Some of you may have received an e-mail telling you about how President Obama is abusing his power through the overuse and overreach of Executive Orders. First the e-mail claims that he’s already issued more than 900 EOs in just 4+ years in office. Second the author further alleges that the President is laying the foundations necessary to seize control of the nation’s transportation systems, power generation network, private sector agriculture and even force people into “work brigades.”
I’ve seen this e-mail several times over the past year or so, and I’ve been meaning to address these two issues but got derailed by all of this recent ObamaCare crap.
The text of the e-mail appears at the end of this article for your reference.
But I really have no life here in Afghanistan so I’ve worked on this for the past couple of evenings, as my Internet connection has allowed.
This is a long article so get a cup of coffee.
There are two issues here. The first is whether or not Obama has issued dramatically more Executive Orders than his predecessors.
The second is whether or not our federal government has established through Executive Order – unilaterally, without the advice and consent of the Senate or the ratification of the House of Representatives – the legal foundation necessary to do the sorts of things this e-mail alleges; seizing control of communications, the national labor pool, airports, rail, public transportation, etc.
Obama’s Executive Order Record:
First thing first. Obama is not responsible for issuing the numbers of EOs alleged in this e-mail and had nothing whatsoever to do with the EOs specifically mentioned.
One of the best resources for Presidential Executive Orders online is “The American Presidency Project” (APP) maintained by the University of Santa Barbara. Here’s a direct link to their archive of Executive Orders.
This e-mail claims Obama has published 923 Executive Orders. False. The APP records only 162 EOs so far during Obama’s 4+ years in office starting with EO 13489 signed the day after he took office on 21 Jan 2009 through to EO 13651 signed in Aug 2013.
Interestingly while the White House web page referenced in the e-mail is legitimate, that web page actually doesn’t list any EOs newer than December of last year, so it’s not been maintained for at least 8 months, if not almost a full year. As noted above the APP shows that the most recent EO was signed in Aug 2013. The Obama White House is probably the least efficient in history so I am not surprised to see that this Internet resource for which they are directly responsible is out of date.
The count of EOs from Bush’s two terms is not 62 as this e-mail proposes – it is 290. By the same point in Bush’s two terms in office Bush had signed EO 13390 which was his 192ND Executive Order. If anything Obama is a bit behind Bush with respect to the pace Bush published Executive Orders.
A Brief History of EOs:
According to the AAP the first recorded Executive Order was published by John Quincy Adams in July of 1826. During his Presidency he published only two EOs. Whether or not there were EOs produced before that isn’t the point. The point is that EOs date back almost 200 years.
Lincoln during the Civil War (Apr 1861 to Apr 1865) really got the EO ball rolling issuing a whopping 117 EOs during his years in office and including the three years Andrew Johnson filled in for him following his assassination.
All Presidents previous to Lincoln published as few as a single EO or perhaps as few as 5 or 6 annually.
During Reconstruction (1865-77) there were also a large number of EOs published, but following that the number of such orders published by Presidents once again lowered to annual averages of perhaps 5 to 15.
President Chester Arthur really got busy and published 57 EOs between Oct 1881 and Dec 1885, or about 14 a year.
After Arthur the rate at which all Presidents published EOs jumped to between 10s to dozens each year, with only a few exceptions
EO 709 is the first “numbered” order noted by the AAP. I didn’t actually count all of the previous EOs, but there were probably 708 of them. However some are listed as “General Orders”. The numbering sequence of Executive Orders is a little screwy at first with large gaps in the sequence. It may be that many of these EOs are simply missing.
American participation in both World Wars, the Korean War and the Vietnam War drove the numbers of EOs to high levels.
Starting in April of 1945 and EO 9531 the AAP’s record of these orders seems to track every EO without any gaps in the numbering sequence I was able to see.
Using EO 9531 and the date of Apr 1945 as a start point and EO 13651 signed in Aug 2013 as the end point I come up with an average of about 60 EOs per year over the last 68 years, averaging 240 per 4-yr Presidential term and 480 during two terms.
Truman (D) produced 893 EOs in 8 years (1945-53) which was well above the average.
Nixon/Ford (R) published 510 EOs in 8 years (1969-1977) or about average.
Clinton (D) signed only 363 in his 8 years (1993-2001) which was below the average.
Incidentally Wikipedia’s information on Executive Orders differs greatly from the AAP especially when it comes to Presidents before 1960. I think I trust UCSB over Wikipedia, but the information is very close for recent Presidencies only differing by a handful of EOs by count.
Obama’s Use of EOs to Avoid Congress:
The fact that Obama has and continues to use Executive Orders to skirt the Constitutional process in Washington is true enough. It was also true of Bush, Clinton, and every other President before them.
