Discord & Dissension-Part XIII-The Administrative State

Posted by

As my friend Jill and I have been pointing out over the last several months of our project, the issues that confront us in this year’s election are enormous and growing by the minute. While many Americans may not have realized how crucial good government is to our well-being before, they certainly do now. We see, in real-time, what an incompetent and unresponsive government can do to a society. Lives continue to be lost at an alarming rate, while the leader of the free world dithers and blames everyone but himself.

Unfortunately, though, our current president and the Republican Party paved the way for this. When a political party believes that government should only exist for security purposes, and not much else, what you see is what you get.

This mantra is nothing new. The attack on the government by the Republican Party began many years ago, highlighted by none other than their hero, President Ronald Reagan himself. One of his most famous quotes? “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.” Or, even better, there was this gem from his inaugural address in 1981: “Government is not the solution to the problem, it IS the problem.”

So this philosophy that the government needs to get out of the way so the rich can make a ton of money and trickle down to the rest of us began a long time ago. And it’s still the primary tenet of the Republican Party’s platform. Long-time tax-cut guru Grover Norquist is another influential conservative who doesn’t care much for government. He famously said, “My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”

Grover Norquist

I do believe there are a few common-sense Republicans left who think that government can be a force for good, but those people are rarely seen or heard in public saying any such thing. Most of them follow and stick to the talking points.

But what’s happening now in Washington, D.C. is nothing short of criminal negligence. Not only does the Trump administration not respect the norms and precedents we’ve long before held as the gold standard in our nation’s history, but they’re also trying to blow the whole damn thing up. We knew what was coming, at least those of us who were terrified of Trump ever getting elected, that is. The others? They loved the idea. They wanted to blow it all up. Now the rest of us are left picking up the pieces.

As I said, it’s not like they were hiding what their intent was when they came to power in 2017. Trump’s infamous and disheveled former chief strategist Steve Bannon told us as much at a CPAC event: “His cabinet picks are aimed at the deconstruction of the administrative state.” Translation? We want to weaken the hell out of regulatory agencies and other bureaucratic entities.

Steve Bannon

He then went on to say: “The way the progressive left runs is if they can’t get it passed, they’re just going to put in some sort of regulation in an agency. That’s all going to be deconstructed, and I think that’s why this regulatory thing is so important.”

Yeah, ‘this regulatory thing.’ How quaint he was with that quote. But let’s face it, folks, he meant every word of it, and Trump succeeded in this endeavor far beyond what anyone thought.

It’s all about the Deep State with this group. What and who are the Deep State? It’s pretty easy. These are the non-political people sprinkled throughout the government. They come to work every day, are bound, not by a president, but by the Constitution. Trump and his minions can’t stand these types. How is it possible not to be loyal to the president? He is, after all, their boss, right?

Wrong. The people and the Constitution are what binds these career public officials and workers. Many of them are scientists and specialists in different fields of our vast governmental apparatus. Areas like climate science, public health, national security, civil and foreign policy, and many more. While previous administrations, even Republican ones, have valued the skills these so-called ‘bureaucrats’ possess, the current president couldn’t give a rat’s behind about them.

Just look at who Trump has put at the heads of the agencies that employ the Deep Staters. Usually, their views are antithetical to the agency itself. How about putting someone in charge of the Department of Education—who doesn’t believe in public education? That’s right. Hello, Betsy Devos.

betsy devos

How about putting a brain surgeon in charge of Housing and Urban Development, who has no background whatsoever in the field? That would be none other than Dr. Ben Carson.

And surely you’d want someone sympathetic to the fossil fuel companies in charge of the EPA, right? That would be former director, Scott Pruitt, who left in disgrace in 2018 over a cloud of ethics complaints. But he sure did his best to weaken regulations, much to the delight of billionaires like the Koch Brothers. His current replacement, Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist (of course), took the torch from Pruitt and ran with it.

And now, a pandemic. Trump disbanded the pandemic response team that President Obama established during his second term. Why? For one, it was an Obama initiative. So naturally, it must be bad, at least as Trump sees it. But the reality is, it was a science-based team, and we know how Trump feels about science—he doesn’t believe in it.

