Guest Essayist: Juliette Turner


Barack Obama: Forty-Fourth President of the United States

Nickname: The First African-American President

Terms in Office: 2009-2013; 2013-present

Fast Stats

  • Born August 4, 1961, in Honolulu, Hawaii
  • Parents: Barack Obama Sr. and Stanley Ann Dunham Obama Soetoro
  • Barack Obama is still living and in office
  • Age upon Start of First Term: 47; Age upon Conclusion of First Term: 51
  • Age upon Start of Second Term: 51
  • Religious Affiliation: Congregationalist (Protestant)
  • Political Party: Democrat
  • Height: 6 feet 1 inch
  • Vice President: Joseph Biden

Bottom Line

President Obama is the current president of the United States and is serving his second term in office. Obama passed his landmark legislation, the Affordable Care Act; oversaw the capture and death of terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden; and enforced a multibillion dollar stimulus in an attempt to help the economy. He has struggled with a scandal regarding the surveillance of the American people by the federal government and an ever-growing debt and deficit.

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Small businesses that reimburse employees for the cost of premiums for individual health insurance policies or pay their health costs directly will be fined up to $36,500 a year per employee under a new Internal Revenue Service regulation that takes effect July 1, 2015 (article originally published June 30, 2015).

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New research about implementation of the Affordable Care Act finds that Obama administration regulations are allowing taxpayer subsidized health insurance for some people earning less than the statutory income floor and also for unlawful immigrants.

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Companies inside and outside the health sector have spent countless billions of dollars trying to comply with the ACA. When the administration makes what some call “minor temporary course corrections,” it causes a new cascade of disruption and expenses for companies and makes it even harder for them to comply not only with the law but with ever-changing regulations. We have a process by which laws are to be enacted and changed, and that process has not been followed in implementing key provisions of the Affordable Care Act, as I have described here. I thank the committee for holding this hearing today to shed light on this issue. If our constitutional system of government is to survive, it must be based upon the rule of law.

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Guest Essayist: Nancy Salvato

The Supreme Court has been in the news this week and Justice John Roberts has been thrust into the spotlight because he authored the majority opinion in King v. Burwell.  In it, Roberts and the Court upheld the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, i.e. Obamacare. This is no ordinary decision, though.  The court’s ruling doesn’t simply interpret the law, it rewrites the law.

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Much has been made in recent years about the abuse of presidential power. There is no shortage of recent examples to show that this is a legitimate concern. However, this is not entirely the fault of the current administration. Instead, the fault lies with the American people and the other branches of government that have failed to exercise constitutional checks and balances.

Interpretations of the Affordable Care Act have been regularly put forward that result in far more flexibility regarding implementation dates than the actual plain language of the law would allow. It has been shown that the Affordable Care Act was intentionally written so that only individuals buying health insurance through state-created exchanges would receive federal subsidies. Yet, the administration is ignoring the law, flowing subsidies through the federal exchange.

A more recent example of executive overreach is the new rule expanding authority of the Environmental Protection Agency over the waters of the United States to include almost any land where water puddles for significant time. The argument put forth by the EPA is that 117 million Americans are not protected by the Clean Water Act under current interpretations. But then, the Clean Water Act was never intended to encompass all waters in the country. It was aimed at cleaning up the big rivers and the Great Lakes, the navigable waters of the nation, to make it possible for fish to live in Lake Erie and to prevent chemicals in rivers from catching fire.

Today, some have an entirely new vision for what the EPA. They want it to save the world from man-caused global warming, which is still unproven. They want it to exercise power so as to prevent any chance of harm coming to anyone from any activity by mankind, especially petroleum production. Other than a few isolated situations and scary speculative stories, the new rule put forth by the EPA expanding its power is a solution in search of a problem. Major water pollution disasters are not happening in this country, and every state already regulates water purity and threats to it.

It would be easy to lay all the blame for executive overreach in the United States at the feet of the current administration, but this would be naïve. The blame equally belongs to the legislative and judicial branches. More fundamentally, the blame lies collectively with the people of the United States.

Since the Progressive Era, a presumption has prevailed in the collective mind of Americans that political and social salvation lies in the strong leader, or cadre of leaders, whose wisdom and breadth of knowledge, along with a supporting cast of experts, would best improve the lives of everyone. This attitude cuts across party lines and was reflected best in the administrations of both Roosevelts, Wilson’s presidency, and even the presidency of Herbert Hoover. It is now so commonplace that there is little use in differentiating presidencies since FDR except to say that President Reagan, who made some attempt to roll back the practical effects of the philosophy, was the exception.

