May 23, 2022

“The task of every dedicated employee is to carefully consider the company’s goals of the company, evaluate obstacles to their achievement, and formulate detailed plans to overcome those difficulties. However, when you are up to your ass in alligators, it is sometimes difficult to remember that your initial objective was to drain the swamp.” — Sign on the wall of one of the author’s prior employers

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Donald Trump promised us that he’d drain the Swamp. As a real estate developer, you’d think that he understood how that should be done. The State Department is known as “Foggy Bottom” because it is in what was originally a fetid swamp. Land had to be reclaimed using filling to “drain” that swamp. Disney World, near Orlando, is built on swampland, as any golfer will discover after a rainstorm. Much of that land became usable after swamps were filled in. And the beat goes on.

The bureaucratic mire in DC is full of predatory beasts, noxious insects, and other unseen hazards. Directives from the White House are apt to be ignored because there is no one translating those directives into marching orders for the lower floors of government-owned buildings. This leaves the denizens of departments to their own devices, none of whom are the slightest bit concerned with anything beyond the office water cooler. Thus, if the concerns of the cubicle align with the editorial page of the Washington Compost, then all is well, and the office sports pool becomes the most urgent part of the day.

If the Secretary of Department X decides to go full MAGA, little or nothing will actually happen, since most of his underlings frankly don’t give a damn. They are protected by Civil Service rules and can’t be fired short of the next millennium. In other words, it’s hopeless.

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Yes, I know, Donald Trump claims to know what he did wrong and will do things differently next time. It all sounds good, but so do all the claims from every politician. After all, they’re “fighting for you!” But actually, they’re mostly trying to baffle you with b*&#$@%t so you’ll vote for them again. And since government employees contribute to campaigns that will keep them and their BFFs employed, don’t count on anything good happening.

If you can’t get rid of all the feral animals inside a bureaucracy, what can you do? Ask Donald Trump how he dealt with swamp land on his golf courses or building sites! You don’t drain the swamp. You get rid of it! That’s right, you fill it in so it’s not a swamp anymore. And just in case this picture isn’t clear enough, watch the TV series “Swamp People.” The water in the swamp goes up and down, but even when it’s down, it’s still a swamp. With the next rain, it’s full again. And it doesn’t matter how many alligators you pull out of the swamp. There are hundreds new for each one harvested.

The only way to drain a swamp is to fill it in. Let that sink in.

When the swamp is made up of government bureaucracies, how do you fill it in? Believe it or not, there’s actually a way to make that happen. It’s just not something someone inside the Beltway is likely to dream up. But with enough allies in Congress, something good can happen. Just imagine if they looked at each Cabinet department by itself.

Image by Andrea Widburg

A couple of departments are absolutely necessary. We must have Defense. Without it, all we can do is sing Kumbaya when Vlad decides to point his guns at us. We must have State because it handles all the Ambassadors and so on. They also lead in negotiating our deals with other countries. So, we can’t get rid of them, although we can retire about two thirds of their people, leaving only the ones who actually get something done. Ditto for Justice, although the discussion of how to straighten them out gets perilously near the gallows.

With those easy decisions behind us, let’s tackle some easy ones on the other side. Education serves no useful purpose at the Federal level. Health and Human Services must administer Medicare and Medicaid until we’re able to get rid of them, but the National Institutes of Health? Let’s look closer.