Posted tagged ‘Federal Bureauracy’

The Arc of Regulation, Yesterday and Today

October 27, 2017

The Arc of Regulation, Yesterday and Today, Power Line,  Steven Hayward, October 27, 2017

Big things are afoot in the world of federal regulation. While the media and liberals (but I repeat. . .) obsess over Trump’s tweets and other unconventional speech acts, the Trump Administration is quietly but determinately going about the task of, in Steve Bannon’s words from February, “deconstructing the Administrative State.” Certainly they are rolling back old regulations and stopping new ones at a rate not seen since the best days of the Reagan Administration.

Much remains to be done on a fundamental level, about which much more in future posts. But I came across this very nice short video from the Federalist Society featuring my regulatory rabbi and former boss Chris DeMuth, reviewing the first great wave of deregulation back in the 1970s and 1980s. I have the sense that we’re in the midst of another such moment today:

Judicial Watch Presents: ‘Exposing the Deep State’

September 16, 2017

Judicial Watch Presents: ‘Exposing the Deep State’ via YouTube, September 15, 2017

The blurb beneath the video states,

Judicial Watch hosted a special educational panel on Friday, September 15, 2017, discussing “Exposing the Deep State.” The expert panelists include: Dr. Sebastian Gorka Former Deputy Assistant to the President Author of New York Times best seller Defeating Jihad: The Winnable War Diana West Journalist and Author of American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation’s Character Todd Shepherd Investigative Reporter Washington Examiner James Peterson Senior Attorney Judicial Watch Moderated by Christopher J. Farrell Director of Investigations and Research Judicial Watch.

Trump vs. the Deep State

June 19, 2017

Trump vs. the Deep State, PJ MediaRoger Kimball, June 18, 2017

President Donald Trump speaks in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami, Florida, on June 15, 2017, about re-instituting some of the restrictions on travel to Cuba and U.S. business dealings with entities tied to the Cuban military and intelligence services. (Photo by JL) (Sipa via AP Images)

The sociology of the Trump presidency—and the anti-Trump “resistance”—is an unwritten chapter in recent American history.  As I say, I suspect it will have to be filed chiefly under “Snobbery, examples of,” but that’s as may be.  This much I am convinced of: 1. Those who identify the “administrative state” (the “deep state,” etc.) as our chief political problem today are correct; 2. Donald Trump really is trying to unravel (“deconstruct,” “drain”)  Leviathan; 3. The right-leaning anti-Trump campaign is so virulent because, even if unwittingly, it is itself part of the overweening bureaucrat dispensation that is the enemy of freedom; 4. Trump will survive to the extent that he is able to follow the example of his hero Andrew Jackson and challenge his challengers by pushing through his agenda undistracted from the yapping of the PC chihuahuas.

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With his typical panache, Frank Buckley asks the central political question of our time and hints at an answer with an original suggestion for remediation. The question is what to do about the “administrative state,” a.k.a., the regulatory state, the “deep state,” that Leviathan that Steve Bannon, President Trump’s chief strategist, has said he came to Washington to “deconstruct.”

As Buckley points out, that laudable goal is hedged around with difficulties, partly because the meddling class has built up such a formidably complex hive of extra-constitutional rules and regulations, partly because the populace has been supine for so long that strategies for effective rejoinder seem utopian at best.  What, really, can one do about the proliferation of “guidance,” of the statute-like interference in the conduct of business or, indeed, of everyday life?

The Kafkaesque bureaucracy stymies ordinary people at every turn as it pursues its two overriding goals: the perfection of a “progressive,” i.e., socialist agenda and—just as important—the consolidation of its own power and perquisites.

What to do? The courts can only do so much without themselves falling prey to the molasses-like blandishments of the administrative state. Effective responses seem to be few and far between.

One model, Buckley notes, was provided by Andrew Jackson who, disgusted by the encroaching sclerosis and corruption of the bureaucracy he inherited, instituted a “spoils system.” He fired 10 percent of the federal workforce and replaced it with people of his own choosing. “Was that so bad?” Buckley asks, indulging in what Latinists refer to as a “Num” question: one expecting the answer no.  As Buckley notes, even so partisan a liberal as Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., lulled perhaps by the historical distance of Jackson from our own time, thought that it was a positive development that  helped to restore the people’s faith in government.

Donald Trump has himself said that he would like to cut the federal workforce by 10 percent and has outlined many other cost-saving and, more to the point, bureaucracy-cutting measures. Why are these efforts, many of which have already begun to bear fruit, not universally applauded, at least among conservatives?

