The Administrative State is a Betrayal of American Values

The foundational promise of America was that the government would be accountable to the people. “Here, the people rule,” said President Gerald Ford. But that promise was broken one hundred years ago when the Progressive Era gave birth to the Administrative State. Since then, most of our laws have been enacted not by elected representatives accountable to the people, but by unaccountable bureaucrats. Law professor Glenn Reynolds summarizes the sorry state of affairs in today’s USA Today.

[Philip] Hamburger explains that the prerogative powers once exercised by English kings, until they were circumscribed after a resulting civil war, have now been reinvented and lodged in administrative agencies, even though the United States Constitution was drafted specifically to prevent just such abuses. But today, the laws that actually affect people and businesses are seldom written by Congress; instead they are created by administrative agencies through a process of “informal rulemaking,” a process whose chief virtue is that it’s easy for the rulers to engage in, and hard for the ruled to observe or influence. Non-judicial administrative courts decide cases, and impose penalties, without a jury or an actual judge. And the protections in the Constitution and Bill of Rights (like the requirement for a judge-issued search warrant before a search) are often inapplicable.

How did a system designed to provide government of, by, and for the people devolve into a system in which bureaucrats unaccountable to voters (though exquisitely accountable to political players and special interests) produce masses of law that was never voted on by an elected official? Simple: on purpose.

In the early days of the Republic, the franchise was limited. But as the mass of voters became larger, more diverse, and less elite, those who considered themselves the best and brightest looked to transform government into something run not by those deplorable unwashed voters but by a more congenial group. As Hamburger says, “They have gradually moved legislative power out of Congress and into administrative agencies — to be exercised, in more genteel ways, by persons like … themselves.”
It has been, in essence, a power grab by what Hamburger calls the “knowledge class,” or what others have called the New Class: A group of managers and intellectuals who, although they may not actually be especially knowledgeable or elite in practice, regard themselves as a knowledge elite.

The Administrative State stands as an affront to democratic values and violates both the spirit and letter of the Constitution on a daily basis. It’s really the biggest unknown scandal in America today. Unknown because hardly anybody ever mentions it.

Schoolchildren are taught, if anything, that laws are made by Congress with no mention of ‘informal rulemaking’ by bureaucrats. And the ongoing depredations of the bureaucrats are hardly ever reported by the news media. Turn on ‘conservative’ Fox News and they’re reporting on Washington’s latest pointless diversions like the ‘scandal’ of Donald Trump’s son-in-law maybe having spoken with some Russians, or the self-serving reminiscences of former bureaucratic operative James Comey. Sorry, but I can’t make myself care about any of that political theater while Americans are forced to live under the rule of unelected clowns in the bureaucracy. Priorities, you know?

Let me keep this simple for those playing at home. If Congress didn’t vote on it, and the president didn’t sign it, then it’s not a valid law, and Americans have no obligation to abide by it.

The Treason of the Bureaucrats: Part Deux

Last summer, I spoke before a civic group of about 35 prominent local citizens and warned them that the permanent federal bureaucracy in DC–which Franklin Roosevelt termed the 4th branch of government–was gearing up to undermine the presidency of Donald Trump. At the time, I also wrote a blog post entitled “The Treason of the Bureaucrats.”

“I do not rule Russia,” Czar Nicholas is reputed to have said, “ten thousand clerks do.” Those words might take on particular significance for Donald Trump, should he be elected president. Like Czar Nicholas, a President Trump might find himself thwarted and undermined by the clerks–the federal civil servants.

Since then, events have borne out my prediction, to the extent that commentators are for the first time starting to apply the old Ottoman term ‘deep state’ to the willful and partisan Washington bureaucracy. At a conference last week, bureaucrats met with Democrat activists and discussed openly their strategies for thwarting the Trump Administration.

The deep state is not actually hidden very deep. It’s right out in the open.

Forlorn liberals took refuge at the American Constitution Society’s national convention in Washington this week, discussing whether to encourage the growth of the “deep state” resistance inside the government or fight President Trump from outside.

