Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021, began in Washington, D.C., with the temperature slowly rising from 27 degrees Joseph R. Biden Jr., slowly rising for his first full day as president with his views of yesterday differing from millions rising elsewhere humming the lyrics of the Beatles’ song, “Yesterday all my troubles seemed so far away,” after yesterday’s executive orders 13990 and 13993.
Why the difference? Would today’s activities change their tune by year’s end?
Yesterday, his inauguration had been followed with a series of actions that English writer Edward Bulever Lytton might describe as “The power of writing is eternal, while the power of the sword is short-lived,” which has been shortened to “The pen is mightier than the sword.”
Indeed, the president’s signature had transformed the U.,S. in ways that multiple wars had been fought to preserve. By signing the executive orders, the president ordered his government to conduct racial equity (not equality) — assessments of its agencies and reallocate resources to “advance equity for all, including people of color and others who have been historically underserved” and “affected by persistent poverty and inequality.” The order gave non-citizens the power to govern citizens by permitting illegal immigrants to be counted for deciding where congressional representatives will be elected and where funds will be allocated, destroyed women’s sports by extending to sexual orientation and gender identity (i.e., transgenders) the same protections it extends to women, and much more. However, EO 13990, the reduction in U.S. oil production, meant all the other EO’ did was to increase the size of their piece of the decreasing pie of the U.S. economy as the administration would negotiate for more oil from Russia, OPEC, Iran and Venezuela but not Chevron, et al.
The president also signed his “John Hancock” — a reference to John Hancock’s being the first person to place his signature on the Declaration of Independence so large that the king could see it without his glasses — on EO 13993. The order reversed President Donald Trump’s restrictions on U.S. passport holders from seven Muslim-majority countries, extended deferrals of deportation with a safe haven in the U.S., reduced President Trump’s enforcement of immigration within the United States and fortified DACA.
Jan. 21, 2021, would be another active day for the president’s pen on EOs.
EO 13994. Ensuring a Data-Driven response to COVID-19 and Future High-Consequence Public Health Threats by each agency designate a person for a committee to assess their agencies response capabilities. Notice any increased data?
EO 13995. Ensuring an Equitable Pandemic Response and Recovery by creating a “Health Equity Task Force within the HHS to address the disproportionate impact on people of color and under-served populations.” Months later the task force head, Dr. Nunez-Smith. said “We must strive toward the post-pandemic reality in housing, nutrition, education, healthcare, employment and beyond.”
Really? The federal government deciding those parts of our lives?
She continued, “Disproportionate impact on people of color and underserved populations?”
Does this sound like a task force that will end with the end of COVID? She added, “Racist/ethnic and social equity must be at the forefront of our pandemic response” in addition to science, community, and health:” really? Forefront of “racist/ethic and social equity?”
EO 13996. Establishing the COVID-10 Pandemic Testing Board and Ensuring a Sustainable Public Health Workforce for COVID-19 and Other Biological Threats by establishing a national testing strategy and expanding supplies of tests and laboratory testing capacities.
As February 2022, the Pandemic Testing Boardhas held no press conferences, no hearings and made no announcements, and the head, Jeffrey Zients, refuses to reply to inquiries.
The $48 billion appropriated by Congress for testing was supplemented by another $48 billion in 2021. Yet in October 2021, the administration rejected a proposal by testing experts to rapidly send tests to Americans prior to the anticipated increase at the holidays, which failure Press Secretary Jen Psaki summarily dismissed.
In January, a Republican request for an accounting by the White House provided an unaudited one-page summary with no details on the total to $37.2 billion, which even “government accounting” cannot equate with the $96 billion allocated. No accounting for $60 billion? See EO 13994.
EO 13997. Improving and Expanding Access to Care and Treatments for COVID-19 by supporting the most promising treatments for COVID -19 and future health threats. In application the administration not only did not support any new treatments but grabbed control of those existing ones and redistributed them along racial lines.
EO 13998. Promoting COVID-19 Safety in Domestic and International Travel by requiring masks in airports, commercial aircraft and various surface transportation, including rail. It also required that international travelers provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test prior to coming to the U.S. unless, of course, they chose to enter across our southern border: EOs being for executive branch employees?
EO 13999. Protecting Worker Health and Safety by having OSHA enforce COVID-19 restrictions. My article “OSHA: Scientific or Political” discussed the courts enjoining OSHA’s attempts to issue regulations for COVID in the News Press, Jan. 23.
EO 1400. Supporting the reopening and Continuing Operation of Schools and early Childhood Education Providers to ensure “the health and safety of children, students, educators, families and communities” by helping to create “the conditions for safe, in-person learning as quickly as possible.” It calls for the Department of Education and HHS to provide guidance for safely reopening and operating schools, childcare providers and institutions of higher education.
How did it support the reopening?
EO 14001. On a Sustainable Public Health Supply Chain by designing, building and sustaining a long-term capacity for future pandemic and biological threats. Sounds good.
The evening of Thursday, Jan, 21, 2021, brought a close a day in which the president’s signing pen had raced over the signature lines on six EOs that proposed to deal with COVID’s impact on data, pandemic responses, testing, access to treatments, travel, safety, schools and future threats, while creating committees (EO 13994), task forces (EO 13995) and a testing board (EO 13996).
After 2021 brought less reliable data, no improvements in testing, schools remaining closed, travel restrictions continuing except at the southern border, and despite vaccines the number of COVID deaths increasing from 385,000 to 467,000, the rising tune throughout the year was “Yesterday all my troubles seemed so far away, now it looks as though they are here to stay. I believe in yesterday.”
Brent E. Zepke is an attorney, arbitrator and author who lives in Santa Barbara. Formerly he taught at six universities and numerous professional conferences. He is the author of six books: “One Heart-Two Lives,” “Legal Guide to Human Resources,” “Business Statistics,” “Labor Law,” “Products and the Consumer” and “Law for Non-Lawyers.”