I do not know the answer to that question.  But it is certainly the case that Trump’s efforts are not universally applauded among conservatives.  Buckley quotes a curious tweet emitted by my friend Bill Kristol, former editor of The Weekly Standard and a paid-up member of the ever Never Trump brigade: “obviously strongly prefer normal democratic and constitutional politics. But if it comes to it, prefer the deep state to the Trump state.”

What I find so curious about this tweet is the phrase “Trump state.”  What is it?  What horror does Bill envision that would lead him to prefer what Donald Trump has on offer to the “deep state”?

Ever since Trump was nominated, I suspected that he was going to govern as a far more conventional figure than some of his campaign rhetoric might have suggested. And so it has turned out to be. Sure, he continues to broadcast eyebrow-raising tweets and make provocative statements, but look at what he has actually done:

  • Nominated, and had confirmed, Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme court.
  • Nominated a score of federal judges whose impeccable conservative credentials should be balm to conservatives like Bill Kristol.
  • Issued many executive orders and other initiatives to pare back onerous and counterproductive regulations.
  • Changed the rules of engagement in hot spots like Syria and Afghanistan so that commanders on the ground, not Washington weenies, make decisions about appropriate military responses.
  • Outlined an ambitious tax plan that would slash taxes across the board.
  • Worked diligently to unravel the monstrosity of Obamacare.
  • Undertaken on his first foreign trip a robust articulation of his “America First,” anti-terrorist policy, all while demonstrating what progress in the Middle East might look like by flying, for the first time, directly from Saudi Arabia to Israel.
  • Made it possible for entrepreneurs to exploit America’s enormous energy-producing potential by scraping the prohibitions on coal mining, opening up the Keystone and Dakota pipelines, etc. etc.
  • Reduced illegal immigration by more than 70 percent just by being president.
  • Released a budget that makes meaningful cuts in federal programs.
  • Etc., etc., etc.,

Now, Bill Kristol knows all of this.  So why does he speak of the “Trump state”? How does it differ from the “normal democratic and constitutional politics” he says he prefers?

I suspect, but do know know for sure, that the issue is largely aesthetic—what in an earlier time might have been called “snobbery.”  Bill does not like where Donald Trump hails from. I don’t means Queens, NY, but rather the unschooled precincts of the spirit that people without the right credentials inhabit by definition.  There are objective correlatives—a certain taste in ties, in victuals, even in feminine pulchritude—but it all boils down to a matter of style in the most comprehensive sense.  Bill Kristol, scion of one of the most accomplished conservative intellectual couples of the last century, has it. Donald Trump does not. Bill is Harvard, not just because he went there, but because of the intellectual manners, the habitus, he internalized.

The sociology of the Trump presidency—and the anti-Trump “resistance”—is an unwritten chapter in recent American  history.  As I say, I suspect it will have to be filed chiefly under “Snobbery, examples of,” but that’s as may be.  This much I am convinced of: 1. Those who identify the “administrative state” (the “deep state,” etc.) as our chief political problem today are correct; 2. Donald Trump really is trying to unravel (“deconstruct,” “drain”)  Leviathan; 3. The right-leaning anti-Trump campaign is so virulent because, even if unwittingly, it is itself part of the overweening bureaucrat dispensation that is the enemy of freedom; 4. Trump will survive to the extent that he is able to follow the example of his hero Andrew Jackson and challenge his challengers by pushing through his agenda undistracted from the yapping of the PC chihuahuas.

Is This The Coup the Left Wanted?

February 15, 2017

Is This The Coup the Left Wanted?, The Resurgent, February 15, 2017

trumpandflynn

There is no evidence that Donald Trump’s campaign and Russian intelligence cooperated to steal the election from Hillary Clinton. But the New York Times waits for the third paragraph of this sensational story to tell you. First, they want you to know intelligence sources say Trump campaign staffers had multiple, repeated contacts with the Russians.

What we are seeing is an intelligence community trying to sabotage the President of the United States. We should all be concerned even if we have our own concerns about the President and Russia.

It is more and more apparent that, while Mike Flynn misled Vice President Pence and should have been fired, we only know this because members of the intelligence community engaged in an opposition research dump on Flynn with the media. They engaged as a separate and distinct branch of government, and that is a dangerous situation.

The left is cheering on the outcomes, as are some on the right, but they are all ignoring the process. When the intelligence community ceases to serve the Commander-in-Chief and instead tries to sabotage him because they do not like the direction he is taking the country, they are putting their interests ahead of the voters and the electoral process.

The same problem exists with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and its decision on the immigration order. In large part, the court based its decision on Donald Trump’s campaign statements that he wanted a Muslim ban. At first blush, that may seem legit to people but consider Barack Obama and Obamacare.

