Thinking Out Loud: Obama and the Declaration of Independence

Recently I considered writing a history lesson about the chief purpose of Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence.  We think of Jefferson’s “self evident” truths about “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” as being the Declaration’s crux, but that isn’t so.  The bulk of the document is actually a litany of complaints about the misbehavior of King George III.  America needed to justify its decision to break with Britain, which meant pointing out the many reasons why that break was necessary — to “declare the causes which impel them to the separation” as Jefferson wrote.

To prepare that lesson (which I haven’t finished), I re-read Jefferson’s litany of complaints, and I was struck by a complaint Jefferson thought highly enough of to list as number two:  “He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.”

What Jefferson is complaining about is not just King George III’s unwarranted interference in the legislature’s, meaning Parliament’s, passage of laws, but also his refusal to “attend to them” — to enforce them — once they are passed.

Or to put it more simply, Jefferson was complaining that King George III was acting like a monarch.   His decision to enforce or ignore laws passed by Parliament was capricious and arbitrary, and therefore at odds with establishing “a nation of laws, not men” that was the ultimate goal of the revolutionaries.

Fast forward to earlier this month when the Obama administration announced that implementation of one of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), the employer mandate, would be delayed a year, until 2015.  That mandate requires companies with more than 50 employees to provide health coverage to all their workers, or pay a steep fine

Leave aside the political implications of this delay.  Obamacare is still deeply unpopular, so delaying one of its most controversial, and expensive, provisions until after the 2014 mid-term elections makes sense.

Instead focus on the illegality of Obama’s arbitrary — his monarchical — changing, by delaying, a key provision of a law that was duly passed by Congress and happily signed by President Obama himself.

What Obama has done is in direct violation of the Constitution, which says the president must faithfully execute the laws Congress passes, and only Congress can waive, or give another government branch the authority to waive, a law’s requirements.  Which it has not done.

To that end, consider this.  Laws represent a compact between the government and the governed — i.e., “the people.”  When a government decides it is not bound by a law, what is to stop the people from deciding the same thing?