Stymied by the partisan gridlock, President Obama’s recent directives to bar federal contractors from discriminating against gay employees and to cut carbon pollution are bold examples of how presidents have used their executive powers to address critical issues when Congress has failed to adopt much-needed legislation.
For example, in 1961, as civil rights protests were gaining momentum, President John F. Kennedy used his executive powers to order firms doing business with the federal government to refrain from discriminating against employees based on their race. President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965 issued an executive order establishing the Office of Federal Contract Compliance to implement this mandate to use “affirmative action” to address racial discrimination by employers.
Today, America faces another crisis — the widening gap between the rich and everyone else — that threatens our way of life. The richest 1 percent of Americans have a net worth 288 times greater than the median household, a record. Growing inequality is shrinking the middle class and limiting upward mobility.