Chief Justice John Roberts upheld Obamacare’s constitutionality because he said it fell under the taxation powers of the constitution. But Barack Obama had campaigned on Obamacare saying that it was not a tax. Had the Supreme Court used President Obama’s campaign statements against him, they would have thrown out Obamacare.

While one may cheer on the outcome from the Ninth Circuit, they should not cheer the process and flawed legal reasoning.

Both the intelligence and court situation raise troubling issues. By cheering outcomes based on deeply problematic processes, people are rapidly moving towards “ends justify the means” reasoning. That will bring about the very creeping authoritarianism the left fears from Donald Trump.

They cheer this on now because it is working to their advantage as rogue leakers try to undermine a President they do not like. But it will eventually happen to them. By then they will have surrendered any and all moral high ground to cry foul.

The intelligence community serves at the pleasure of the President, not the other way around. The President must be able to depend on the intelligence community’s assessments. Right now, the intelligence community is causing a breakdown in trust with the Trump Administration through leaks designed to undermine his authority.

If a terrorist attack on our soil happens because the President felt he could no longer trust the intelligence community’s assessments, that will be on them. This behavior, in a democratic republic, must be considered unacceptable.

It is possible to be happy Mike Flynn is gone and also be deeply bothered by the means through the intelligence community designed his ouster. People on all sides should be speaking up loudly that the behavior of the intelligence community in damaging leaks is unacceptable.

Finally, we know that Mike Flynn intended to reform the intelligence community and expose side deals made with Iran to secure a diplomatic agreement. President Trump should commit to replacing Mike Flynn with someone as hell-bent on reform and exposure of the Iran deal as Mike Flynn was. The intelligence community cannot be rewarded for bad behavior that undermines the democratic processes of this nation, even if some of us are happy Mike Flynn is gone.

Trump Says He’s ‘A Smart Person,’ Doesn’t Need Daily Intelligence Briefings

December 12, 2016

Trump Says He’s ‘A Smart Person,’ Doesn’t Need Daily Intelligence Briefings, PJ MediaWalter Hudson, December 11, 2012

trump-primaries-sized-770x415xt

President-elect Donald Trump continues to defy convention and ruffle institutional feathers. In a wide-ranging interview with Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday,” Trump indicated he will delegate daily intelligence briefings to subordinates. From the Daily Mail:

“I get it when I need it,” [Trump] said on Fox News of the top-secret briefings sessions, adding that he’s leaving it up to the briefers to decide when a development represents a “change” big enough to notify him.

“I’m, like, a smart person. I don’t have to be told the same thing in the same words every single day for the next eight years,” Trump said.

Read in excerpt like that, Trump’s remarks may come across as arrogant. He presumes that he will be in office for two terms, touts his own intellect, and downplays the importance of a critical presidential role.

However, when viewed in context [below], Trump’s position proves much less provocative. His “smart person” comment comes off less as a reference to some exclusive ability, and more like the standard capacity most of us have to remember something when first told. He could have just as easily said, “I’m not an idiot. I don’t have to be told the same thing in the same words.”

Trump went on to note that his generals and Vice President-elect Mike Pence will receive routine daily briefings, presumably including the redundancies he seeks to avoid. This is consistent with his articulated tendency to delegate tasks to “the best people.”

Trump also addressed bipartisan concerns regarding Russia’s influence in the election.

“It’s ridiculous,” Trump said of the CIA’s assessment [that that Russia tried to interfere with the presidential election].

[…]

Trump’s incoming chief of staff, Reince Priebus, shrugged off allegations that Russia helped Trump win.

He said: “The Russians didn’t tell Clinton to ignore Wisconsin and Michigan.”

The Democratic candidate was expected to win in these two states but they went to Trump instead.

“She lost the election because her ideas were bad. She didn’t fit the electorate. She ignored states that she shouldn’t have and Donald Trump was the change agent,” Priebus said on ABC’s ‘This Week’.

Priebus may be overstating the case when he says the election results “had nothing to do with the Russians.” But those claiming Russia’s influence was decisive likewise overstate their case.

It remains unclear what actionable conclusions could emerge from investigations into suspected Russian hacking. Indeed, given the likely role Hillary Clinton’s private email server played in any such hacking, Democrats might be wise to let the issue go.

Little-noticed law gives Trump unexpected power to undo the mischief of bureaucrats

November 16, 2016

Little-noticed law gives Trump unexpected power to undo the mischief of bureaucrats, American Thinker, Thomas Lifson, November 16, 2016

Nobody was counting on this.

Barack Obama infamously said that he would govern by a “pen and a phone.”  He has circumvented Congress and the laws for years.  The Democrats (and much of the media, but I repeat myself) have not only given him a pass, but cheered him on.  Now it appears a seldom-noticed law might be a powerful tool that Trump can use to eviscerate much of the Obama legacy.

