Saving good government: Obama’s recess appointments

President Barack Obama says he won’t take ‘no’ as an answer from Republicans, so he’s going around them to appoint … Continued

President Barack Obama says he won’t take ‘no’ as an answer from Republicans, so he’s going around them to appoint the head of a new consumer protection agency.

Following his recess appointment of Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, President Obama also moved ahead to fill three vacancies on the National Labor Relations Board. While congressional Republicans were expected to try to block these appointments through filibusters, they are necessary to enforce regulations on labor and regulations that protect consumers.

There is a larger issue here than a president making appointments to fill vacancies. The issue is the deliberate and sustained obstructionism that has as its goal maintaining vacancies in key positions in government. One or another party may agree on disagree on what government should do, but keeping government dysfunctional is profoundly wrong.

Good government is the first responsibility of those elected to public office. If Congress won’t provide good government, it is up to the President to do so.

Conservatives are crying foul, but there is actually huge precedent for Republican presidents performing recess appointments. President Ronald Reagan made at least three times as many recess appointments each year as has President Obama. It was both legal and necessary for the president to make these recess appointments especially since Congress would not act.

This is not just about politics. As American workers and consumers have become increasingly vulnerable to labor and consumer practices that are less than fair and equitable, they need their government to be on their side.

It is becoming ever more clear that a positive moral case for government is needed. Government should not be operating with a “vacancy” sign out when its most important function is the very opposite: the positive duty to establish justice and provide order. The job of government is to assist citizens by helping to ensure the society in which they live is based on the principles of equality and the common good, to keep them and their communities safe and well-regulated, and to create and sustain a government that protects human rights and the dignity of every human being.

Augustine of Hippo, in his “The City of God,” explains why a civil authority that has no regard for justice cannot be distinguished from a band of robbers. Catholic moral theologian Monsignor John Augustine Ryan was very specific on what constitutes justice and the role of government, especially in regard to economic inequality and labor. His astonishing work on distributive justice influenced Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal. He initiated the idea of a living wage. The Protestant Social Gospel, especially in the work of Walter Rauschenbusch emphasized the immorality of government failing to act to protect vulnerable Americans; John Paul II and his teaching on the dignity of work emphasizes that workers are to be protected. And in the witness and work of Dr. Martin Luther, King Jr., there is a powerful argument to be made for morally competent government.

As we approach the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, let us take time to really think about the standard of justice to which government should be held. As King wrote:

“We will place the problems of the poor at the seat of government of the wealthiest nation in the history of mankind. If that power refuses to acknowledge its debt to the poor, it would have failed to live up to its promise to insure ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to its citizens.’”

Since nearly half of all Americans now live near or below the poverty line, Dr. King’s message about the duty of the American government to live up to the core moral value on which this country was founded has never been more timely.

America was founded on a moral vision of good government, a government that should insure “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to its citizens.”

Millions of Americans who struggling today to earn a living so they can live with some dignity need to know that their employers and financial institutions are playing by the rules. And to insure that, they need good government regulation in employment and consumer protection.

Good government. It’s the right thing to do.

Editor’s note: This post has been updated.

About

Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite is Professor of Theology and immediate past President of Chicago Theological Seminary. She is also a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. Her most recent books are "#OccupytheBible: What Jesus Really Said (and Did) About Money and Power" and, as contributor and editor, "Interfaith Just Peacemaking: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives on the New Paradigm of Peace and War."
  • leatherman1

    At least Fox News realizes the fundamental fact that this WASN’T a “recess appointment” as mistakenly stated above. If the Senate is still in session, which it is, then Obama has acted extra-Constitutionally.

    The issue isn’t whether Cordray is good or bad, but how the U.S. Constitution is being treated like toilet paper by the President of the United States.

  • ericcallenking

    What is wrong with the Republican party? They try to block every person Obama brings up, regardless of their qualifications. The level of disfunction has grown so great I think we are looking at the death throes of the Republican party as it is, it has reached a complete incoherent dead end. Perhaps this is why the Republicans keep switching between candidates- they are looking for a candidate to take the party in a new direction, so they can have a party that makes a contribution to society beyond throwing mud at their opponents.

  • joseph_damron

    It is beyond a constitutional impropriety, Obama is attacking capitalism for being racist: His solution to the global economic downturn is to impose Racial Marxist equality on the markets.

    His “Department of Justice” just found that the home mortgage and credit industries were racists for not counting welfare, unemployment, child support, social security and etc. as forms of income “equal” to those who earn income through actual work. Further, The Department of Justice determined that creditors MUST take into account that many minorities with poor credit are victims of racism and poverty, who made bad decisions only because they were in need. The whole financial industry must consider need and race when making credit decisions.

    Then after he implemented similar Racial Marxist reforms at the fully nationalized (100% socialist) government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, he recently sued and imposed hundreds of millions in punitive fines on the supposedly free market Citibank for home loan discrimination – All after the subprime-loan-caused housing crisis that acted as THE catalyst for the economic downturn.

    Then in direct violation of the U.S. Constitution, Obama just created and inserted, by undermining Congress (a body that has equal power to the presidency), the new Consumer Financial Protection Czar, who will be charged with overseeing mortgage companies, payday lenders, debt collectors and other financial operations – All to further impose his imperial/tyrannical Racial Marxist intrusions into these markets.

  • persiflage

    Who’s the racist here? Don’t think it’s Obama. Your concept of Marxism and your interpretation of the Constitution need some work too. Just a suggestion……..

  • AgentFoxMulder

    This article reads like a propaganda piece. The “On Faith” blog seems like an odd place for an article like this. Though it is an apologetic of sorts.

  • thebump

    Now that we’re in the silly political season, are we going to be subjected to an endless barrage of the authoress’s idiotic political views?

    She’s entitled to them, of course — but what in blazes have they to do with a forum on faith?

    The authoress’s only faith is a mindless left-wing ideology of the limousine liberal variety. She has no use for conventional morality. For her, morality is just another partisan game.

    In light of her ardent devotion to the bloodthirsty abortion industry, how dare she invoke Blessed John Paul the Great?

    In any case, there is nothing moral or admirable in Oboobma’s latest illegal power grab — nothing but cynical pandering to his restless moonbat base. Judging from the starry-eyed authoress’s gushing commentary, I gather that it hit that particular mark.

  • persiflage

    The only conclusion here is simple – 4 more years with Obama will be hell on earth for the morally self-righteous. I can’t see that as a bad thing. Now, who’s betting against these appointments remaining in place?

    ‘ Since, you have claimed this is a Forum exclusively for Atheists, and not for those who believe in God,’

    You’ve confused yourself again, and with your usual inaccurate, disingenuous play on words. My comment was also from another time and place, and specific to a column that expressed the atheist point of view on many and disparate matters. It’s perfectly evident that the On Faith blog itself is mostly committed to religious themes.

    Rightwing fundamenatlism does have a place in the world, even in the Catholic Church – I’m sure of it. I think you’re a perfectly fine ambassador……….

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