Bear with me on this one for a minute and you’ll get the connections.
First, George Will wrote a column on how Obama is lamenting the size and intransigent nature of big government. As though he was suddenly thrown to earth from another dimension, like Thor, only to find his power here was limited to a sixteen ounce framing hammer.
The education of Barack Obama is a protracted process as he repeatedly alights upon the obvious with a sense of original discovery. In a recent MSNBC interview, he restocked his pantry of excuses for his disappointing results, announcing that “we have these big agencies, some of which are outdated, some of which are not designed properly”:
“We’ve got, for example, 16 different agencies that have some responsibility to help businesses, large and small, in all kinds of ways, whether it’s helping to finance them, helping them to export. … So, we’ve proposed, let’s consolidate a bunch of that stuff. The challenge we’ve got is that that requires a law to pass. And, frankly, there are a lot of members of Congress who are chairmen of a particular committee. And they don’t want necessarily consolidations where they would lose jurisdiction over certain aspects of certain policies.”
The dawn is coming up like thunder as Obama notices the sociology of government. He shows no sign, however, of drawing appropriate lessons from it.
Big government is indeed big, and like another big creature, the sauropod dinosaur, government has a primitive nervous system: Injured in the tail, that fact could take nearly a minute to be communicated to the sauropod brain.
Obama, of whose vast erudition we have been assured, seems unfamiliar with Mancur Olson’s seminal “The Rise and Decline of Nations,” which explains how free societies become sclerotic. Their governments become encrusted with interest groups that preserve, like a fly in amber, an increasingly stultifying status quo. This impedes dynamism by protecting arrangements that have worked well for those powerful enough to put the arrangements in place. This blocks upward mobility for those less wired to power.
Obama, startled that components of government behave as interest groups, seems utterly unfamiliar with public choice theory. It demystifies and de-romanticizes politics by applying economic analysis — how incentives influence behavior — to government. It shows how elected officials and bureaucrats pursue personal aggrandizement as much as people do in the private sector. In the public sector’s profit motive, profit is measured by power rather than money.
Obama’s tardy epiphanies do not temper his enthusiasm for giving sauropod government ever-deeper penetration into society. He thinks this serves equality. Actually, big government inevitably drives an upward distribution of wealth to those whose wealth, confidence and sophistication enable them to manipulate government.
Exactly. Any government of any size becomes a living creature intent on only two things; eating and growing. And the people who profit from government- both in the private and public sectors- have no motivation to stop it.
As a matter of fact, being a politician in charge of extremely critical areas can be quite profitable as revealed by the recent discovery of political payoffs to the committee overseeing the NSA. Yeah, I know, not illegal- illegal deals with man’s laws which can change at a whim- but certainly wrong in a great sense of morality.
Every member who sits on the committees that oversee government intelligence operations has received campaign contributions from the top twenty largest intelligence companies in the United States, according to a new report.
Amid the NSA scandal, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence — the committees in charge of oversight — denied stricter reform attempts to the NSA programs and instead propelled legislation aimed at restoring their trust. The committees are intended to keep waste, fraud, and abuse in check given most of these programs are hidden from the general public.
Every single member on the committees received campaign contributions from the largest intelligence companies in the U.S. performing services for the the government.
A report from Maplight, a nonpartisan research organization that reveals money in politics, highlights the donations from political action committees (PACs) and individuals from the intelligence services companies to these members. The report shows donations amount to over $3.7 million from 2005-2013.
Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D- Md.), the highest ranking Democrat on the House committee, received the most amount of money. He was given $363,600 with $124,350 of this coming from a single company — Northrop Grumman. As the Center for Public Integrity notes, Rep. Ruppersberger’s Maryland district includes the NSA. He is also a member of the “Gang of Eight” and receives extremely detailed intelligence reports that many other members do not receive.
The second highest amount was given to Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D- Md.) who received $210,150. Sen. Mikulski also happens to be chairwomen of the Senate Appropriations Committee — a committee which allocates federal funds to a majority of government programs, including intelligence.
Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.) was given $205,345 — he is the second highest ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee.
Rep. James Langevin (D- R.I.) received $200,850 from intelligence companies’ PACs, top executives, and lobbyists. Langevin is the second highest ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Intelligence Subcommittee.
L-3 Communications, Lockheed Martin, CACI International, GTCR Golder Rauner L.L.C., SAIC Inc, Mission Essential, and Booz Allen Hamilton are among the top companies to contribute to committee members.
