- - Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Ever the huckster, rarely the statesman, President Obama continued the pitch for the spending schemes he presented Tuesday night in his State of the Union speech. On Wednesday, he began a road trip to take him to carefully assembled fawning crowds in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Wisconsin. Mr. Obama will reiterate how he intends to go around Congress whenever it suits him.

Congressional Republicans, perhaps even including the aisle-crossing moderates he’s counted on to push some of his more egregious measures in the past, are rightly concerned. “We’re not just going to sit here and let the president trample all over us,” warned House Speaker John A. Boehner. “I have to remind him we do have a Constitution. … And if he tries to ignore this, he’s going to run into a brick wall.”

Mr. Obama says he’ll climb over the wall to check off the items on his economic to-do list, basically a reconstituted version of every tax-and-spend Democratic agenda since Jimmy Carter’s days of malaise. It’s about “strengthening the middle class,” he says, with barely an acknowledgment of the Constitution, which sets out that a bill doesn’t become law without the approval of Congress.

That includes the House, even if most of the members are Republicans, as well as the Senate with its friendly majority of Democrats.

“I’m happy to work with all of you,” he said Tuesday night, “but America does not stand still, and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.” Democratic members of Congress jumped to their feet to applaud a president whose goal is to render them irrelevant.

“I’ve got a pen,” Mr. Obama said last week, “and I’ve got a phone.” The pen would be used to sign executive orders; the telephone to coordinate with special-interest groups to pressure Congress to support measures he can’t yet impose unilaterally. It calls to mind the cavalier observation of one of President Clinton’s top advisers, about executive orders. “Stroke of the pen,” said Paul Begala, “law of the land. Kinda cool.”

The White House now requires federal contractors pay a minimum wage of $10.10 an hour, a clever way to spin the debate so that it’s not about federal contractors being paid too much, but about not being paid enough.

The cash for this generosity comes from the pockets of taxpayers, who have no say. It’s easy for Mr. Obama to be so cavalier with other people’s money.

Far more expensive will be the executive fiats in the works at the Environmental Protection Agency. Mr. Obama’s zealous clerks hope to impose onerous regulations in the name of ending the scourge of carbon dioxide.

Carbon dioxide is, among other things, what everyone exhales, but when the molecules escape a power plant they’re noxious and evil. (How do the molecules know?) Mr. Obama will kill jobs and send electricity rates to the stratosphere to reduce something otherwise essential to life on the planet.

It only makes sense if you don’t think about it, which should be the mantra for his “year of action.”

He must sidestep Congress to get a legacy other than Obamacare, which he understands is poison. He must do something — anything — about job-approval numbers like those in a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll Tuesday that found 68 percent of Americans think they’re not better off than when Mr. Obama became president, and 63 percent who say the country is on the wrong track. Those are numbers that can’t be changed with a phone and a pen.