When the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) tried to prevent Boeing from relocating some of its aircraft manufacturing to South Carolina (a right-to-work state), Obama dodged responsibility, in a widely reported remark:
The President today put distance between his administration and the labor board stressing that it is “an independent agency.”
This week the fiction of the “independence” of federal regulatory agencies was made clear by the Federal Communication Commission’s unveiling of “net neutrality” after having opposed the idea for months/years. And the reason this happened is direct pressure from the White House. Peter Suderman reports over at Reason.com:
Why did Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler decide to embrace the idea of regulating the Internet like a utility?
He says it’s because he saw that the wireless industry had thrived under similar regulation. But as a report in today’s Wall Street Journal makes abundantly clear, it was really a response to pressure from the White House, which effectively ran a shadow FCC.
I think it was Glenn Reynolds who snarked yesterday something like “nothing says forward looking for the 21st century like a regulated utility.”
There’s a broader point here: these “independent” agencies aren’t really independent at all. Most of the time they can be relied upon to implement the liberal agenda all by themselves; a liberal president doesn’t need to tell them what to do. (In this respect, modern American bureaucratic government—the administrative state—is the partisan creation of Democrats, to serve Democratic Party ends. Book to follow one of these days.) And when one of the “independent” agencies shows a little bit of independence, a Democratic White House will make sure they get back in line.