Run the Government? Who Cares?

Ideas and Issues

Zurich     The list seems endless.

The US government’s own scientists warn of catastrophic climate changes, but the administration tut-tuts their reports, preferring ideology to evidence.

There is bipartisan outrage at the likely killing of a Washington Post columnist who was a dissident exile from Saudi Arabia, but President Trump scoffs at canceling an arms deal with the Saudis negotiated by his son-in-law and still under-subscribed.

Rather than enforce wage-and-hour violations, the Department of Labor instead offers an extension of an amnesty deal with little enforcement.

The Commerce Secretary is caught on stock deals and fibbing on his confirmation hearing about asking questions about immigration on the census run by his department.  The Secretary of the Entergy Department and former governor of Texas has to admit that when he advocated shutting the department down, he had no idea what it did, but is now game to run it.  The Secretary of Education seems to have never been to a public school and pretty much advocates getting rid of them.

You get the message, and if you don’t, reading Michael Lewis’ new book, The Fifth Risk, on the early days of the Trump administration transition to begin running the government will be a wakeup call.  The stories Lewis garnered are harrowing.  Trump didn’t want to even pay for transition preparation or begin any transition work until he was told it was required by law, and really not even then, until Stephen Bannon got his attention by noting how he would be embarrassed on the “Morning Joe” show.  When he won the presidency, not only did he get rid of former New Jersey governor Chris Christi who was heading it, but pretty much the whole crew involved in any preparations.

Lewis focuses on the Energy Department as one example because so much of its budget has to do with protection of the country’s nuclear capacity and electricity grid, seemingly pretty nonpartisan, but critical work that can only be done by a government.  The same could be said of the USDA and its farm friendly bureaucracy.  No matter.  Who cares?  Agency career staff complied a score of critical briefing books so that the incoming administration, regardless of who might have won, would understand how things worked so that they could move forward smoothly, even if they wanted to make big changes.  In case after case, the new administration was simply a no show.  When they did show there were few meetings that were little more than perfunctory, and their main objective seemed to have been witch hunting for political opponents in the bureaucracy.

The fifth risk in the title of Lewis’ book really has to do with project management, the ability to make the train run at least in the right direction even if not on time.  No matter how much the Trump administration politics is worrisome, reading Lewis’ book forces the realization that there may be no one really running the store in the government of one of the largest and richest countries in the world.  It’s not who’s on first and what’s on second, it’s no one may be on any base, and, worse, they may not even understand the game.


Please enjoy Vote em out by Willie Nelson.

Thanks to KABF.