President Obama and his team have made no effort to hide their willingness to use executive-branch authority to advance the administration’s agenda, at least incrementally, in the midst of historic congressional ineptitude. Republicans have generally responded with outrage – for the White House to pursue policy measures without Congress is tyrannical, dictatorial, and unconstitutional.
To date, Obama has been entirely unfazed by the complaints. Indeed, the president is ignoring the complaints and moving forward with his plans.
President Obama this week will seek to force American businesses to pay more overtime to millions of workers, the latest move by his administration to confront corporations that have had soaring profits even as wages have stagnated.On Thursday, the president will direct the Labor Department to revamp its regulations to require overtime pay for several million additional fast-food managers, loan officers, computer technicians and others whom many businesses currently classify as “executive or professional” employees to avoid paying them overtime, according to White House officials briefed on the announcement.
If the goal is to put more money in more workers’ pockets, this is the kind of policy that will help make a difference.
But because it’s become so easy to internalize Republican talking points, we already know what the pushback from the right is going to sound like: this is an outrageous presidential abuse, using dubious powers to redistribute wealth away from job creators.
The trouble is, that’s not what the right was arguing a decade ago.
The New York Times’ report included this helpful reminder:
In 2004, business groups persuaded President George W. Bush’s administration to allow them greater latitude on exempting salaried white-collar workers from overtime pay, even as organized labor objected.
A decade ago, a Republican president used his executive-branch powers to make it easier for workers to lose out on overtime compensation. This year, a Democratic president is doing the opposite.
We can certainly have a spirited argument over whether it’s economically wise to boost more Americans’ take-home pay – spoiler alert: I’d argue it’s a great idea – but Republicans aren’t exactly in a position to say Bush acted within his legal authority but Obama’s actions are legally indefensible.
Mr. Obama’s authority to act comes from his ability as president to revise the rules that carry out the Fair Labor Standards Act, which Congress originally passed in 1938. Mr. Bush and previous presidents used similar tactics at times to work around opponents in Congress.
So let’s go ahead and skip the faux outrage over Obama’s dictatorship and stick to reality.