So, let’s offer this troubling equation for you to solve. You have a large administrative government- very powerful and deeply attached to the element in our society that want that government to continue in the direction is it- how can you break the elements apart? And more importantly survive the attempt to break them apart?
Certainly no single person can do it. No small group of people can do it. Look at Snowden- good, bad or indifferent- he did bring to the attention to most of the public the abuses of the surveillance society in our midst- and most people just yawned. Which politician is going to sacrifice their career to do anything if nobody cares.
There is an old saying that citizens deserve the government they vote for. That is a good point, but not quite accurate. In our nation, we have a government that influences how we vote so that it (and its supporters) can get what they want. That is a big difference.
So what is the answer? David Brooks, arguably one of those ardent supporters (and classic useful idiot of the Left disguised like a conservative), thinks the answer is making Obama’s branch more powerful (in an era where the Executive branch is far too powerful- but Brooks seems to ignore the history…). The problem, as Brooks sees it is that government is frozen and can’t continue to pass legislation. I’ll argue that is not a bad thing and exactly how the government was designed to work. If there isn’t a pressing issue both sides can get behind then there aren’t any pressing issues, just bored politicians passing laws to “prove” their worth, which create more noise than good results. Brooks believes government must keep going. He’s wrong.
First, there is the profusion of interest groups. In 1971, there were 175 registered lobbying firms. By 2009, there were 13,700 lobbyists spending more than $3.5 billion annually, and this doesn’t even count the much larger cloud of activist groups and ideological enforcers.
Then there is the judicial usurpation of power. Fukuyama writes, “conflicts that in Sweden or Japan would be solved through quiet consultations between interested parties through the bureaucracy are fought out through formal litigation in the American court system.” This leads to uncertainty, complexity and perverse behavior.
…After a law is passed, there are always adjustments to be made. These could be done flexibly. But, instead, Congress throws implementation and enforcement into the court system by giving more groups the standing to sue. What could be a flexible process is turned into “adversarial legalism” that makes government more intrusive and more rigid.
Fukuyama describes what you might call the demotion of Pennsylvania Avenue. Legislative activity could once be understood by what happens at either end of that street. But now power is dispersed among the mass of rentier groups. Members of Congress lead lives they don’t want to lead because they are beholden to the groups. The president is hemmed in by this new industry, interest group capitalism. The unofficial pressure sector dominates the official governing sector. Throw in political polarization and you’ve got a recipe for a government that is more stultified, stagnant and overbearing.
Fukuyama ultimately throws up his hands. Things would be better, he observes, if we had a more unified parliamentary system, with more administrative discretion. But we don’t. “So we have a problem.”
But there is a way out: Make the executive branch more powerful.
This is a good moment to advocate greater executive branch power because we’ve just seen a monumental example of executive branch incompetence: the botched Obamacare rollout. It’s important to advocate greater executive branch power in a chastened mood. It’s not that the executive branch is trustworthy; it’s just that we’re better off when the presidency is strong than we are when the rentier groups are strong, or when Congress, which is now completely captured by the rentier groups, is strong.
Here are the advantages. First, it is possible to mobilize the executive branch to come to policy conclusion on something like immigration reform. It’s nearly impossible for Congress to lead us to a conclusion about anything. Second, executive branch officials are more sheltered from the interest groups than Congressional officials. Third, executive branch officials usually have more specialized knowledge than staffers on Capitol Hill and longer historical memories. Fourth, Congressional deliberations, to the extent they exist at all, are rooted in rigid political frameworks. Some agencies, especially places like the Office of Management and Budget, are reasonably removed from excessive partisanship. Fifth, executive branch officials, if they were liberated from rigid Congressional strictures, would have more discretion to respond to their screw-ups, like the Obamacare implementation. Finally, the nation can take it out on a president’s party when a president’s laws don’t work. That doesn’t happen in Congressional elections, where most have safe seats.
Truthfully, what they are all talking about is the fact they believe government must continue to pass laws and allow regulations or something is amiss. They fear the death of the beast and to make sure that does not happen, they will continue to serve the beast. Like lamprey on the side of a shark, they have a vested interest in the host’s survival.
In a world where the laws and regulations create an environment where the average person unknowingly violates three laws a day, I can feel confident in concluding the government has done far too much as is, and a breather isn’t a bad thing.