A Federalist Solution to the Federal Bureaucracy

The federal bureaucracy exerts far too much control over the daily lives of U.S. citizens. From the ATF to the VA, federal tentacles are slowly suffocating freedom in America. Consider the power that IPAB’s (Independent Patient Advisory Boards) would have held over the lives of everyday citizens under ObamaCare. Contemplate the power that the EPA granted itself with their radical rewrite of the Clean Water Act regulations. How many coal miners lost their jobs as a direct result of the EPA’s greenhouse gas emission regulations of power plants? How many have died in car accidents as a direct result of CAFE standards cooked up by the EPA and NHTSA which require cars to be made lighter and more fuel-efficient? Every day in countless ways the federal bureaucracy exerts its soft tyranny over the citizens of this country, and their power grows with every rule and regulation they write.

To add insult to injury, the federal bureaucracy became the home of some truly historical and eye-popping scandals during the eight-year disaster known as the Obama regime. From the very first revelations about Fast and Furious to the noxious VA scandal, it became depressingly apparent that the very craziest of the loonies were running the asylum. It’s not so hard to figure out how and why this happened: top Obama lieutenants like Eric Holder and Hillary Clinton made next to no effort to hide their criminality in the face of very public and severe accusations of misconduct, yet they walked away without so much as a slap on the wrist. Lois Lerner avoided jail time and is currently enjoying a cushy taxpayer-funded retirement despite having broken the law numerous times by misusing her authority at the IRS to pursue a political vendetta against the Tea Party. Numerous VA employees enriched themselves through bonuses gained by denying medical care to our veterans, many of whom ended up dying as a result. Under the Obama regime it didn’t take long for civil servants to realize they could literally get away with murder. Once it became apparent that there would be no consequences, things got really nasty: Fast and Furious, Hillary Clinton’s secret server, the VA scandal, the NSA spying scandal, the Solyndra boondoggle, the EPA Gold King Mine waste water spill, the GSA “conference” where hundreds of federal employees partied for days at taxpayer expense, the NOAA Asset Forfeiture Fund abuses, the EPA private email scandal, and on and on; these are just the scandals the public was made aware of, and in each case the perpetrators faced little or no consequences.

The federal bureaucracy was created by Congress and is managed by the executive branch. The structure of the bureaucracy was intended to make it difficult for employees to be fired for political reasons. The Civil Service is comprised for the most part of men and women who perform their daily duties admirably and with distinction. Sadly, the result of Obama’s politicized and weaponized bureaucracy has been a fundamental lack of trust in government by average citizens. The very worst federal employees are shielded from the consequences of their incompetence, indolence, and outright corruption by recalcitrant administrators and union lawyers. Personal accountability appears to have taken a permanent vacation. Indeed, the power of the civil service grows every time an unfireable federal employee thumbs his nose at the rules that govern the private sector. Throughout history no attempt by any president to rein in this bureaucracy has been able to do more than slow its growth; simply put, there is no elected official in Washington DC capable of bringing Leviathan to heel.

How then can We the People accomplish what the most powerful politicians in Washington DC can’t? To quote a character from Frank Herbert’s Dune, “he who can destroy a thing, controls a thing.” I submit that the federal bureaucracy could be tamed by enacting a Constitutional amendment requiring that every federal government agency except the Department of Defense to be reauthorized by a three-fifths vote of all 50 state legislatures every 12 years. Failure to reach a three-fifths majority would result in the permanent and irrevocable shutdown of that department or agency. Any regulations written by an agency that gets shut down by the states would be stricken from the Federal Register, thus returning jurisdiction to Congress and/ or the state legislatures per the 10th Amendment. The annual reauthorization vote would take place one month prior to the end of the federal government’s fiscal year on the first Monday in September in order to allow Congress time to zero out budgets and reallocate funds to other departments as necessary. The reauthorization votes would be spread out over the 12-year period; since there are currently some 500 agencies and departments in the federal government, that amounts to reauthorizing about 40 departments every year.

This Civil Service Reform Amendment would effectively force the bureaucracy to reform itself. Since IG inspections of at-risk departments take place annually and most of the reports are publicly available, no additional state or federal spending would be required. The 12-year period of performance would allow for each federal department to operate under at least two distinct federal administrations prior to review. Imagine the fallout if a scandal-ridden BATF (or IRS, or VA) were shut down by the states in the first series of reauthorization votes after passage of the amendment. Faced with extinction, other departments and agencies that had gone rogue over the last 12 years would have to either clean up their act (and make a pretty good case that they’ve done so) or go the way of the dodo bird. Radical political appointees would have a much tougher time abusing their authority if their actions jeopardized the livelihoods of career employees. Likewise, there would be far less incentive to enact draconian rules and regulations that anger large swaths of the populace. There is no question that such an amendment would be a tough sell to our betters in DC -- Congress has demonstrated repeatedly that they have little interest in sharing power with their vassals in flyover country. Still, an Article V Convention could make the Civil Service Reform Amendment a reality. At long last Americans will have found a way to put a leash on the Beast of the Bureaucracy!