“The election of Donald Trump was an assault on the federal bureaucracy,” William Yeomans said to a room full of students and civil servants, including those recently displaced by Trump’s administration. “His values are simply not consistent with the values of people who are committed to public service and who believe deeply in the importance of public service.”

Hey, anybody deeply committed to public service can easily find ways to serve without working as a federal bureaucrat. If a ‘public servant’ cannot in good conscience implement the agenda of the president, the honorable thing to do is to resign and find some other way to serve, like working for a non-profit. We’re constantly told by federal bureaucrats and their union leaders how talented and hard-working they are, and that they could be earning so much more in the private sector. Well, here’s their chance to prove it.

Yeomans, an American University law professor with more than 25 years of experience at the Justice Department, was holed up inside the Capital Hilton hotel downtown on a sunny Friday afternoon leading a panel of bureaucrats and scholars divided about how best to fight Trump.

On a Friday afternoon, aren’t bureaucrats supposed to be, you know, at work?

UCLA law professor Jon Michaels said he favors filling the Trump administration with liberals opposed to Trump’s agenda.

“We hear a lot of language about draining the swamp and this idea about a deep state that somehow was going to thwart the intentions or the political mandate of the president,” Michaels said. “I kind of embrace this notion of the ‘deep state.'”

His embrace of the notion of the deep state is a reason why I embrace the notion of draining the swamp.

Michaels listed his ideas for how to ensure the success of the “deep state.” Act as a group — a department, across agency lines, as a community — rather than as an individual when pushing back against Trump from the inside, he said. Once such a coalition is formed, he suggested “rogue tweeting” or “leaking to the media” as options for fighting the president.

Since this was a meeting of the American Constitution Society, maybe the participants can point me to the part of the Constitution that empowers the civil servants to serve as a check on the authority of the president.

If you think about it, the arrogance is breathtaking. Here are unelected bureaucrats deciding for themselves that they’re going to “push back” against the duly elected Administration. It’s essentially an attempt to overturn the result of an election, just because the bureaucrats disagree with the voters. And those voters also happen to be the people who pay their salaries. Apparently, the public spiritedness of these dedicated public servants does not extend to respecting the will of the voters.

The GOP Senate is supposedly working hard right now on a bill to repeal Obamacare, but the GOP should instead be working on repealing the Civil Service Act of 1883. Obamacare is already collapsing due to it own internal contradictions. But we’re never going to clear the DC swamp without drastic legislation reforming the civil service.

If the GOP were smart (LOLOLZZ) they’d stop worrying about helping their hedge fund buddies with carried interest and start going after the left’s power bases: academia, Hollywood, the corporate media, and not least, the federal bureaucracy. They must all be destroyed.

Thank you and have a nice day.

A Tale of Two Scandals: VW vs. USGS

I recall an interview with journalist John Stossel in which he said that early in his career he was assigned to report on cases of fraud by private businesses. After awhile on the job, however, he found that fraud in the business world was rare. Most businesses operated honestly because they had to retain customer loyalty. In contrast, Stossel found that fraud was much easier to find in government.

And yet, we don’t see a lot of media reports about the rampant fraud in government. The media seem to report the few cases of private sector fraud with gusto, but are far more reticent to report on government.

Consider, for example, the Volkswagen ’emissionsgate’ scandal that broke back in 2015. This scandal got wall-to-wall coverage on every major media outlet. At this point, even the most superficially informed person must be aware that Volkswagen rigged emissions tests on diesel vehicles during a period of about seven years.

In contrast, how many people know about the data manipulation scandal at the U.S. geological survey? Most people would probably imagine USGS to be a sleepy outpost of government, staffed by geeky but diligent scientists. But apparently, at least two USGS scientists committed data fraud spanning a period more than twice as long as the VW scandal. 

Data was manipulated by USGS employees at the USGS lab in Lakewood, Colo., for nearly it’s entire existence, starting in 1996 — just a year after the facility opened — until 2014. The lab stopped taking new work then and was permanently closed in March 2016. The USGS is part of the Department of the Interior.

