Executive Orders: A Necessary Tool in these Precarious Times

On Executive Orders

I have to admit, I have been a bit naïve lately. I truly believed that with the way the previous government administration conducted itself over the last four years, and especially the last 4 months, we would realize that normal life passed the off ramp more than a few miles back and it’s time to change navigation. I was also hoping that the temperature in this country would cool down, with rational minds prevailing – on both sides. But the ability to separate noise from signal seems to be only getting worse. This is especially true as the current administration begins to assume their responsibilities of governing this country as the voters mandated last November. In the absence of Congressional focus and leadership, Executive Orders are a necessary tool in these precarious times.

One of the reasons an administration is elected in November and sworn in, in January is that government is complicated. Time is required to facilitate a focused and thorough transition of information between the outgoing and incoming teams. Unfortunately, the Trump team, proving right to the very end, that they did not understand the seriousness of their work, could not let go of their egotistical tendencies to at least do that right. I also believe, they didn’t want too much information about the work they were or, were not doing going out while they were still in office.  As a result, the current administration, and this country is 90 days behind where they should be. Considering that we are in the midst of a horrible pandemic, whose destruction is unprecedented and that a significant number of Americans feel insurrection and violence is their only option to be heard, 90 days is a long time. Therefore, while I may not agree with everything they are doing, it is extremely important that President Biden, his cabinet and Congress do their job and govern the country. 

This 90-day delay, 2 serious crisis’ and a dysfunctional Congress, has therefore precipitated the need for Executive Orders (EO). Governing by EO is not a good place to be in a democracy, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Biden has released far more EOs in his first week, than any of the modern Presidents. However, instead of trying to understand the nature of these EO’s, many in the media, are using their time to draw their audiences closer through fear mongering and a new term I’d like to offer, Selective Information Provision (SIP). They don’t want us to take a gulp because either they think we can’t handle it, or it doesn’t fit their narrative – I believe the latter is the real modus operandi. So, in my state of being naïve, I am going to try to break down these EOs to help me understand what’s really going on. I think it is important that the government does their job. Rather than just make a list, which you can review here (NBC news) I have categorized them into what I would prioritize if I were in Biden’s position to set a clear path and then to exercise leadership in these areas. 

On COVID-19 Pandemic Response

The fact that we already have a vaccine in production is worthy of praise. However, while the previous administration rested on its laurels, they neglected serious responsibilities when it came to transparency, logistical assessment and planning to deliver vaccines. They also failed to take a consistent and unified position across other strategies to keep people safe from contracting the virus – the number of administration officials who contracted COVID, including the President is not reassuring. Another key fail: many State governors were led to believe the Federal government had built a stockpile of vaccines to accommodate second doses. This was proven not true earlier this month when Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar admitted they don’t have any reserves in a television interview with Lester Holt. He then passed blame to the Governors for not using what they had fast enough. Azar then resigned a week before inauguration, citing his disappointment with the Capitol insurrection. In the midst of this confusion and other unknowns not revealed because of lack of transition, a number of EOs were executed to mobilize a more focused response from this administration. These included the following:

  • Appointing a coordinator to oversee vaccine, testing and supply distribution: assessing and addressing national status on personal protective equipment to determine shortfall. This includes the use of the National Guard to expedite vaccine delivery, as well as understanding and preparing for “future pandemics and biological threats.”
  • Restricting travel from countries struggling with the disease.
  • Mandating masks on Federal property as well as on public transportation including domestic and international travel – you have to where it at Costco, you should wear it on the subway.
  • Increase support and research for treatment of those who have contracted the virus and understanding the inequities that have been demonstrated as the virus has affected some communities more seriously than others. 
  • Actions facilitating the collection and distribution of COVID data – real information to be used to guide us through this disease. 
  • Research and development of clear guidelines to address workplace and school needs to ensure a healthy return to normal as soon as possible
  • Addressing economic relief, and food assistance for students, veterans, and the unemployed.

In the absence of a real plan, that could have been developed by qualified resources we have witnessed a serious lack of attention to key areas and it is causing death and disruption. These gaps need to be addressed with the urgency of EOs to help regain some control and avoid further catastrophe.

On Compassion, Equality and Immigration

If kids in cages, the open disparagement of Muslims, the discrimination against the LGBTQ, raging communities unwilling to accept the senseless killing of their family members through police violence, 3 years of more than 7000+ / year reported hate crimes, open demonstrations of threats and violence by fascists and white supremacists didn’t convince you that we have a race and equality problem in this country, then you’re fooling yourself. The previous administration chose to espouse xenophobia and endorse and promote the actions of militant, white supremacists’ groups. The evidence is clear. A man drove his car through a street full of protestors killing Heather Heyer and maiming countless others protesting the removal of statues commemorating Confederate leaders. The administration chose to not clearly condemn the act. In the absence of moral clarity and compassion, the current administration is addressing this issue with urgency by issuing EOs to address the following:

  • Prioritizing the need to understand the underlying issues of inequality in our communities and including undocumented citizens in the Census to properly assess and address these inequities and needs. 
  • Lifting of travel restrictions on the basis of religion (Muslim ban).
  • Reinstituting the rights of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and stopping the deportation of refugees.
  • Reviewing the methods of immigration enforcement which has become extreme, including the stoppage of valuable resources used to build a wall to focus on more effective measures.
  • Banning discrimination against those in the LGBTQ community, especially those willing to serve – I am grateful for anyone willing to serve this country, why does it matter how they identify?
  • Confirming the Federal governments commitments and previous agreements with American Indians and Alaska Native tribes. 