Stacy Cowley of the New York Times reports :

Dozens of major regulations passed recently by the Obama administration — including far-reaching changes on health care, consumer protections and environmental safety — could be undone with the stroke of a pen by Donald J. Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress starting in January, thanks to a little-used law that dates back to 1996.

And it comes with a scorched-earth kicker: If the law is used to strike down a rule, the federal agency that issued it is barred from enacting similar regulation again in the future.

The obscure law — called the Congressional Review Act — was passed 20 years ago at the behest of Newt Gingrich, then the House speaker and now a member of Mr. Trump’s transition team. It gives Congress 60 legislative days to review and override major regulations enacted by federal agencies. In the Senate, the vote would not be subject to filibuster.

The president can veto the rejection, which usually renders the law toothless. But when one party controls both the White House and Congress, it can be a powerful legislative weapon.

So far it has only been successfully used once: In 2001, a Republican Congress invoked it to eliminate workplace safety regulations adopted in the final months of President Clinton’s tenure. President George W. Bush signed the repeal two months after his inauguration, wiping out stricter ergonomics rules that had been 10 years in the making.

On Jan. 20, when Mr. Trump takes office with a Republican-controlled Congress — one that has indicated its zeal for undoing President Obama’s doings — more than 150 rules adopted since late May are potentially vulnerable to the ax, according to an analysis by the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center.

“It allows the election results to be applied almost retroactively, to snip off activity that happened at the end of the last administration,” said Adam Levitin, a law professor at Georgetown.

The column notes several examples of rules and regulations Obama’s White House has been quickly rolling out in the dying months of his presidency.  However, there is a new sheriff in town.

The GOP House has been trying to use this law for years but was stymied by Obama’s veto power.

Under Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s leadership, the House has used the law several times to try to reject a number of the Obama administration’s policies. Those challenges were symbolic — President Obama vetoed every one that reached his desk — but President-elect Trump can approve any sent to him after he takes office. Mr. Ryan’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

“I don’t think they’ll go after every single rule, but I think you’ll get eight to 10 that may be targeted,” said Sam Batkins, the director of regulatory policy at the American Action Forum, a right-leaning group that has been tracking which regulations are subject to congressional review.

The threat posed by the law may slow the usual rush of “midnight regulations” that administrations typically race to finish in their final days. This year, it will be a high-stakes game of chicken — put out a rule and hope it survives, or hold off, to preserve the chance to revisit it in the future?

House Republicans have already put bureaucrats on notice that efforts by them to slip through new rules and regulations will be met with extra scrutiny when a new Congress and president take charge in January.  Lisa Rein of the Washington Post:

Newly empowered House Republicans on Tuesday laid down the gauntlet to the outgoing Obama administration: Don’t finalize any pending rules and regulations you think you can slip through before you leave office.

In a letter to hundreds of Cabinet secretaries, commissioners and other heads of federal offices and agencies signed by 22 Republican leaders, the lawmakers noted that President Obama has been generous in his use of executive orders to set policy. And they issued a threat: Ignore us and we will give your agency extra scrutiny.

“Should you ignore this counsel, please be aware that we will work with our colleagues to ensure that Congress scrutinizes your actions — and, if appropriate, overturns them …” said the one-paragraph missive signed by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and 21 Republican committee heads. They oversee federal agencies from the Department of Veterans Affairs to the Environmental Protection Agency.

When liberals wail about this missive, they can be reminded that Obama’s team issued the same type of message.  This warning should serve as a red line that bureaucrats will not cross and that Republicans will enforce.

In any case, Trump can go to DEFCON-4 on his own.

People on the right and among libertarians and freedom-seekers everywhere have long decried the rise of the regulatory state and its unchecked power in the hands of bureaucrats who have, seemingly, lifetime tenure and powers to wreak havoc on the economy.

Thomas Lifson has written about the pressing need to overhaul civil service rules to make the government and its worker bees more efficient, as has Bruce Walker in another American Thinker column.  Bureaucrats are unelected and unaccountable officials who control too much power in America.  Barack Obama has spent the last eight years implanting partisan true believers throughout the federal government.  Many have been cleverly transforming themselves from political appointees, who can be relatively easily swept away when the Washington Stables are cleaned, to civil service employees who have all but lifetime tenure (this system is truly rigged and needs to be “fundamentally transformed”).

The power that the Congressional Review Act gives Donald Trump can accelerate the changes America needs to grow its economy from the stultifying burdens of Leviathan.

Trump has a pen and a phone, too.  Democrats will soon be reminded of that phrase and come to rue it.