The lab analyzed a variety of energy-related topics such as uranium deposits and coal reserves. The data was relied upon by decision-makers and analysts in the energy and financial industries, among others. Officials said projects affected by the data involved $108 million in funding.

Even more infuriating is the fact that, nearly a year after the scandal broke, Congressional investigators don’t seem to have many answers due to foot-dragging by the agency. There’s also no evidence that anyone has been fired, punished, or even named.

Officials with the Department of the Interior’s U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) have yet to tell Congress they’ve punished a pair of scientists behind nearly two decades of data manipulation at a federal lab or what’s been done to prevent more of it, according to a key congressman investigating the scandal.

“We haven’t received assurance that the agency has taken the necessary steps to prevent future, intentional misconduct or that any employees were truly held accountable for these indefensible actions,” Rep. Louie Gohmert told The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Investigative Group.

The Texas Republican is chairman of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, which is investigating the data manipulation.

The USGS has repeatedly refused to say if any person has been punished or fired for the manipulation. Gohmert’s panel has investigated the issue since June 2016, but hasn’t uncovered many answers. The USGS gave the subcommittee a batch of documents, but many were completely redacted, making them useless. “The more we dig in, the more questions arise,” Gohmert told TheDCNF. “We’re not talking about just a few fudged numbers, we’re talking nearly two decades of continuous data manipulation. We are still trying to understand the entire scope of the problem. Is this isolated to just one lab? Is similar misconduct happening elsewhere?”

Yeah, I too would like to know the answers to those questions. But I don’t know if we’ll ever get to the bottom of it. In contrast, there doesn’t seem to be much we don’t know about the VW scandal. But then the media were much more interested in reporting on that one. As far as I know, the only media organization actively following the USGS scandal is the Daily Caller, an ‘alternative’ news source.

Maybe this just reflects my personal bias, but I’m far more outraged by the USGS fraud than by VW’s. Since I am a taxpayer, USGS employees are supposed to be working for me. As a consequence of their malfeasance, they abrogated their fiduciary responsibility to me. But in contrast, I had no relationship with VW, and don’t feel the company had any fiduciary responsibility to me personally. Moreover, in the wake of the scandal, VW seems to have been far more forthcoming with answers, whereas USGS has responded with evasion and cover up.

If the public knew just how much fraud and corruption exists in government, and just how poorly taxpayer money is managed, they would demand something be done about it. Maybe that explains why the media does not want to report on it.

Beware the government-media complex.

Is the DC Metro Burning?

Back in the 1990s when I moved to the Washington DC area for graduate school, one of the things that most impressed me about the area was the subway system, the DC metro, that serviced the city along with the Virginia and Maryland suburbs. At that time, the system was relatively new; some of the lines were only a few years old, and even the oldest was only about 14 years old. The stations were modern and spacious, and the train cars also were roomy, with carpeted floors. The DC metro was so convenient that a classmate of mine commented that, even if he owned a Jaguar, he would still prefer to ride the metro every morning.

But that was over 20 years ago, and since then the DC metro has reportedly deteriorated badly. The metro, of course, is run by government, so it was inevitable that it would eventually fail. Over the years, the DC metro has reverted to the natural state of every government institution–a jobs program that barely pretends to serve the public (much like the public schools, for example). The DC metro bureaucracy is rife with corruption and incompetence. Employees know they can’t be fired no matter how lousy their performance, and the incentives are so perverse that the path to advancement primarily involves not rocking the boat by reporting abuses or safety problems. That’s right; the incentives are so perverse, that employees are better off NOT reporting safety issues.

With Metro’s budget chronically strained and reports of mismanagement coming more regularly than trains, interviews and internal records depict a likely root: an environment in which hardworking employees are actively excluded and those who rise are those willing to do the bare minimum — never causing a stir by flagging rampant safety violations, reporting malfeasance or proposing improvements.

A couple of years ago, a fire got started in a train tunnel, and incompetent employees bungled the emergency response by activating the wrong ventilation fans. The fans actually sucked smoke into a subway car filled with passengers.

