by James Bovard
On July 4, President Biden declared, “Liberty is under assault … rights we assumed were protected are no longer.” Biden, however, was referring solely to a few Supreme Court decisions he deplored, not to the federal supremacy he championed for almost 50 years in the Senate and the White House.
Though Biden took office preaching the need for “unity,” he increasingly rules like an elective dictator, relying on executive orders and dubious decrees. The Constitution is not permitted to impede the president from any action that might temporarily increase his approval ratings by one or two percentage points. Biden’s arbitrary actions are thrilling some of his supporters. Many of the protestors who denounced Trump during his presidency were not opposed to dictators per se; they simply wanted different dictates, and Biden is doing his best to satisfy their demands.
Mandates for all
On his first day in office, Biden issued an executive order compelling people to wear face masks any time they were on federal property. The edict had an unwritten exemption for Washington Poohbahs. Biden went to the Lincoln Memorial a few hours after signing the order, where he posed by the statue of Abraham Lincoln; neither Lincoln nor Biden were wearing a mask. Biden spokeswoman Jen Psaki scoffed at a reporter’s concern over the apparent crime: “He was celebrating a historic day in our country…. We have bigger things to worry about.”
Biden’s order inflamed legions of junior Stasi, who screamed in rage at anyone hiking in national parks without a mask. If Biden has a right to compel everyone to wear a mask on property controlled by the National Park Service, he would also have the right to dictate that people wear two masks — a policy endorsed by flip-flop king COVID Czar Anthony Fauci on Tuesdays and Thursdays but not on other days of the week.
Biden issued an executive order early last year proclaiming “the goal of conserving at least 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030.” That target would require almost tripling the amount of land under government restrictions — an area twice the size of the state of Texas. Farmers dread future decrees that could hogtie them in perpetuity. The Biden administration is also pushing to revive the Obama-era definition of wetlands that would effectively permit federal control over “virtually any wet spot — or occasionally wet spot in the country, including ditches, drains, seasonal puddle-like depressions, intermittent streams, ponds, impoundments, prairie potholes, and large ‘buffer areas’ of land adjacent to every waterway.”
Last November, the Supreme Court struck down the Biden administration’s attempt to perpetuate a national moratorium on evictions of renters. Six justices scoffed that the administration’s legal defense relied “on a decades-old statute that authorizes … measures like fumigation and pest extermination.” The court declared, “Our system does not permit agencies to act unlawfully even in pursuit of desirable ends.” The decree (initially promulgated by President Trump) profoundly disrupted housing markets in many areas and turned struggling landlords into hostages of renters who were tacitly encouraged by the feds to cease paying their bills. Biden extended the decree even though he publicly admitted, “The bulk of the constitutional scholarship says that it’s not likely to pass constitutional muster. But there are several key scholars who think that it may — and it’s worth the effort.” Biden’s standard for “constitutional” apparently includes any dictate that might conceivably be accepted by five Supreme Court justices.
Last December, Biden issued an executive order to “rebuild trust in government.” Unfortunately for Biden, he cannot also command people to have delusions about politicians being trustworthy. Biden’s executive order called for “transforming federal customer experience and service delivery” from the Social Security Administration and other agencies. But Biden is failing as badly as Mussolini did when he promised to make the trains run on time. Social Security Administration local offices were shut for more than 600 days straight. Federal bureaucrats stayed home, “imposing hardships on millions of people who need to apply for benefits, apply for a card” and wounding “many of those in greatest need of its services,” according to the Washington Post. Disability advocates and congressional Republicans “contend that the Biden administration is kowtowing to [government employee] unions” in permitting the offices to stay closed year after year (while workers draw full pay for sitting at home).
COVID mandates run amok
In April, federal judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle struck down the Biden administration’s mask mandate for air travel, ruling that agencies were not permitted to “act unlawfully” to justify even desirable ends. Mizelle pointed out that the Centers for Disease Control had violated notice and comment guidelines for the proposed mandate. While the CDC claimed that it was vital to compel all passengers to mask up, it did “not explain why all masks — homemade and medical-grade — are sufficient.” The homemade masks have been a farcical remedy from the start — nothing but a placebo designed to alleviate the spread of anxiety. Mizelle pointed out that the CDC mandate “does not require universal masking. It exempts individuals who are ‘eating, drinking, or taking medication’ and a person who is ‘experiencing difficulty breathing’ or who is ‘feeling winded.’” The end of the mask mandate resulted almost overnight in a huge decrease in conflicts between passengers and flight attendants.
