American Elephants


Addressing the Administrative State: Drain the Swamp by The Elephant's Child

After a year of impressive accomplishment, in spite of “the resistance”, Kimberly Strassel at the Wall Street Journal is offering ” A Big Beautiful Trump 2018 Issue: Civil Service Reform.” Send your message of approval to the White House! The Journal has a pay barrier, but Instapundit has the essentials.

Let 2018 be the year of civil-service reform—a root-and-branch overhaul of the government itself. Call it Operation Drain the Swamp.

When Candidate Trump first referred to “the swamp,” he was talking about the bog of Beltway lobbyists and “establishment” politicians. But President Trump’s first year in office has revealed that the real swamp is the unchecked power of those who actually run Washington: the two million members of the federal bureaucracy. That civil-servant corps was turbocharged by the Obama administration’s rule-making binge, and it now has more power—and more media enablers—than ever. We live in an administrative state, run by a left-leaning, self-interested governing class that is actively hostile to any president with a deregulatory or reform agenda.

It’s Lois Lerner, the IRS official who used her powers to silence conservative nonprofits. It’s the “anonymous” officials who leak national-security secrets daily. It’s the General Services Administration officials who turned over Trump transition emails to Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the absence of a warrant. It’s the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Leandra English, who tried to stage an agency coup. It’s the EPA’s “Scientific Integrity Official” who has taken it upon herself to investigate whether Scott Pruitt is fit to serve in the office to which he was duly appointed. It’s the thousands of staffers across the federal government who continue to pump out reports on global warming and banking regulations that undermine administration policy.

More broadly, it is a federal workforce whose pay and benefits are completely out of whack with the private sector. A 2011 American Enterprise Institute study found federal employees receive wages 14% higher than what similar workers in the private sector earn. Factor in benefits and the compensation premium leaps to 61%. Nice, huh?

Here’s a website that offers information on federal pay and benefits. It does not seem to be an official government website, but offers information for those who wish to become government employees. Do follow the link to Instapundit and read and save the invaluable Ms. Strassel’s invaluable piece.

We live in an administrative state, run by a left-leaning, self-interested governing class that is actively hostile to any president with a deregulatory or reform agenda.

You might consider reading Philip Hamburger’s recent book “Is Administrative Law Unlawful? Philip Hamburger is a leading scholar on the Constitution and a Professor of Law at Columbia University.

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Explaining the Trump Derangement Syndrome: by The Elephant's Child

All is explained. Or at least a goodly part of all. Economist Mark Perry refers us to an article by Jeffrey A. Tucker last May in FEE. All good things eventually become clear, but the path may be a little tangled. Dr. Perry offers a condensed version:

For the center-left crowd, all their hopes and dreams are bound up with particular political processes, outcomes, and institutions. The state is their favorite tool for all the good they aspire to do in this world. It must be protected, guarded, defended, and celebrated. The illusion that the government is not a taker but a giver and the source of all good things must be maintained. The gloss of the democratic process must be constantly refurbished so that the essential sanctity of the public sector can be constantly cited as the highest calling.

The center-left has at least one hundred years of work and resources invested in the state’s health, well-being, reputation, and exalted moral status. Nothing must be allowed to threaten it or take it down a peg or two. Any failures must be deemed as temporary setbacks. The slightest sign of some success must be trumpeted constantly. The population must be subjected to unrelenting homilies on the essential holiness of the public sector.

They believe so strongly that they can make the world a better place through the managerial state that it has become their religion. It’s their very core! The president is supposed to at least pretend to be the high priest of the statist religion. That’s his job, according to this outlook.

Everything seemed to being going so well under the Obama administration, which was so earnest, so decorous, so civil. He was funny, smart, respectful of process, and sincere in his pronouncements. He ran on hope and change but governed as the person who kept hope for a new freedom and any radical change at bay.

Trump has profoundly disturbed the balance(click here for the rest)

We keep wondering just what spurs the Trump Derangement Syndrome. This is not a bad diagnosis.



President Trump Has Signed 40 New Pieces of Legislation, Getting Rid of Unneeded Regulation by The Elephant's Child

President Donald Trump continues to sign legislation, an achievement that he called “nice” on Friday. There is a bill to improve weather forecasting, a long-term vision for NASA, and some long-awaited reforms for the Department of Veterans Affairs. All three had bipartisan support.

—The Weather Research and Forecasting innovation Act of 2017 was described by the Washington Post as “the first major weather legislation enacted since the early 1990s. It aims to increase research into improving weather forecasts and to modernize the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. David Titler, professor of meteorology at Penn State, said “improving weather-related safety of our people and assets is not political, but just common sense.”