Race and inequality issues were either ignored or aggravated by the previous administration and they are hindering our ability to reconcile and heal as a nation. We are not only divided along political lines, but also along the lines of basic decency, empathy and compassion. These orders only stop the bleeding, and further work is necessary, but it’s urgency can no longer be ignored. 

On Global Leadership

Key steps have been taken to resume our Global leadership role and forge ahead with progress in new directions, instead of simply holding on to the old ways.

  • Confirming our commitment to the World Health Organization (not an EO)
  • Rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement. 
  • Stopping the Keystone XL Pipeline – the details behind this are not well understood or explained on the news, but according to the previous administration, we have already achieved energy independence, why risk environmental disruption and significant impact to many affected communities on this venture? Also, the ‘new jobs lost’ number has been heavily manipulated to overstate its importance. If you would like more details, let me know.

While these organizations and agreements are not always perfect, abdicating any responsibility on topics or issues where the U.S. can be negatively impacted by the actions of other countries is imprudent. We have the benefit of experience and insight that must be used to improve these agreements and guide these organizations for not only our benefit, but for the benefit of the world.

On Transparency and Good Government

Once again, lack of transparency, real effort and a mendacious administration has made it necessary to clear the air about how government has been working behind the scenes over the last 4 years. Hopefully the following orders will put things back on course. These EOs address the following:

  • Holding for review all pending new rules submitted by the previous administration to ensure that, in a last ditch, self-serving effort, they do not contradict or hinder the execution of good government.
  • Requiring all government appointees to take a pledge to be ethical in all actions and denying the opportunity to be swayed by gifts from lobbyists or the promise of future employment with lobbyists for at least two years after leaving government. 
  • Improving and modernizing the oversight and regulatory capabilities of the Office of Management and Budget, thus improving the integrity and implementation of resources and regulation.
  • Improving the delivery of Federal aid and stimulus when necessary. 
  • Increasing Federal worker minimum wage to $15/hr.
  • Requiring agencies to ‘Buy American’ when sourcing products and services.
  • Reviewing any previous Housing and Urban development actions that may have set back fair housing policies and laws.
  • Moving away from private prisons and full taking accountability for a failing system.

Trust must be restored in the process of government. These EOs address immediate operational needs and hopefully they will manifest what they are intended to do: heal the country and provide real information and specific action steps with which the government can proceed to do their job effectively. It’s a start.

In Conclusion

Leading by EO should never be normal operating procedure. However, these are unprecedented times, and the nation is struggling in too many ways. I have faith that we can get back on course, and while I may not agree with everything with Biden believes, I trust the intention is more sincere and focused on the health and prosperity of the country – I expect Congress to do their job and do what is right for America. Based on what I have witnessed over the last 4 years, I do not trust, that the Trump administration was diligent and transparent, and Republican leadership (Mitch McConnel and Kevin McCarthy) are only concerned with preserving their party’s current seats in Congress – I can’t even tell if they care about their constituents. The fact that it is possible they won’t even investigate through impeachment trial, the failed but destructive insurrection of the Capitol building, leaves me with no confidence that they actually care about anything other than figuring out how to spin it, so they come out as clean as possible and secure as many Trump voters as they can. The time is now, and this administration has no time to waste, so in the absence of integrity in Congress, they are justified in exercising the Executive right to move forward with the governing of this country. 

It is easy to lead people by stoking their innermost fears and inspiring aggression. It is easier to make up or hide the facts than to actually investigate, be transparent and provide actual solutions; pivot and deflection are not worthy strategies when it comes to addressing real issues. It is easier to ignore the world around you and lead only those who follow, whether through devotion or self-serving motives. Executing with integrity, commitment and true conscientious effort is hard. Doing what is right, taking charge and addressing the real needs of the people with truth, a conscientious effort and integrity is important. These principles must be restored through diligence, transparency and trust; without them, it will become impossible to be effective, much less exceptional. 

Finally, make no mistake, until we the People make a serious effort to understand the facts, separate the truth from the lies and go beyond the SIPS by digging deeper into the information that’s out there, and not clinging to the droning of self-serving opinion show anchors on news channels, we will struggle to hold our leaders sincerely accountable. My opinion may not always prevail, and I know better than to think it will never change, so ensuring that I at least have the facts and data beyond the SIPS, is extremely important. 

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