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Saturday, April 29, 2017

100 Days of Being 'TRUMPED'

In a recent Associated Press Interview, Donald Trump said: “I think the 100 days is, you know, it’s an artificial barrier. It’s not very meaningful.”  However, back in the heat of the campaign for President, Trump said as he released his “Contract with the American Voter”” at an appearance in Gettysburg, PA on October 22, 2016: “What follows is my 100-day action plan to Make America Great Again. It is a contract between myself and the American voter.”

It continued: “On November 8th, Americans will be voting for this 100-day plan to restore prosperity to our economy, security to our communities, and honesty to our government. This is my pledge to you.” In that Plan, within the first 100 days of his administration, he promised to bring about many accomplishments by Executive Order.  So, either the 100 days has some relevance and meaning for his Contract, or it doesn’t.  It did in October of 2016; perhaps now, after an actual 100 days, he is changing his mind, as he often does.  A fact-checker for the AP wrote on April 24th: “Trump has grown dismissive of the 100-day mark, calling it “ridiculous,” and now plays down his manifesto even as he boasts of his achievements. In the AP interview, he appeared to attribute the plan to his campaign staff, saying ‘Somebody, yeah, somebody put out the concept of a 100-day plan’.” 
Fact-checker: “During the campaign, Trump promoted a “100-day action plan” he characterized as “a contract between myself and the American voter — and begins with restoring honesty and accountability, and bringing change to Washington.  The Plan contains ambitious items like “a constitutional amendment to impose term limits on all members of Congress,” cancelling “all federal funding to sanctuary cities, tax reform, and fixing “America’s water and environmental infrastructure.”   Here is a link to a copy of said Plan:

Here is Trump's – signed! – "100-day action plan" is Trump's – signed! – "100-day action plan" The 100 days is an artificial measure of accomplishment, no doubt.  But it is a measure, and he himself invested that measure with a high degree of meaning and consequence when he touted his Contract with the American Voter at Gettysburg.  It is also a presidential tradition, now accepted as standard practice, as is the releasing of candidate tax returns so that the public can judge what manner of economic stewards are vying for the highest office in the land.  However, Mr. Trump seems to have difficulty knowing, remembering, or caring about what other presidents have done or accomplished.  His disdain for history and tradition – and even for consistency of democratic ideals, beliefs and values -- shows forth in so many ways.
The fact-checker, Aaron Rupar, has this to say about The Donald’s claim to have accomplished more than any president in the first ninety days: “Trump hasn’t shepherded a major piece of legislation through Congress, despite the fact his party controls both chambers. His second attempt at a Muslim ban executive order was blocked by a federal court. The Affordable Care Act repeal/replace package Congress considered last month had a 17 percent approval rating and didn’t go anywhere. The new package that’s in the works will make premiums spike for people with pre-existing conditions and hence will likely be just as unpopular.” 
For your information, here is an overview of each of Trump's orders (based on several News sources including NBC, CBS, Fox)

1. Executive Order Minimizing the Economic Burden of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
Signed: Jan. 20, 2017   Hours after being sworn in, Trump signed an executive order aimed at reversing the Affordable Care Act. It instructs the secretary of health and human services and other agency heads to "waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation" of any part of the law that places a fiscal burden on the government, businesses or individuals.

