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Expert: Use Of Executive Powers Not Uncommon

Last updated on Wednesday, January 29, 2014

(UNDATED) - Despite claims to the contrary by some of President Obama’s critics, a political scientist says Obama’s announcement of a more liberal use of executive power is nothing new, especially over the last five decades.

The use of executive power goes back to George Washington, but Elliot Bartky, associate professor of political science at Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne, say it's use increased beginning in the 1960's and has been growing ever since.

"Now that the split government is even more split, where you have one party controlling the presidency and the parties splitting the control of Congress, you're going to have problems," said Bartky, adding that the benefits of executive power are usually in the eye of the party in power at the White House.

During his State of the Union address, Obama talked about more than a dozen ways he planned on using his power independent of Congress to help the economy or narrow the income gap between the rich and the poor. He announced one of those ways before the speech, signing an executive order to raise the minimum wage for future federal contract workers.

While this has led some to accuse Obama of trying to install a "monarchy", Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, also was prolific at using the power of the presidency.

"Bush used over 300 executive orders, and it may be by the end of the Obama administration that Obama will use roughly the same number," said Bartky.

Bartky was also quick to point out that executive power did not begin with Bush - there are numerous examples from every presidency, from Lyndon Johnson directing federal funding to Southern states who cooperated with school desegregation to Ronald Reagan's firing of air traffic controllers who went on an illegal strike.

While Obama or any president's talk of taking action may energize his supporters, Bartky says in reality, there is little that he can actually carry out.

"There are certain things he will be able to do, but I really think on both sides, (that power) is really overstated," said Bartky.

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