Whenever we hear from skeptics about the importance of nominating independent, creative, and brave executive branch nominees, the first thing out of their mouths is usually “but what could the executive branch actually do if it was run the way you want it to be?”
The good news is that the executive branch could do a LOT. Here we have, in no particular order, a running list of policies which a principled, innovative, and bold administration could do to improve American life just through its existing executive powers. Click the hyperlinks on each policy idea to read articles with more information about what that policy would mean, and how the executive branch could achieve it.
We’re far from the first organization to publish something like this, and indeed have contributed to most other groups’ similar lists. Check out the Congressional Progressive Caucus’ executive action agenda, and The American Prospect’s “Day One Agenda.”
If you want some examples of high-profile enforcement actions which would inspire the public and make bad actors angry, check out our Corporate Crackdown Project. We’ve also put out longer reports on the Labor Department and the Commerce and Transportation Departments under the Corporate Crackdown banner, in partnership with Data For Progress.
- Use the economic substance doctrine to declare a huge number of tax dodges for the ultra-wealthy illegal.
- Undo the Trump Treasury’s unlawful regulations implementing the 2017 tax scam, which granted the ultra-wealthy even larger tax cuts than the law allowed.
- Prevent banks from dealing in hyper-risky derivatives, i.e. determine that derivatives are not part of “the business of banking.”
- Reassert a wall between finance and commerce by preventing banks from trading and owning commodities like electricity, oil, and crops.
- Drive down the price of oil by closing derivatives loopholes that allow Wall Street speculators to move price out of alignment with market fundamentals.
- Reverse Trump’s decision to allow private equity funds to invest 401(k)s.
- Force companies to immediately begin bargaining with unions instead of stalling for time to undermine worker support, by reinstating the Joy Silk doctrine.
- Direct DOT To give contract truckers classification as employees through rulemaking
- Appoint a CFPB ombudsman to pursue predatory arrangements from firms which lease workers their required equipment, such as truckers required to take loans for their vehicles.
- Direct Federal Funds To Investigate Agricultural Worker Wage Theft
- Cease all federal contracts with firms that bust unions or violate labor rights, as Biden promised he’d do in the 2020 campaign.
- Support the India-South Africa TRIPS waiver for IP on COVID-related treatments, and initiate tech transfer to requesting countries
- Reverse the PTO’s spike in discretionary denials and restore inter partes review, to allow generic drug manufacturers to cut through patent thickets set up by Big Pharma.
ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT
- Declare a climate emergency, which unlocks access to…
- Suspend offshore oil leases
- Expand battery and electric vehicle production via Pentagon funding
- Aggressively use the Defense Production Act to demand green energy provision
- Mobilize Wildland Fire Workforce
- Use CEQ review powers to challenge any pro-fossil fuel actions across the federal government, including the USPS’ gas-powered fleet proposal.
- Direct the ENRD to develop an amicus filing strategy comparable to the Civil Rights Division’s amicus strategy under Obama for environmental and climate litigation, to help advance interpretations of federal law favorable to climate action.
- Direct the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the DOJ to “strategically support ongoing plaintiff-driven climate litigation against polluters.”
- Ban polluting and carcinogenic industrial chemicals after decades of industry capture at the relevant EPA office.
- Require consultation with local Tribal communities before new mining projects, and institute a “Right to Say ‘No.””
- Cease or update the Pentagon’s 1033 program, which allows transfer of military hardware to police departments.
- Replace Bureau of Prisons Director Michael Carvajal with someone dedicated to criminal justice reform.
- Decriminalize and/or deschedule cannabis, and issue massive numbers of pardons for people incarcerated on cannabis charges.
- Update and/or discontinue the federal poverty lines, especially where they prohibit access to social services to the poor.
TRUST IN GOVERNMENT
- Reform how Fair Market Rents are calculated to set the value of housing vouchers to match actual neighborhood-level rents.
- Scrap HUD’s “one-strike policy,” which throws residents out of HUD-assisted housing after one criminal infraction.