Deconstructing government in Trump’s America

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Bannon’s prophetic prediction playing out before our eyes at USDA

In the early days of the Trump administration, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon declared that the President’s cabinet picks are well suited to implement a complete “deconstruction of the administrative state.” The quote by Bannon is relatively well known. Unfortunately, large swaths of the American people do not understand that that deconstruction is not only alive and well, but proceeding with lightning speed—with no end in sight.

To put it in more simpler terms, the administration is on track to weaken regulatory agencies and other bureaucratic entities, faster and more extreme than any previous Republican administration had ever tried to do. And it’s not like George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan didn’t try mightily to achieve this end. After all, less and smaller government is one of the main objectives of most Republicans as it is. But the ‘deconstruction’ from this administration is breathtaking in scope.

Sonny Perdue

Let’s take, for example, what has been happening at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in recent weeks. Secretary Sonny Perdue announced in June his plan to relocate two agencies within the department; the Economic Research Service (ERS), and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), to Kansas City, Missouri. Reasons given for the relocation were that it would bring the research agencies closer to major farming regions, improve customer service, and save taxpayers millions of dollars. However, Democratic members of Congress and employees at ERS and NIFA suspect that politics is the real reason for the change.

Most of the employees at the two agencies believe the relocation is nothing more than a back door attempt to shrink the agency and clamp down on research that doesn’t align with Trump administration priorities.

Employees at ERS, who research areas such as climate change, nutrition, and the farm economy, and those at NIFA, who arrange federal grants for agricultural research institutions, had been given only 30 days to decide whether to relocate. The fear was that the short notice would contribute to a disruption of operations and drive out many experienced researchers. And true enough, according to the Washington Post, about two-thirds of the nearly 400 employees refused the assignment and will lose their jobs.

The loss of these veteran ERS employees who did not relocate is “extremely concerning for those who create policy, rely on sound market and industry research, and who collaborate with USDA ERS to address field-based questions that arise,” said Dawn Thilmany, an Associate department head at Colorado State University’s College of Agriculture Sciences.

It seems as though the administration’s overall skepticism regarding climate change could be one of the deciding factors in what’s going on here. USDA scientists are some of the leading experts in the field of climate science as it relates to farmers and food systems. Politico reported back in June that the department had largely stopped promoting its own climate science findings, much to the chagrin of members of Congress. And Secretary Perdue himself is a long-time climate change denier. When asked in an interview by CNN what he thought caused climate change, Perdue said, “I think it’s weather patterns, frankly.”

But perhaps even more troubling is the administration’s callous disregard for people who lose their jobs in government. When people quit or are forced out, it’s not looked at as a negative. It’s, in fact, a welcome occurrence.

None other than White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney accentuated this point a few days ago. He delivered a keynote speech at the Republican Party’s Silver Elephant Gala in South Carolina. Mulvaney could barely contain his excitement. “You’ve heard about ‘drain the swamp.’ What you probably haven’t heard is what we are actually doing. Maybe you don’t know this, but the USDA just tried to move, or did move, two offices out of Washington, D.C.,” he said.

He continued: “Yes, you can applaud that one. That’s what we’ve been talking about doing. Guess what happened? More than half the people quit. By simply saying to people. ‘You know what, we’re going to take you outside the bubble, outside the Beltway, outside this liberal haven of Washington, D.C., and move you out in the real part of the country,’ and they quit—what a wonderful way to sort of streamline government, and do what we haven’t been able to do for a long time.”

But J. David Cox Sr., President of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents the two agencies, confirmed the concerns of union members. “The decision to transfer hundreds of USDA jobs from D.C. isn’t about helping federal employees do their jobs better or delivering better services to the American taxpayer,” Cox said. “Their goal is to drive out hard-working and dedicated civil servants and silence parts of the agencies’ research that the administration views as inconvenient.”

The somewhat good news in all of this, however, is the fact that the move may not happen because of a common occurrence: Trump administration incompetence. Democrats in Congress had requested an Inspector General report on the move, and it found that the USDA did not go through the proper procedure in acquiring funds from Congress. Also, legal challenges from the union may soon follow, which could delay the move indefinitely.

Thus, we shall wait and see. But let’s be crystal clear: this administration is on a clear path to blowing up the administrative state as we know it. Draining the swamp, as Trump bragged he would do during the campaign, is not playing out the way he promised. On the contrary, he’s filling departments with people who do not believe in government to begin with—or filling them with people who hold opposite views from what the department’s goals are supposed to be.

Perdue, for instance, comes from the same line of thinking as Trump when it pertains to the environment. To them, climate change is a hoax. Recently, for instance, they reversed an Obama-era policy that banned the use of harmful pesticides known to pose a threat to bee populations. The bottom line is that corporate lobbyists and oligarchs rule the day in this administration. The less qualified people you have in government, the more likely you are to jettison regulations across the board. It’s music to the ears for of corporations, which allows them to operate without adequate accountability or oversight.

Unfortunately, these are the kinds of stories that fly under the radar in Trump’s America. While there are excellent journalists out there shedding light on the swamp ‘filling’ of this administration, it’s the salacious and ridiculous blather from Trump himself that gets most of the attention. While he tweets, golfs and holds campaign rallies for his rabid base of supporters, he and his crew are systematically going about destroying the administrative state and democracy itself.

Over the next 15 months, we can never lose sight of what he’s doing. Because what he says doesn’t mean a damn thing.

 

20 comments

  1. Quite simply, this has been part of the plan for many years. Deconstruct government so that industry can self police and drive up profits. It is keeping with an oligarchy construct based on a more autocratic governing style. But, here is the deal.