2. Expediting Environmental Reviews and Approvals for High-Priority Infrastructure Projects
Outlines how the administration will expedite environmental reviews and approval of "high priority" infrastructure projects,  and directs the Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), within 30 days of a request, to determine a project's environmental impact and decide whether it is "high priority." Review deadlines are to be put in place by the CEQ's chairman.
3. Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States
Outlines changes to a few immigration policies, but most notably strips federal grant money to so-called sanctuary cities. In addition, the secretary of homeland security is ordered to hire 10,000 more immigration officers, create a publicly available weekly list of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants and review previous immigration policies. The order also creates an office to assist the victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants and calls on local and state police to detain or apprehend people in the United States illegally.
4. Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements
Directs federal funding to construction of a wall along the Mexico-U.S. border, instructs the secretary of homeland security to prepare congressional budget requests for the wall and to "end the abuse of parole and asylum provisions" that complicate the removal of undocumented immigrants. Calls for hiring 5,000 more Border Patrol agents, building facilities to hold undocumented immigrants near the Mexican border and ending "catch-and-release" protocols by which undocumented immigrants are not detained while they await court hearings.
5. Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States
Suspends the entry of immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries — Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Yemen and Somalia — for 90 days and stops all refugees from entering the country for 120 days. Syrian refugees are banned indefinitely. During the time of the ban, the secretary of homeland security and secretary of state will review and revise the refugee admission process. Also in the order is the suspension of Obama's 2012 Visa Interview Waiver Program, which allowed frequent U.S. tourists to bypass the visa interview process.
6. Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Appointees
Stops all executive branch officials from lobbying for five years after they leave office and places a lifetime ban on lobbying a foreign government. The order enacts a number of other lobbying restrictions, including, banning appointees from accepting gifts from registered lobbyists and banning appointees who were lobbyists from participating in any issues they petitioned for within the last two years.
7. Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs
States that executive departments and agencies must slash two regulations for every one new regulation proposed. Regulation spending cannot exceed $0, and any costs associated with regulations must be offset with eliminations. The order also directs the head of each agency to keep records of the cost savings, to be sent to the president.
8. Core Principles for Regulating the United States Financial System
Lays out the administration's "Core Principles" regarding the U.S. financial system, including:
  • Making regulation "efficient, effective and appropriately tailored"
  • Preventing government bailouts
  • Ensuring that U.S. firms are competitive with foreign companies
Directs the treasury secretary to review financial regulations and report back to the president 120 days later with a determination of whether current policies promote the "Core Principles."
9. Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety
Directs Attorney General Jeff Sessions to create a task force that would propose new legislation to reduce crime, highlighting drug trafficking, illegal immigration and violent crime. The task force will submit yearly reports to the president.
10. Preventing Violence Against Federal, State, Tribal, and Local Law Enforcement Officers
Calls on the Justice Department to "enhance the protection and safety" of law enforcement by increasing penalties for crimes committed against officers. The AG is also instructed to review and determine whether existing federal laws adequately protect law enforcement and to propose legislation to better protect officers. The order directs the Justice Department to recommend changes in federal grant funding to law enforcement programs if they do not protect officers.
11. Enforcing Federal Law with Respect to Transnational Criminal Organizations and Preventing International Trafficking
Outlines the administration's approach to cutting down on organized crime — including gangs, cartels and racketeering organizations — by enhancing cooperation with foreign governments and the ways in which federal agencies share information and data. Identifies human trafficking, drug smuggling, financial crimes, cyber-crime and corruption as "a threat to public safety and national security."  The Threat Mitigation National Intelligence will review and recommend changes to federal agencies' practices in a report to be delivered to the president within 120 days.
12. Providing an Order of Succession Within the Department of Justice