—The NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 calls for a $19.5 billion budget for NASA, a increase over the $19.3 billion budget for 2016. It asks that NASA create a plan for getting humans “near or on the surface of Mars” in the 2030s. Trump said during the campaign that “making sure we stay at the forefront of space exploration is a big priority for my administration.”

—The Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act allows wrongdoers to by punished and gives more protection to those who inform. It puts veterans in charge of their own care.

Fifteen of the 40 bills signed repeal Obama-era regulations. Examples include a rule that made it harder for states to drug test welfare recipients and a regulation that imposed permitting requirements on mining sites. These were bills signed under the Congressional Review Act which allows Congress to nullify any regulation created in the previous administration’s final 6 months.

—Other bills, less consequential, included the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Improvement Act  which reduces the time families of fallen officers have to wait to receive survivors benefits. Another  bill gives federal grants to law enforcement agencies that hire veterans.

Many businesses and government offices have been hamstrung with over-regulation, which is what happens when agencies are given free rein to establish rules and regulations.



The Y2K Bug, Seventeen Years Later, Still Filing Reports. by The Elephant's Child

Much has been written about the evils of bureaucracy and the administrative state. President Trump is fully on board with that, but his latest effort to whittle down the bureaucracy and the unnecessary and illogical regulation involved provided an excellent illustration. Seventeen years ago, it was believed that at the turn of the century computers would not be able to cope with the change from 1999 to 2000. They called it the Y2K Bug. It came with a rule that required them to continue to provide updates on their preparedness for coping with the bug. And they still are faithfully providing them.

In another case, the Pentagon was required to file a report every time a small business vendor is paid, a task that consumed some 1,200 man-hours every year. You can absolutely assume that every federal office and agency has some silly requirement like that, which consumes time and effort more fruitfully devoted to more important tasks. Often everybody knows that it’s a waste of time, but in a bureaucracy it’s hard to get the attention of the person needed to make the change. President Trump has initiated a “War on Waste,” which targets 59 obsolete projects. Imagine a huge spider web, with one strand near the middle that keeps vibrating uncontrollably.



Why Small Government by The Elephant's Child

It seems clear that our nation’s economists are not only well qualified at the dismal science, but know a thing or two about presentation as well. Enjoy.



The Tyranny of the Administrative State by The Elephant's Child

wy-pond-550x309You will be hearing a lot more about “the administrative state” in the coming days and weeks. The name sounds way too bureaucratty to be of interest, but phrased a little differently, more like—the Progressives are a bunch of control freaks and want to ruin your life and your freedom with a constant flow of regulation to satisfy their own egos.   That’s much clearer, and unfortunately true.

This seems especially clear because I’m just back from a trip to Home Depot for lightbulbs. If you have recently faced the lightbulb display at Home Depot or any similar store, you know what I mean. The federal government decided that the fear of global warming justified banning our dependable, cheap, incandescent bulbs and thrusting upon us all sorts of unsatisfactory junk from China—twisty bulbs, 40 watt bulbs that are now supposed to light as well as 75 watt but don’t use up so much energy and so on. What was once a simple shopping trip has turned into a confusing nightmare. Besides, I personally believe that this has nothing to do with “saving energy” and everything to do with the fact that the lighting companies would make a lot more money if they could force us to use the noxious new bulbs made in China, that being why they have all those lobbyists in D.C. (crony capitalism).

Conservatives talk a lot about Liberty and the Constitution, but I’m afraid that that just passes millennials by. Our founding fathers were only recently subjects of England, and they had revolted and fought  a war to escape what they considered tyranny and a far too administrative state. When they were writing a new constitution for the country, Liberty was paramount in their minds. How could they insure that generations hence would not lightly lose all that they had fought for? They were deeply familiar with ambition and greed, power-seeking, and all the other flaws of humanity. So they devised a system of three equal branches, so that no one branch could exert control over the others—and in general, it has worked pretty well.

When the European Union was being devised to prevent the continual wars that had plagued the continent, Valery Giscard d’ Estang, a former French President, was elected to the commission to devise a constitution for the EU. The commission looked at the U.S. Constitution, but could not imagine devolving so much power to the people. So the EU became the unaccountable body to which much of Europe is revolting and considering leaving, as Britain is now doing.

Here’s an example of how the modern administrative state tramples all over the separation of powers from Steven Hayward’s new book: Patriotism Is Not Enough. A classic paragraph from Boston University law professor Gary Lawson, in his 1994 Harvard Law Review article “The Rise and Rise of the Administrative State.”