Law professor Jonathan Turley observed, “President Biden has arguably the worst record of losses in [federal court] the first two years of any recent presidential administration.” Perhaps Biden’s biggest power grab was his decree that more than 80 million Americans working for large private companies must get a COVID vaccine injection. But there is no asterisk in the Bill of Rights: “Void in Case of Virus.”
In a televised September 2021 speech announcing the mandate, Biden declared, “My job as president is to protect all Americans.” Actually, his oath of office was to uphold and defend the Constitution, but no matter. Biden issued the equivalent of a declaration of war on 80 million unvaccinated Americans, portraying them as Public Enemy Number One (except for postal workers, who the White House exempted from the mandate due to the clout of postal unions). Biden castigated the unvaxxed: “We’ve been patient but our patience is wearing thin. And your refusal has cost all of us.” Biden’s declaration sounded like the threat a dictator makes prior to invading a foreign nation.
Biden finger-wagged: “This is not about freedom or personal choice. It’s about protecting yourself and those around you — the people you work with, the people you care about, the people you love.” But who would protect Americans from Biden’s lawless mandates?
Biden did not formally issue his vaccine order until November 5, when his appointees issued a 150,000+ word Federal Register sidewinder, which announced a “jab or job” ultimatum to 10 million health-care workers, millions of private workers at companies with more than 100 employees, and millions of federal employees. The official notice touted the initial 95% claimed efficacy of COVID vaccines from the clinical trials but ignored recent reports that the efficacy had collapsed to far less than 50%. The announcement explained that the “most important inducement [for vaccination] will be the fear of job loss.” The notice did not cite the provision of the Constitution that entitled presidents to destroy jobs. The ultimatum was justified, according to the Federal Register notice, because “vaccination mandates have generally been more effective than merely encouraging vaccination.” In other words, compulsion produces submission.
In January, the Supreme Court obliterated that vaccine mandate, ruling by a 6 to 3 vote that there was no basis in federal law for his decree. (The court upheld Biden’s vaccine mandate for health-care workers despite plenty of evidence of its folly.)
The student loan fiasco
On August 24, Biden invoked an obscure provision in an obscure law — the post-9/11 Heroes Act — to justify hundreds of billions of dollars of handouts to people who had taken out federal college loans. The Heroes Act permits the Education Department “to waive or modify student loan payments in times of national emergency.” Biden had previously admitted that the law would not justify blanket forgiveness of college loans, but he and his advisors decided to force Americans to pay any price for Democrat votes in the midterm congressional elections. The Department of Education justified Biden’s decree as “a program of categorical debt cancellation directed at addressing the financial harms caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” including “cancellation for borrowers who have been financially harmed because of the COVID- 19 pandemic.” But college graduates were doing much better financially than other Americans who get stuck with the bill for their schooling.
Former Education Department lawyer Hans Bader estimates that the total cost of Biden’s student loan write-offs could exceed a trillion dollars. A Wall Street Journal editorial headlined “Biden’s Half-Trillion-Dollar Student-Loan Forgiveness Coup” derided his decision as “easily the worst domestic decision of his Presidency.” The Journal pointed out that Biden based the loan cancellation for more than 40 million borrowers “on no authority but his own” power as president. “This is a college graduate bailout paid for by plumbers and FedEx drivers,” the Journal noted. As former OMB director David Stockman observed, “Student debt is overwhelmingly an investment in professional credentialization that should never have been a obligation of the taxpayers in the first place.” ZeroHedge quipped on Twitter: “Have colleges raised tuition by $10,000 yet or are they waiting a few days first?”
There was no rationale for blanket cancellation of student debts that would not also justify blanket cancellation of almost any debt citizens owed to the government. At the same time that Biden is playing Santa Claus with selective loan forgiveness, his administration is hiring 87,000 new IRS agents and employees to squeeze more money out of working Americans.
Biden’s actions as president make a mockery of his rhetoric. In his first speech to Congress in April 2021, Biden declared, “It’s time we remembered that We the People are the government. You and I. Not some force in a distant capital. Not some powerful force we have no control over.” But Biden administration officials have worked to vilify anyone who doesn’t obey his commands.
Once a president escapes the confines of the Constitution, the American people will eventually find themselves shackled. Despite four years of nonstop howling about the peril from President Trump, many Biden supporters apparently understand nothing about the danger of absolute power. Sen. Daniel Webster warned in 1837 that “the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.”
This article was originally published in the November 2022 edition of Future of Freedom.