American Elephants


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

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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.



Not Constrained Anywhere Nearly Enough! by The Elephant's Child

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We want so badly to understand just what is going on. Reports vary from “run for the hills” to “nothing to see here,” just move along. It’s pretty clear that the economy is not thriving, no matter how often Mr. Obama insists that it is. We are not happy with our economy, we are not happy with our government, and we’re not happy with each other.

Have you read the comments on any major website? It’s getting truly nasty out there. Black Lives Matter is successfully causing riots and attacks on police. Seventeen year-old Brian Ogle is fighting for his life after he dared to post “Blue Lives Matter” on his Facebook page. He was attacked and beaten and is in critical condition with three skull fractures.

We have an ideological war going on. The Democratic Party elite have moved far, far to the Left. I don’t know if the rank and file of the party is in line with that. There’s talk of globalists and anti-globalists, immigration and open borders, terrorism and inviting in unlimited numbers of Syrian refugees who cannot be reliably assured are even from Syria, or are not ISIS fighters. Matthew Continetti took that one on:

What is a “globalist’? They are, according to the Times, the “advocates of a more densely enmeshed world,” “concerned internationalists,” “humanitarians, leaders of nongovernmental organizations, donors, investors, app peddlers, celebrities,” a cast of managers, bureaucrats, apparatchiks, media figures and billionaires working across borders to solve problems such as climate change, the Syrian refugee crisis, Third-World poverty;, racial and sexual injustice, and interplanetary colonization. They are the busybody winners of the knowledge economy. And they are feeling glum.

I have a lot of articles attempting to explain what is going on, sitting on my desk, from John Fonte’s “Liberal Democracy vs. Transnational Progressivism: The Future of the Ideological Civil War Within the West”, to Ernest Sternberg’s “Purifying the World: What the New Radical Ideology Stands For.” to Angelo M. Codevilla’s “After the Republic” and from the anonymous Decius: “The Flight 93 Election”.
All excellent, a lot of reading, but worth your time if you have plenty to spare.

I think it evolves down to a simple fact: The radical Left does not like human nature, and they want to fix it. Our founders gave a lot of thought and worry to devising a Constitution to guide our country. They recognized man’s urge for power, the desire to enhance one’s own position and reputation, and they tried to insert checks and balances to keep us on the straight and narrow.

Leftists do not like the free market, which relies on the individual decisions of thousands of people making their own choices. They do not trust mass choice, they want control. Free people have ideas about how things can be improved or about a new product that they are sure will be popular. Rich people often support a new product by paying exorbitant prices to have the newest thing — which in turn makes it possible to begin mass production and bring the cost of the product down. The Left doesn’t want rich people to be free to buy high priced goods, they want to tax their money away to be given to the needy.

The Left does not like needy people being needy, but they are unwilling to leave them free enough to begin the climb to their own riches. They are wrapped up in their own empathy, and feeling good about taking your tax money to succor the world’s poor. As Thomas Sowell wrote — the anointed, or self-consciously elite, are sure that they know what is good for society and who think that the good must be attained by expanded government action. It’s always a ‘crisis’ that must be solved by government action, and they, of course, are always correctly the government who solves stuff. Remember the crisis when it was said that some of our school children were obese?

Human nature: people are tribal. They belong to countries with borders and a language, and customs, and food, and a history and traditions. We establish our own smaller tribes as well, from bridge clubs to neighborhoods, to political groups and football fandom. We seek out those who share our ideas and interests. Haven’t you noticed the extent to which the government is trying to dictate where we live and with whom we associate? If our interest groups are not sufficiently diverse, they may come after us, and we will be called racist, or homophobic or Islamophobic.

They don’t like human nature, they don’t like freedom, they want to control everything — so they can shape us into something they like better. The problem is those three separate branches of government set up to prevent exactly that control. You have noticed, I am sure, how far the Obama administration has gone in bypassing the three branches, ignoring the Constitution and custom and the traditions of the office. He has made a study of what he can get away with by executive orders, actions by federal agencies, and other means to avoid having to work with Congress. He wants to do what he wants, without interference. Which is surely one of the reasons why we have Donald Trump and a lot of very angry Americans.



Red Tape Is Far More Than Annoying — It Has a More Sinister Purpose by The Elephant's Child

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In a previous post, I linked to an essay by Myron Magnet from City Journal titled “Why are Voters So Angry,” and I added my usual “Do read the whole thing,” but most of you didn’t (I can tell because WordPress tells me how many clicked on each link). So I’m posting another  link and urging you to read the whole essay once again.

The problem is the Administrative State. Socialists, who abound on the Left, have given up on the government’s owning the means of production (and thereby enriching themselves). They have realized that they don’t have to own America’s businesses, they can just control them with government regulation. And their control is far advanced, and nobody seems to recognize just what is happening.

Myron Magnet starts at the beginning and explains just how we have lost control of our government and what we need to do about it. Most adults not part of the Loony Left recognize that socialism is not a good form of government, and ends up as Venezuela, Cuba or Stalinist Russia, in hunger and poverty and desperation. Most adults excludes, of course the Bernie-worshiping Millennials who don’t know about Venezuelans starving and dying without medicine, and just think he’s kind of cute with his great shock of white hair.

But if we cease to enshrine American exceptionalism at the heart of our culture—if we set equal value on such Third World cultural tendencies as passive resignation, fatalism, superstition, devaluation of learning, resentment of imaginary plots by the powerful, and a belief that gratification deferred is gratification forgone—the exceptionalism of our institutions becomes all the more precarious.

Supercharging American anger over illegal immigration and its consequences is the politically correct ban on openly discussing it, with even the most reasoned reservation dismissed as racism and yahooism. And political correctness generates its own quantum of anger among citizens, who think of freedom of speech and debate as central to American exceptionalism. But elite culture stigmatizes plain speaking, so that now a rapist or a murderer is a “person who committed a crime” or an “individual who was incarcerated,” says the Obama Department of Justice, or, according to the latest humbug from the Department of Education, a “justice-involved individual.” Implicit in these euphemisms is the theory that “society,” not the criminal, is to blame for crime, a long-exploded idea aimed at blurring the distinction between right and wrong.

Well, there you go. That’s what I have just been going on about. Here we are in a mortal battle for the future of our country with candidates we hardly would have chosen as our champions. Hillary has essentially promised to continue Obama’s current drift into catastrophe, if only we will allow her to be America’s first woman something or other, and Donald Trump who has recognized the anger and frustration and answered it  with a burst of pure populism.

Jobs are created by the private sector, which makes the economy grow. Jobs created by the federal government just mean another cost to the taxpayers for agencies that cannot fulfill the task assigned to the agency. I’m not sure I can find an agency without a scandal attached. They are paid 78% more than their counterparts in the private sector, and there isn’t really enough work for them to do. The average federal employee earns about $119,000 annually, including salary and benefits, compared to $67,000 for the private sector. And they are receiving that generous compensation for plastering the private sector with so many regulations and so much red tape that the private sector cannot provide the engine of free market capitalism at which they have been so successful.

Read Myron Magnet’s essay on the Administrative State, and pass it on to family and friends. It is important that people realize what is happening to our country. Unfortunately the Left’s big ideas don’t work in the long term, or did you think that those quaint old cars in the Castro’s Cuba were there as theater for the tourists?

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