American Elephants

Here’s What “Draining the Swamp” Really Means! by The Elephant's Child

“Draining the Swamp” is a newly popular phrase for trying to rein in the overgrown government in Washington D.C. that seems to be leading to an administrative state — a catastrophic error devoutly to be avoided. Philip Hamburger has written a splendid assessment titled Is Administrative Law Unlawful and a companion The Administrative Threat which explain just what we have to worry about.

Investors Business Daily has written about just how it works.

What was first proposed by Congress as a modest law to assess the environmental impact of highway construction and other publicly owned projects, has grown into a bureaucratic monster, the likes of which no one ever imagined.

Nearly a half-century ago, before major federal environmental laws existed, Congress wanted to ensure that all federal agencies consider the environmental impact of their actions. This well intended action led to passage of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

America’s permitting and regulatory process is now so tightly bound in red tape, virtually no major energy or construction project can be accomplished without years of permitting delays, involvement of multiple government agencies, and seemingly endless  litigation. According to a 2016 review by the National Association of Environmental Professionals, it now takes an average of 5 years to complete one NEPA environmental impact statement. This timeline doesn’t include the years of litigation that routinely follow every major energy and construction project.

In North Dakota a badly needed drinking water project was held up in permitting and court for nearly 15 years. Colorado is still waiting after 10 years of trying to expand a reservoir to boost their drinking water supply. Everyone recognizes that the permitting process is a huge problem. The Obama administration ran into it with his stimulus program, and tried to speed up the process. But what is needed is not just “fixing” the rule, but to reform the NEPA process by making environmental permits a “one agency, one decision” deal, include a two-year deadline. For most NEPA permits, a lawsuit can be filed up to six years after the project ends. Environmental activists often simply do not want any change to take place in the area of their concern, and will use all kinds of silly lawsuits to end or slow development. The “endangered species” idea can be used anywhere, if you can’t find a specimen, but there may be large quantities on the other side of the ridge.

The Obama administration imposed a record 600 major regulations, which added rules that cost the economy $100 million or more at a rate of every three days.

President Trump is taking on the issue of permitting reform head-on, laying out a comprehensive plan to streamline approval for major infrastructure projects. A big part of the cost of any infrastructure project is red tape, which I’m sure he knows well from his construction projects. So far by the end of December had saved some $8.1 billion in net federal regulatory costs. The impact on the larger economy is more significant. Scott Pruitt is doing a fabulous job.

Regulations destroy freedom. The question: Is the loss of freedom worth what the regulation will cost?


What is American Greatness? by The Elephant's Child

The Question was “Can the Swamp Be Drained?” Kimberly Strassel of the Wall Street Journal speaks on the Governmental Swamp, Can the political corruption in our government be defined and can we actually actually make progress in fixing it?

It’s a fairly long speech, you may need to save it for the weekend, but don’t miss it. It’s important, and Kim is terrific.  The lecture was given as part of the April 2018 National Leadership Seminar for Hillsdale College, and posted on Feb. 27.

Draining the Swamp at the Veterans Administration by The Elephant's Child

Our Veterans seeking care from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) can perhaps breathe a little easier. Five hundred and forty-eight VA employees have been terminated since Donald Trump took office and David Shulkin  took over as secretary of what was called “probably the most incompetently run agency in the United States.”

Another 200 VA workers have been suspended and 33 have been demoted. Those disciplined include 22 senior leaders, more than 70 nurses, 14 police officers and 25 physicians. A program analyst dealing with the Government Accountability, which audits the department, a public affairs specialist, a chef of police and a chief of surgery were also disciplined.

Food service workers, housekeeping aides were also fired.  Lower level jobs in which the deportment has employed felons and convicted sex-offenders were also fired. You could call it a rigorous housecleaning.

The record of failed care for veterans has become a national scandal. Mr. Shulkin was initially appointed by former president Obama as a VA undersecretary, but by the end of the Obama administration he was increasingly frustrated with the American Federation of Government Employees union which defended the rights of bad employees to a government paycheck even when they are harming the veterans they were there to serve. Managers were reluctant to vigorously pursue firings, and firings were often overturned by the federal Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB).

