April 13, 2022

‘Equity’ With Regulation, Biden Style

Legislating by executive order circumvents the constitutional power of Congress for bad ends.

In our Declaration of Independence written back in 1776, Thomas Jefferson declared that “all men are created equal.” In 2022, a large group of anonymous bureaucrats, spurred on by Joe Biden and apparently borrowing the idea from George Orwell’s Animal Farm, have decided that some Americans (and world citizens) are indeed more equal than others.

While our Mark Alexander hammered Biden’s excessive regulation on Monday, there’s a further point to make about how the Biden regulatory scheme is his administration’s way of circumventing the messy work of creating laws. Back in our grandfather’s generation, we did things differently. For example, when public opinion dictated a change was in order and a measure of peaceful protest occurred, the outcry spurred Congress to address the issue of civil rights. Students of history can recite the titles of key legislation passed during that time: the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1964, the Voting Rights Act, the Equal Employment Opportunity Act, and the Higher Education Act, among others. All of them put into statute that Americans should be granted a fair chance to succeed regardless of race, gender, or religion.

In 2022, though, equality of opportunity simply isn’t enough to a segment of the political world. But, lacking the votes and political will to pass sweeping legislation similar to that passed in the 1950s and ‘60s, the Biden administration is using two old political tricks, sometimes in concert with one another.

Back in the Clinton administration, adviser Paul Begala summed up one method this way: “Stroke of the pen. Law of the land. Pretty cool.” He was, of course, referring to the executive order, which both parties have overused to ramrod pet policies through without the approval of Congress. In Biden’s case, one of his first-day executive orders was meant for “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities through the Federal Government.” Like Orwell predicted, some would be more equal than others under Joe Biden.

We’re certain our readers know that Biden didn’t come up with this “law of the land” by himself. It’s the advocates, lobbyists, and government employees who slow-walked and did their level best to halt the massive deregulation push by Donald Trump and who worked overtime through their Christmas holiday to write this order and most likely had the regulations teed up and waiting for President Brandon the moment he took the oath of office. All Joe had to do was sign whatever was placed in front of him, with any regulations that weren’t already in the hopper back in January becoming the assignment for government pencil-pushers to complete ASAP.

“Biden’s 'whole of government’ equity agenda takes today’s progressive extremism to a new level,” said Clyde Wayne Crews, vice president for policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “Equity in this framing does not mean equality of opportunity or equality before the law, but rather equality of outcomes.” Crews recently wrote a piece for CEI that’s well worth studying: chock full of examples and featuring links to a plethora of articles on how this regime is using regulation to achieve its unpopular agenda.

As noted above, the Trump administration began to make some headway against the regulatory state. Unfortunately, because the wolves were guarding the henhouse, that initial progress slowed to a crawl as Trump’s term went on. Perhaps it was a case of quickly plucking off the low-hanging fruit and finding the harvest was more difficult to attain as time went by, but most of us would agree that there was a ripe bumper crop that could have been picked from that orchard.

At this moment, it’s hard to fathom a better solution aside from a total clearing out of the federal lobbyists and beggars and hangers-on that compose the Beltway administrative state. But that won’t happen unless Congress steps up and does its job by turning off the fiscal spigot, ignoring the slings and arrows that are sure to come from the press and others sympathetic to big government or at least their pet cause.

Another possibility would be to circumvent the lobbyists by convening an Article V constitutional convention. But while the national Convention of States organization is enjoying renewed success at getting states to sign on — they are up to 19 of the 34 states required to call an Article V convention, with four new states signing on just this year — this path is also fraught with peril, as the requests are simply for “amendments that, ‘limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, impose fiscal restraints, and place term limits on federal officials.’” While the call needs to be broad, the result may be too weak to ensure the necessary change, because it implies that the bureaucracy will meekly submit to constitutional reins on government.

In the middle of the 20th century, those who cared enough to demand civil rights for all began to effectively organize and work for change. The change didn’t come easily — thanks to a certain political party that has now consigned its Jim Crow roots to a memory hole, hoping the rest of us would forget it occurred — but the reform did come. When people of all races and income levels stand up, exercise the necessary intestinal fortitude, and demand oversight, accountability, and limits on federal government power, that’s when Congress will be convinced to act in its assigned legislative function, just like it did for civil rights.

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