The breadth of the administrative state has never been more apparent than over the past few months.
The Department of State is filled with political activists with a globalist world view who are determined to subvert the policies of the duly elected President of the United States.
The Justice Department continued spying on Americans with more than 3.1 million queries in a single year after new FBI Director Chris Wray took over as Director according to documents made public by a federal judge in the past two weeks.
IRS “leakers” claimed that political appointees were pressuring them regarding keeping audits of President Trump and/or Vice President Mike Pence’s tax returns secret. This is from the same IRS which had widespread targeting of conservative groups and donors by career employees with nary a peep of protest showing up from “whistleblowers” during the Obama administration.
The Obama bloated National Security Council which reached about 184 staffers in the previous administration, continues to leak select, out of context, portions of presidential conversations with foreign leaders as evidenced by the original Ukraine whistleblower complaint which bears no resemblance to the actual telephone call between President Trump and the Ukraine president.
Resistance bureaucrats in the EPA got so bad in the early stages of the Trump Administration that the former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt had to spend $25,000 to construct a sound proof area where he could communicate with others without fear of leaks by lifetime job guaranteed staff.
Project Veritas’ James O’Keefe found that resistance was pervasive in parts of the government as Obama hired Democratic Socialists admitted on camera to using their jobs to block or slow down presidential policies with which they disagreed.
And we haven’t even talked about the judiciary where obscure federal judges regularly impose nationwide injunctions against the President’s policies in an attempt to run out the clock on his first term in office.
These are but a few of the instances that have revealed the challenges faced in draining a swamp where the power actually resides in the unelected career officials who can simply refuse to do their jobs with almost no fear of firing and grind policy making to a halt.
In a Saturday interview with Matthew Boyle of Breitbart News Radio, I was asked what could be done to fix a civil service and foreign service systems which are overwhelmingly liberal with a goal to expand the size and scope of government and to oppose any actions which they deem could negate their power.
Of course the answer is not an easy one, since there is little appetite on either side of the political aisle in Congress to actually take control away from the bureaucracy. However, the first six months of the 2021 Congress might provide the best opportunity for legislative changes in a lifetime. But only if the GOP wins control of both Houses with a firm message from voters that they are expected to fight to rein in the power of the professional bureaucracy and in doing so, reinstate actual representative government. Here are a few facts that most people don’t know. There are approximately 4,000 politically appointed officials who are expected to make certain that the President’s policies are carried out by the approximately 2 million federal civilian employees — many of whom have spent careers operating the levers of power.
While a comprehensive civil service reform bill would be ideal, the likelihood of Senate Democrats allowing the evisceration of some of their biggest financial and information leaking allies is infinitesimal. So here are four actions which, if taken, will put power back in the hands of the elected officials.
First, the simple act of firing an incompetent, recalcitrant or lazy federal employee should not be viewed by managers or the employees as a virtual impossibility. Congress acted to reform the law to allow for speedy firing of Veteran’s Administration civil servants who were failing to meet our nation’s veterans’ basic health care needs. The reform included an expedited firing process for that agency alone, which has not only increased firings, but ended the smug knowledge (at least at the VA), that your job was safe, no matter how badly you performed it.
The MERIT Act by Senator David Perdue (R-Ga.) and Representative Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) was identified by Americans for Limited Government as a critical reform in 2018. Unfortunately, in spite of a tough campaign for passage, Congress chose not to include the language into the funding bills that year. Now, with Democrats in charge of the House, there is very little chance to ease the rules for firing bad, taxpayer funded employees until 2021.
Second, public employee unions have enormous power both through their campaign contributions and sheer numbers. One advantage these unions should not have is for taxpayers to be funding the total salaries of most of their employees who work in the federal bureaucracy. President Trump signed Executive Orders last year which forced these taxpayer funded union officials to spend much more time working in the job they supposedly fill rather than being full-time for the union. The EOs also require the union to pay for their office space and the union business travel of their federal employees. Passage of legislation by Rep. Jodi Hice (R-Ga.) would reform the Official Time system and ending taxpayer subsidization of the federal employee unions. Without these tax monies being spent on their operating costs, unions would have to use dues money to meet their members needs rather than being able to use it for political purposes. Forcing public employee unions to do their job serving their members would emasculate much of the power they have which is wielded to fight against reforming the civil service system.
Third, Congress needs to use their power of the purse to cut grants and funding programs which serve as pass-throughs for unions and left-wing advocacy groups. Since money is fungible, every federal dollar that does not go to a liberal group is a dollar which is not spent advocating for bigger government. Americans for Limited Government has launched a website at www.defundme.org that lists a number of programs that could be cut.
While many more things need to be done, if these three actions were to take place early in President Trump’s second term, the swamp draining would be in full swing. If not, the self-perpetuating swamp will do what it does best: slow progress on the President’s priorities knowing that it will still be there in 2025 and the President will not.
No one said draining the swamp was going to be easy, but things can be done, and wins can be had. And by the end of President Trump’s second term, the rot in our federal bureaucracy could be healing as those employees who were just collecting their checks or who were professional obstructers of the President’s policies would be left on the outside looking in on the federal government regulatory and enforcement prioritization decisions.
Rick Manning is the President of Americans for Limited Government.