Two weeks after Trump fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, this order changed the order of succession for Sessions, who won approval as attorney general. The sequence is: the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois and the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Missouri.
13. Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda
Each agency must designate an official as its Regulatory Reform Officer (RRO), who will be responsible for reviewing current regulations and making recommendations to the agency head on how to modify them, honing in on certain regulations, such as those that are outdated or are perceived to curtail job creation.
14. Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the "Waters of the U.S." Rule
Calls on federal agencies to revise or eliminate a regulation put in place by former president Barack Obama called the Clean Water Rule. Signed in 2015, that rule expanded the number of bodies of water protected by the federal government to include streams, ponds and smaller waterways. Directs the administrator of the EPA and the assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works to review the rule and propose a new one that either eliminates or revises Obama's rule.
The League of Conservation Voters slammed the move:  "This executive order is about one thing: protecting polluters at the expense of our communities and their access to clean drinking water."
15. White House Initiative to Promote Excellence and Innovation at Historically Black Colleges and Universities
Transfers White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (WHHBCU) from the Department of Education to the Executive Office of the President. Trump met with dozens of HBCU presidents the day prior for a listening session, which many students and college leaders were quick to protest out of skepticism that the president was using the meeting as a PR stunt.
16. Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the U.S.
Revises Trump's original U.S. immigration ban, which was hit with dozens of lawsuits shortly after being signed in February and blocked by a federal judge in Washington state.  Iraq was removed from the list after the Iraqi government said it would increase information sharing with the United States. Like first Order, this was held up by a Federal judge.
17. Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch
Assigns the Office of Management and Budget director to propose a plan to "reorganize governmental functions and eliminate unnecessary agencies" in an effort to cut down on federal spending and improve "efficiency, effectiveness and accountability of that agency." Within 180 days, the heads of select agencies must submit individual plans to director Mulvaney, who will have another 180 days to send a plan to the president.  
18. The Revocation of Federal Contracting Executive Orders
Revokes key components of the Obama administration's previous order banning federal contractors from discriminating against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or identity. Gay rights advocates say the Executive Order hobbles several of Obama's previous orders by revoking the requirement that companies seeking federal contracts prove they've complied with federal laws banning discrimination based on sexual identity or orientation.
19. Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth
Directs the EPA to review another executive order, called the Clean Power Plan, signed by Barack Obama in 2014, which aimed to reduce carbon pollution from power plants, but was halted by the Supreme Court in 2016. Trump's new order also asks agencies to review any regulations that could "potentially burden the development or use" of oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear energy resources.” Within 180 days, the agencies must submit reports to the Office of Management and Budget, which will take action to eliminate regulations.
20. Establishing the President's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis
Creates the "Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and Opioid Crisis," which will study the federal government's effectiveness in fighting drug addiction by reviewing funding levels, accessibility of treatment services, prescription practices and youth educational message, and report to the president within 90 days. Trump appointed Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey as commission head.
21. Omnibus Report on Significant Trade Deficits
Directs the Commerce Department and U.S. Trade Representative to compile a report on trade practices that contribute to the trade deficit. The report will look at each of America's trade partners.  Forms of discrimination the report will assess include non-tariff barriers, anti-dumping and intellectual property theft. Within 90 days, the report will be sent to the White House.  
22. Establishing Enhanced Collection and Enforcement of Anti-Dumping and Countervailing Duties and Violations of Trade and Customs Law
Directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to develop a plan within 90 days to combat two types of non-trade barriers placed against the U.S.: anti-dumping and countervailing duties. Also directs the DHS Secretary and Treasury Secretary to step up seizure of counterfeit goods and protect American companies from intellectual property right infringement. of Form

