Thursday, January 28, 2021

Why I Hate The New York Times Redux

Via Mrs. Kilburn's Kiddos.

That said, this drivel from the Times Editorial Board

Ease Up on the Executive Actions, Joe

President Biden is right to not let his agenda be held hostage, but legislating through Congress is a better path.

is hard to take, you know. As if Biden's flurry of executive actions were in opposition to some legislative work that he and the congressional Democrats are unaccountably refusing to do.

That's just not the case. Congressional Democrats are working on a lot of important stuff, including the Covid relief bill which it is hoped will be passed through reconciliation, possibly within the next couple of weeks, to spectacular effect (again, permanent things the public is eager to see like the minimum wage hike and the paid leave), and the huge pieces of democracy reform, the For the People Act (HR1) and John Lewis Voting Rights Act (it's hard to see these getting the needed 60 votes in the Senate but at least the provisions of the first are hugely popular, including among Republican voters, so it's worth forcing them to vote on it). The executive actions are, rather, making up for things that Congress can't do for one reason and another, which is why Biden's been promising to do them for months:

  1.  to reverse the worst of Trump's 220 executive orders* by rejoining the Paris Accord on climate change, canceling the Keystone pipeline, and a host of other moves on environmental degradation and climate change; reinstating the DACA program to protect young Dreamers from deportation, overturning the Trumpy attempt to cut immigrants out of the census count, and ceasing the punishment of cities and states that refused to violate their local laws at ICE's command to assist in deportations; and upending the stupid border wall and the stupid Muslim ban; and just this morning opening up a three-month midyear open enrollment period for Obamacare subsidized individual-market insurance policies and attempt to get rid of policies that discourage Medicaid enrollment, such as state-imposed work requirements, along with rescission of the gag rules on abortion counseling (global and domestic);
  2. to give an immediate goosing to the economy, while Congress completes its work on the budget bill, with the $700-billion Buy American plan for federal procurement, the institution of a $15 minimum wage for federal workers, and reprioritizing relief efforts from big corporations to individuals and genuinely small businesses and to local governments (including tribal and territorial governments); and extended moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures and pauses on student loan repayments.
  3. to establish the administration's tone on issues of equity and civil rights, eliminating the ban on transgender persons in military service, adding LGTBQ+ people to the protected classes, stopping the federal use of private prisons, and ordering federal housing programs to deal with the issue of racial bias; and obviously
  4. to move immediately on issues relating to Covid-19, starting with the 100-day masking challenge, rejoining WHO, orders to improve access to treatment and vaccines and to support research (with a special nod to rural areas), orders for all departments to gather, share, and publish data on the disease, facilitation of governors' use of national guard troops, an order to provide federal support and counseling on the safe reopening of schools, and an order to provide guidance to employers on protecting the health and safety of essential workers and monitor and assist OSHA in enforcing the rules.

*55 per year, the fastest rate in 40 years—presidents from the Progressive Era through the New Deal used to issue a lot more, of course, 145 per year for Theodore Roosevelt and 225 for Woodrow Wilson but also 217 per year for Harding and 242 for Hoover, and Franklin Roosevelt was the champion at 307, though he mostly had a very cooperative Congress; those from Eisenhower (62) through Carter (80) put out substantially more than Reagan (42) to Obama, who actually issued fewer executive orders per year, 35, than any president since Grover Cleveland, bet you didn't know that amid all the Republican screaming about Obama's dictatorial use of the technique. 

All of these are fully within the established competence of the executive and in most cases either fixing a mistake committed by the Trump administration or correcting the Trump administration's failure to do something (especially in the equity and Covid areas). None of them are things that Congress would do though some wouldn't be needed if Congress were to act in its own way, especially on immigration and on the equity issues.

The worst thing about the Times Editorial Board is that it doesn't occur to them to notice that the orders are making things better for the nation, as opposed to the Democrats and their apparently parochial desires:

These moves are being met with cheers by Democrats and others eager to see the legacy of Donald Trump’s presidency dismantled posthaste. Republicans, meanwhile, are grumbling about presidential overreach and accusing Mr. Biden of betraying his pledge to seek unity.

In other words, things are going the same way they often do in Washington. “There’s a sort of tribalism when it comes to the use of executive orders,” observes John Hudak, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution. “When your party’s in the White House, it’s the greatest thing on earth. When your party’s out, it’s undemocratic. It’s basically Satan’s pen.”

Well no, it's not exactly the way they often do in Washington. We're having an emergency, for fuck's sake! We're having a whole family of emergencies, medical, economic, and political. Close to half a million Americans are dead, schools are shut down and hospitals are run ragged, we're still ten million jobs short of where we were a year ago, and the vaccines that are going to bring us out of it exist but nobody seems able to find out where they are or when they're arriving. The political emergency is well represented by the fact that the last urgent "stimulus" bill took eight months to negotiate from the House's presentation of the HEROES Act in May through Republican vapors and fits to the end of December when they finally decided to let some of its provisions be enacted into law as the then president fretted angrily in his Florida hideaway holding it up even though he was unable to stop it, in pure impotent spite. At that rate it'll be September before the next thing passes, while the benefits of the current one start running out next month. I'm deeply concerned about whether Mr. Kevin McCarthy is feeling the unity or not but I'm most concerned about getting my fucking vaccine, thanks very much.

But this is no way to make law. A polarized, narrowly divided Congress may offer Mr. Biden little choice but to employ executive actions or see his entire agenda held hostage.

That's right! What's your alternative?

Undoing some of Mr. Trump’s excesses is necessary, but Mr. Biden’s legacy will depend on his ability to hammer out agreements with Congress. On the campaign trail, he often touted his skill at finding compromise, and his decades as a legislator, as reasons to elect him over Mr. Trump.

Oh, coming up with suggestions isn't your department? Biden's the skillful one, not you? 

Then maybe you ought to consider the possibility that he might know what he's doing. In addition to saving lives that are in danger in the here and now, not in the 2022 elections. Maybe he's actually got his eye on the 2022 elections, as he pushes out these overwhelmingly popular measures, many supported by a majority of Republicans, without Republican input, in the executive orders and the coming Big Fucking Deal of the reconciliation bill.

Maybe, in showing Republicans what can be accomplished without their help, he can stimulate them to get involved in the process and get their hands a little dirty. It's really up to them. Or, as Majority Leader Schumer (that was fun to type for the first time!) said,

“The Senate, as early as next week, will begin the process of considering a very strong Covid relief bill. Our preference is to make this important work bipartisan, to include input, ideas and revisions from our Republican colleagues... But if our Republican colleagues decide to oppose this urgent and necessary legislation, we will have to move forward without them.”

Ron Klain says it more concisely.

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