Bureaucratic Tyranny in Trump's Crosshairs

Federal bureaucrats have been in a frenzy of activity in Obama's last months of office, pushing through 4,000 new regulations that will cost consumers more than $100 million.  As liberal website Politico proudly reported, "Obama's executive agencies are intent on pushing through the president's priorities without congressional interference[.]"

Trump has promised to rein in our overreaching bureaucracy through attrition.  His rival in the primaries, Jeb Bush, suggested three bureaucrats retire for each new hire.  That might save some money, but it will not get the job done of ending corruption and bureaucratic tyranny. 

We have elected a man famous for two words: "You're fired!"  For Trump to legalize that simple act, as necessary in the government as in business, will be nothing less than a revolution.

We have a VA that purposely lets vets die without medical care. 

We have an EPA at war with the energy industry.

The Department of Education threatens public schools with loss of federal funds and mandates progressive lies about American history, teaching generations of schoolchildren to be ashamed of America and ignorant of our Constitution and our forefathers.  Universities are forced by the DOJ to hire feminist and racialist thought police under an Obama bureaucrat's interpretation of the Civil Rights Act.

We have an IRS that has a political enemies list its employees punish at the behest of Democrats. 

Homeland Security and FBI are under a gag order that forbids them to use the term jihad or Islamic extremism

Everywhere we look, regulations are strangling business, intruding into the personal lives and property rights of ordinary citizens.  The cost to families is crushing.  One among the hundreds of Obama's new global warming regs: fuel-efficient furnaces will raise the price of furnaces almost $500.

And most famously, we have Obamacare's 11,588,500 words of regulations destroying our once superb medical system and burying consumers under 30% and even 60% premium hikes for lousy insurance coverage.

[Right: The 20,000 pages of Obamacare regs, written without congressional review, have resulted in insurance rate hikes up to 58%.]

It is not an exaggeration to see the all-powerful, unelected bureaucracy as the worst enemy of American values, prosperity, and freedom.

To see a visual representation of the growth of regulations impinging on our lives, watch this amusing YouTube video by Patrick McLaughlin of the Mercatus Center.  The volumes of federal regulations have grown since Eisenhower from 13 volumes to a wall of 235, with 16 entire new federal agencies that we survived better without.

Congress has done nothing about this because Congress is part of the problem.  The members of Congress prefer to pass omnibus spending bills to avoid accountability and keep growing the size of government. 

The good news is that Trump is committed to cleaning up the VA, and he can't do that without figuring out how to fire the VA monsters who purposely let vets die in order to collect their bonuses.  Once he takes on the VA, he will have the key to clean up the whole government.

Betsy McCaughey writes at the N.Y. Post that Trump's must capture the right to fire people:

How hard is it to fire anyone at Veterans Affairs? One surgeon found guilty of abandoning a patient on the operating table and leaving the medical center still got an $11,000 bonus. ...

The same changes needed to turn around the VA have to be made across all federal departments. Right now, workers found guilty of serious misdeeds like tax evasion, watching porn on the job or fraudulent collection of unemployment benefits typically keep their jobs and get bonuses.

Firing requires so many months of documentation, hearings and appeals that bosses decide it's not worth the trouble. No-show jobs are rampant, costing $1 billion a year. Supervisors ignore the waste and just hire someone else to get the work done.

Democrat Senator Bernie Sanders led the fight against VA reform in the Senate, which raises the question: why couldn't McConnell override the Democrats beholden to government unions?  We need a power show by McConnell backing up Trump to put reform across.

A bipartisan VA reform bill with real teeth has already passed the House[.] ... It will shorten the process for firing and demoting senior VA personnel, even eliminating appeals to the misnamed Merit Systems Protection Board, which protects criminals and dead wood, not merit.

Thomas Lifson, editor of AT, writing the day after Trump's victory, reminds us that letting people go through attrition does not rule out firing people for cause. 

The worst roadblock to reform are the federal unions – which were created in 1962 by JFK by executive order.  What was done by a pen can be reversed by a pen.