FactCheck.org lists several of these:
“Obama has been sidestepping Congress through his “We Can’t Wait” initiative, a series of executive actions that he claims benefit the middle class through infrastructure projects and economic policy changes.
He also skirted Senate approval in January when he appointed nominees to the National Labor Relations Board and to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The appointments were unprecedented because he made them when the Senate was technically not in recess, prompting legal challenges from conservative groups.
In June, the president halted deportations of illegal immigrants who entered the United States when they were children and met certain requirements, such as the lack of a criminal record. The change mirrored provisions of the DREAM Act — failed legislation that Obama supported and Senate Republicans blocked in 2010.
And in July, Obama changed welfare policy to allow states to modify work requirements if they test new approaches to increasing employment. Obama did not submit the policy change to Congress for review, which the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office concluded he should have done.
Obama’s use of executive power is not unprecedented compared with previous presidents, however. George W. Bush signed several controversial “signing statements” that claimed he had the power to disregard certain provisions of a law, a presidential action that historians trace back to James Monroe.”
A study of any President’s service will show numerous instances when each used EOs to avoid having to deal with Congress. Just how glaring and sinister those instances were is largely dependent on your party affiliation.
Executive Orders Limiting the Freedom of Americans During National Emergencies (finally):
Another excellent source for information about Executive Orders is the National Archives website at http://www.archives.gov. The link to their Federal Register of Executive Orders is http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/executive-orders/
Many EOs include revocation of previous orders in their body. This site provides easy access to that information.
I have taken the time to research and crosswalk each of the 14 EOs the author references. The resulting document is lengthy and relies somewhat on formatting and indentation for clarity. I’ve kept that in PDF form. Click this link to view Review_of_Relevant_Executive_Orders.
Reading through that crosswalk you will quickly see that it would be a monumental task to (1) read and understand each EO, (2) follow the complex chain where each is rescinded, revoked, superseded, amended and/or continued, and (3) understand how each relates to existing law, policy and regulation.
Finally of course, there is the issue of constitutionality. Since EOs do not go through the vetting process of Congress they are much more likely to be found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court… but they have to get there first.
Of course EOs can and do generate policies and regulations, although not Federal law which is the prevue of Congress. The problem is that once those policies and regulations are in place they tend to have lives of their own and tend to remain even if the EO that spawned them is rescinded, revoked or superseded. It’s then in the hands of the courts to determine whether or not those policies and regulations may be unconstitutional. Of course that requires first that someone is “wronged” by one of those. Then the suit has to wend its way through local, appellate and district courts and finally to the Supreme Court which can take years.
Further, there are so many facets to the government that it is quite likely that the Department of Agriculture, for example, would be operating on an EO that might have been superseded years earlier, or be completely unaware that an EO had been amended by some other EO, without the assistance of lawyers.
When a real emergency occurs – that’s the relevance here as the author clearly presents these EOs as a danger to American freedoms in the event of some large-scale emergency – there will be no time for any of that.
Local, state and federal governments, law enforcement and other bureaucrats will do what they feel they are authorized to do “by law, policy or regulation” as they see it at that moment in time, and there will be no immediate recourse which would make a damn bit of difference in the short-term. We saw this during Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath when citizens were forced to evacuate against their will and personal firearms were confiscated by local Police.
That is exactly the problem with too much government. That’s the problem with 13+ thousand (so far) Executive Orders, hundreds of thousands of laws, and regulations and policy that probably numbers in the millions of articles and pages across all government agencies and departments from local to federal levels.
With respect to the issue that is the impetus for this author’s original e-mail it might be a tolerable situation to cede additional powers to the federal government temporarily if we could expect the government at each level to actually respond quickly and efficiently, and to relinquish those temporary powers when the crisis has passed, but of course we cannot as we have seen time and again.
Finally there is the issue of “assigning blame” for this or that EO. In this instance the author has assigned blame to Obama, but that is completely unfounded. Walking these EOs back through their history it is clear that every President at least since Kennedy has been involved in perpetuating the theme of emergency preparedness and the temporary suspension of a great many rights in order to protect national security.
Having said that it is important to note that several EOs were actually written by Presidents specifically to revoke sometimes dozens of previous EOs. Most Presidents in recent years have done this. The conclusion that can be drawn is that when a President does not take the time to revoke previous EOs he gives those EOs his tacit approval. So it can at least be said that Obama approves of whatever EOs are left standing during his administration.
Kennedy, who was arguably the most popular Democrat President, and Regan who was arguably the most popular Republican President in recent history both had a significant hand in crafting EOs which prepare for national defense and allow the federal government to allocate critical resources in the event of a national emergency. Bush had his complicity in these controversial EOs as well. Obama has only continued a long tradition.
The truth is that our government most definitely does have the legal foundation to lock down just about every aspect of the country – from transportation to power generation to suspending a great many rights to allocating scarce resources. Anyone who thinks otherwise is simply uniformed. Whether any of that is actually constitutional is another question entirely.