Metro controllers in Landover reacted to the train operator’s report of smoke by turning on giant fans inside the L’Enfant Plaza station — behind the stationary train in the tunnel. The fans were activated in “exhaust mode,” Hart said, meaning they were sucking massive volumes of air in the direction of the station.

“This action pulled smoke” toward the station from the spot of the electrical meltdown deep in the tunnel, Hart said. As a result, the smoke was also moving in the direction of the stopped train, which was soon enveloped.

Then, at 3:24 p.m., according to Hart, the Landover controllers switched on another set of fans — inside a huge ventilation shaft about 1,100 feet in front of the train, near the source of the smoke. The shaft rises from the tunnel to the street.

But the fans in the shaft also were activated in exhaust mode, Hart said. This meant that the two sets of powerful fans, at both ends of the train, were sucking air in opposite directions, causing the smoke to linger in place, surrounding the train.

At least 200 passengers — most of them choking, many sickened and some growing panicked — waited more than 30 minutes to be evacuated by rescuers. One of the riders, Carol I. Glover, 61, of Alexandria, died of smoke inhalation, an autopsy showed.

So many fires happen on Metro that a Twitter feed called “Is Metro on Fire?” exists to warn passengers. Multiple fires were reported just last week.

As Reason magazine reports in the video below, Metro’s escalators are prone to dangerous malfunctions, and frequently break down due to lack of proper maintenance. The problem is that Metro in 1992 stopped using private contractors to repair and maintain the escalators and instead switched to using its own in-house mechanics. Metro justified the change by arguing, get this, that “government employees would do a better job for less money.” One can only hope that human civilization someday advances to the point where people reflexively respond to that particular argument with the full measure of derision that it deserves.

Last fall, Washington’s star pitcher, Max Scherzer, displayed some touching naivete after finding out that Metro refused to extend its operating hours so that fans could get home from a playoff game.

“God, I would hope to believe that playoff games here in D.C. would mean more than shutting down the lines for a couple hours,” Scherzer said last week during an appearence on a local sports talk radio program. “I mean, isn’t it a supply-and-demand issue? We have a supply of people that demand to use the line to go to the park. Why wouldn’t you want to meet that?”

Dude, rationally adjusting supply to meet demand is what happens in the private sector. This is government.

D.C. Escalator Nightmare

Dubious Government Advice: Countries with Safe Tap-Water

In which countries in the world is it safe to drink the water? The question is important because I love traveling, but getting sick would really take the fun out of it. When I went to Mexico a couple of years ago I was frankly terrified of the water, but fortunately, I didn’t end up having any problems. I know a lot of people, however, who weren’t so lucky.

The scary thing is that avoiding the problem is not so easy as drinking only bottled water. You can get sick from even a single ice cube, or just a tiny bit of water you swallow in the shower or while brushing your teeth. It’s very easy to slip up, and so even if you’re aware, the risk is real. Given the risk, I’m frankly not keen to travel to countries with unsafe water.

So which countries have safe water? The only source I’ve found online is from the Center for Disease Control (CDC). In other words, the government. Now, based on what I think I’ve learned about how the world works, my general view is that you can’t trust advice that comes from the government. And after examining the CDC’s list, I retain my skepticism of government advice.

In short, I believe the CDC’s list is too restrictive. For instance, here are some maps based on the CDC’s list.

According to the CDC the continents of Africa and South America have the grand total of ZERO countries with safe water. Maybe that’s right, but I might have thought the ‘cone’ of South America–Chile, Argentina, Uruguay–was safe. Argentina, after all, was one hundred years ago one of the richest countries in the world. If the Argentines don’t have safe water, they’ve fallen pretty far.

The list for Asia is short and probably pretty accurate, but I take issue with the omission of Taiwan. When I visited Taiwan a number of years ago, I freely consumed the water, brushing my teeth without concern, and did so in cities spanning the island: North, South, East and West. I never had a problem. Taiwan is a developed country, and I believe that almost everywhere the water is safe. Why did CDC not include Taiwan? Could it have been to avoid offending China?

