It’s been a cynical, radical transformation — as now chronicled in the aptly titled Democracy Denied.
The critique of Obamanomics has focused primarily on the runaway spending, taxes, deficits and debt, and the throwback monetary policies at the Fed. But Phil Kerpen, Vice-President for Policy at Americans for Prosperity, has now fully complemented that with a thorough exposé of Obama’s regulatory excess and abuse in his just published new book, Democracy Denied: How Obama Is Ignoring You and Bypassing Congress to Radically Transform America — and How to Stop Him.
The theme is “democracy denied” because after the blowout Republican landslide of 2010 Obama refused to listen to the people and did not even consider changing course from the most left-wing policies of any President in U.S. history. Instead, he just pivoted to bypassing the Congress the people elected and maximizing instead the vast regulatory powers of the Executive Branch.
For example, since cap and trade legislation obviously no longer had any prayer of getting through Congress (even the overwhelmingly Democrat Congress of 2009-2010 wouldn’t pass it), Obama said after the election, “Cap and trade was just one way of skinning the cat; it was not the only way. It was a means, not an end.” I took that as a personal threat. You should too.
But Obama is going beyond even maximizing Executive Branch regulatory powers. His established pattern and practice now includes exceeding statutory authority, ignoring court rulings to rein him in, and breaking agreements with Congress, as Kerpen documents.
Obama’s Flower Power Energy Policy
Kerpen powerfully illustrates this with a thorough discussion of Obama’s regulatory abuses and excesses on energy policy, just one example of many in the book. Shortly after Obama took office, his Interior Secretary Ken Salazar “canceled land leases for energy development on 77 parcels of land in Utah. Then he canceled a pending oil-shale lease sale based on his expert judgment that it ‘didn’t meet the smell test.’” Kerpen adds, “Overall there has been a steep drop-off in leasing on federal lands….2010 saw a 79 percent drop in leasing in Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming from 2005. Total onshore royalties dropped 33 percent in just two years.”
Even more virulent is the Obama Administration’s attack on coal, which the President seems to have targeted for quick phaseout, even though we have the world’s most expansive coal reserves, offering 200 years of inexpensive energy. Kerpen writes:
The Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement is pursuing tight restrictions on coal mining under a so-called “Stream Protection Rule” that the agency admits would destroy 7,000 of the country’s 81,000 coal-mining jobs. The EPA has virtually shut down mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia using guidance documents….[S]aid Luke Popovich of the National Mining Association, “That is tantamount to saying the intent is to strictly limit coal mining in Appalachia.”
After the 2010 electoral blowout, the left-wing Center for American Progress (CAP) was immediately ready with a 53-page report on how Obama could use federal regulatory powers to continue “progressive” left-wing policies, regardless of what the voters had just said. Kerpen described the results for the coal industry: “Many of the EPA actions urged by the [CAP] report are already underway at the EPA and are referred to in the energy industry as the ‘train wreck’ because they seek to massively burden the coal industry with enough regulations to bankrupt it.” As Obama explained his regulatory policies during the campaign to what he thought was a closed-door meeting among left-wing extremists, “So, if somebody wants to build a coal plant, they can — it’s just that it will bankrupt them.”
Public outrage over soaring gas prices in 2008 forced both Congress and the Bush Administration to repeal the ban on offshore drilling. Kerpen reports, “The pressure on [candidate] Obama was so intense that he even reversed his opposition, claiming on August 1, 2008, that he would support offshore drilling under some circumstances.” But that just turned out to be more Obama calculated deception, which I knew at the time. Kerpen explains:
Salazar’s first public policy statement, just weeks after being confirmed… focused on stopping the opening of the outer continental shelf…. The policy stance of the Obama Administration throughout 2009 — a year of severe economic weakness — was to ignore the overwhelming desires of the American people and do nothing to move forward on the no-cost, genuine, stimulus policy of allowing access to offshore oil and gas.
Current government estimates of America’s offshore oil reserves project that they are sufficient to replace all imported oil from Saudi Arabia for 30 years, and such initial estimates usually involve just a fraction of the oil to be found once exploration and drilling starts. But Obama does support offshore drilling — in Brazil, at the expense of American taxpayers. He announced in April 2009 a $2 billion U.S. loan guarantee for Brazilian offshore drilling, offering the aspiration for America to be Brazil’s best customer.
In March 2010, Obama announced a supposed offshore drilling plan, to great fanfare celebrated by the Democrat captive media (e.g. the New York Times). But that just turned out to be more calculated deception as well. Kerpen explains, “He was promising to allow a limited lease sale for waters beyond 50 miles — past where geologists think most of the oil is.” The plan actually involved, Kerpen further explains, reimposing the offshore ban within 50 miles along the East Coast, and entirely north of Delaware and on the entire West Coast. It was even accompanied by canceling five lease sales in Alaska.
Outright lawlessness occurred in the offshore drilling moratorium imposed by Obama’s Interior Department in response to the 2010 Gulf oil spill. Kerpen recounts that Obama appointed an expert task force to make recommendations concerning how the federal government should respond to the spill. The task force report featured a recommendation for a six-month moratorium on all deepwater drilling activities. But as Kerpen explains, “the recommendation for a moratorium was not supported by the authors of the task force report.” Task force authors wrote in a letter to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and Senators David Vitter and Mary Landrieu:
[W]e are concerned that our names are connected with the moratorium as proposed in the executive summary of the report. There is an implication that we have somehow agreed to or “peer reviewed” the main recommendation of that report. This is not the case….[T]he scope of the moratorium on drilling which is in the executive summary differs in important ways from the recommendation in the draft which we reviewed. We believe the report does not justify the moratorium as written and that the moratorium as changed will not contribute measurably to increased safety and will have immediate and long-term economic effects.