by Bob Barr
If there was any doubt that Jan. 20 signaled the rebirth of the nanny state, the slew of executive actions signed by President Joe Biden on his first days in the Oval Office confirmed that it has returned with a vengeance.
In addition to revealing his long love affair with regulatory power, Biden made clear that virtually any actions undertaken by his predecessor were ipso facto bad to the bone and must be revoked, rescinded and condemned.
Take, for example, Executive Order No. 13992, signed the afternoon of Jan. 20 and titled, “Executive Order on Revocation of Certain Executive Orders Concerning Federal Regulation.” The document is a paean to the regulatory behemoth that has grown to immense proportions in Washington, D.C., in recent decades.
E.O. 13992 does not even try to disguise its preference for “regulatory tools” to undo the “harmful policies and directives” of the previous quadrennium, especially former President Donald Trump’s failure to enact “racial justice” or address “climate change.” This particular executive order, the eighth in Biden’s opening salvo, criticizes by name a series of actions undertaken by Trump that tried in some manner to lessen the regulatory burdens on American businesses and the corresponding cost to taxpayers. Trump’s Jan. 30, 2017 order, “Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs,” for example, was rendered dead and buried by the stroke of Biden’s pen.
Another of Biden’s Inauguration Day presidential missives, E.O. 13990, has been widely cited for elevating to existential status the “Climate Crisis.” Its nine pages of climate change hyperbole, however, also contain statements reflecting and reinforcing the new president’s disdain for anything that might hint at regulatory “reform.” Every regulatory action that was taken by Trump from his first day in office (January 20, 2017) to his last (Noon on January 20, 2021) is deemed of questionable validity and declared subject to review by Biden administration agency heads for likely revocation.
According to E.O. 13990, one of the named “stakeholders” that will have seats at the Biden Climate Crisis Table are undefined “environmental justice organizations.” These groups will be joined in the Biden administration’s work to hold back the existential climate crisis, by a new “Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases;” another example of Biden’s well-known predisposition to embrace federal bureaucracies to solve society’s problems.
E.O. 13990 is the document that drove a stake through the heart of the Keystone XL Pipeline, which was an important component of the Trump administration’s drive for U.S. energy independence – a goal now cavalierly discarded by the incoming administration. This particularly harmful executive order is buttressed by another of Biden’s sweeping executive actions – his Jan. 26 “Memorandum for the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development” (designated to be Democrat Rep. Marcia Fudge from Ohio).
This presidential memo declares that the enduring American “legacy” of “residential segregation and discrimination,” along with something Biden refers to as the “racial wealth gap,” must be addressed by HUD as a top priority. Interestingly, while Biden declares that the federal government “systemically supported” racially discriminatory housing and mortgage lending practices “throughout much of the 20th century,” he pointedly fails to mention it was primarily administrations of his own Democrat Party that instituted those housing policies.
In addition to our country’s public housing programs and federally regulated mortgage system being declared by Biden as deeply and systemically racist, he similarly condemns “land-use patterns” and “housing markets” in cities across the country, and even the 47,000-mile-long system of Interstate Highways crisscrossing America. Presumably, Biden’s Transportation Secretary-designate, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, will be receiving a similar memo directing him to take action to address systemic racism undergirding the highway system soon to be under his direction.
These presidential action documents are but the first steps in what surely will be a four-year strategy to reinvigorate the Regulatory State that Trump had started to dismantle. The process will move into high gear as soon as the legislative and appropriations phases of Biden’s plan begin in earnest in the coming weeks, with his first budget proposal and as soon as his full team of Cabinet and sub-Cabinet picks assume their official duties as Nanny State conductors.
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He served as the United States Attorney in Atlanta from 1986 to 1990 and was an official with the CIA in the 1970s. He now practices law in Atlanta, Georgia and serves as head of Liberty Guard.