Ah yes, the power of the pen. It is undeniably luring and hard to resist – especially if you are the person wielding it. President Obama was roundly criticized for his gratuitous use of the executive order while in the White House. And now, well — you can see where this is going – now it’s President Trump’s turn and he has wholeheartedly embraced the practice of issuing executive orders as well. However, the difference between Trump’s orders and Obama’s is that President Trump seeks to bolster existing laws and policies through his, while Obama frequently turned to them as a vehicle to circumvent legislation.
Nowhere is this dichotomy more evident than in this week’s Buy American and Hire American executive order. Instead of creating new rules, the mandate merely directs agencies to look for ways to promote both goals. The Buy American Act is already on the books and law of the land. It was passed all the way back in 1933 and has never been repealed or overturned. However, a mountain of waivers, carve-outs, and simple lack of enforcement have long since crushed the spirit of this law. President Trump is looking to breathe new life into this eighty-four-year-old directive.
So, what exactly will come out of this order, and what specifically is the president trying to achieve?
First and foremost, H-1B visas are a primary component of reform. The president criticized the program in remarks delivered before signing his order, pointing out the fact that the H-1B randomly awards visas based on a lottery system. He went on to argue that this must be changed to give priority to higher skilled workers and prevent the loss of American jobs to cheap imported guest laborers. Liberty Nation has tackled the issue of H-1B visa reform before, and it looks like the president is finally giving his administration the green light to restructure this greatly-abused thief of American jobs. His order also instructs the government to enforce existing laws governing entry into the country rigorously. Hire American: check.
The other side of the order deals with American-made products and government purchases. The federal government is supposed to buy American made products whenever possible, but over the years bureaucrats have secured a litany of exceptions to this rule. Tuesday’s order instructs the government to conduct a thorough review of every existing waiver or exemption, and eliminate them wherever possible. Soon Uncle Sam will be writing most of his checks to American companies for goods and services that keep the government running. According to an administration spokesperson, the global public procurement market is $4.4 trillion, so American companies stand to prosper if the government overturns even a fraction of the existing exclusions.
When considering waivers, the president also specifically calls for scrutinizing the practice of dumping and the use of harmful subsidies. We all want our tax dollars spent efficiently, so when the government builds a new building, it is tempting to authorize the program manager to purchase foreign steel or other building materials to save money. One of the reasons why these cost scenarios exist is because foreign companies often sell their goods in the United States for a lower price than what they charge in their home country. Sometimes the company’s own government subsidizes the practice to allow them to sell at a loss! President Trump is looking to deny waivers when it would cause the government to purchase such artificially discounted foreign goods. Buy American: check.
Having signed this latest executive order, President Trump is showing the nation that he is looking to strengthen the country by enforcing existing laws. Buy American and Hire American is no longer just a slogan for the government. Thanks to the president, we finally have a plan to put some teeth back into the existing laws that get us there.
In the end, the presidential pen may be wielded by a different man but the significance here is that the stroke of that pen is being used for a very dissimilar purpose.