Government & Politics

Swamp Draining Suggestions

Here are some key ways for Trump to keep his campaign promise.

Arnold Ahlert · Dec. 1, 2016

Few things resonated with Donald Trump’s supporters more than the president-elect’s promise to “drain the swamp,” and nothing presents him with a greater opportunity to do so than a GOP majority in both chambers of Congress. Yet the same GOP majority George W. Bush was handed in 2000 violated every fiscal principle for which they ostensibly stood and doubled the national debt, using the rubric of “compassionate conservatism” to do so. Will they change their ways? If so, will they also have the courage to drain the equally obnoxious swamp at the Department of Justice? If Trump and the GOP truly want to “make America great again,” $20 trillion of national debt and a thoroughly politicized DOJ must be two of their primary focuses.

How wasteful is the federal government? Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) is picking up where former Sen. Tom Coburn left off. Much like Coburn’s annual efforts to highlight tens of billions of wasteful federal spending, Lankford’s second annual “Federal Fumbles” report reveals that the Obama administration blew through $247 billion in wasteful spending on such things as customized Snuggies, a study on medieval era sights, sounds and smells, and over a billion dollars on Palestinian hospitals and infrastructure. On a broader level, it also cited the administration’s $1.7 billion ransom payment to Iran, and a $750 million payment (read: bribe) to Central America to stem the influx of illegals from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

Last May, Lankford introduced the Grant Reform and New Transparency Act aimed at providing the nation with transparency and accountability regarding how grants are awarded. Considering that a whopping $617 billion in grant money was awarded in 2015 — compared to only $439 billion in contracts — passing this legislation is a no-brainer.

Government spending is only part of the equation. In 2014, the feds employed nearly 2.7 million civilians. Moreover they’re an extremely well-paid group, earning substantially more on average than private sector employees.

Adding insult to injury, they are virtually impossible to fire — as in a 1-in-500 chance, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Thus, even if veterans die waiting for care while appointment schedules are falsified, employees watch porn on their computer for two to six hours a day, or GSA employees spend $822,000 on a party in Vegas, firing them requires running a gauntlet of union protection, civil service grievance process, and various internal agency requirements. A time consuming process epitomized by the estimated 270 days it will take to punish a nurse who operated on a veteran while that nurse was drunk.

Trump has promised to shake up the status quo, and the GOP may be up to the task. “Hiring freezes, an end to automatic raises, a green light to fire poor performers, a ban on union business on the government’s dime and less generous pensions — these are the contours of the blueprint emerging under Republican control of Washington in January,” the Washington Post reports. Trump himself has proposed a hiring freeze via attrition, exempting military personnel and public health employees, as well as eliminating two regulations for every new one passed. Yet his most ambitious effort centers on completely eliminating the Education Department and parts of the EPA.

Unsurprisingly, Democrats will resist. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) plans to fight “any effort to roll back civil service protections,” and newly elected Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), welcomes accountability, but wants to “protect against political favoritism. It’s important that we not allow the civil service to be politicized.”

The unionization of Civil Service, utterly rejected by progressive icon FDR is the essence of politicization. Roosevelt reasoned the collective bargaining process is inimical to the interests of “the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in Congress.”

New York University civil service expert Paul Light gets to the meat of the issue. “The civil service system fails at almost everything it was designed to do,” he explains. “It’s very slow at hiring, negligent in disciplining, permissive in promoting.”

Both he and FDR are right, and a Trump administration should do everything possible to reform this broken system.

Next up, lobbyists. “About a third of the current former congressmen and senior staffers work in corporate government-relations departments or as registered lobbyists, where they trade their government contacts in return for huge salary increases,” explains George Mason University law professor F.H. Buckley. Furthermore, Buckley notes, this collaboration results in “scores of similar programs, aimed at empowering the community organizer, the village radical, the smarmy city councilman.”

Most Americans would doubtlessly welcome the mitigation of this endemic cronyism. And one suspects they would be even more receptive to a thorough swamp draining at what is arguably the most politicized DOJ in modern American history.

In that regard, former DOJ employee J. Christian Adams, who notes Democrats have “enjoyed great success in keeping the ministerial state firmly in the camp of the ideological left,” regardless of which party is in power, offers three viable suggestions. First, reverse the hiring spree of leftist hacks the Obama administration will pursue before leaving office, as Clinton did between 2000 and 2001. Thus, Trump needs to make it clear anyone hired between now and the inauguration will be fired on Jan. 20.

Second, Adams argues Trump should consider replacing leftist Civil Rights Division section chiefs “who waged war against Voter ID laws, attacked Sheriff Joe, attacked border control, attacked birth genders, who pressed out-of-the-mainstream racial tests over every aspect of economic life, and who waged a campaign against law enforcement.”

Federal law prevents involuntary reassignment of such people for 120 days after the new attorney general or a Division’s senior political appointee takes office. After that, they can be given the choice to move to another federal agency — or quit.

Third, Trump needs to put the hammer down on the progressive careerists using a combination of civil service laws that allow for their firing during the one-year probationary period following their appointment, and creating a paper trail of offenses aimed at disciplining and/or ultimately removing those who will attempt to undermine his administration at every turn. “Eric Holder used this Division to try to fundamentally transform the nation,” Adams explains. “The rank-and-file who willingly helped Holder are still there, enjoying $155,000-per-year salaries, or more. And they don’t think Trump has any chance of draining their swamp. After all, they survived previous attempts.”

Hopefully, they won’t survive this one.

Obviously, these steps are just the beginning. But if Trump wants to pursue tax cuts, infrastructure repair and increased spending in certain areas of government, he’s got two choices: either he can continue the nation’s steady march toward fiscal insolvency, courtesy of a $20 trillion national debt that included a $587 billion deficit in 2016, and interest payments north of $220 billion at historically low interest rates, or start hacking away at uncontrollable spending habits that have become the norm for both parties. Eliminating baseline budgeting that builds automatic spending increases into agency budgets is a great way to start.

One last thing. Trump could win over millions of Americans with one simple demand: require Congress, their staffs and every other government employee to live under the laws Congress imposes on every other American. Call it draining the double-standard swamp.

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