I also find the list for Europe too restrictive. Is there really no safe water east of the Danube? Hungary and Slovakia don’t have safe water? I noticed that in an online comments thread, some guy from Romania objected to his country’s omission from the list. He insisted that the water in Romania is safe. Maybe he’s biased, but I suspect he’s right, at least for the primary areas of the country.

I also find it difficult to believe that the Baltic States don’t have safe water. Estonia in particular, based on what I have heard, is very clean.

Admittedly, I’m not doing a scientific study here and just giving my impressions based on my limited experience. But that experience, and what I think I know about the world, does make me skeptical of the CDC’s list.

Bureaucrats Butthurt over Regulatory Repeal

As we reported a couple of weeks ago, Congress recently revived a dormant law–the Congressional Review Act of 1996–in order to repeal last-minute Obama regulations, including a so-called ‘stream protection rule’ that would have destroyed jobs in the coal industry. Well, now Politico reports that the bureaucrat who wrote the stream rule is all salty that his handiwork is getting flushed. Almost every line of the article is unintentionally hilarious.

Joe Pizarchik spent more than seven years working on a regulation to protect streams from mountaintop removal coal mining.

Ulysses S. Grant, while dying from cancer, wrote his two-volume memoirs in less than a year. Handel composed his Messiah in 24 days. This bureaucrat takes seven years to write a stupid stream regulation.

“My biggest disappointment is a majority in Congress ignored the will of the people,” said Pizarchik, who directed the Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement from 2009 through January.

Unlike Pizarchik, the members of Congress who nixed his rule were actually elected by the people.

Pizarchik and other former Obama administration officials called the rapid repeal process intensely unfair. The 1996 law says any repeal must come within 60 legislative days after a rule becomes final.

“If there had been more time and Congress had not rushed this through but had actually deliberated on what was in the rule, [then] the results would have been different,” Pizarchik said.

Yeah, no. Later in the article we learn that the GOP has opposed the stream rule since at least 2011. They had plenty of time for deliberation, and a little more time wouldn’t have changed their minds. Furthermore, if Pizarchik hadn’t taken seven years to write his rule, he could have had it enacted prior to the 60-day window, which would have made it immune to repeal.

[T]he swiftness has former Obama officials wondering if lawmakers even understood the regulations they voted to kill.

“I can’t venture to say that that many people, when they’re being honest, have actually read the rule,” said Brandi Colander, who was Interior’s deputy assistant secretary for land and minerals management before leaving in September for the National Wildlife Federation.

I’m guessing Brandi wasn’t complaining when Congress voted on Obamacare without reading it.

“I think that when cooler heads really can prevail and you push the politics to the side, we should really be asking ourselves, should we be able, with the stroke of a pen, without requiring people to read it and not even giving these rules a chance to see the light of day — is that actually good governance?” she added.

Apparently, Brandi’s idea of “good governance” is unelected bureaucrats imposing rules with the force of law while the elected representatives of the American people just STFU.

Teitz similarly argued that the Bureau of Land Management’s methane waste rule would have generated revenue for the energy industry, which could have sold the gas that the regulation would make it capture. But Republicans — backed by oil and gas companies — still made it a top target.

“People are looking for scalps,” she said. “‘It’s an Obama rule so let’s drag it down whether or not it’s actually costly to industry.’”

LOLZ. The bureaucrats would have us believe that they understand the industry’s interests better than the industry itself does. ‘Don’t those dummies know they can SELL the methane that we force them to capture!’

Before this year, the only time Congress successfully used the review act to repeal a regulation was in 2001, when it blocked the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration from enforcing an ergonomics rule intended to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal disorders in the workplace.

Sixteen years later, wounds are still open for some officials who helped write that rule…

Still butthurt after sixteen years!!

Jordan Barab, who had worked on the ergonomics rule, fought to save it when he moved to the AFL-CIO after the 2000 election.

Wait, this guy makes a regulation that benefits Big Labor, and then takes a job with…the AFL-CIO. And didn’t we just see above that the lady who did the environmental rule took a job with…the National Wildlife Federation? Gee, it’s almost as if they’re already working for the interest group while still on the government job.

Pizarchik is already working on ideas to write a new version of the stream rule under a future president, though he declined to share any details.