And because of his overall disdain for people who aren’t loyal to him, we’re left with a situation where our agencies aren’t at full speed. Many high-level positions go unfilled, and when they finally are, they get the title of ‘Acting Director.’ Trump likes it that way. He has more control over them and doesn’t have to go through the Senate confirmation process.

But again, it’s not just Trump. The Republican Party is complicit in everything he does. Their fundamental anti-government/pro-one-percent dogma has only strengthened with Trump in charge.

It doesn’t have to be this way, though, and we can change it on November 3, 2020. Joe Biden believes in good government. Hell, he believes in government, period. The government can and will do good things because Biden will appoint people in his administration who only want to do what’s right for America. There’s a deep bench of knowledgable and qualified individuals out there. And you can be sure they’ll be ready to go on day one.

How about Senator Kamala Harris as Attorney General, or Senator Elizabeth Warren as Secretary of the Treasury? Hell, either one of them would make great Vice-Presidents as well. Can you see Washington Governor Jay Inslee as EPA Administrator or Interior Secretary? There are many others, of course. But we can imagine, can’t we?

Yes, the challenges facing an incoming Biden administration are going to be immense. But his cabinet won’t be coming in to destroy and deconstruct the administrative state, as our friend Mr. Bannon told us Trump’s goal was from the very beginning. On the contrary, they’ll work—hand in glove—with a President Biden to rebuild those very same agencies that Trump tried to decimate.

We’ll get competence, over negligence and malice. Instead of embarrassing the country, as our allies overseas look at us with shock and disbelief, a Biden administration will seek to strengthen the ties that bound us together, pre-Trump. We’ll get back to leading from the front, not from behind.

Because whether we like it or not, the rest of the world looks to the United States for leadership, especially in our current situation. If you remember, the Ebola hysteria was off the charts back in 2014. The right-wing went nuts and demanded President Obama close the borders and implement other harsh measures.

Instead, with then Vice-President Joe Biden at his side, they charted a different course. They sent the military to Africa, along with doctors and other health care professionals. They decided to take on the virus at its origin. The thinking back then was, it’s better to control it over there before it gets over here. It worked.

barack-obama-joe-biden

While the government doesn’t always get it right no matter who the administration is, I’ll take my chances any day of the week with people who believe the government has a decisive role to play in our society. Those who don’t—those who do nothing but denigrate and under-appreciate the career people who do a damn good job for our country? No thanks.

You don’t have to believe that government can solve all of our problems. But we should all want a government that works for us. A government that steps up to the plate, when needed, and competently gets us through whatever crisis that may arise. That’s the bare minimum we should expect. We’re not even close to achieving that with the current administration.

Trump tried and delivered on Bannon’s administrative state destruction proclamation. One could argue that it might be his only ‘achievement’ while in office. On November 3, 2020, though, we can change it all. As we see daily, especially now, with a pandemic raging across the country, lives are literally on the line. We cannot afford another four years of this. We just can’t.

Table of Contents

20 comments

  1. Reblogged this on Filosofa's Word and commented:
    In this week’s episode of mine and Jeff’s project, Jeff reminds us all just why it is so important that we vote Trump and his band of crooked cronies out in November. If the people of this country weren’t convinced that Donald Trump & Co are out to destroy our government before, then they surely must be after the bungling ineptitude of the past two months! Thanks Jeff … great post!!!

    Like

    1. Sick and twisted Roger. It’s been going on for decades. Now, we’re seeing the fruits of their ploy to denigrate and render government useless and unprepared. That may not have been the intended result, but that’s where we are. We need a responsive and competent government now more than ever. We aren’t getting it, and we won’t get it. Not with this administration anyway….Change cannot come fast enough!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The underlining foolishness of this approach is breath-taking.
        Do these folk really, truly belief the USA can be run by a canton style combination of vast numbers of small towns and communities within cities all reaching wholesome decisions which they all co-operate on. All the while benign, mature CEOs of the sort which inhabited Tom Clancy books run their corporations with paternalistic care, handing out charitable sums to the aforementioned cantons……
        As you say in the US…
        ‘Oh…PLEASE!’

