The debate topic we still need to hear.
Listen To You Tell Me Texas Friday 9/18/15
So far, so good as far as I’m concerned with respect to the GOP presidential debates. We have thus far been spared the Republican Clown Car of four years ago. There have been no “oops” moments. If the writers at Saturday Night Live were gleefully awaiting a rich source of new material, they have so far been disappointed.
Every candidate on the stage Wednesday night at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California would be preferable to Hillary Clinton. To a person, the candidates envision an America that can and will do better with the right leadership and they are for the most part doing a good job of saying so. It’s refreshing.
Yet something is still missing for me. What I’m not hearing from any candidate is what he or she will do concerning the fourth branch of government – the branch that is nowhere mentioned in the Constitution yet which holds more sway over everyday life in America than Congress or the president.
The fourth branch is, of course, the massive federal bureaucracy. Elections don’t matter to the fourth branch. With each successive administration – Democratic and Republican – the fourth branch gets bigger.
There is almost literally no part of daily life of any American anywhere that is not subject to some sort of federal oversight. Do you want to remodel your bathroom? You’ll need federally-approved shower heads and toilets. Does your business need to add a simple warehouse? You’ll need to make sure that it is designed with page upon page of ADA regulations taken into account. Do you own rural land? Be extremely careful that you don’t run afoul of the EPA’s hyper-aggressive interpretation of the Clean Water Act.
No federal agency ever gets smaller. None ever relinquishes power. Politicians come and go but bureaucrats are forever – and they know it. They have no regard for elections because they have no accountability to those that we elect. You can vote your congressman out of office. But federal employees are all but impossible to get rid of, no matter how lazy, incompetent or abusive.
The ever-increasing federal payroll is stifling business creation, job growth, innovation, risk-taking and, ultimately, individual freedom. The steady increase in the number of federal employees with regulatory authority over ordinary citizens poses at least as big a threat to prosperity as does terrorism or the national debt.
Shrinking the federal bureaucracy is a formidable challenge – perhaps more formidable than defeating ISIS. No, that’s not hyperbole. The fourth branch is so deeply entrenched, so thoroughly cosseted and so vigorously protected by Democrats and unions that it can effectively resist most efforts to rein it in.
Nevertheless, if the next president wants to be remembered like Ronald Reagan – and have some future Republican debate held in his or her presidential library – he or she will take this challenge on with an unshakable resolve to prevail, whatever the cost.
If the next president really wants a legacy, bringing the federal bureaucracy to heel would be a good way to get it.