Presidents come and go, but the bureaucracy is eternal.

He also hinted someone could mount a constitutional challenge to the review act itself, which critics have long argued tramples on the separation of powers.

“I believe there’s a good chance that, in a legal challenge, that a court will overturn Congress’ actions here as an unconstitutional usurpation of the executive branch’s powers,” he said.

Who knows what some hack Democrat judge might someday decide, but only in a bizarro, anti-matter, parallel universe is it unconstitutional for laws to be written by the legislative branch rather than the executive.

The Civil-Service System is Unconstitutional

Some of our readers believe that the U.S. presidency has grown too powerful, and in some ways, like the ability to unilaterally impose barriers to international trade, I agree. But in other ways, the presidency has been stripped of its most elementary powers. For instance, most people I talk to are surprised to find out that the president has no authority to fire ordinary federal bureaucrats for incompetence or malfeasance. This has created an unaccountable bureaucracy that freely pursues its own agenda as an unelected 4th branch of government.

Writing at the Wall Street Journal, Philip K. Howard argues persuasively that the civil-service system unconstitutionally undermines the president’s executive authority.

Executive power is toothless without practical authority over personnel. “If any power whatsoever is in its nature executive,” James Madison once observed, “it is the power of appointing, overseeing, and controlling those who execute the laws.” Taking away the president’s power over executive branch employees is synonymous with removing his executive power altogether. Yet this is exactly the case today. Because of civil-service laws passed by Congress many years ago, the president has direct authority over a mere 2% of the federal workforce.

Two percent! TWO. PERCENT.

The question is whether those laws are constitutional. Does Congress have the power to tell the president that he cannot terminate inept or insubordinate employees? The answer, I believe, is self-evident.

Federal bureaucrats are so insulated from accountability, they are the only people in America who hold their job by right. No, really. The Supreme Court in the 1970s ruled that bureaucrats have a right to keep their jobs and so cannot be removed except by due process of law, similarly to being convicted of a crime. That effectively makes the bureaucrats a kind of privileged aristocracy.

The slow dissipation of presidential power over subsequent decades is a story rich with irony. Designed to avoid capture by special interests, the civil service became a special interest of its own. First, public employees got Congress to legislate modest protections against termination. Then JFK, as payback for their support, signed an executive order allowing public unions to collectively bargain. The Supreme Court held that these legal protections made public jobs a property right protected by the Constitution’s Due Process Clause. Then Congress enshrined these protections in statute.
We’ve come full circle: Instead of guarding against public jobs as political property, civil service has become a property right of the employees themselves. Federal workers answer to no one.

Changing the system would require the president to issue an executive order and the Supreme Court to uphold it. We need somehow to appoint a Court that acknowledges the patent unconstitutionality of the present civil-service system.

On Rolling Back Government, GOP Talking Big

When it comes to rolling back the federal government, the GOP has been talking big lately.

Donald Trump is ready to take an ax to government spending.

Staffers for the Trump transition team have been meeting with career staff at the White House ahead of Friday’s presidential inauguration to outline their plans for shrinking the federal bureaucracy, The Hill has learned.

The changes they propose are dramatic.

The departments of Commerce and Energy would see major reductions in funding, with programs under their jurisdiction either being eliminated or transferred to other agencies. The departments of Transportation, Justice and State would see significant cuts and program eliminations.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be privatized, while the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities would be eliminated entirely.

Overall, the blueprint being used by Trump’s team would reduce federal spending by $10.5 trillion over 10 years.

A trillion a year? I’d be gobsmacked if all this actually transpired. Does Trump really believe he can achieve all of it? Maybe he’d settle for less and this is just his opening offer to the Democrats.

Meanwhile, the GOP House has passed some very significant regulatory reforms. First, the REINS Act.

The Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act would require any regulation which would have an economic impact of $100 million or more to pass Congress and be signed by the president. If the regulation failed to do so after 70 days, it would become null and void.

The REINS Act sounds like a huge step towards restoring Constitutional government, according to which laws are voted on by the people’s elected representatives in Congress, rather than imposed on the people by unelected bureaucrats in the executive branch.

