The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Business

February 21, 2014

For Obama, a new sense of purpose in acting alone

WASHINGTON — This week, President Barack Obama promoted tougher fuel efficiency standards for trucks. He touted progress on initiatives to strengthen the U.S. patent system. And he signed an executive order intended to speed up the process for approving import or export cargo.

Welcome to Obama’s self-proclaimed “year of action,” where hardly a day goes by without the president and his top advisers trumpeting policy initiatives the White House is undertaking without the help of Congress.

The mostly modest actions — far shy of the sweeping immigration overhaul Obama hoped for this year — put into sharp focus the president’s limitations as he grapples with reluctant lawmakers in an election year. They also underscore how much has changed for Obama since the early days of his presidency, when he declared, “We do big things.”

Yet the flurry of executive actions does seem to be having a cathartic effect inside the White House, which was in need of a jolt after a frustrating and disjointed 2013 that included the flawed rollout of Obama’s signature health care law and a sharp drop in the president’s approval ratings. Advisers who ended the year dispirited now appear buoyed by a new sense of purpose — and the prospect of working around a Congress that has long been an irritant to the president.

“I think people came back from the break over the holidays in a real positive frame of mind,” said David Axelrod, a longtime adviser to the president. “You don’t want to be the prisoner of a negative narrative that somehow Congress has stymied the president and nothing can get done.”

Signaling how little the White House expects to change on Capitol Hill this year, Obama communications director Jennifer Palmieri said advisers are already mapping out plans for executive actions that will be unveiled well into the fall and winter. That process, she said, “has ignited a lot of creative thinking around here.”

Even so, the president’s political standing looks little better than it did at the end of last year. His approval rating continues to hover in the mid-to low-forties. Democrats are on edge about their prospects of retaining control of the Senate. And hope of securing an immigration overhaul — Obama’s one legislative goal that appeared to have some chance of success this year — faded when House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, announced this month that a measure was unlikely to pass in 2014.

In the absence of legislative action, the White House is pumping out a constant stream of executive actions on issues touching the economy, education and climate change. Some are relatively modest or simply prod along plans that were already in motion.

For example, an executive order Obama signed on Thursday to streamline the import and export process established a deadline for an effort that was already underway. And much of what the White House touted Tuesday on truck efficiency standards had already been announced by Obama during a climate change speech last year. Still, Obama personally heralded an incremental step forward in the process, even traveling to a Safeway distribution center in nearby Maryland to highlight steps the grocery store chain has taken to make its fleet of trucks more efficient.

Other executive actions are intended to be more wide-ranging, including a partnership with businesses that promised to not discriminate against the long-term unemployed during hiring and $750 billion in private sector commitments to expand Internet access in schools.

The president also signed an executive action increasing the hourly minimum wage for federal contractors from $7.25 per to $10.10. While the White House estimates the wage hike will affect only a few hundred thousand people, officials hope the move spurs Congress to take up a broader bill or businesses to act on their own to increase their workers’ wages. The Gap, a clothing company, did just that this week, announcing it will set the minimum wage for workers at $9 an hour this year and $10 an hour in 2015.

Obama’s predecessors have also turned to more modest executive actions in the face of congressional gridlock, including President Bill Clinton, who once launched a campaign to help schools require school uniforms. Some of those who advised Clinton during that period are also on staff in the Obama White House, including new presidential counselor John Podesta, a strong proponent of executive action.

Peter Wehner, who served in three Republican administrations, said exercising presidential power is a good way for a White House to generate a “sense of momentum and action.”

“Sometimes you wake up and you’re happy there’s just not a series of bad stories or bad news,” said Wehner, who last worked in the White House under George W. Bush. “If you can take the initiative even a little bit, it’s better than being back on your heels.”

 

1
Text Only
Business
  • Business Stocks edge higher amid earnings and deals

    Stock futures edged higher as more companies reported first quarter earnings.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • McDonald’s profit slips amid weak sales

    McDonald’s is fighting to hold onto customers in the U.S.

    April 22, 2014

  • Novartis reshapes business with GSK, Lilly deals

    Swiss pharmaceutical firm Novartis AG launched a major overhaul of its business Tuesday, unveiling a series of multibillion-dollar deals with Britain’s GlaxoSmithKline PLC and the U.S.’s Eli Lilly & Co. that heralds more restructuring in the fast-changing industry.

    April 22, 2014

  • Valeant, Ackman make $45.6B Allergan bid

    Valeant Pharmaceuticals and activist investor Bill Ackman have unveiled details of their offer to buy Botox maker Allergan, proposing a cash-and-stock deal that could be worth about $45.6 billion.

    April 22, 2014

  • Comcast 1Q earns surge on upbeat NBC results

    Comcast Corp. said Tuesday that its first-quarter net income rose by 30 percent as ad revenue surged at broadcast network NBC, helped by the Winter Olympics in Sochi and Jimmy Fallon’s elevation as host of “The Tonight Show.”

    April 22, 2014

  • Feds seek $211K in fines from Minn. company

    Federal safety regulators are proposing $211,000 in fines for a Minnesota agriculture company that authorities say repeatedly failed to make sure workers weren’t exposed grain dust hazards in Montana.

    April 23, 2014

  • Advocates vow to revive Navajo junk-food tax

    Facing a high prevalence of diabetes, many American Indian tribes are returning to their roots with community and home gardens, cooking classes that incorporate traditional foods, and running programs to encourage healthy lifestyles.

    April 23, 2014

  • Business US stocks edge lower after a six-day rally

    The stock market slipped Wednesday after rallying for six straight days as investors worked through another round of quarterly earnings reports from U.S. companies.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • GM, lawyers fight over bankruptcy protections

    General Motors Co. and a battalion of trial lawyers are preparing for an epic court fight over whether GM is liable for the sins of its corporate past.

    April 22, 2014

  • AT&T explores expansion of super-fast Internet

    AT&T plans a major expansion of super-fast Internet services to cover as many as 100 municipalities in 25 metropolitan areas.

    April 21, 2014

Poll

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said Tuesday that a tax cut approved by the Legislature could have a “cataclysmic” effect on state revenues to the tune of $4.8 billion. House Majority Leader John Diehl calls that “absurd.” Who do you believe?

A. Nixon
B. Diehl
     View Results
Facebook
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
NDN Video
U.S. Paratroopers in Poland, Amid Ukraine Crisis US Reviews Clemency for Certain Inmates Raw: Violence Erupts in Rio Near Olympic Venue Raw: Deadly Bombing in Egypt Raw: What's Inside a Commercial Jet Wheel Well Raw: Obama Arrives in Japan for State Visit Raw: Anti-Obama Activists Fight Manila Police Motels Near Disney Fighting Homeless Problem Michigan Man Sees Thanks to 'bionic Eye' Obama to Oso: We'll Be Here As Long As It Takes Bon Jovi Helps Open Low-income Housing in Philly S.C. Man Apologizes for Naked Walk in Wal-Mart New Country Music Hall of Fame Inductees Named 'Piles' of Bodies in South Sudan Slaughter SCOTUS Hears Tv-over-Internet Case Chief Mate: Crew Told to Escape After Passengers