Obama's New Spoils System Will Benefit Conservatism

The President should be able to sack politically-opposed bureaucrats.

America's federal bureaucracy, alas, is the largest civilian employer in the country and, alas again, by far the fastest-growing one.  Despite happy talk from the White House, our private-sector economy is not in any mood to take on more employees; so, if you're unemployed and want to work, working for Uncle Sam is your most likely bet.

If we are all as equal as the Constitution says, we all should have an equal opportunity for government employment based on our qualifications.  Remember the "scandal" when the Bush administration fired a handful of politically-appointed prosecuting attorneys?

Never mind that they weren't Civil Service, and never mind that Clinton sacked every last one of them when he came into office including a couple that were investigating his actions in Whitewater.  Just working for the government, supposedly, puts you beyond reach of the politicians who were elected to run that government.

That is not the way it worked for our first century as a nation.  In our early days, if you were President you were elected to do certain things, and by gum, you had the right to appoint people who do what you want!  The Civil Service Act in the late 1800s ended that freedom and power, putting the newly minted "civil servants" under strict rules of non-partisanship with promotions and hiring supposedly based on exams and competency evaluations.

Suddenly and without warning, Barack Obama brings us change we can believe in:

OPM [Office of Personnel Management, the Federal hiring agency] is now claiming authority to weed out every former political appointee from being considered for any federal positions at every level of the GS Pay Scale, for both the competitive and excepted service - made retroactive for the past 5 years.

In a complex document full of red-tape-ese, OPM basically says that if you're an ex-employee of a political administration in the last five years, but now you work for the Federal government in any position... well, you can't, and you're fired, unless you can get written permission from the very highest levels.  Now just whom do you suppose might be in this situation?  There surely aren't very many ex-Obama officials in the civil service yet, and ex-Clintonites, well, that was much more than five years ago.

That's right: President Obama is plotting a purge of all Republicans from government employment - no, not Republican voters (yet), but certainly anyone who ever did political work for W.

Misplaced Horror

Needless to say, the right-wing blogosphere is hitting the ceiling.  This action by OPM is directly illegal; the Civil Service Act expressly forbids a person's political positions or prior service from being a factor in their government employment or termination.

Odds are, the law will be no obstacle; clearly, Obama doesn't want anyone collecting a government paycheck who isn't 100% on board with his liberal agenda, and who's going to stop him?  Republicans are trying to stir up voter anger as the only possible check on this power grab.

Unfortunately, the Right is not thinking this through.  True, Mr. Obama's action will make the bureaucracy even further left than it already is; what difference is that going to make?  It's as intrusive now as its funding and legal checks-and-balances allow it to be.  True, it will cause hardship for some deserving Republican political servants; can we not find some other home for them for a few years?

Because sooner or later, Mr. Obama will be out.  There will be another Republican president someday.  Thanks to the precedent Mr. Obama is so helpfully setting for us now, conservatives will have an opportunity that we have not had for a century: to actually clean house of far-left bureaucrats.

Think of it: when every recent past administration neared its end, dozens of political hacks "burrowed" into the ranks of the civil service, there to pursue their policy preferences unchecked.  Mr. Obama understandably doesn't want ex-Bushites to do this, but there never were that many of them anyway.

There will be hundreds if not thousands of ex-Obama minions, though, and thanks to what by 2013 will be "a longstanding and well-established policy," we won't have to let them take over powerful bureaucratic positions from which they can sabotage the conservative agenda!

The harm caused to Bush by burrowed Clintonites who subjected his administration to the death of a thousand cuts constantly resurfaced over the years, crippling his presidency and he couldn't fire them.  No more!

What we truly need is a return to the original "spoils system," where a new president could sack every single government paper-pusher and replace them wholesale with party loyalists who'd do as he said - and, of course, the president bore full responsibility for what they did and could answer for it at the next election.  Until that day comes, we'll take this as a close second-best.

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other Scragged.com articles by Petrarch or other articles on Partisanship.
Reader Comments
Can you name one single time in recent history that conservatives have been able to use liberal policies against them successfully?

That never works. Alberto Gonzalez got raked over the coals for his part in dismissing seven US attorneys even though Janet Reno dismissed 10 times that many.

Being glad for bad policies that we can use against them later is a mistake. Liberals are allowed to be hypocrites, conservatives aren't.
November 20, 2009 8:10 AM
The same case could be made for a parliamentary system, where the president is chosen from the legislature, where his party holds a majority- c.f. Britain's system.
Thus the majority party's policies, foibles and foolishness is exposed, as is Obama's now.
The problem with this spoils system is it makes light of the damage done to citizens and their property and liberty thru arrogance and stupidity- and I have not even included the heavy-handedness of the legislature, who pass laws to mollify not only their constituents, for their campaign supports and lobbyists and whose "laws" simply increase the burden on us all.
Another problem is that friends of friends who could not get a job in the private sector- incompetence and political sycophancy seem to the only qualifications, thus allowing not only despair at politics to fester but also disregard and disrespect for our system to infect thinking, as it has done so with mine.

November 20, 2009 9:13 AM
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