John McGinnis, constitutional law professor at Northeastern,  has three good suggestions on how  Congress and the courts can take back the power of regulatory discretion:

Trump will need to hire committed deregulators at each federal agency. ...

As president, Trump should sign a bill like the REINS Act, which requires Congress to enact important new regulations recommended by agencies before they can become law. ...

Finally, the new coalition can pass legislation to get rid of so-called Auer deference. That absurd doctrine forces judges to defer to agencies' interpretation of their own regulations, reducing the incentive to construct clear regulations in the first place.

The idea that civil service has been protected from political influence is a farce, exposed by Michael Bargo, Jr. on AT:

These four unions, active throughout the U.S., have a total of 8.1 million active members and since 1989 have given $533 million to political candidates, 98% of which went to Democrats. And this number does not include the other municipal public sector unions, etc. which amount to about 12 million members, giving a total number of public union members of 20.2 million. This is the size of the bureaucratic opposition Trump has in the states and Federal government.

Bargo argues that it is not constitutional to have a private organization, a union, control the federal government.  He also questions the right of agencies to levy punitive fines without court review.

During the campaign, Trump proposed that agencies be required to sunset two rules for every new regulation they promulgate.  I thought it sounded sensible and practical, but Steven Hayward at Powerlineblog.com was not impressed, saying bureaucrats will game it, the way they gamed Reagan's cost-benefit requirement.  Philip Howard at The Atlantic likes Trump's proposal:

The advantage of this proposal is that it introduces into the bureaucratic culture the necessity of budgeting regulation. Britain has a similar law, which has thus far proven effective at cutting costs and slowing the pace of new regulation.

The problem of uncooperative agencies sabotaging reform applies much more to Speaker Ryan's wonky idea that the bureaucrats should be given a total "budget" of  the number of regs they may create based on their "cost" – leaving the bureaucrats to measure and oversee their own excesses.

It is far more pragmatic for de-regulation to be instituted by Congress: when they make a new law, repeal the old law and all its associated regs.  New Zealand has done just that:

New Zealand, facing the same problem of obsolete and contradictory law, set out to clean up its statutes. The process we used was to systematically re-write the corresponding statutes of each sector of the economy we reformed - such as the tax code and health care - so that the laws were clear and unambiguous[.] ... These re-written statutes were then passed by Parliament and all the related old ones were repealed. ... New Zealand's environmental laws, for instance, went from being 25 inches thick to just 348 pages. The action of repealing all the old laws also automatically repealed all the regulations built on those laws so the regulatory code was cleaned up at the same time.

The Mercatus Center also offers a practical approach:  Congress could appoint panels for each agency to identify regulations to abolish and vote the entire package up or down.

A commonly cited idea is to sunset all federal regulations after a given number of years.  That too has been tried and gamed:

Sunset laws are easy to circumvent – the legislature simply passes an omnibus re-authorization. Indeed, sunset laws provide an opportunity for politicians to "go back to the well," getting campaign support from the affected special interests in order to reinstate the provision.

This brings us to Senator Cruz's approach, which cannot be gamed: bring the bureaucracy down to size by eliminating whole departments.  Cruz pledged to eliminate the IRS (by merging its necessary functions into Treasury), Energy, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, and Education.

A Cruz Administration will appoint heads of each of those agencies whose sole charge will be to wind them down and determine whether any programs need to be preserved.

Ending departments can be done.  This July, the new government in Britain abolished the Department of Energy and Climate Change.  They transferred remaining environmental policy to the Department of Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy.  In short, the global warming advocates were kicked out of government or moved under business and energy administrators.

Trump's senior economic adviser, Stephen Moore, is all in on eliminating the Departments of Commerce, Energy, and Education, which employ 150,000 bureaucrats. 

Trump has not signed on to all that, but he pledged during the primary that he would eliminate most of the Department of Education and the EPA.

Regulatory reform is notoriously difficult, but mostly because a lobbyist-controlled Congress is as invested in our grotesque regulatory growth as the bureaucrats themselves.  We have never before elected a non-politician beholden to no one but his voters, who is an expert at firing people, and is a natural-born fighter.