REINS sounds great to me, but law scholar Richard Epstein has some objections to the ‘factual review’ provisions that are beyond my pay grade. Epstein likes better another bill that has been introduced in the House, the Separation of Powers Restoration Act (SOPRA).

Its key provision reads that any court reviewing administrative action shall “decide de novo all relevant questions of law, including the interpretation of constitutional and statutory provisions, and rules made by agencies.” “De novo” review means that the reviewing court gives no deference to the legal opinions of either the parties or lower court judges and administrators.

This compact and straightforward provision, which should be promptly enacted, takes aim at two of the most misguided decisions of administrative law that instructed courts to take a deferential stance toward agency actions interpreting the key statutes and regulations they administer. The first of these cases, Chevron USA Inc. v. NRDC (1984), written by Justice John Paul Stevens, insisted that in all ambiguous cases, reviewing courts should defer to an agency interpretation of its governing statute. Auer v. Robbins (1997), written by the late Justice Antonin Scalia, similarly held that for an agency’s “own regulations, [its] interpretation of it is, under our jurisprudence, controlling unless ‘plainly erroneous or inconsistent with the regulation.’”

Letting the courts smack down the bureaucrats’ interpretations of law sounds great to me. But one thing Epstein doesn’t mention is that none of these bills can get enough Senate votes to override a Democrat filibuster. There’s just no way they can become law in this Congress, and the House must know that very well. Which raises the question: if it can’t become law, then what’s the point? Political grandstanding?

Given that the GOP House knows the bill can’t become law, there’s no cost to the members in voting for it. Which also means there’s no evidence they really support the legislation. Passing a dead-end bill doesn’t prove they really mean it.

U.S. House Revives Rule Enabling Congress to Fire Bureaucrats

Civil service laws have had the unfortunate consequence of allowing the federal bureaucracy to become politicized and relatively unaccountable. That lack of accountability is why Franklin D. Roosevelt referred to the bureaucracy as the “fourth branch of government.” The bureaucracy badly needs to be reined in, but civil service laws prevent the president from firing even the lowliest bureaucrat.

Congress, however, can fire a bureaucrat anytime it wants. In fact, House Republicans this week reinstated a rule that allows a majority vote of both houses to eliminate the salary of any individual bureaucrat or group of bureaucrats. The rule is based on a law that dates back to 1876, but hasn’t been included as part of House rules since 1983.

The Washington Post report on this development is notably tendentious, taking the side of the bureaucrats, who make up a large part of the Post’s audience.

The Holman Rule, named after an Indiana congressman who devised it in 1876, empowers any member of Congress to propose amending an appropriations bill to single out a government employee or cut a specific program.

The use of the rule would not be simple; a majority of the House and the Senate would still have to approve any such amendment. At the same time, opponents and supporters agree that the work of 2.1 million civil servants, designed to be insulated from politics, is now vulnerable to the whims of elected officials.

Aw, so they can be fired on a whim? Well, so can every private sector worker in America. In the private sector, your boss can fire you even if he just does not like the color of your tie. This legal principle is called “employment at will.”

The government bureaucrats are supposed to be working for the taxpayers. If bureaucrats aren’t accountable to the taxpayers’ representatives in Congress, then to whom should they be accountable? To only their god? Does the Post propose to elevate the bureaucracy to a kind of privileged aristocracy?

The rule was the first thing House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) railed against in a floor speech Tuesday.

“Republicans have consistently made our hard-working federal employees scapegoats, in my opinion, for lack of performance of the federal government itself,” he said.

Some, I presume, are hard-working, but many don’t do any work at all. A couple of years ago, EPA bureaucrats were caught watching porn for hours every day because they ‘didn’t have enough work to do.’ Thousands more bureaucrats are too incompetent to be trusted with responsibilities, so their supervisors give them no work to do. They literally do nothing, but still show up and get paid. This situation is sometimes called ‘internal exile.’ Is it OK with Hoyer if we fire the non-working bureaucrats in internal exile?

