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Here's Why Comparing Executive Order Numbers Is a Waste of Time
Over the course of his presidency, Barack Obama issued a total of 276 executive orders. So, what exactly does that mean?
Over the course of his presidency, Barack Obama issued a total of 276 executive orders, according to the Federal Register. During his eight-year presidency, Obama was criticized for using the powers of the executive office to circumvent the Constitution and Congress by issuing executive orders—more so than any previous president. However, Pew released a chart showing this simply isn’t so. He issued fewer executive orders than President George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Ronald Reagan. So, how should we take this information?
It’s important to first define what an executive order is and to understand it has a relative in the presidential memorandum. The executive order has the force of law whereas a presidential memorandum is similar in its legal implications. However, a memorandum tends to govern the actions of specific departments under the executive branch. The reach of the president’s ability to affect change extend beyond the executive order.
Even the Pew report acknowledges their analysis is somewhat limited:
“This analysis focuses on executive orders alone because of data limitations for other types of executive action. (Presidents are required to count and publish executive orders but are not obligated to release memoranda or proclamations.)”
Presidential memorandums only need be published to the Federal Registrar when the president deems they have “general applicability and legal effect,” leaving the president with a lot of leeway.
When it comes to executive orders, by the numbers presidents have been issuing them less and less. Franklin D. Roosevelt was the last president to use them and boy did he – he issued a whopping 3,721 executive orders. However, it’s important to consider he was the longest sitting president with four terms and the one who ran the country during WWII. However, gone are the days when over 1,000 executive orders can go through government unchallenged.
Chris Edelson, an assistant professor at American University’s School of Government, explained to The Daily Dot:
“A president could issue 1,000 executive orders. As long as they were all based on legitimate statutory or constitutional authority, [the executive orders] would be fine. Another president could issue just one executive order like the one FDR relied on to initiate the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II—which was later supported by Congress but should have been recognized as unconstitutional—and be way out of line. The key issue to me is to determine when unilateral presidential action can be justified—sometimes it can be, sometimes not—whether it is carried out by executive order or not.”
But this still doesn’t answer our question about memoranda. Back in 2014, USA Today wrote an article which stated Obama issued more presidential memorandums than any other president. The Washington Post published an excellent piece in response to this article, which called into question USA Today's claims and made an interesting point: why do we care about the numbers anyway?
John T. Woolley, co-director of the American Presidency Project at the University of California at Santa Barbara—the organization which provides the data on executive orders—told The Washington Post he doesn’t consider this a good use of their data.
Ultimately, he told them, “the counting of memorandums is just about pointless in terms of illustrating what is going on and whether it is controversial.” We’re trying to play a numbers game, when we really need to be focusing on the substance of these executive orders and memorandums. The Washington Post continues:
[N]ot all executive orders are earth-shattering; some appear banal, such as changing the name of the National Security Council staff and making the day after Christmas a holiday for federal workers. Meanwhile, one of the presidential actions on the Affordable Care Act — the delay in implementing the employer mandate — that led to a lawsuit by House Republicans was accomplished through neither an executive order nor a presidential memorandum; it was just a Treasury Department notice.
Focusing on a tally of executive orders, memoranda, or notices is an irrelevant distraction that can't be compared from one president to another. Like with most things, here quality matters over quantity.
Speaking of quality presidents:
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Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.
- The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
- The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
- It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
The Red Sea area where Neom will be built:
Saudi Arabia Plans Futuristic City, "Neom" (Full Promotional Video)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c646d528d230c1bf66c75422bc4ccf6f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/N53DzL3_BHA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Frequent shopping for single items adds to our carbon footprint.
- A new study shows e-commerce sites like Amazon leave larger greenhouse gas footprints than retail stores.
- Ordering online from retail stores has an even smaller footprint than going to the store yourself.
- Greening efforts by major e-commerce sites won't curb wasteful consumer habits. Consolidating online orders can make a difference.
A pile of recycled cardboard sits on the ground at Recology's Recycle Central on January 4, 2018 in San Francisco, California.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images<p>A large part of the reason is speed. In a competitive market, pure players use the equation, <em>speed + convenience</em>, to drive adoption. This is especially relevant to the "last mile" GHG footprint: the distance between the distribution center and the consumer.</p><p>Interestingly, the smallest GHG footprint occurs when you order directly from a physical store—even smaller than going there yourself. Pure players, such as Amazon, are the greatest offenders. Variables like geographic location matter; the team looked at shopping in the UK, the US, China, and the Netherlands. </p><p>Sadegh Shahmohammadi, a PhD student at the Netherlands' Radboud University and corresponding author of the paper, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/26/tech/greenhouse-gas-emissions-retail/index.html" target="_blank">says</a> the above "pattern holds true in countries where people mostly drive. It really depends on the country and consumer behavior there."</p><p>The researchers write that this year-and-a-half long study pushes back on previous research that claims online shopping to be better in terms of GHG footprints.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"They have, however, compared the GHG emissions per shopping event and did not consider the link between the retail channels and the basket size, which leads to a different conclusion than that of the current study."</p><p>Online retail is where convenience trumps environment: people tend to order one item at a time when shopping on pure player sites, whereas they stock up on multiple items when visiting a store. Consumers will sometimes order a number of separate items over the course of a week rather than making one trip to purchase everything they need. </p><p>While greening efforts by online retailers are important, until a shift in consumer attitude changes, the current carbon footprint will be a hard obstacle to overcome. Amazon is trying to have it both ways—carbon-free and convenience addicted—and the math isn't adding up. If you need to order things, do it online, but try to consolidate your purchases as much as possible.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
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