts. The New Year's Eve injunction was "unusual enough," the Wall Street Journal commented. "But the permanent stay pending appeal, issued late Friday by the full Supreme Court with no recorded dissent, was rarer still -- and a rebuke to the Obama administration's bullying conception of religious liberty." Like so many faith-based groups, the Little Sisters were horrified at the choice of paying for coverage they morally oppose, paying a mountain of fines, or dropping insurance altogether.
Although the Supreme Court's order doesn't resolve the matter, it does signal some very real problems for the President's mandate -- which the justices will consider in March as part of the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood suits. For now, the Court's decision is a small victory for conscience rights in the middle of a much larger clash over religious liberty in general. Let's hope the justices decide to give every American the same protection as the Little Sisters -- and strike down the mandate once and for all!
Indiana and the Last Marriage Crusade
While Virginia's new attorney general looks for ways to destroy the state's marriage amendment, Indiana's lawmakers are doing their best to pass one. As early as tonight, the Hoosier House will take the first of two votes on whether the people should have a voice in defining marriage in the state. With so much at stake, the FRC team is on the ground in Indianapolis urging members to give the democratic process a chance. Indiana's legislature has already passed the marriage amendment once. It needs only to approve it again -- without change -- to send it to the people. Our own Peter Sprigg and FRC Action Executive Director Josh Duggar talked about the unique opportunity Indiana has to change the debate on marriage at a press conference in the State House this morning with our friends Micah Clark of AFA and Curt Smith of Indiana Family Institute, and roughly 15 members of the media. From there, Josh and Peter canvassed the General Assembly, pushing for a dozen wobbly leaders to vote "yes." Tonight, Josh guest hosted for me on "Washington Watch" from Indianapolis and made a last-minute dash to bolster support for House Joint Resolution 3. If the measure passes, the debate shifts to the state senate, where the bill's sponsor is confident it will pass. If you haven't weighed in, click over to FRC's action alert and make your voice heard!
** After last week's March for Life, Ken Blackwell and Bob Morrison take a long view on the debate in a new piece called, "Our Fierce Urgency of Now." Also, don't miss an insightful column by Ken about party dynamics, "The Fight for Principle within the GOP" in the Christian Post.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.