The [Federal Trade] Commission promulgates substantive rules of conduct. The Commission then considers whether to authorize investigations into whether the Commission’s rules have been violated. If the Commission authorizes an investigation, the investigation is conducted by the Commission, which reports its findings to the Commission. If the Commission thinks that the Commission’s findings warrant an enforcement action, the Commission issues a complaint. The Commission’s complaint that a Commission rule has been violated is then prosecuted by the Commission and adjudicated by the Commission. This Commission adjudication can either take place before the full Commission or before a semi-autonomous Commission administrative law judge. If the Commission chooses to adjudicate before an administrative law judge rather than before the Commission and the decision is adverse to the Commission, the Commission can appeal to the Commission. If the Commission ultimately finds a violation, then, and only then, the affected private party can appeal to an Article III court. But the agency decision, even before the bona fide Article III tribunal, possesses a very strong presumption of correctness on matters both of fact and of law.

It’s only funny until they start coming after you. We’ve reported on Gibson Guitars, and the Sacketts case in Northern Idaho, and rancher Andy Johnson building a stock pond  (above) on his property, but those are only a few of the big ones. Notable because they were so outrageous and so stupid. But excellent examples of the administrative state at work. How do you fight fines of $35,000 a day? How about telling all the school kids in the country what they have to eat for lunch? Or how about ordering all the bathrooms and locker rooms to be open to anyone who wants to come in?



Human Nature is Fixed, Unchangeable and Immutable by The Elephant's Child

awhittleparty

 

Every form or progressivism bases itself on the claim of a special, “scientific” knowledge of what is wrong with humanity and how to fix it. The formula is straightforward: the world is not as it should be because society’s basic “structural” feature is ordered badly.

In one version or another it always boils down to the fact that they don’t like human nature. (Why can’t they be more like — Us?) The quotation is from an essay in the current Claremont Review of Books by Angelo Codevilla. Progressives, Communists, Socialists, in all their forms find human nature deeply flawed, and believe that they can fix it. For our current crop, the avenue seems to be “diversity.”

When they have made everybody equal and all neighborhoods are diverse, and schools are diverse and everybody believes exactly the same diverse things, then there will be no more problems like wars, and high crime rates in the cities run by progressives. The administrative state will take care of keeping the diversity diverse.

Christiana Figureres, Secretary General of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, cheerfully admitted not long ago, that they weren’t really interested in saving the Earth from a climate disaster, but that it was their best chance of ridding the world of Capitalism.

Steven Hayward quoted a paragraph from Boston University law professor Gary Lawson, in a 1994 Harvard Law Review article “The Rise and Rise of the Administrative State.”

The [Federal Trade] Commission promulgates substantive rules of conduct. The Commission then considers whether to authorize investigations into whether the Commission’s rules have been violated. If the Commission authorizes an investigation, the investigation is conducted by the Commission, which reports its findings to the Commission. If the Commission thinks that the Commission’s findings warrant an enforcement action, the Commission issues a complaint. The Commission’s complaint that a Commission rule has been violated is then prosecuted by the Commission and adjudicated by the Commission. This Commission adjudication can either take place before the full Commission or before a semi-autonomous Commission administrative law judge. If the Commission chooses to adjudicate before an administrative law judge rather than before the Commission and the decision is adverse to the Commission, the Commission can appeal to the Commission. If the Commission ultimately finds a violation, then, and only then, the affected private party can appeal to an Article III court. But the agency decision, even before the bona fide Article III tribunal, possesses a very strong presumption of correctness on matters both of fact and of law.

Here’s Richard Epstein on “The Perils of Executive Power

One of the most disturbing trends in the United States is the relentless concentration of power in the federal government. Ever since the New Deal, the classical liberal vision of limited government and strong property rights has taken a back seat to a progressive vision of a robust administrative state, dominated by supposed experts, whose powers are largely unimpeded by legal constraints. Wholly apart from Congress, the new administrative state has adopted and enforced its own laws and regulations, and is defined by unilateral actions by the President and other members of the executive branch, all of which threaten the system of checks and balances built into the original constitutional design.

Obama’s agencies push flurry of ‘midnight’ actions

Federal agencies are rushing out a final volley of executive actions in the last two months of Barack Obama’s presidency, despite warnings from Republicans in Congress and the reality that Donald Trump will have the power to erase much of their handiwork after Jan. 20.

Regulations on commodities speculation, air pollution from the oil industry, doctors’ Medicare drug payments and high-skilled immigrant workers are among the rules moving through the pipeline as Obama’s administration grasps at one last chance to cement his legacy. So are regulations tightening states’ oversight of online colleges and protecting funding for Planned Parenthood.

Donald Trump has promised to wipe out as much of Obama’s regulatory agenda as he can, saying he will cancel “all illegal and overreaching executive orders” and eliminate “every wasteful and unnecessary regulation which kills jobs.”

So, there you go.




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