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Limits on presidential authority are something that we’ve discussed before on Ricochet. The topic comes up again with Joe Biden’s mandate through OSHA that companies fire employees who haven’t been vaccinated for COVID-19, unless they submit to a weekly test. This post is not about arguing for or against vaccines. I don’t care if you are for or against these vaccines, as there are oodles of posts that cover that topic already. What I am concerned about is the trend of making the presidency a more and more powerful office with each generation.
Does anyone claim with a straight face that when the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was established by Congress in 1971 that members of Congress believed they were giving the agency the power to dictate that companies fire employees? How many people in 1971 thought that it would be kosher for a future president to use OSHA to command companies to fire tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or conceivably even millions of people? There is the black-and-white letter of the law and there is reality. The reality is that government tends to do whatever it can get away with. If the citizenry makes enough noise or files enough lawsuits, maybe government will back down and obey the law. If the citizens shrug, mutter, and get on with things, government will continue to act as if it has a particular authority, regardless of what the law actually says.
So what happens next? What else may President Biden decide should be a fireable offense? We know the left loves programs like racial sensitivity training. Numerous Ricochet members have relayed stories of the nonsensical programs or presentations they are obliged to sit through at their jobs. Does anyone doubt that there are progressive Democrats who think everyone (or at least everyone white) really ought to be required to attend programs like this? But that’s crazy, right? No president would command all companies to send their employees to racial/cultural sensitivity classes and fire the refuseniks. But why not?
1. COVID-19 is so deadly serious that the president can command companies to fire people who are not vaccinated. Public health officials last year advised that everyone who can work from home should do so, and that non-essential businesses should voluntarily close their doors temporarily to stop the spread. Many state governments had emergency proclamations that forced non-essential businesses to close for weeks or months, because the threat was perceived to be that deadly.
2. Racism is apparently a far greater threat than COVID-19. Many public health officials said that while you shouldn’t go to work, school, sporting events, weddings, funerals, or even Thanksgiving dinner with your family; gathering in large crowds to demonstrate for George Floyd and against racist cops was fine because racism in America is by far a greater threat than COVID-19.
3. If Covid is a 5 on a 1-10 scale of national dangers and racism is a 10, and you
can must be fired for not fighting Covid with every possible tool, why shouldn’t the president be able to dictate your dismissal for not attending classes endorsed or maybe even taught by Black Lives Matter?
We’re also told that climate change driven by CO2 is the greatest threat mankind has ever faced. Maybe Joe Biden should order companies to fire employees who drive to work when they live within walking or bicycling distance. Who knows what a president may fire you for in the future if this mandate comes to pass?
The inclination of some will be to say that’s why we need to replace Biden with a Republican. I agree that there are a hundred good reasons to replace Biden with a Republican, but would argue that no president from any party ought to have the authority to command companies to fire employees. I could elaborate on this but don’t want to turn this into a fight over a certain ex-president. Suffice it to say that Democrats who are supportive of this president having this much power should ask themselves if it might not backfire when there is another Republican president.Published in