Government shutdown exposes redundancy in Washington
The partial government shutdown goes on with little hope of resolution. Democrats want to test Donald Trump's resolve on border wall funding by proposing a plan to reopen the government without any money for a wall. With Trump having gone this far, you would think he'll maintain his position despite the daily headlines of people starving in the streets, old people getting kicked out of their homes, health care being denied to babies because there's no money, and...
Wait. Those headlines don't exist. Part of the reason is that 75% of government is fully funded through next September. But another reason why this shutdown isn't impacting citizens is that much of government is unnecessary and redundant.
Maybe what we learned from the shutdown is that for all of the talk, all of the money, all of the skyrocketing debt, the federal government is mostly non-essential. The State Department? Mostly unnecessary and designed for another era. If the president wants to talk to the leader of Burkina Faso, he can send him an email. Instead of the diplomacy in service of American interests, State has become mostly a colonial office for our post Cold War policy of moral imperialism. And State is one of the original cabinet level departments which we actually need in some much more limited capacity. It gets worse from there. The myriad departments and agencies, variously referred to as 'the bureaucracy', 'the administrative state', or more malevolently 'the deep state', represent much of the swamp that President Trump promised to drain. In that regard, the partial shut-down can be seen as consistent with his larger platform. But he should make it permanent. Here are some concrete ideas for the president to win the politics of the shutdown and do some good for the country at the same time:
Buskirk believes we can make the shutdown a feature, not a bug:
1. Propose the permanent shuttering of non-essential cabinet level departments. Closing the Department of Energy would save $32.5 billion, Department of Commerce, $61.8 billion, and the Department of Education, $59.9 billion. These are not new or radical ideas for Republicans. Reagan tried to close the Department of Education in 1981. And the current Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry, proposed closing his own Department when running for president. Are they really non-essential? In a word, yes. But let me put it in perspective with a few questions: The Department of Education was created in 1979. Does anyone believe that American education has improved since then? Does anyone think American commerce would cease if the department were closed?
2. Offer early retirement to non-essential federal employees who have been furloughed. This is common practice in the private sector. It would help make the federal government more efficient, thus reducing a drag on the economy, and would allow those people to pursue more productive employment while giving them the financial security to make the transition.
3. Encourage Congress to reassert its constitutional power as the primary lawmaking body of the federal government. Congress long ago ceded this authority to the deep state which is unelected, unaccountable, and makes far more law than Congress. For example, in 2016, Congress passed 214 bills which became law while the deep state made 3,853 'rules' with the force of law.
4. Return power to state and local government.
Good, solid conservative ideas, all of which have been proposed at one time or another over the last few decades. But despite the partial shutdown, government continues to function with only minor interruptions. The reason for that is redundancy.
Back in 1979, when Jimmy Carter proposed spending about $6 billion to fund a brand new Department of Education (F.Y. 2019 budget is $60 billion), one of the strongest selling points was that education programs were scattered in every department and agency across the government. Just think how much money we can save if we bring all those programs under the control of one, federal department!
It didn't work. Today, there are still education programs in many federal agencies, and the Education Department has become a gigantic presence.
I'm not sure that getting rid of all those departments would be beneficial. But cutting them down to size and limiting their scope should certainly be considered by the president.