Those needing evidence of media disconnects between their editors and the nation at large need only look at the the sudden rash of sympathetic reports about the “dread” in the bureaucracy after this election. Stories such as this from the New York Times try to cast this as a bug rather than a feature. In fact, this report on the attempts by bureaucrats to thwart elected officials from carrying out the policies that got them elected tends to corroborate what most Americans feel about the federal bureaucracy — that it has become too self-sustaining, and antithetical to self-governance:
Across the vast federal bureaucracy, Donald J. Trump’s arrival in the White House has spread anxiety, frustration, fear and resistance among many of the two million nonpolitical civil servants who say they work for the public, not a particular president.
At the Environmental Protection Agency, a group of scientists strategized this past week about how to slow-walk President Trump’s environmental orders without being fired.
At the Treasury Department, civil servants are quietly gathering information about whistle-blower protections as they polish their résumés.
At the United States Digital Service — the youthful cadre of employees who left jobs at Google, Facebook or Microsoft to join the Obama administration — workers are debating how to stop Mr. Trump should he want to use the databases they made more efficient to target specific immigrant groups.
The disconnect is even more pronounced in this Politico article, also from Saturday:
Joe Pizarchik spent more than seven years working on a regulation to protect streams from mountaintop removal coal mining.
It took Congress 25 hours to kill it.
The rule is just one of dozens enacted in the final months of the Obama administration that congressional Republicans have begun erasing under a once-obscure law — much to the dismay of agency staffers who hauled those regulations through the long process to implementation.
“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. “They ignored the interests of the people in coal country, they ignored the law and they put corporate money ahead of all that.”
The will of the people? Both of these profiles show the danger of self-perpetuating bureaucracies, and perhaps the one moment still left to put self-governance back on its proper footing.
First, “the will of the people” is expressed through elections, primarily to the legislative branch but also to the presidency in the federal system. That allows voters to hold elected officials accountable for the policies enacted. Voters have chosen Republican control of both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue in no small part based on promises to do exactly what these bureaucrats “dread” — roll back the regulatory state that they have expanded over the last several years. Using the Congressional Review Act to dismiss late-term regulations is a good example of elected officials responding to the will of the people.
Besides, how did people in “coal country” vote, anyway?
Democrats and the media may be cheering the so-called “resistance” movement within the federal bureaucracy, but this proves what conservatives and Republicans have long argued. The bureaucracy has become its own special-interest group, and amounts to an unaccountable shadow government that strips Americans of their right to select the policies they want for their own self-governance. Rather than serve the elected government of the United States, these bureaucrats want to force elected officials to serve them. Regardless of whether or not the policies of those elected officials are entirely wise, those officials serve the voters, and the federal bureaucracy is supposed to implement their policies.
The solution to this problem is to sharply reduce the authority and jurisdiction of the bureaucracy, and the Trump administration plans to do just that:
President Trump has embarked on the most aggressive campaign against government regulation in a generation, joining with Republican lawmakers to roll back rules already on the books and limit the ability of federal regulators to impose new ones.
After just a few weeks in office, the new administration is targeting dozens of Obama-era policies, using both legislative and executive tactics. The fallout is already rippling across the federal bureaucracy and throughout the U.S. economy, affecting how dentists dispose of mercury fillings, how schools meet the needs of poor and disabled students, and whether companies reject mineral purchases that fuel one of the world’s bloodiest conflicts.
The campaign has alarmed labor unions, public safety advocates and environmental activists, who fear losing regulations that have been in place for years, along with relatively new federal mandates. Business groups, however, are thrilled, saying Trump is responding to long-standing complaints that a profusion of federal regulations unnecessarily increases costs and hampers their ability to create jobs.
Under Trump, “there’s great optimism that all of them will be addressed,” said Rosario Palmieri, vice president for labor, legal and regulatory policy at the National Association of Manufacturers.
Since Trump’s election, we’ve seen a plethora of warnings about the coming authoritarianism. Stories like those at the New York Times and Politico should prompt questions as to whether it had been here all along, and whether these hysterical outbreaks are a sign that it might be coming to an end.