LA Times writer disparages 'Trumpian fantasy' of moving bureaucrats out of DC

I have become a bit of a connoisseur of the pomposity of Trump-haters who purport to be "experts" much smarter than the POTUS, who lecture him on the futility and foolishness of his moves breaking with the failed policies of his betters.  So I am savoring this example from Evan Halper, who "writes about a broad range of policy issues out of Washington D.C., with particular emphasis on how Washington regulates, agitates and very often miscalculates in its dealings with California."


Photo: L.A. Times.

In full condescension mode, Halper writes:

[A] familiar battle cry is ricocheting through this city: Move the bureaucrats out.

It has the ring of a Trumpian fantasy. Dislodge arms of the federal government from Washington and reattach them in faraway places, spreading the wealth generated by these well-paid agency workforces and forcing senior bureaucrats to face the people they affect. ...

There hasn't been so much buzz about getting "Washington" out of Washington since Franklin D. Roosevelt sent 30,000 federal workers to the Midwest[.] ...

None of it is going over well with die-hard Washingtonians. Many scold that the idea will flame out the same way it did when the Clinton administration pondered and then dropped a big relocation initiative, and the Reagan administration did the same before it.

I love it when people tell President Trump he can't do something because nobody else in the federal government ever did it – for example, move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.  Lots of people are being shown up as ninnies on that one.

I cherish this in particular from Halper:

The swaggering Interior secretary from Montana is putting the finishing touches on his plan to move the headquarters of three large public lands agencies to the West. 

"Swaggering"?  Kind of gives away Halper's game.  But he does acknowledge that here are concrete plans, only to disparage them:

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, a Montanan, is aiming to move the headquarters of the Bureau of Land Management, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Reclamation out of Washington as soon as logistically possible. Western politicians like Sen. Corey Gardner (R-Colo.) are cheering him on.

"Ninety-nine percent of the nearly 250 million acres of land managed by BLM is west of the Mississippi River, and having the decision makers present in the communities they impact in Colorado or across the region will lead to better results," Gardner wrote in an email.He wants the bureau headquartered in his state, and Colorado's Democratic governor, John Hickenlooper, has joined Gardner's lobbying campaign.

Bipartisan support!  But Halper downplays the significance of a move – even if it is successfully implemented.  Because experts say so.

[S]ome scholars project that while a few hundred jobs might get moved here or there, the broader vision of moving large pieces of Washington officialdom hundreds or thousands of miles away will end up in the shredder, as tends to happen with outsized plans to reinvent and reimagine government. The politics are messy, the logistics are tough, and the status quo is entrenched.

I wonder if Halper has ever looked at what happens when a headquarters is moved.  It happens all the time in the private sector.  The impact cannot be measured by numbers alone.  The open secret of such moves is that they offer the chance to weed out the staff.  In the federal government, where bureaucrats are insulated, the only way to get rid of someone can be a transfer to someplace completely undesirable from a personal standpoint.  And here's a little secret Halper should know, since he is such an expert on government bureaucracies: D.C. is full of couples who both work for the federal government.  That means that if an agency moves to, say, Pueblo, Colorado[i], if the couple want to stay together and move, they are going to have a find a job for the other spouse in Pueblo, where federal jobs might be much scarcer than in D.C.  Or they can decide to avoid upending their lives and those of other family members and simply leave the HQ operation and try to find something new in D.C.

If one wants new policies implemented by new headquarters people (because the old swamp-dwellers might sabotage them), then moving an HQ to places spurned by Beltway elitists is a smart move.

But what do I know compared to Halper?


[i] You don't think the feds have Aspen in mind, do you?  Pueblo is a steel-making town that has seen better days and could use an economic boost.  It would be my choice for the destination of at least one agency HQ.

I have become a bit of a connoisseur of the pomposity of Trump-haters who purport to be "experts" much smarter than the POTUS, who lecture him on the futility and foolishness of his moves breaking with the failed policies of his betters.  So I am savoring this example from Evan Halper, who "writes about a broad range of policy issues out of Washington D.C., with particular emphasis on how Washington regulates, agitates and very often miscalculates in its dealings with California."


Photo: L.A. Times.

In full condescension mode, Halper writes:

[A] familiar battle cry is ricocheting through this city: Move the bureaucrats out.

It has the ring of a Trumpian fantasy. Dislodge arms of the federal government from Washington and reattach them in faraway places, spreading the wealth generated by these well-paid agency workforces and forcing senior bureaucrats to face the people they affect. ...

There hasn't been so much buzz about getting "Washington" out of Washington since Franklin D. Roosevelt sent 30,000 federal workers to the Midwest[.] ...

None of it is going over well with die-hard Washingtonians. Many scold that the idea will flame out the same way it did when the Clinton administration pondered and then dropped a big relocation initiative, and the Reagan administration did the same before it.

I love it when people tell President Trump he can't do something because nobody else in the federal government ever did it – for example, move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.  Lots of people are being shown up as ninnies on that one.

I cherish this in particular from Halper:

The swaggering Interior secretary from Montana is putting the finishing touches on his plan to move the headquarters of three large public lands agencies to the West. 

"Swaggering"?  Kind of gives away Halper's game.  But he does acknowledge that here are concrete plans, only to disparage them:

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, a Montanan, is aiming to move the headquarters of the Bureau of Land Management, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Reclamation out of Washington as soon as logistically possible. Western politicians like Sen. Corey Gardner (R-Colo.) are cheering him on.

"Ninety-nine percent of the nearly 250 million acres of land managed by BLM is west of the Mississippi River, and having the decision makers present in the communities they impact in Colorado or across the region will lead to better results," Gardner wrote in an email.He wants the bureau headquartered in his state, and Colorado's Democratic governor, John Hickenlooper, has joined Gardner's lobbying campaign.

Bipartisan support!  But Halper downplays the significance of a move – even if it is successfully implemented.  Because experts say so.

[S]ome scholars project that while a few hundred jobs might get moved here or there, the broader vision of moving large pieces of Washington officialdom hundreds or thousands of miles away will end up in the shredder, as tends to happen with outsized plans to reinvent and reimagine government. The politics are messy, the logistics are tough, and the status quo is entrenched.

I wonder if Halper has ever looked at what happens when a headquarters is moved.  It happens all the time in the private sector.  The impact cannot be measured by numbers alone.  The open secret of such moves is that they offer the chance to weed out the staff.  In the federal government, where bureaucrats are insulated, the only way to get rid of someone can be a transfer to someplace completely undesirable from a personal standpoint.  And here's a little secret Halper should know, since he is such an expert on government bureaucracies: D.C. is full of couples who both work for the federal government.  That means that if an agency moves to, say, Pueblo, Colorado[i], if the couple want to stay together and move, they are going to have a find a job for the other spouse in Pueblo, where federal jobs might be much scarcer than in D.C.  Or they can decide to avoid upending their lives and those of other family members and simply leave the HQ operation and try to find something new in D.C.

If one wants new policies implemented by new headquarters people (because the old swamp-dwellers might sabotage them), then moving an HQ to places spurned by Beltway elitists is a smart move.

But what do I know compared to Halper?


[i] You don't think the feds have Aspen in mind, do you?  Pueblo is a steel-making town that has seen better days and could use an economic boost.  It would be my choice for the destination of at least one agency HQ.