Drain the Swamp or the Swamp Drains You

Trump needs to hit the government establishment where it hurts.

In the closing months of the 2016 presidential campaign, we saw a headline, "Trump promises to put America back to work - Chicago riots."  The implication was that Chicago welfare recipients did not want to be put to work - though it seems more likely that most of the antifa-style lefty rioters are trust-fund kids, "college" snowflakes, or paid miscreants as opposed to welfare mamas.

As far as we noticed, we didn't have riots by mobs of government employees during the campaign, but government employees and politicians are no happier about Mr. Trump's promise to drain the swamp than welfare recipients look forward to being put to work.  Right up and down the halls of government, people have been leading far more comfortable lives than they would if forced to compete in the private sector, which they do not want to do.

We commented on one aspect of what might be called the Revenge of the Swamp Monster by discussing various ways politicians and others who've grown fat off taxpayer money are stirring up riots and work in other ways to prevent the swamp from being drained.  As we all know, anyone who has become accustomed to living off the government will do nearly anything to keep the gravy train flowing.

Anonymous federal employees are committing jail-worthy crimes by leaking classified data to embarrass Mr. Trump.  Somehow, we do not see anyone leaking information that would show the misdemeanors and waste of our vastly overstaffed government.  This suggests that thieves and layabouts greatly outnumber virtuous government employees, much to our chagrin.

We've bemoaned the fact that it's effectively impossible to fire unionized government employees short of catching them red-handed committing major crimes.  Thus, Mr. Trump is somewhat inhibited in making effective use of his signature line, "You're Fired."

Since the vast majority of taxpayer-funded swamp dwellers are disobeying Mr. Trump's lawful orders whenever they feel they can get away with it - which at the moment is most of the time as the media furore is keeping his hands full - the normal methods of whipping recalcitrant employees into line are inapplicable to this particular swamp.  Failing that, however, there are both a simple way and a complicated way Mr. Trump can make life unpleasant for bureaucrats who won't get with his program.

The Simple Way

New York magazine reports that the Republicans have revived the 1876 Holman Rule which

empowers any member of Congress to submit an amendment to an appropriations bill that targets the funding of a specific government program or employee.

Cutting specific programs within an agency is much more convenient than having to adjust the agency's overall budget.

Virginia congressman H. Morgan Griffith led the charge for reviving the Holman Rule, after learning about how much the federal government spends on the upkeep of wild horses ($80 million, apparently). When the Washington Post asked Griffith if the new rule would be used to cut "huge swaths" of the federal workforce, he replied, "I can't tell you it won't happen ... The power is there. But isn't that appropriate? Who runs this country, the people of the United States or the people on the people's payroll?"

With a modest degree of help from conservative-minded Congressmen plus some grassroots pressure driven by adroit use of the bully pulpit, Mr. Trump can use this rule to zero out favorite conservative targets - for example, the specific part of the EPA which writes new rules, while leaving in place the people who issue permits; or better yet, entirely cut off all the employees who fund NPR and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Not being a politician born and bred, perhaps The Donald has never heard of the Holman Rule, and none of the swamp monsters are likely to tell him.  Isn't there one member of the Freedom Caucus who thinks this is a good idea?  If each of the true conservatives took on a specific agency to target for cuts - well, that still wouldn't be enough as there are far more useless agencies than conservative Congressmen, but it would at least be a start and make Republican voters feel cared about.

The Hard Way

Back when the Republicans were first planning to shut the government down by not raising the debt ceiling, Mr. Obama threatened that Social Security checks might not go out.  We applauded his frank admission that Social Security taxes were in fact not dedicated to meeting Social Security obligations.  Having pointed out that Social Security is a taxpayer-funded welfare system just like any other, we welcomed Mr. Obama's confirmation of this, if for no other reason than the inherent value of the truth - it's not as if he had any intention of doing anything about it, but at least now there's no excuse for anyone continuing to believe that it's an insurance program.

The same incident also demonstrated that not increasing the debt ceiling doesn't keep the government from spending money.  At the time, borrowing accounted for roughly half of government spending.  If borrowing were shut off, tax revenue could keep the government running at about half its current spending level, an outcome much to be desired.

Current law permits "essential functions" of government to operate in the face of an overall shutdown - but administration officials are allowed to decide what is essential and what is not.  To make effective use of this power, Mr. Trump's political appointees in charge of agencies would have to prepare a series of executive orders specifying precisely which government operations are essential.  Preparing the list and shutting down a targeted half the government would be a lot of work, but it would be time well spent.

Mr. Obama targeted his list of essential functions to maximize citizen inconvenience.  Shutting down government functions which are actually needed in order to extort more tax money is so common that it's been labeled the "Washington monument strategy."  Mr. Trump could do it far more constructively.

We suspect that Mr. Trump knows this.  CNN reported that Mr. Trump tweeted about a "good shutdown":

President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday that the country needs a "good 'shutdown,'" as well advocated for changing Senate rules, in a pair of tweets where he complained about the congressional negotiating process.

"The reason for the plan negotiated between the Republicans and Democrats is that we need 60 votes in the Senate which are not there! We ... either elect more Republican Senators in 2018 or change the rules now to 51%. Our country needs a good 'shutdown' in September to fix mess!" Trump said Tuesday in two consecutive tweets.

If the President were able to inspire his most conservative political appointees to go through the organizational structures of their departments with a fine-toothed comb, carefully designating who is essential and who is not based on principles of conservative government, the Trump administration need not fear a government shutdown.  Simply let Congress refuse to pass his budget or veto the bloated one they do pass - then, when the government "shuts down", go on vacation.

There's no reason we should be paying for government workers, programs, or whole departments that are not essential, with or without a budget.  Maybe then, the media would have something so painful to holler about, they'd be distracted from their mission of distracting the American people with fake news about phony scandals and evidence-free accusations.

Will Offensicht is a staff writer for Scragged.com and an internationally published author by a different name.  Read other Scragged.com articles by Will Offensicht or other articles on Bureaucracy.
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