It would be great if EOs all expired entirely on the change of each old President for the new guy, but it doesn’t work that way. Some EOs have been in effect for decades.
So Is Obama Off The Hook?
Not really. Let’s discuss Obama’s Executive Order 13603 signed on 16 May 2012. It’s called the “National Defense Resources Preparedness” order. It’s stated purpose is “to delegate authority and address national defense resource policies and programs under the Defense Production Act of 1950.” It “provides the framework and authority for the allocation or appropriation of resources, materials and services to promote national defense.”
The DPA is a Cold War era law that was born in response to the Korean War, at a time our nation faced a significant threat from the China and the Soviet Union (not that those nations don’t threaten us even today.)
The Act contains three major sections:
1. Authorization for the President to require businesses to sign contracts or fulfill orders deemed necessary for national defense.
2. Authorization for the President to establish mechanisms (such as regulations, orders or agencies) to allocate materials, services and facilities to promote national defense.
3. Authorization for the President to control the civilian economy so that scarce and/or critical materials necessary to the national defense effort are available for defense needs
The Defense Production Act is still on the books and Obama’s EO 13603 spells out just how America would implement those provisions in the 21st century.
The DPA was originally passed in 1950 but was “re-authorized” by Congress on 29 Sep 2009. I found the full text of the DPA on the FEMA website at this link, or click here to view DPA_of_1950_Amended as a PDF.
The full text of EO 13603 is posted at…
… but here’s a link to a PDF of EO_13603 as well.
Amongst a great many other things EO 13603 establishes that “The National Security Council and Homeland Security Council, in conjunction with the National Economic Council, shall serve as the integrated policymaking forum for consideration and formulation of national defense resource preparedness policy and shall make recommendations to the President on the use of authorities under the [Defense Production] Act [of 1950].” Truman was the President that brought us the DPA.
Section 102 – Policy: “The United States must have an industrial and technological base capable of meeting national defense requirements and capable of contributing to the technological superiority of its national defense equipment in peacetime and in times of national emergency. The domestic industrial and technological base is the foundation for national defense preparedness. The authorities provided in the Act shall be used to strengthen this base and to ensure it is capable of responding to the national defense needs of the United States.”
EO 13603 goes on to charge the primary cabinet members – the Secretaries of Agriculture, Energy, Health and Human Services, Transportation, Defense and Commerce – to “plan for and issue regulations to prioritize and allocate resources and establish standards and procedures by which the authority shall be used to promote the national defense, under both emergency and non-emergency conditions. Each Secretary shall authorize the heads of other agencies, as appropriate, to place priority ratings on contracts and orders for materials, services, and facilities needed in support of programs approved under section 202 of this order.”
The DPA and EO 13603 provide guidance for the full and complete mobilization of America in the event of some unnamed threat or catastrophe. It’s the sort of mobilization we implemented during WWII.
Together are the DPA and EO 13603 an insidious plan by which Obama will seize control of the nation, impose martial law, reinstate the draft and press the rest of us into civilian labor battalions? Uh, probably not, but the truth is that Americans will bend over for a tremendous amount of governmental excess if we’re scared enough.
The flip-side of that coin is that if we don’t have these sorts of plans in place well in advance it’s pretty unlikely that we can pull those out of thin air once a crisis does arrive… at least not quickly or efficiently.
So can all that be misused? Sure can, and that’s really the spirit behind the author’s original e-mail.
None of what I’ve written about so far really matters much because in the event of an “significant emergency” just about any agency or department of our government could easily be caused to drastically overstep their true authority simply by being misled by an uninformed (or ideological, or dishonest, or corrupt, or incompetent) Secretary, Director or other key leader. This is all the more true if we happen to have a President that would support such excesses in the White House at the time.
Our federal government has far more power than our Founding Fathers ever intended. They continue to take more power each day, and states lose more power to the feds every day. The question is what they will do with that power.
This is why I am amazed why people don’t see the sense in our Second Amendment rights. The Second Amendment isn’t about hunting or sport shooting. It’s about defending ourselves, our homes and our families against a government we no longer control.
It’s unfortunate that the author of the original e-mail chose to frame all of this on a false foundation that Obama had written 900 Executive Orders. That caused his e-mail to be immediately labeled right-wing whacko crap. If he had done a little research he could have easily made his point, though not specifically about Obama. I believe his premise is sound, but it’s not just Obama, nor is it just the Democrats… it’s our entire government and both major parties, across a dozen Presidential administrations (6 from each party) for the last 63 years.
Having said all that it is probably more likely that our government utterly fails to adequately respond to a large-scale emergency than responds too harshly.