24. 23. “Buy American, Hire American"
 The "Hire American" portion of the bill targets the H-1B visa program, which allows businesses to hire high-skilled workers from outside the U.S., by putting less emphasis on the lottery system used to determine which companies can sponsor visas. The "Buy American" portion directs agencies to tighten rules that give priority to U.S. companies when hiring contractors or purchasing goods. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross must submit a review of "Buy American" loopholes within 220 days.

 Signed: April 21, 2017
 Secretary of the Treasury shall immediately review all significant tax regulations issued by the Department of the Treasury on or after January 1, 2016;  and, in consultation with the Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs and OMB, identify in an interim report to the President all such regulations that:
(i)    impose an undue financial burden on United States taxpayers; (ii)   add undue complexity to the Federal tax laws; or (iii) exceed the statutory authority of the Internal Revenue Service.
The Secretary shall prepare and submit a report to the President within 150 days that recommends specific actions to mitigate the burden imposed by regulations identified in the interim report. 
25.  Agriculture and Rural Prosperity in America
Creates a task force, led by Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, that will identify policy options to promote U.S. agriculture business and job growth in rural America. The task force must submit a report to Trump within 180 days.
26.  Review of Designations Under the Antiquities Act
Directs the Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke to review federal monument designations — including national parks — made since 1996 that cover more than 100,000 acres of land. Under the 1906 Antiquities Act, presidents have the power to protect land.  EO names one national monument designation in particular: Obama's 1.35 million-acre Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. Zinke must submit a report to Trump within 45 days.
27. Enforcing Statutory Prohibitions on Federal Control of Education
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is directed to study federal overreach in local and state education systems.  As a strong advocate for charter schools, DeVos will determine within 300 days whether federal education regulations take control away from states in areas such as curriculum, school administration and textbook or library content.
28. Veteran’s Administration
Signed: April 27, 2017
 Sets up a special office to improve accountability at the VA and protect whistleblowers.  EO creates a new VA office to identify poorly performing employees (related to a scandal that engulfed the VA when poor hospital treatment and long wait times for care were uncovered). Trump and the VA director praised the signing as a step toward increasing accountability in the agency.
29.  Off-Shore Drilling
Signed:  April 27, 2017
Reverses President Obama’s December decision to remove most of the Arctic Ocean from the federal drilling program which would have blocked drilling in the Arctic for years to come.  Will also review the Obama administration’s five-year drilling plan, finalized in November, that restricts lease sales for new drilling to only the Gulf of Mexico and waters off south-central Alaska. Regulators will also reconsider government regulations on activities like seismic testing and will review decisions within the last 10 years to create offshore marine monuments and sanctuaries; reviewing the five-year plan is a lengthy process that Zinke predicted could take about two years. 
30.  Review of Trade Agreements
Signed: April 29, 2017
At this juncture, it is important to understand some important characteristics about Executive Orders (from Wikipedia and “Historically, executive orders related to routine administrative matters and to the internal operations of federal agencies, such as amending Civil Service Rules and overseeing the administration of public lands. More recently, presidents have used executive orders to carry out legislative policies and programs. As a result, the executive order has become a critical tool in presidential policy making. For example, President John F. Kennedy used an executive order to eliminate racial discrimination in federally funded housing.” 
  • They are orders issued by United States Presidents, usually directed towards officers and agencies of the Federal government; White House staff  work with the agency heads to ensure that they comply with the President's wishes. Moreover, there are some EOs that implement authority delegated directly to the President by Congress. Unlike the "politically enforceable" EOs mentioned above, the Trump White House would have to comply with any requirements under such a statute before issuing an order.
  • Have the full force of law, based on the authority derived from statute or the Constitution itself
  • The ability to make such orders is based on express or implied Acts of Congress that delegate to the President some degree of discretionary power (delegated legislation)
  • Executive orders are subject to judicial review and may be overturned if the orders lack support by statute or the Constitution

  • Major policy initiatives require approval by the legislative branch, but executive orders have significant influence over the internal affairs of government, deciding how and to what degree legislation will be enforced, dealing with emergencies, waging wars, and in general fine-tuning policy choices in the implementation of broad statutes.
  • The President can sign, revoke, or choose not to enforce or defend Executive Orders
  • Most EOs are directed to the heads of Executive agencies. Essentially, they are statements of the President's policy priorities, expressed in the most formal manner possible. As a result, they are only "politically enforceable" by the President against his appointees
  • What usually matters most is not the issuance of the Order but the actions taken by the agencies under the authority granted by their organic statutes to implement the President's policies set forth in an EO
  • Always keep in mind that there may be a significant delay between an EO from the White House and concrete implementation in the form of final agency rules.
  • While the country should expect the new administration to continue to issue executive orders, it should not conclude that each EO will result in a "sea" change.” 
What more did Donald Trump do during his first 100 days?  Not much, if you believe the progressive critics and major polls.  In an ABC News/Washington Post poll released Sunday, 53 percent of those surveyed disapprove of Trump's performance as president, and 56 percent say he's accomplished little or nothing in his first 100 days.” 
Before buying-in completely to such poll results, we must consider what happened in the last election, and that his followers are not buying this assessment at all.  They want to give him more time; they want to emphasize his strong positions taken, particularly in relation to foreign affairs.  They are proud that he is an authoritarian leader, tending to put other nations on notice that America is the strongest military power on this earth.  They are content to believe that the Donald has put America first, and that he is making America great again.
The other more progressive critics are pointing out his lack of leadership on major legislation, and his inability to get some things he wants done – like immigration bans and repeal of Obamacare. They tend to give him a failing grade in both domestic and foreign policy. 
But I want to conclude on a slightly different note, as I often do, because I believe his performance during these first 100 days indicates more about him (and his followers perhaps) than about his policies.   These EOs reveal several fundamental truths about Donald Trump which we ignore at our own peril:
.      He believes strongly that the way to get things done is to issue orders to underlings, to:

