At last month’s CPAC, Trump White House strategist, Steve Bannon, vowed to ‘deconstruct’ the administrative state. While Bannon didn’t go into detail as to what such ‘deconstruction’ would consist of, administration actions in the first two months do give some clues. The first White House budget proposal, along with a hefty increase in defense spending, has drastic cuts in the budgets of civilian agencies, including a more than 30 percent cut in the State Department and foreign aid budget. In addition, appointees to head civilian agencies are both being sidelined and ignored, or are individuals who have a track record of opposing the agencies they’ve been designated to lead.
Looking at what’s going on one could easily reach the conclusion that what Bannon actually meant to say was ‘destroy.’
While die-hard Trump supporters are probably cheering as he sticks his finger in the eye of the bloated, unresponsive Washington bureaucracy, one also has to wonder if anyone is giving any consideration to what this all means.
Let’s start by conceding that government is often inefficient; many agencies are probably overstaffed; and services are not always delivered where and when they’re needed. But, is the answer to that the abolition of the agency that’s supposed to deliver those services?
Over the last decade there’s been a marked trend to militarize American foreign policy. If we strip the already modestly funded civilian foreign affairs establishment (foreign aid in its entirety accounts for less than two percent of the budget), do we plan to give that mission over to the defense establishment? Will the military be called in to patrol our national parks, or will we turn that job over to the energy and timber industries that will be given uncontrolled access? Who will assume responsibility for air traffic control, water and air quality monitoring, food and drug safety standards? These are not jobs that will do themselves, and leaving it to the industries isn’t such a good idea—don’t forget; it was shortcomings in these industries that led to the need for government monitoring in the first place.
Does government need improvement? You bet it does, but when the bath water is dirty, let’s change it, not toss the baby out in the process.