Reorganize the Executive Branch
By Bruce Walker
No one today can seriously defend the federal bureaucracy. Whether the ugly news stories deals with the Veterans Administration, the Secret Service, the State Department, the IRS or some other appendage of this federal Hydra, the response is either political abuse of power or bureaucratic corruption.
How many administrators in the last year have told congressional committees that manifestly crooked government employees or utterly incompetent executive branch officers cannot be fired or, indeed, even faced with serious disciplinary action? In those instances of manifest sneakiness – missing emails, cleaned hard drives and so on – the political overlords in the Executive Branch profess helplessness and the protected civil service employees are never fired.
Add to this nightmare the horrific waste, endless red tape, mindless duplication and rampant fraud which permeates the Executive Branch – which few politicians dare defend – and the scene is set for conservatives to make a proposal which leftists will find impossible to seriously decry: Congress should pass a law, effective when the next president takes office, to empower the new president to radically restructure and reduce the federal bureaucracy.
What statutory power might be given the new president? Something like this: the president would be empowered during the federal fiscal years, that is to say, until September 30, 2017, to fire any civil servants in any executive branch or independent regulatory agency for any reason that the new president deems proper. Remove, for this period of about nine months, all the Civil Service rigmarole that makes it almost impossible to ever discipline a civil servant, and allow the new president to get rid of bad employees and to reduce unneeded employees.
During this period allow the president to propose to Congress a complete reorganization of all the departments of the Executive Branch including all the independent regulatory agencies and provide that unless Congress formally rejects the new president's reorganization plan, then that plan has the force of federal statute.
Also provide during this nine month period that the president can by executive order repeal all previously adopted regulations and rules which have been adopted by his predecessors or by independent regulatory agencies which are ineffective, contradictory or against good public policy. Congress could have the power to formally reject these changes, but if Congress did not do this, then the repeal of these rules and regulations would also have the force of statute.
Leftists rely heavily upon the silent support of entrenched bureaucrats, unaccountable independent regulatory agencies and complete mishmashes in federal executive organization. How would they respond to this sort of proposal? Their options are all bad.
Would they reject the idea that the next president – who might be a Republican but might also be a Democrat – should not have the power to make the bureaucracy accountable? If so, then they are pledging ahead of time that their party's nominee could not reign in this rogue bureaucracy.
Would they argue that the outrageous behavior which we have seen on the news almost every evening for the last six years is not a real problem? Obama's flacks, of course, having been telling congressional committees every time something bad is revealed that it is not Obama but the bureaucracy which is to blame.
Conservatives could link this type of reform to Harry Truman, who appointed the "Hoover Commission" in 1947 to do much what this law would do, to Dwight Eisenhower's "Second Hoover Commission" and to Ronald Reagan's "Grace Commission." Which leftists could argue against an idea which Truman, Eisenhower and Reagan all thought sound?
Democrats in Congress would find a tough time voting against this law, but even more critically, the Democrat nominee (let's say Hillary) would find it hard to campaign against Congress passing this law. In her case, if she promised her own version of reform after taking office, Republicans ought to ask why she does not support the idea of the next president having the power to reform the bureaucracy and let the American people decide which candidate they wish to trust with this power. Republicans could also note that Bill Clinton never even asked for this sort of reform during his two terms as president.
If Republicans nominate a successful governor who has shown the guts to use his office for real change (let's say Scott Walker) then the contrast between the Washington elites with their dreary and rotten bureaucrats and Republicans who can – and will – bring real change would be complete. This is an election winner and, just as importantly, it would also the next president to produce real reform.
Bruce Walker is the author of book Poor Lenin's Almanac: Perverse Leftists Proverbs for Modern Life and a contributing editor to Enter Stage Right.