Letter to Trump: how to cut the federal bureaucracy

Dear President Donald Trump,

The bureaucracy is out of control, enlarging itself at every turn. Every political science Intro to Government text has a chapter addressing this problem convincingly showing why the government is unable to stop or even significantly slow this expansion, and Ronald Reagan was the only president before you that even tried. The 50s movie “The Blob” starring Steve McQueen comes to mind; an enemy absorbing and devouring people, with an ever-enlarging appetite as it did.

The Constitution designates Congress as the only federal rule-making branch of government. “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives,” Article I, Section 1 said. The choice of the word “all,” was deliberate. There exists no constitutional authority for Congress to delegate this responsibility to any other body. Citizens should be secure in the knowledge that they have three elected officials, their House and Senate members that have fully read and understand every law or rule placed over them. The Founders made no distinction between laws or rules, as each is a prohibition of some activity.

But decades ago Congress got lazy and started creating organizations to administer and create the details of a law, thus thousands of “little laws” or “regs,” short for regulations emerged and often gave the law a twist never intended by the original bill. The Founding Fathers were aware of this practice and listed it in the Declaration of Independence as one of the reasons supporting the revolution from Great Britain, “He has erected a Multitude of new Offices, and sent hither Swarms of Officers to harass our People, and eat out their Substance.”

Congress has allowed these “multitudes of new offices,” to essentially decide what the law means. These creations benefit Congress in two ways. Bureaucracies do most of the work, making “little laws,” and also conveniently leaves Congress with an enemy of their own making to combat. Members love, and get elected by, “bureaucracy bashing.” An example is the 2,700-page National Healthcare bill that created 159 separate organizations to manage; each organization is capable of enacting hundreds of additional rules and regulations. An older example is the Environmental Protection Agency. A prominent housing contractor once told me that one-third of the cost of a new home went to fulfill regulation requirements. “It did not lift a shovel of dirt or pound a single nail,” he said, but it did “harass our people.”

Seemingly, there is no way to stop bureaucratic growth, but the growth, like cancer, must be fed by taxes, which “eat out their substance.”  What is obvious to everyone else is seldom so to the enlarging bureaucracy whose new employees become ever more vocal, with a vested interest in its defense, sustainment and enlargement. Obviously any plan to succeed must have bureaucratic support. “Goliath” must agree to undertake one serious diet, or it will never happen.

Some 35 years ago, such a diet came across my desk written by F. F. McClatchie. My students since have been asked to become the bureaucracy to determine if the plan would work. At least 90 percent chose to be laid off. It seems so easy. It has five steps.

One, freeze immediately all federal hiring of new employees. There will be resistance but not enough to stop this step because “their” job is secure. Mr. President, you are to be commended for having implemented this step, please consider the next four.

Two, lay off 10 percent of all existing employees each year, selecting those to be laid off by lottery. This lottery ensures that the layoffs will be “fair,” that is, the bureaucrats can’t play with the deck. That way, those who are part of the fat are not in charge of cutting the fat. This step will meet serious resistance so it must be accompanied by step three simultaneously.

Three, continue to pay the laid-off bureaucrats their wages as of the layoff date. This decision would insure their full cooperation. In fact, their full-time vacations would no doubt thrill them. It would save billions of dollars even since they would no longer occupy office space or waste paper, to say nothing of working mischief. They could no longer interfere with business, saving countless billions for productive uses. Few people will reject this offer, but it can’t go on forever, as it is immoral to pay someone for doing nothing.

Four, reduce each laid-off employee’s paycheck by 10 percent per year. This decrease would ensure that sooner or later they would seek productive employment. They may choose to bank the new salary or vacation for a year or two, before returning to full employment in the private sector. In the meantime, they will spend the money on hobbies, travel, etc., and keep the economy roaring along with no additional tax burden.

Fifth, continue this process until the government is operating efficiently at approximately 1/10 the current payroll or less. Those opting not to be laid off could be part of the new system.

At $20 trillion in debt, this nation is close to bankruptcy. We desperately need a solution that works before we bankrupt. President Trump, together with your reduction of bureaucratic regulation by 70 percent, this plan has the highest probability of any solution suggested of saving us from the bureaucracy blob.

Pease is a syndicated columnist and an expert on the United States Constitution. He has dedicated his career to studying the writings of the Founding Fathers and applying that knowledge to current events. He has taught history and political science from this perspective for over 30 years at Taft College. To read more of his weekly articles, please visit www.LibertyUnderFire.org.

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