And here’s the text of the e-mail I received back in November (this is NOT my material)…
—– Forwarded Message —–
Subject: Executive Orders
Sent: Thursday, November 7, 2013 11:40 PM
If you would like to read all the executive orders from the Obama administration, take the time to go to:
… and read just a few of the most recent orders to get an idea of what is going on.
THESE ARE THINGS THAT WILL DIRECTLY AFFECT US ALL IN THE NEXT 4 YEARS and beyond. FOR THE SHOCK OF YOUR LIFE, PLEASE READ BELOW, and take a minute to comprehend what you are reading!
EXECUTIVE ORDERS ISSUED by U.S. Presidents in the recent 100 years+/-:
Teddy Roosevelt – 3
All Others until FDR – 0
FDR – 11 in 16 years
Truman – 5 in 7 years
Ike – 2 in 8 years
Kennedy – 4 in 3 years
LBJ – 4 in 5 years
Nixon – 1 in 6 years
Ford – 3 in 2 years
Carter – 3 in 4 years
Reagan – 5 in 8 years
Bush – 3 in 4 years
Clinton – 15 in 8 years
George W. Bush – 62 in 8 years
Obama – 923 in 3 1/2 years!
If you don’t get the implications you’re not paying attention. Very Scary.
923 Executive Orders in 40 Months
During my lifetime, all Presidents have issued Executive Orders. For various reasons, some have issued more than others.
YES, THERE IS A REASON THAT THE PRESIDENT IS DETERMINED TO TAKE CONTROL AWAY FROM THE HOUSE AND THE SENATE.
Even some Democrats in the House have turned on him, plus a very small number of Democrat Senators have questioned him. Rightfully so – WHAT IS OBAMA REALLY TRYING TO ACCOMPLISH????
Remember what he told Russia ‘s Putin: “I’ll be more flexible after I’m re-elected”.
What did Congress do in those 40 months?
(The House – considerable. The Senate ? almost nothing, not even a budget nor allow any House Bill to be considered.)
Now look at these:
EXECUTIVE ORDER 10990 allows the government to take over all modes of transportation and control of highways and seaports.
EXECUTIVE ORDER 10995 allows the government to seize and control the communication media.
EXECUTIVE ORDER 10997 allows the government to take over all electrical power, gas, petroleum, fuels and minerals.
EXECUTIVE ORDER 10998 allows the government to take over all food resources and farms.
EXECUTIVE ORDER 11000 allows the government to mobilize civilians into work brigades under government supervision.
EXECUTIVE ORDER 11001 allows the government to take over all health, education and welfare functions.
EXECUTIVE ORDER 11002 designates the registration of all persons. Postmaster General to operate a national registration.
EXECUTIVE ORDER 11003 allows the government to take over all airports and aircraft, including commercial aircraft.
EXECUTIVE ORDER 11004 allows the Housing and Finance Authority to relocate communities, build new housing with public funds, designate areas to be abandoned, and establish new locations for populations.
EXECUTIVE ORDER 11005 allows the government to take over railroads, inland waterways and public storage facilities.
EXECUTIVE ORDER 11049 assigns emergency preparedness function to federal departments and agencies, consolidating 21 operative Executive Orders issued over a fifteen year period.
EXECUTIVE ORDER 11051 specifies the responsibility of the Office of Emergency Planning and gives authorization to put all Executive Orders into effect in times of increased international tensions and economic or financial crisis.
EXECUTIVE ORDER 11310 grants authority to the Department of Justice to enforce the plans set out in Executive Orders, to institute industrial support, to establish judicial and legislative liaison, to control all aliens, to operate penal and correctional institutions, and to advise and assist the President.
EXECUTIVE ORDER 11921 allows the Federal Emergency Preparedness Agency to develop plans to establish control over the mechanisms of production and distribution, of energy sources, wages, salaries, credit and the flow of money in U.S. financial institution in any undefined national emergency. It also provides that when a state of emergency is declared by the President, Congress cannot review the action for six months.
Feel free to verify the “executive orders” at will…..and these are just the major ones. I’m sure you’ve all heard the tale of the “Frog in the Pot”… Watch Obama’s actions, not his words! By his actions he will show you where America is headed.
Just this week, Obama has issued a new executive order that seeks to “harmonize” U.S. economic regulations with the rest of the world. This new executive order is yet another incremental step that is pushing us closer to a North American Union and a one world economic system.
Unfortunately, most Americans have absolutely no idea what is happening.
The American people need to understand that Barack Obama is constantly looking for ways to integrate the United States more deeply with the rest of the world.
The globalization of the world economy has accelerated under Obama, and this latest executive order represents a fundamental change in U.S. economic policy. Now federal regulators will be required to “harmonize” their work with the international community.
IF THIS IS DIFFICULT TO BELIEVE, THEN PROVE TO YOURSELF IF IT’S WRONG – Google it!!!!!