"A government of laws, not men" is among the most famous maxims produced by the American Revolution and the authors of the Constitution which was its ultimate fruit. Everything good in our government depends upon that maxim remaining an accurate description of the American Republic's most sacred principle. But now it is under challenge as never before. The ever-expanding welfare state in America has expanded the reach of unaccountable bureaucrats into every nook and cranny of the nation's economic life. The federal government has substituted administrative edict for laws written by elected representatives.

This reality is epitomized by President Obama's signature legislative achievement -- the Patient Protection and Affordability Act aka "Obamacare." As the Independent Womens' Voice noted recently, the phrase "the Secretary shall determine" is found over and over again in Obamacare's 2,700-plus pages. The Secretary is Kathleen Sebelius, the former Kansas governor appointed by Obama to oversee the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Among the HHS head's most significant new powers under Obamacare is that of granting or denying waivers to the law's endless list of requirements, including the amount of coverage employers are required to provide workers. The IWV correctly observes that "the Secretary shall determine" is government by whim rather than by law: "There's no better example of this than the issuance of waivers from the obligations imposed by Obamacare. So far, a total of 1,472 waivers have been issued by the Department of Health and Human Services. What are the criteria for receiving a waiver? How are the recipients of these waivers determined? Well, we just don't know. The details of the process have never been made public."

Some facts are known about the Obamacare waivers, however. A recent paper by the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services found that Sebelius has granted waivers to labor unions representing more than 547,000 employees. "By contrast, private employers with a total of 69,813 employees, many of whom work for small businesses were granted waivers," the Daily Caller reports. And last year, according to Washington Examiner columnist Michelle Malkin, "Sebelius granted 38 waivers to restaurants, nightclubs, spas and hotels in former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco congressional district. Pelosi's office said she had nothing to do with it." At another point last year, unions were getting so many waivers that Malkin asked why "union members are only 12 percent of all employees but have gotten 50.3 percent of Obamacare waivers?"

Unions are, of course, among Obama's biggest political supporters, providing thousands of election workers and hundreds of millions of dollars to his campaign treasury. As speaker, Pelosi was Obama's most important ally in securing House passage of Obamacare, and even as House Minority Leader she retains tremendous influence with Obama appointees like Sebelius who run the executive branch bureaucracy. That's what happens when the whims of men replace the rule of law in a republic.