    – the trucking industry was deregulated and more than half of the industry went under in the 1980s
    – the airline industry was deregulated and a wave of mergers occurred also during the 1980s.
    – the FTA delegated to Boeing the audit and inspection of their new aircraft and look what has happened.
    – the Energy Dept cut staff and farmed out testing, such that oil platforms were not being tested by experienced people = Deepwater Horizon occurred and others are at risk
    – the EPA has become the Environmental Punishment Agency reassigning climate scientists and allowing companies to pollute. The Depts of Agriculture and Interior have done the same.
    – Dick Cheney, who came from the petroleum industry, personally wrote in the 2005 Energy Act that fracking companies need not comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act or Clean Air Act.
    – by repealing in the late 1990s the Glass Steagal Act, put in after the Depression, banks could once again be investment banks, insurance agents, etc. This was a precursor to the Housing Crisis within ten years.

    Three things frustrate me. 1) not all regulations are bad and many serve a purpose, but they should consistently be reviewed to see if improvements are needed or if the need to be repealed. 2) public servants are generally hard working people trying to do their job. Is there inefficiency, of course, so that should also be reviewed, but to denigrate them is a disservice. 3) this group of people put together by Trump cannot drain a proverbial swamp, because many of them are swamp creatures are unsuitable for their jobs. The departures, ethics violations, chaos and incompetence flows the top, as organizations take after their leader and Trump has never been known as a good manager. His White House is equal parts chaos and incompetence.

    Keith

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks Keith. You speak the truth my friend….and then some. Yes, this goes back to former Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell even. Back in the 70s he authored an in-depth essay on how business had to band together and counter the ‘liberal’ state. And that they have. It was a long-view that frankly I wish my fellow progressives in politics would start to mirror. We are so far behind the eight ball. They have the courts now. Excessive gerrymandering etc…
      It ain’t pretty Keith…..

      Like

      1. I mentioned this to Jill, but a terrific example is the Consumet Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Republicans hate the CFPB and Trump put Mulvaney in charge to hobble it. Why?

        The CFPB was put in place and started up by now Senator Elizabeth Warren to penalize banks, credit card companies and payday lenders who screwed their customers. It has been hugely succesful. It fined Bank of America $870 million for selling customers services and products THEY DID NOT ask for. The fined Wells Fargo, American Express and others for similar issues. About 95% of the fines go to the screwed over customers. Voters should ask why again do you not like the CFPB to GOP legislators?

        Keith

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Yep…one of many examples Keith. That’s a good one. So many of his supporters are unaware or are oblivious to this. As long as he’s doing it, it must be ok…I wish more people would care. Perilous times sir!!

        Like

  2. An excellent post, my friend. I am a bit late to the party, for I seem to stay overwhelmed these days, but I shall re-blog this one now … better late than never, especially for such an important message. I am surprised, actually, that the EPA hasn’t been moved to somewhere in the northern part of Alaska. Trump has chosen according to his plan … the most unsuited candidates for every single cabinet position. Meanwhile, we are destroying the planet every hour of every day. Sigh.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks as always Jill. You’re very kind to reblog. Yes…maybe the EPA in Alaska…HUD in North Dakota…Dept. of ED in Mississippi…Unbelievable what he’s doing….Nothing…absolutely nothing would surprise me

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I keep saying that nothing he does can surprise me any more, but then … he does something and my jaw drops. Have you seen the picture of him and Melania holding the little baby whose parents were both killed in the El Paso shooting? Donnie and Melania are both smiling, and Trump is giving a ‘thumbs up’! How crude, crass, disrespectful … grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. There is no LOW with this crowd Jill. We’re so far past thinking that would be the case. Retweeting a conspiracy theory about Hillary/Epstein ? I mean…..this is NOT real. But, it is. Ughhhhhhhh

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on Filosofa's Word and commented:
    The important things, as I have said before, are slipping under the radar. Jeff, from On the Fence Voters, has shone a spotlight on one such thing. This administration is working so hard to destroy not only the nation, but the entire globe. Please take a minute to read Jeff’s assessment. Thanks, Jeff, for keeping us informed!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Hey, Jeff, you gotta stop outing Trump and all his dirty tricks. No one wants to be an outer, nor do we the readers want you to be an outer. But, if you can become an ouster, all power to you. America needs real ousters. But watch you don’t hit the wrong key. If you do you might oust an oyster, and oysters do not need to be ousted. Only Trump and his psychophants need that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I sure wish I could be the ouster because I’d have done that on Jan 21, 2009! But here we are, 2.5 years into this nightmare. I’m about to enter the abyss… a get together with family, some who are avid Trump cult members. It could get ugly!

      Like

  5. Jeff, I really appreciate your post. For most of my adult life, I had no interest in politics and my knowledge of same was extremely lacking. To be honest, I just didn’t care. I guess I sorta’ figured it would all work out in the end (undoubtedly influenced by my Christian exposure). Although things are different now, my disinterest over the years shows up in my minimal knowledge of political history.

    You (and Keith’s comment) provided me with some facts that I was totally unaware of. I was somewhat aware of the “smaller government” perspective, but not to the extent you outlined.

    My increased knowledge has made me extremely aware that if we don’t have a change in the higher echelons of government, we. are. F…KED.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Nan. That post isn’t even the tip of the iceberg. I’ll be focusing on even more of what he’s doing to our institutions in the future. This stuff is too important. One thing Trump has done, is wake up a lot of people, including yourself, to what a real threat he is to democracy itself. It’s tough to make sense of it all that’s for sure. More to come Nan!

      Liked by 1 person

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