With the idea that the central federal government actually manages the nation and has the power to create prosperity by doing anything more than smoothing the way for a market economy to prevail, Americans give license to government overreach. Congress, anxious to scratch the people’s collectivist itch, enables the executive by granting broad powers to interpret and implement vague laws that empower bureaucratic experts to do their will. The Supreme Court, heavily influenced by prevailing progressive philosophies, has allowed Congress to broadly delegate its legislative powers to the executive. The result is an executive branch that has become an example of nearly unchecked power.

Due to our form of government, we are not at risk of a rapid slide into totalitarianism like that of the German people in the 1930s, but we certainly seem to be getting close. A few more fallen checks and balances wherein a president is allowed to ignore the law with impunity could very well encourage a charismatic future president with dictatorial tendencies to ignore even more fundamental constitutional provisions, like the two-term limit. The current situation whereby individual members of congress determine whether a president is acting legally purely on the basis of partisanship, and the fact that a significant number of Americans apparently feel the same way, is good reason to quake for the future of the United States constitution.

Byron Schlomach earned his PhD in economics from Texas A&M University and has worked in the state public policy arena for over 20 years. He previously served as Chief Economist at the Texas Public Policy Foundation and the Goldwater Institute. Byron is now Director of State Policy at the 1889 Institute and Scholar in Residence at Oklahoma State University’s Free Enterprise Institute.

Click Here to Read More Essays From This Year’s 90 Day Study!

Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. Thomas Jefferson Declaration of Independence

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The Obama administration has spent billions of taxpayer dollars implementing the Affordable Care Act, often taking vast liberties with statutory language.  The administration’s actions were the subject of a House Ways and Means Oversight subcommittee hearing on Wednesday, chaired by Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL).

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By our count at the Galen Institute, more than 49 significant changes already have been made to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: at least 30 that President Obama has made unilaterally, 17 that Congress has passed and the president has signed, and 2 by the Supreme Court.

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This year marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of The Sound of Music, a sweet love story built around the somewhat grittier sub-plot of Nazi Germany’s annexation of Austria in the late 1930s. The movie is actually based on the true story of an Austrian naval hero – Captain Georg von Trapp – who opposes the Nazi Anschluss and refuses to accept a commission in the German navy. He takes a stand near the end of the movie by singing the patriotic song “Edelweiss” at a local festival. The song summons all Austrians who love freedom to stand by their convictions and refuse to violate them, even when being coerced by an out-of-control executive.

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Criticism abounds regarding President Barack Obama and executive overreach. To name one example, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known as “Obamacare,” has raised the ire of many Americans. Expansive government and centralized approaches to political issues, admittedly, started before the Obama administration, but current executive overreach has accelerated the size of the national government and threatens individual liberty.  Various administrative divisions, whether classified as executive agencies or executive departments, such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Education, have been scrutinized, too. Through “the administrative state,” what some have labeled the “fourth branch of government,” the executive branch seemingly continues to have its fingerprints on more and more aspects of American lives. Read more

Articles I, II, and III of the Constitution describe the roles of the legislative, executive, and judiciary branches of the federal government. It’s clear that the Founders intended for Congress to make the laws, the administration to enforce the laws, and the courts to interpret the laws.  Although this doctrine of Separation of Powers sounds simple, it’s not. The administrative branch holds great power to promulgate regulations and make executive decisions (orders and actions) that wield the force of law, and today, many fear that this power is being abused. Read more

Concentrated political power frightened the Founders. They especially feared unrestrained executive power. In fact, some of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention fought for a weak executive because history had been a continuous stream of kings and rulers supplanting legislative bodies. Despite misgivings, James Madison convinced the delegates that balanced power with effective checks was the only way to secure liberty and the idea became foremost in the design of a new government.

When you study the political formation of the United Sates, one is struck by the recurrence of the checks and balances theme— in Madison’s convention notes, the Constitution itself, the Federalist Papers, the minutes of the ratification conventions, and even the Anti-Federalist papers. There can be no doubt that a national consensus supported the concept that each part of the government should act as an effective check on all of the other parts of the government. Read more