Yesterday I linked to a couple WSJ op-eds on how the separation of powers may frustrate those who favor activist government, but they ought to be tread gingerly while in power:
These barriers between the branches are not formalities—they were designed to prevent the accumulation of excessive power in one branch. As the Supreme Court explained in New York v. United States (1992), the “Constitution protects us from our own best intentions: It divides power among sovereigns and among branches of government precisely so that we may resist the temptation to concentrate power in one location as an expedient solution to the crisis of the day… If Mr. Obama can get away with this, his successors will be tempted to follow suit.
Today at NRO you can find An Outlandish Hypothetical on the very subject from Yuval Levin:
Let’s imagine that a Republican wins the presidency in 2016, and that Republicans have a majority in the House while Democrats have a majority in the Senate. And let’s say the president and House Republicans try to lower everyone’s personal income-tax rates by 10 percent. The House manages to pass a bill to enact such an across-the-board cut, but Senate Democrats kill it. And let’s imagine that the president then proceeds to announce that, given how helpful he believes his preferred course of action would be to the economy, he will just implement the rate cut himself: His administration will not enforce any legal penalties against people in the 35 percent bracket who only pay a 25 percent tax on their incomes, people in the 25 percent bracket who only pay 15 percent, and so on.
Given some of the ways President Obama has been enforcing Obamacare (his suspension of the employer mandate, for instance), and given what he has already done and reportedly plans to do in immigration enforcement, what would the Democrats’ arguments against such a move by a Republican president consist of? Could they consist of anything other than the substantive tax-policy arguments they would make in a congressional debate about such a proposal? And if not, then what really is the point of having a legislative branch of government, or a constitution?