This is going to be a historic showdown.

Federal bureaucrats have been in a frenzy of activity in Obama's last months of office, pushing through 4,000 new regulations that will cost consumers more than $100 million.  As liberal website Politico proudly reported, "Obama's executive agencies are intent on pushing through the president's priorities without congressional interference[.]"

Trump has promised to rein in our overreaching bureaucracy through attrition.  His rival in the primaries, Jeb Bush, suggested three bureaucrats retire for each new hire.  That might save some money, but it will not get the job done of ending corruption and bureaucratic tyranny. 

We have elected a man famous for two words: "You're fired!"  For Trump to legalize that simple act, as necessary in the government as in business, will be nothing less than a revolution.

We have a VA that purposely lets vets die without medical care. 

We have an EPA at war with the energy industry.

The Department of Education threatens public schools with loss of federal funds and mandates progressive lies about American history, teaching generations of schoolchildren to be ashamed of America and ignorant of our Constitution and our forefathers.  Universities are forced by the DOJ to hire feminist and racialist thought police under an Obama bureaucrat's interpretation of the Civil Rights Act.

We have an IRS that has a political enemies list its employees punish at the behest of Democrats. 

Homeland Security and FBI are under a gag order that forbids them to use the term jihad or Islamic extremism

Everywhere we look, regulations are strangling business, intruding into the personal lives and property rights of ordinary citizens.  The cost to families is crushing.  One among the hundreds of Obama's new global warming regs: fuel-efficient furnaces will raise the price of furnaces almost $500.

And most famously, we have Obamacare's 11,588,500 words of regulations destroying our once superb medical system and burying consumers under 30% and even 60% premium hikes for lousy insurance coverage.

[Right: The 20,000 pages of Obamacare regs, written without congressional review, have resulted in insurance rate hikes up to 58%.]

It is not an exaggeration to see the all-powerful, unelected bureaucracy as the worst enemy of American values, prosperity, and freedom.

To see a visual representation of the growth of regulations impinging on our lives, watch this amusing YouTube video by Patrick McLaughlin of the Mercatus Center.  The volumes of federal regulations have grown since Eisenhower from 13 volumes to a wall of 235, with 16 entire new federal agencies that we survived better without.

Congress has done nothing about this because Congress is part of the problem.  The members of Congress prefer to pass omnibus spending bills to avoid accountability and keep growing the size of government. 

The good news is that Trump is committed to cleaning up the VA, and he can't do that without figuring out how to fire the VA monsters who purposely let vets die in order to collect their bonuses.  Once he takes on the VA, he will have the key to clean up the whole government.

Betsy McCaughey writes at the N.Y. Post that Trump's must capture the right to fire people:

How hard is it to fire anyone at Veterans Affairs? One surgeon found guilty of abandoning a patient on the operating table and leaving the medical center still got an $11,000 bonus. ...

The same changes needed to turn around the VA have to be made across all federal departments. Right now, workers found guilty of serious misdeeds like tax evasion, watching porn on the job or fraudulent collection of unemployment benefits typically keep their jobs and get bonuses.

Firing requires so many months of documentation, hearings and appeals that bosses decide it's not worth the trouble. No-show jobs are rampant, costing $1 billion a year. Supervisors ignore the waste and just hire someone else to get the work done.

Democrat Senator Bernie Sanders led the fight against VA reform in the Senate, which raises the question: why couldn't McConnell override the Democrats beholden to government unions?  We need a power show by McConnell backing up Trump to put reform across.

A bipartisan VA reform bill with real teeth has already passed the House[.] ... It will shorten the process for firing and demoting senior VA personnel, even eliminating appeals to the misnamed Merit Systems Protection Board, which protects criminals and dead wood, not merit.

Thomas Lifson, editor of AT, writing the day after Trump's victory, reminds us that letting people go through attrition does not rule out firing people for cause. 

The worst roadblock to reform are the federal unions – which were created in 1962 by JFK by executive order.  What was done by a pen can be reversed by a pen.