        Liked by 1 person

  2. detemineddespitewp makes an excellent point. I thought the same thing when I read your statement, “But again, it’s not just Trump. The Republican Party is complicit in everything he does. Their fundamental anti-government/pro-one-percent dogma has only strengthened with Trump in charge.”
    I find it hilarious but pitifully ironic that so many career politicians–like Mitch McConnell and most other Republicans in Congress–claim to be suspicious of large government. They are the reason we need a firm-but-fair federal government. That requires some explanation: Republicans–conservatives–claim to be wary of an expansive federal government because government can be corrupt, which in turn can hinder personal freedoms. The notion stems largely from the Christian view of fallen, sinful humanity. Governments are made up of fallen humans, and if those fallen humans follow their fallen human nature, they can become despotic.
    Okay. But, based on that fallen-human theory, one can just as easily–or even more persuasively–argue that fallen humans NEED a strong government to control those base, fallen proclivities. Yes, throughout history, many corrupt governments have mistreated the people they were supposed to serve. But the alternative is a laissez faire government that allows or even colludes with corrupt corporations and the elite who run them to mistreat the people they employ.
    Whether or not one agrees with the biblical notion of fallen humanity, it is evident that humans are imperfect and often selfish. For that reason, we need government to make and enforce rules that restrict our base impulses and reward our nobler instincts. Our current administration, along with its spineless Republican lackeys, is much more concerned with enriching the elite–including themselves–than with protecting average Americans.
    Anyway, thanks again, Jeff, for another insightful
    I find it hilarious but pitifully ironic that so many career politicians–like Mitch McConnell and most other Republicans in Congress–claim to be suspicious of large government. They are the reason we need a firm-but-fair federal government. That requires some explanation: Republicans–conservatives–claim to be wary of an expansive federal government because government can be corrupt, which in turn can hinder personal freedoms. The notion stems largely from the Christian view of fallen, sinful humanity. Governments are made up of fallen humans, and if those fallen humans follow their fallen human nature, they can become despotic.
    Okay. But, based on that fallen-human theory, one can just as easily–or even more persuasively–argue that fallen humans NEED a strong government to control those base, fallen proclivities. Yes, throughout history, many corrupt governments have mistreated the people they were supposed to serve. But the alternative is a laissez faire government that allows or even colludes with corrupt corporations and the elite who run them to mistreat the people they employ.
    Whether or not one agrees with the biblical notion of fallen humanity, it is evident that humans are imperfect and often selfish. For that reason, we need government to make and enforce rules that restrict our base impulses and reward our nobler instincts. Our current administration, along with its spineless Republican lackeys, is much more concerned with enriching the elite–including themselves–than with protecting average Americans.
    Anyway, thanks again, Jeff, for another insightful post.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks Jerry. Really, much of it comes down to how much our corporations and the wealthy are connected to the politicians. Unfettered access, unlimited campaign donations, a revolving door of lobbyists and crony capitalism etc…Until we change that unholy alliance, I don’t see us ever getting the government we all deserve. But certainly, the ‘big government sucks’ mantra resonates with the types of people you often cite in your wonderful posts. There’s a religious blind-spot there, for sure. And let’s face it, much of Trump’s support comes from those who do not have any kind of higher education. I hate to put it in those terms, but it’s true. You see it in the polls all the time. Overwhelmingly, white men without college degrees think he’s doing a fine job. The rest of us, including a huge majority of women, think the opposite. It’s stark, isn’t it?
      And now look where we are. Ridiculous protests in battleground states, egged on by the president himself. I saw some of the people being interviewed. Total ignorance Jerry. They haven’t a clue as to what’s going on. Follow the King no matter what. That’s what they do. Dangerous. The president of the US is a danger to humanity. They don’t see it. They can’t see it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I like most of what you say, Jeff, but I have one statement of yours I must take to task:
    Because whether we like it or not, the rest of the world looks to the United States for leadership.
    I barfed when I read that. Living in the “United States” as you do, I’m sure you believe that propaganda, but that is all it is, is propaganda. Like Trump’s followers believe everything Trump says, whether it is true or not, America’s government officials tell Americans they are the leaders of the free world when they are not.
    The truth is, American officials TAKE the lead WHETHER THE WORLD WANTS THEM TO OR NOT! They never ask, does someone want help. They already know they are “the best in the world” at taking the lead, so they do it. I will admit that, until Trump, the USA was putting more money into world organizations, but noone asked them to. Yours is the richest nation in the world, so therefore you offer to pay the most. We don’t ask you to, but we do let you because we know you want to feel good about yourselves.