Put in charge by President Trump, Shulkin asked Congress for new legislation to reduce the role of MSPB, especially when firing senior leaders. Congress passed the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act in response, and Trump signed the bill in June.

The VA has been found to be a prime abuser of extended paid leave. Two or more years seems excessive, but it was not unusual. Here’s how bureaucracy works: the inspector general’s staff is designed to avoid conflicts of interest in internal investigations. Their work can lead to criminal charges, but they become involved only in an internal review finds evidence on criminal activity. VA internal investigative policies are designed to see if policies and procedures are followed, not to look for criminal activity.

In a 2013 case where an elderly hospitalized veteran died at a Louisiana hospital, in March of 2013. A VA internal investigation found that Harris, a nurses aide, had violated no policies and was not negligent, so was returned to patient care, in April.  However, the local coroner found that the veteran had died of blunt force trauma to the head, and witnesses told him and the VA inspetor general that they saw Harris striking the man. Harris was arrested on December 10, 2013. Harris was out on bail, and on extended (2 years) paid leave until just 3 days before his trial. It was the coroner’s intervention that led to a criminal probe by the IG.

It seems that when the VA wants to appease congressional critics or media critics or even just prevent poor-performing employees from doing further damage, the department paid them to stay home instead of firing them. Even during the campaign Trump talked about “draining the swamp” and the care we owed to our veterans. There is no excuse for such irresponsible practices. Looks like the swamp is finally starting to drain. 548 terminated, and that may be only the beginning. The organization has been put on notice that our veterans will be faithfully served.


Deregulating the Administrative State by The Elephant's Child

We have Trumpkins and Trumpsters, Never Trumpers, and on the other side foul language, Russian conspiracy freaks, Maxine Waters and CNN, among others. The Left goes on about Authoritarianism, and is apparently extremely worried about a new burst of  Fascism, Administrative control and loss of Freedom while President Trump works hard at lessening the regulatory burden that the Obama administration inflicted on business, the economy in general and our individual lives. There’s a bit of a disconnect here.

Look, we the people are the board of directors, and every four years we endeavor to hire someone to run the place for four years. Big job, and an important job. Keep the economy running, try to keep the peace, get along with other nations, keep the federal bureaucracy in check, world’s policeman—not a job we or the world wants, but somebody has to pay attention. Just keeping the country running properly is a huge job. Lots of agencies and offices and administrations and services, transportation and intelligence, military and the courts. It’s very very complicated and most things happen very slowly and it’s little wonder that they refer to it as a swamp.

A lot of the agencies and services don’t work very well, and President Trump is already endeavoring to straighten some of them up. The Veterans Administration can now fire people who are not meeting the needs of the vets they are assigned to serve. Maybe we won’t have our veterans dying while they are waiting for an appointment. Most people will not appreciate the fact that Trump has ended the task of a government agency to keep reporting on the progress of their efforts to deal with Y2K — the change of the calendar from 1999 to 2000 that was expected to be a major problem for America’s computers. 17 years have passed and only now can they stop working on formal reports, due every year. The roots and tangles that gum up the swamp are rules,  regulations and requirements that go on eternally unless they receive an official order to stop. That—is how you drain a swamp. The president is very pleased with ending unnecessary regulation, and welcomes suggestions for more bad regulations to remove.

The Left is incensed that the Supreme Court has allowed President Trump’s temporary travel ban to proceed. If they were even slightly aware, they would recognize the depth of the problems Europe faces because of the flood of migrants from the Middle East and Africa. Europe, long slumbering under waves of unwanted immigration, is beginning to awaken and notice the constant terror attacks, the sexual attacks, no-go areas, the new attacks with trucks and cars and knives rather than explosives. Banning travel temporarily from seven nations designated as sources of terror by the Obama Administration — until they can figure out a way to vet them, is not cruelty but common sense.

The Left needs to take a deep breath, and stop making fools of themselves. But that’s undoubtedly asking too much.


%d bloggers like this: