By Frank V. Vernuccio, Jr., J.D.
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Frank V. Vernuccio, Jr., J.D., the editor-in-chief of the New York Analysis of Policy & Government, brings his 30 years of experience in government and professional writing and broadcast journalism to your audience. Vernuccio provides insights that captivate listeners
The breathtaking changes that have occurred in the United States since 2008 have left America substantially altered, fulfilling the vision President Obama stated in his pledge to “fundamentally transform” the nation.
The new direction is not all attributable to the White House, as many facets of it have long been the goals of those advocating what they consider a “progressive” agenda. Congress also bears significant responsibility. The first portion of the Obama Administration enjoyed a totally Democrat Congress that shared a similar vision. Republicans, who took control in the House in January of 2011, proved incapable of overcoming the ability of the Democrat Senate and the Executive Branch to set the agenda.
During the tenure of the current Administration, the movement to dramatically transform America’s priorities and even the way it is governed, replacing legislation with executive action, has reached its highest point, exceeding the expectations of both those supporting and those opposing the political, economic, and even cultural revisions of the past several years.
Since 2009, the use of executive action, as opposed to legislation, has been a significant departure from past practice. While prior presidents made use, on some occasions extensively, of executive orders, the use of this practice in very fundamental and questionable areas by President Obama has marked a new high in White House power. This has been true in matters both foreign and domestic. While the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned some the President’s actions, Congress has largely failed to confront the many questionable acts of the current Executive Branch.
The effect of the recent revolt by Congressional conservatives following the Republican capture of the Senate last November remains to be seen, but the budget deal agreed to by the outgoing Republican moderate leadership makes no inroads in the White House’s ambitious transformative agenda.
The areas in which former priorities have been replaced are significant.
The U.S. has engaged in deficit spending for decades, but the near doubling of the federal debt under President Obama is unprecedented, particularly since all those dollars spent have not gone to any structural purpose. The economy remains in the doldrums, America’s infrastructure remains deficient, the military is underfunded, the poverty rate remains unaffected and a host of important needs remain unmet. Even the popular NASA manned space program was interrupted by the White House, and essentially mothballed until the next decade.
The stripping of funds from what have generally been considered nonpartisan programs and diverting them to pay for social welfare efforts can be seen even in relatively smaller areas, such as cutting spending on the Crime Victims fund and using it for other purposes.
Taxes, in several different areas, have risen. The increased revenue, which has brought in record amounts, has been used to support a vastly increased entitlement agenda.
Current and prospective social security recipients and those who have savings have lost ground. Funds that could have been used to replenish revenue unwisely taken from monies gleaned from social security paycheck charges over many, many years have instead been used to dramatically expand entitlement benefits, most notably in the food stamp (SNAP) program.
The Federal Reserve’s continuing (since 2008) zero-interest rates have resulted in the loss of revenue from those who have savings to those on the other end of the economic scale. While the Federal Reserve is not under the control of the White House, its leadership appears to support some key Executive Branch goals. The Fed’s zero interest rates attempt to mask the inflationary effects of massive Washington spending on nonessential areas.
The former emphasis on business and employment growth has been replaced. Onerous regulations and increased costs from the Affordable Care Act have served to keep enterprises from investing and hiring. Small to medium size companies have been the most substantially affected.
While increased energy resources from private sector efforts in hydrofracking and other methods have benefited the goal of taking the U.S. away from dependence on foreign sources for energy, the Administration’s refusal to open up federal lands for energy exploitation and its dramatically increased environmental regulations will serve to diminish that gain, reflecting a substantially different goal than the drive towards energy independence.
The goal of providing increased employment particularly to those on the lower end of the pay scale has been replaced by an emphasis on assisting illegal aliens, who have entered the nation in stunning numbers since President Obama’s election, and who now occupy many of the positions once held by U.S. youth and others seeking entry level positions. The overwhelming bulk of the small restoration of job numbers since the Great Recession has not gone to American citizens.
The Clinton Presidency’s opening up of greater trade relations with China continues to severely damage the U.S. manufacturing sector and the crucial jobs it provides. Neither President Bush nor President Obama moved to address that crisis.
The historic drop in violent crime over the past decades is showing signs of reversal. A less supportive attitude by the White House of law enforcement personnel and an increase in racially tinged comments about the relationship of the minority community with the police from the Oval Office has been a significant factor.
Under the current Administration, a totally unexpected move away from First Amendment rights is a change of historic proportions. Attempts to place federal monitors in newsrooms, the use of federal agencies such as the IRS to attack political opponents, and allowing international control of the internet in a manner that will lead to censorship is a truly radical departure from all past practices. Obamacare’s disregard of religious conscience issues also weakens what was once a bedrock and widely supported right.
Clearly, the most substantial transformation has been in national security and foreign affairs. Traditional allies such as the United Kingdom and Israel have been estranged as the White House made dramatic overtures to Russia, Cuba and the Islamic world, and paid little attention other than a few symbolic gestures to Chinese aggression and its ramped up militancy in the Pacific. Cuts to the defense budget, which is substantially smaller now than when Mr. Obama took office, now places the U.S. at the greatest risk than at any time since the end of World War II.
It remains to be seen whether the President’s fundamental transformations will endure, or whether a change in the White House in 2016 will undo them.