    Under Trump, two things become obvious: Your government (sic) no longer wants to continue being the leaders of the world (which we let you think); when we don’t like what you are doing (as in the early days before Covid-19 was declared a pandemic), we just go our own ways without you.
    Please allow me to make an analogy. About a year ago or so, National Geographic ran a contest where they asked people for ideas on how to save the world. Who did they allow to partake in ghis contest? Only Americans. The population of the world is about 7.7 billion. The population of America is about 330 million. That means you have approximately 5% of the whole world’s population. And National Geographic, which has a worldwide readership, thinks that 95% of the world is too dumb to save this planet. What message do you think this sends to non-Americans? It tells us you think we are not worth sharing this world with.
    Before you jump out of your shoes, I am fully aware that not all Americans feel this way. We know there are good people everywhere, just as there are bad people everywhere. I am talking above about the perception of how a great number of Americans see themselves and their country, and how most of the rest of the world perceives the image you are portraying to us.
    Believe me, Jeff, you are NOT the leaders of the world, we chuckle (or puke) when we hear you say that. Trump has only emphasized those feelings. The way he insults the governments of other nations is laughable. He has no idea how stupid he looks, or how he makes most Americans look. If white men and their Abrahamic religions had never come to the Americas (contrary to history you/we did not discover it), this world would be a much better place.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. I can’t argue too much with you on your points rawgod. I’ll say that our ‘leadership’ in the world started to fall off the cliff when Bush decided to invade Iraq under false pretenses. A so-called, ‘preventative’ war, if you will. The world didn’t like the move very much, did it? Most of us over here didn’t either, although we did suffer a horrendous attack on 9/11. So, knowing this, Bush thought he’d have the political capital to pull it off. Well, we know what happened, right? The Middle East has never been the same. Mistrust is everywhere. Syria is a mess. Yemen is a mess. Russia and China are taking up the vacuum created by the U.S’s waning influence. And on and on it goes.
      Look, if I sounded like an arrogant American when I talked about it’s global leadership, I apologize. Certainly not what I meant. But, there was a time when the world did look to us. WW11, for one. The cold war that followed, is another. And, we did lead, in those endeavors. Vietnam was certainly a disaster. So, we’ve made some horrific mistakes over here. But, I honestly want America to be a force for good in the world. Trump doesn’t care. He coddles dictators and scoffs at what were once solid Western alliances.
      I’ve seen other global surveys where America’s stature, since Trump, has been severely weakened. I don’t remember the same under Obama. With the right president in charge, I feel we can begin to heal some of the fractures. Climate change, for one, is where we can exert some real positive leadership. Hell, how about global health? How important is that right now?
      When we use our economic power for good around the world, is that not a worthwhile endeavor? But when Trump vanishes from the world stage and cedes everything to others, my feeling is the rest of the world becomes a much more dangerous place. Perhaps I’m overestimating American influence. That’s quite possible. Again, sorry if you took that in an arrogant way. My overall point, though, is that our government can and should do what it can in the world to help make it a better place. When we shirk those responsibilities, perhaps other countries with more nefarious goals will take the lead. Hell, it’s already happening, in my view. But, I’m over here….you’re over there. Maybe I’m being a bit naive. I can live with that.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am not accusing you personally for anything, Jeff, unless it is believing the propaganda about the superiority of American know-how and ingenuity. But it is that blind belief that has plagued Americans abroad since the end of WWII. So many American tourists and business people “take over” the countries they go to. I don’t know if you have ever heard the joke about the American tourist in France, the one who could not understand anything people were saying to her. “Why can’t you people just speak American like everyone else,” she screamed. “How can you expect us to learn a new language everytime we cross a border!” (The joke for us is that this was real, not made up.)
        It was back in the 60s some Americans first started wearing Canadian flags on their persons, because Canadians were much more respected than Americans in foreign countries. People treated them with more respect, more dignity. (That practice still lives on today.)
        My experience with Americans in Canada in the 60s and 70s was: Talk to only one American (family) at a time, they are wonderful people. But put two Americans in a room, and suddenly they become obnoxious, trying to prove how superior they are to the rest of the world.
        This is just the way things are. We know it, and put up with it, but we really don’t like it.
        One more example and I will shut up. How do you know an American when speaking a non-English language? They keep yelling louder to make you understand what they are trying to say! (My sincerest apologies to nice Americans. The bad one ruin things for the good ones.)
        There, I hope that gets me off of my “I hate America” soapbox. Again, I’m sorry.
        Now I’ve lost my original train of thought. I did have a conclusion I was aiming for, but my senior’s memory lost track. If I remember, I’ll pick it up later. If not, forget I ever said anything if you can. Jill is teaching me how to rant. LOL. (And LuL, Jill.)

