EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


September 22, 2013

Column: Obama's rules apply to all but Congress and his friends

Remember those golden days when President Obama said one of the ways he intended to “fundamentally transform America” was to make sure “everyone plays by the same rules”?

Uh, never mind, especially when it comes to his signature legislative achievement, the hilariously misnamed Patient Protection Affordable Care Act, better known as “ObamaCare.”

Since it passed — so that, as former House speaker Nancy Pelosi famously said, “we can find out what’s in it” — what most of America has found out is that it doesn’t matter all that much what is in it. What matters is what the president says about it.

And that varies dramatically, depending on whether you are among groups the president favors, or are a member of or work for the real 1 percent of American privilege – Congress.

Early on, it was about waivers – more than 1,300 of them granted to various corporations and unions, including outdoor equipment retailer REI, whose then “progressive” president and CEO Sally Jewell had appeared with the president in 2009 to help him sell a law whose provisions she then got permission to avoid. Jewell was rewarded for that support not only with a waiver for REI – since April she has been Secretary of the Interior.

More recently, it was about the president unilaterally suspending the employer mandate – something he doesn’t have the constitutional authority to do, but did anyway, with little pushback from Congress or the public in general. That move was nakedly political – it has little to do with sympathy for those employers and much more to do with his hope that it will insulate his party from a train wreck in next year’s mid-term elections.

And now it is about full-out exemptions for members of Congress and their personal staffs. This is a Congress that takes its cue from the infamous hotelier Leona Helmsley – the rules are just for the “little people” to follow.

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