a.      Make it plain who is in charge
b.      Put the burden of producing results on someone else
c.      Leave open the option of being able to blame the underlings for any failures that may result
d.      Produce a product that can be discarded if necessary because of the time lapse between order and completion
2.      Unfortunately, he apparently believes that he can govern without the strong participation of the legislative branch of government
a.      This is an obvious clue to the authoritarian mind of Donald Trump
b.      Coming from the real estate development business, he obviously doesn’t believe in deal-making or price-setting or selling or contracting by committee; it all depends on the mind and the actions of the man in charge
3.      Donald Trump does not wish to be held in check by the Congress; that is not his way to conduct business.  Thus, he has gone beyond the limits of existing statutes and constitutional authority:
a.      setting bans on immigrants,
b.      limiting free speech, not only by silencing protestors at his rallies, but by eliminating an Obama order banning federal contractors from discriminating against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or identity.
c.      Proposing limits on access to all levels of internet service and proposing greater surveillance of people use of the internet
4.      It is quite clear that Trump thinks issuing orders is equivalent to accomplishing something; otherwise, how could he possibly claim to have accomplished more in his first ninety days (now 100) than has been accomplished by other modern-era presidents?  Let’s take another look at those EOs:
a.      Over two-thirds of the EOs require some sort of report, recommendations or decision before implementation can even begin to happen
b.      Periods for reporting or recommending vary from 45 days to 2 years.
c.      Many of the agencies being ordered to report or act, don’t even have the leadership personnel hired or appointed to carry out such orders
d.      How many reports or recommendations are stored in vaults somewhere un-read, un-remembered and un-cared-about?  Your guess is as good as mine, but I venture to say it adds up into the thousands! 
e.      Follow-up by Trump staff is of monumental importance in getting these EOs to their final destination where something of substantial import happens; their track record so far does not promise good results
5.      One of the items of importance that has no apparent backing or appearance is any follow-up with the public to let citizens know what progress is being made on the implementation of any of these Orders.  We hear a lot about proposed legislation on healthcare, immigration, tax reform, and the wall, but what will we hear about all these lesser EOs – little or nothing is my guess.
6.      Finally, Trump himself, has slammed the use of executive orders as an example of weak leadership and inability to work with Congress, and most of that criticism was directed at a president who had Republican majorities in Congress opposing him.  On CBS’s “Face the Nation” in August 2015, Trump said: “I don’t like executive orders. That is not what the country was based on.”  
His orders say a lot about how Trump wishes to govern: not by doing the hard work of constructing legislation to present to Congress, then working with Congress to amend or strengthen that legislation, support committee work without prejudicing the outcome, and help bring together bi-partisan coalitions to work on producing what is best for most of the People.  This is known in some circles as “how to govern.”  There is more to it, but even this small summary serves to illustrate the profound lack of governing skills that this administration exhibits or possesses.   Trump would rather issue Orders and call them accomplishments, even if they never materialize into full-blown actions that might benefit the nation and its People.

Thank goodness the first 100 days are over.  That brings us 100 days closer to the time we can rid ourselves of this blight on our democracy!