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I get it rawgod. I really do. We are in many ways, admired for some things, and despised for others. Comes with the territory I suspect. We’ve got so many problems over here, we certainly are in no position to tell other countries how to solve theirs. How’s that?

        Like

  4. Jeff and Jill, thanks for the series. The definitive look at the huge risk we are exposed to is highlighted in the must read “The Fifth Risk” by Michael Lewis. In short, between the eliminaton of the transiton team and their vetting, the long open (and still open) positions, the lack of interest and attendance at briefing sessions (the briefing books are the source of the book), the turnover and the latge ego and poor study habits of the president have placed this country at great risk. Conservative pundit David Brooks called the Trump White House “equal parts chaos and incompetence.” Lewis and Brook’s observations are reinforced by two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Bob Woodward’s book “Fear” based on 750 hours of interviews. When Trump staff later said they did not say something, Woodward would respond “yes he did.”

    I often cite the concept of the “tyranny of the or.” The question is not either big government or small government. The question is what do we want government to do and let’s make it effective as possible. Our country was built on a balancing of investments between private money (venture capital, ongoing capital), publicly raised money (equity and debt) and government money (federal, state and local). This requires oversight – think bridges, roads, dams, utilities, vaccines, etc. This issue is covered well in Thomas Friedman’s book “That used to be us: how America fell behind in the world it created and how it can come back.” This and Lewis’ book should be required reading by all legislators.

    The answer to most questions is not “either/ or.” It is a mixture of several. Sorry for the novel. Keith

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks Keith. ‘Effective’ government. What a concept, huh? Yes, that’s really what I think, and most of us think, should be the bare minimum expectation. We’ve fallen woefully short under Trump. But, we’ve also fallen short under other administrations as well. It doesn’t help when we elect leaders that do not think of government as being a force for good. It’s dangerous, frankly. But, it’s certainly become part of the mantra for millions of people, especially those in rural America. They deeply mistrust the government in so many ways. And now we have a leader that simply plays on that fear and mistrust. He’s governing for about 35% of the people. The rest of us be damned. That’s simply no way to run a government. It’s way past the time to get back to that ‘effective’ government you so eloquently wrote about. Competent agencies, led by competent leaders. Is that asking too much? I don’t think so. If Biden wins, I do believe we’ll get back to that. If not? I don’t even want to go there.

    Like

    1. Jeff, government has been painted with a bad brush for many years. I recall Ronald Reagan making hay over big government. Then, you had VP Dick Cheney who knew how to exploit it do so to the benefit of the fossil fuel industry. The problem is not government, it is inefficient government. It is not regulations, it is bureaucracy. There are procedures in place to test the veracity of regulations. They should be reviewed periodically to see if they need improvement, curtailment or elimination. The same holds true with bureaucracy. Homeland Security was a new department. Trump wants to have a space defense silo. The question is should it have been left under the Air Force.

      Yet, what I just said does not fit on a bumper sticker nor does it neatly fit in a news bullet. Lewis’ point in his book is the significant expertise that resides in government who do their job well. Some have been run out or reassigned. There is one thing for certain, the president has no clue what most of the departments do. The pandemic team he eliminated, he said he had no idea he did. That may be the case, which is also not singing his praise.

      If I were cutting something, my questions would be – what do they do and would it be missed if we cut it? Keith

      Liked by 1 person

      1. All true Keith. Aiming for efficiency should be the top priority of any administration, regardless of party affiliation. Trump has thrown that concept completely out the window. We’ll get back to it. As soon as we remove him in November. We better.

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s