John McGinnis, constitutional law professor at Northeastern,  has three good suggestions on how  Congress and the courts can take back the power of regulatory discretion:

Trump will need to hire committed deregulators at each federal agency. ...

As president, Trump should sign a bill like the REINS Act, which requires Congress to enact important new regulations recommended by agencies before they can become law. ...

Finally, the new coalition can pass legislation to get rid of so-called Auer deference. That absurd doctrine forces judges to defer to agencies' interpretation of their own regulations, reducing the incentive to construct clear regulations in the first place.

The idea that civil service has been protected from political influence is a farce, exposed by Michael Bargo, Jr. on AT:

These four unions, active throughout the U.S., have a total of 8.1 million active members and since 1989 have given $533 million to political candidates, 98% of which went to Democrats. And this number does not include the other municipal public sector unions, etc. which amount to about 12 million members, giving a total number of public union members of 20.2 million. This is the size of the bureaucratic opposition Trump has in the states and Federal government.

Bargo argues that it is not constitutional to have a private organization, a union, control the federal government.  He also questions the right of agencies to levy punitive fines without court review.

During the campaign, Trump proposed that agencies be required to sunset two rules for every new regulation they promulgate.  I thought it sounded sensible and practical, but Steven Hayward at Powerlineblog.com was not impressed, saying bureaucrats will game it, the way they gamed Reagan's cost-benefit requirement.  Philip Howard at The Atlantic likes Trump's proposal:

The advantage of this proposal is that it introduces into the bureaucratic culture the necessity of budgeting regulation. Britain has a similar law, which has thus far proven effective at cutting costs and slowing the pace of new regulation.

The problem of uncooperative agencies sabotaging reform applies much more to Speaker Ryan's wonky idea that the bureaucrats should be given a total "budget" of  the number of regs they may create based on their "cost" – leaving the bureaucrats to measure and oversee their own excesses.

It is far more pragmatic for de-regulation to be instituted by Congress: when they make a new law, repeal the old law and all its associated regs.  New Zealand has done just that:

New Zealand, facing the same problem of obsolete and contradictory law, set out to clean up its statutes. The process we used was to systematically re-write the corresponding statutes of each sector of the economy we reformed - such as the tax code and health care - so that the laws were clear and unambiguous[.] ... These re-written statutes were then passed by Parliament and all the related old ones were repealed. ... New Zealand's environmental laws, for instance, went from being 25 inches thick to just 348 pages. The action of repealing all the old laws also automatically repealed all the regulations built on those laws so the regulatory code was cleaned up at the same time.

The Mercatus Center also offers a practical approach:  Congress could appoint panels for each agency to identify regulations to abolish and vote the entire package up or down.

A commonly cited idea is to sunset all federal regulations after a given number of years.  That too has been tried and gamed:

Sunset laws are easy to circumvent – the legislature simply passes an omnibus re-authorization. Indeed, sunset laws provide an opportunity for politicians to "go back to the well," getting campaign support from the affected special interests in order to reinstate the provision.

This brings us to Senator Cruz's approach, which cannot be gamed: bring the bureaucracy down to size by eliminating whole departments.  Cruz pledged to eliminate the IRS (by merging its necessary functions into Treasury), Energy, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, and Education.

A Cruz Administration will appoint heads of each of those agencies whose sole charge will be to wind them down and determine whether any programs need to be preserved.

Ending departments can be done.  This July, the new government in Britain abolished the Department of Energy and Climate Change.  They transferred remaining environmental policy to the Department of Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy.  In short, the global warming advocates were kicked out of government or moved under business and energy administrators.

Trump's senior economic adviser, Stephen Moore, is all in on eliminating the Departments of Commerce, Energy, and Education, which employ 150,000 bureaucrats. 

Trump has not signed on to all that, but he pledged during the primary that he would eliminate most of the Department of Education and the EPA.

Regulatory reform is notoriously difficult, but mostly because a lobbyist-controlled Congress is as invested in our grotesque regulatory growth as the bureaucrats themselves.  We have never before elected a non-politician beholden to no one but his voters, who is an expert at firing people, and is a natural-born fighter.

This is going to be a historic showdown.

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