In light of recent inquiries by the Trump transition team about a list of Energy Department scientists who have worked on climate change, advocates for federal workers say they worry that bureaucrats could be targeted for political reasons.

But political reasons are the best reasons. Politics is just a term that refers to how a society makes choices. In a democratic republic, those choices are properly made by elected officials, not bureaucrats. If bureaucrats are to be fired, then the best reasons for doing so are political, not personal.

Democrats and federal employee unions say the provision, which one called the “Armageddon Rule,” could prove alarming to the federal workforce because it comes in combination with President-elect Donald Trump’s criticism of the Washington bureaucracy, his call for a freeze on government hiring and his nomination of Cabinet secretaries who in some cases seem to be at odds with the mission of the agencies they would lead.

So these bureaucrats who are supposed to be non-partisan and non-ideological nonetheless find themselves ‘at odds’ with Trump’s appointees. See, that’s the problem.

“This is part of a very chilling theme that federal workers are seeing right now,” said Maureen Gilman, legislative director for the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents 150,000 federal employees.

We’ll give the last word to Mr. Krabs.

Revealed: The Pentagon Supports More than ONE MILLION Desk Jobs

We wrote previously about how we like to ask people how many bureaucrats work at the federal Department of Agriculture. Many people make only a four-figure guess like 3,000 or 5,000. Occasionally, someone will guess as high as 50,000. The real answer is about 106,000. What do all those people do?

Now for the first time a study has pierced the government’s veil of secrecy to report a summary of employment at the Pentagon. The Pentagon put together a board of “corporate experts” to do the study. As part of the study, the experts made a count of the number of people working desk jobs far from the front. These are people, mostly civilians, working in the Pentagon’s “business operations,” providing back-end support services such as logistics, procurement, accounting, and property management. So how many desk jobs does the Pentagon support? More than one million.

“We are spending a lot more money than we thought,” the report stated. It then broke down how the Defense Department was spending $134 billion a year on business operations — about 50 percent more than McKinsey had guessed at the outset.

Almost half of the Pentagon’s back-office personnel — 457,000 full-time employees — were assigned to logistics or supply-chain jobs. That alone exceeded the size of United Parcel Service’s global workforce.

The Pentagon’s purchasing bureaucracy counted 207,000 full-time workers. By itself, that would rank among the top 30 private employers in the United States.

More than 192,000 people worked in property management. About 84,000 people held human-resources jobs.

The one million includes the hiring of some 268,000 outside contractors, a shadowy business that ends up costing taxpayers an average of $180,000 per contractor.

Although the board of experts was commissioned by top leadership at the Pentagon itself, after the study uncovered massive waste, the Pentagon ditched the report and tried to cover up the findings. In particular, the Pentagon feared that the board’s plan to eliminate $125 billion in waste over five years would cause Congress to make budget cuts.

For the military, the major allure of the study was that it called for reallocating the $125 billion for troops and weapons. Among other options, the savings could have paid a large portion of the bill to rebuild the nation’s aging nuclear arsenal, or the operating expenses for 50 Army brigades.

But some Pentagon leaders said they fretted that by spotlighting so much waste, the study would undermine their repeated public assertions that years of budget austerity had left the armed forces starved of funds. Instead of providing more money, they said, they worried Congress and the White House might decide to cut deeper.

So the plan was killed. The Pentagon imposed secrecy restrictions on the data making up the study, which ensured no one could replicate the findings. A 77-page summary report that had been made public was removed from a Pentagon website.

In other words, the fact that the study uncovered so much waste shows that all that talk of austerity was a huge lie.

“They’re all complaining that they don’t have any money. We proposed a way to save a ton of money,” said Robert “Bobby” L. Stein, a private-equity investor from Jacksonville, Fla., who served as chairman of the Defense Business Board.

Stein, a campaign bundler for President Obama, said the study’s data were “indisputable” and that it was “a travesty” for the Pentagon to suppress the results.

“We’re going to be in peril because we’re spending dollars like it doesn’t matter,” he added.

While ordinary American households are clipping coupons to save a couple of bucks, the Pentagon is blowing through their hard-earned tax dollars like it’s play money.

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