When Ronald Reagan was president I lamented that he had not done much to reduce the size and power of the federal bureaucracy. By the mid-80s it was obvious the private sector was trying to adopt the federal management design, when it should have been the other way around. The world was turning over in Big Government and Big Business in the wrong way, and I was hoping Reagan would see it.
You see, I was there and I saw it in my Fortune 500 manufacturing company, which I joined late in the Carter years, and watched as it completely changed when a new CEO would build a $100 million complex for front office management then install a new bureaucratic regime of 1000 new jobs to fill it. In a company that made things, with about 60,000 employees, you wouldn’t think 1000 would matter. It did in a big way.
I had recently left the Vietnam-era army, and my old boss in Japan was warning that “we were trying to put lawyers in foxholes”, which history proved we did, e.g. at Waco (which is another story) for another place and time.
After he left office, Reagan regretted that he hadn’t placed that bulls eye on the bureaucracy. But in all likelihood, he wouldn’t have known how. When he left office, I left that company, and headed out to the world of Third World of manufacturing, leaving the federal bureaucracy and the private sector corporate sector to go mate with themselves.
Being the world’s largest and most successful small businessman, I always believed Donald Trump would be a natural to take that long awaited second look at the bureaucracy, or homo bureaucraticus, which was my name for the secret agent that really killed the Soviet system, after I’d spent time there in ’91- ’92. It wasn’t the Russian national character (homo Rus), as many American leftists like Hillary Clinton wanted to believe, and not Marxism (homo Sovieticus) as many conservatives without real on-the-ground experience wanted to believe.
I’d been to their factories and their front offices, and it was a clear as day.
Trump would have understood these differences immediately, because he knew the ingredients for managing a lean private sector enterprise, his mindset representing the widening gap between free-market capitalism and fascist-leaning corporatism; both for-profit, yet very different.
It really is a state of mind.
Had I had his ear I would have suggested to Donald Trump that he treat the de-bureaucratization of the federal government like a covert operation; that the planning and some of the execution of the plan for any particular agency be carried on outside the four-walls of that agency.
In the 80’s corporate reorganization as a way to clear bureaucratic clutter was easy; golden parachutes for the managers, RIF’s and tough-love pink slips for front-office staff, while the productive, money-making end of the business went merrily along.
As Trump is seeing with the “deep state”, which probably exists on two not necessarily aligned levels, political and careerist, the possibility for “wrecking”, an old Stalin term, is everywhere. In my day, it was secretaries putting paper clips into the copy machines, on the theory that would bring the entire office business to a standstill.
These days, it is much more sophisticated, and has moved way upstairs from the GS-3 steno-typist.
A secret program may be needed. A secret agency.
The intelligence people have them all the time, and often leave them dangling for years, if Robert Ludlum was any indicator; out of sight, out of mind. As George Carlin once asked, after one of the popes had ended the sin of eating meat on Friday, “Yeah, but how many guys are still out there, doing time on a meat rap?”
One man can’t pull that off, it’s a team effort, heavy on the intelligence gathering, planning and stealth.. It’s not that hard to rescind a regulation, but reverse engineering the impact and blow-back are outcome determinative. The system is rigged so that everyone’s backside is covered. The civilian bureaucracy has never really had to go through what for the military, after WWII, Korea and Vietnam, was routine. An awfully lot of fine soldiers got left out, drifting in the wind. (I was in on that, from the crying-on-the-shoulder advisor level, but at least the Army gave most of their 10-15 year captains and majors a several months heads-up to plan ahead. Don’t know about the Navy or Air Force, though.)
EPA was always special, because so many divisions had their own special legislative (rule-making) authority. Scott Pruitt was their worst nightmare.
So in that sense Scott Pruitt may well have been the best man for that job. I don’t know him, but I’m guessing.
And he may well still be, but only after he’s been sat down and schooled on the general fact that the perquisites of power in Oklahoma are not the same as any federal office in which Jeff Sessions sits as the chief law enforcement officer.
When Pruitt took over at EPA he went straight to work, cleaning house in a variety of ways, and I’m told, working with a deft hand. A natural.
Others agency heads are also moving along, although outside the media attention, Rick Perry, Betsy DeVos, Ben Carson.
I really would like to see a national de-bureaucratization bureau emerge under Trump, but with a sell-by date. Not something that lingers. Call it a kitchen cabinet, a la Andy Jackson.
In fact, Trump could hire Scott to open an office in Anadarko or Washington, it doesn’t matter, and put up a nice office front, Universal Exports would be fun, but then get to the serious business of undoing the bureaucracy end of the deeper and deepest deep-state.
Pruitt can either be a front, or the actual hammer. It will be a hoot watching the media and the real bureaucracy trying to find out.
In the meantime the new agency can enjoy a meal in peace, for there will be no one on the first, third, or seventh floor to rat out their dinner plans, or who their inside snitches on those floors might be.