Strangled by bureaucrats

The problem is not that we need to or wish to help poor people, or people stricken with some major unforeseen event. It’s not that we’re uncaring, or racist, nor are the rich out to screw everyone. It’s not that people are lazy and thus take the government money – after all, the rich and the well connected take just as much as the poor and powerless. The flow of government money to everyone is so big that nothing is untouched by it. And for the poor it almost seems rational to take a $1,000 a month and do nothing than to get a job for a $1,000 a month and pay taxes. It’s economically worthwhile to take the government money – and the poor didn’t create this system – they have been handed a system which they use to maximum effect. It always comes back to the people who set this stuff up – the bureaucracies. And to reach out to us, the government has massive bureaucracies. 2.4 million bureaucrats, tens of thousands of more coming.

Just a few examples: The IRS code is so confounded that it takes tens of thousands of employees to work on the massive amount of paper and electronic filings. They haven’t even figured out that if they break up the filings into monthly deadlines they might well get along with less bureaucrats even with the confounded thing. If the tax code was simplified then we wouldn’t need all these bureaucrats at all. And we wouldn’t need all the tax preparers and attorneys, and they could get on to productive things rather than spend time trying to figure out the IRS code. It’s monstrous – and anyone who thinks it’s any good is nuts. Not a politicians seems remotely interested in simplifying. They bleat about “loopholes” which are the Byzantine rules, not some skullduggery.

The new health care law doesn’t bring a doctor, nurse or clinic to the people. It brings bureaucracies – dozens of new commissions, bureaus, divisions, or whatever they’ll title them. Many of them scary sounding with the President’s Commission on this and that … the names themselves are eerie. These people can’t run the health care system, however. They can only interfere with the people who run it. They can’t make sure everyone takes their pills, or even thinks of getting them. They can’t change anyone’s behavior in the way some people use health care – there are hypochondriacs – there are people with the sniffles who run to the emergency room. They will continue. The bureaucrats will merely try to make more forms to fill out, more regulations to comply with, all said to ensure the thing runs smoothly. And the thing to run smoothly will be the bureaucracies – they are like mud, they run smoothly, over everything. And it is harder and harder to argue with any of it.

The EPA is working on putting out regulations on everything. They, along with FEMA, are simply making the nation’s every inch of land subject to federal government approval of what can and cannot, and sometimes even what will be done with a certain parcel. It’s impossible to do anything without having to head to a federal agency now, to build a building or a house. And these bureaucrats collect forms about compliance with the regulations they write – and not much of this actually goes to good land management. The best use of the land is often just ignored if the bureaucrats have a different plan for it – that’s the whole point of zoning codes and environmental impact statements and building codes that are nationwide so that even buildings in North Dakota must withstand a hurricane – so, the bureaucracies form a plan for the land, and then have to find some private guy willing to be cozy with them to do anything. Here in Tucson it’s a federal-city partnership that’s building butt ugly condos for rich folks – with a few “affordable” units by subsidizing the rent of the recipients of these apartments – it’s still the same cost – doesn’t affect the affordability – just who pays for it. But a private developer couldn’t help to build in downtown, they’ve been regulated into compliance with bureaucracies.

And it’s not just the Federals who are big on big bureaucracies – no, the states, cities and counties aren’t slouches, no. Still, the farther away in DC the guy you have to get permission from the more difficult it is to get that permission. The more expensive it is too, forever shutting out the littler guy. The more difficult it is to appeal some ruling that is made two, three, six months after an application is submitted, almost requiring lobbyists to fix the problems. Remember, someone always comes along to clear the red tape, as a hero, but why is their red tape in the first place? No answer. And so, we come to the chief problem with the bureaucracies – the staffing.

They are all good at their jobs, I’m sure. The problem is that their job is to be paper collectors. Their incentive is to make more forms and more paperwork. Every time you go to a doctor now you have to sign a privacy notice and you get a copy and they keep a copy – every time. This is efficient? Make a law that all are privacy covered, post the thing once in the lobby, and be done with it. No, they are trained in how to be bureaucrats, and make more forms – an administrator can be moved from the EPA to the DEA to the DOE to the DOD without any fuss or muss because they know how to do purchase orders, and find government data in government reports on government computers. They are wondrous at this, when they’re inclined to do so. But they don’t really know anything about the industries they are regulating.

And so, we get the revolving door – people in the industries who are politically connected, good buddies even, with the current high elected official gets to be the secretary or the junior admin to the senior one. We complain about the corporation employee becoming the administrator, and being a political appointee he has surely made the right gestures of cash and word to the power that appoints, and then, when he’s done with these two stints he joins a lobbying firm. Perhaps, after a while he goes back to one or the other two – it’s a triangle, you get to choose one of the three points, once your on the merry go round. But there’s a reason the 10 counties around DC are the richest, now, in the nation – overpaid and underworked bureaucrats who have no incentive but to continue their jobs. To fix a problem or make anything easier, or to decide that the government effort isn’t working just isn’t in the cards.

Because the political appointee knows about the industry he is to regulate, being human, he will begin to regulate for his friends first. Oh sure, he will treat all the supplicants equally, he must, it is said. But, because he designs the forms and program and largesse criteria he can just so easily craft the forms to meet his needs. If you write the specifications good enough you can exclude everyone but the guy you like, the guy who has perhaps told you, “hey, when you’re done there, you have a job here.” Or as happens more and more often, is the son, cousin, spouse, brother-in-law or neighbor, high school buddy or old law partner who seems to meet the criteria. Odd, yes?

This triangle is strangling the nation. Now we’re arguing over a measly $83 billion of imaginary spending – and every bureaucrat is required. Not a one can be let go. Indeed, the government is continuing to hire people, it hasn’t stopped. Oh, good talent is needed in government – because government is slowly seizing control of pretty much everything – and good talent being human will go to where the money and power is. This slow accretion of bureaucracies is evident in the $3.9 trillion budget which hasn’t done much of anything – or, made it worse. Surely it can’t be said to be working, all the problems remain.

The poor are still poor, the environment and weather are what they are, every investment in alternate energies is a failure awaiting more government money, every sector of the economy now has a czar – yes, they call them this, and I had thought the granting of titles unconstitutional – in the White House to direct the president’s vision – how one man can be so intelligent to be kept up to speed on the many things the government claims it needs to do I don’t know. I have a good head for details, but keeping track of every sector of the economy is not in my grasp. I doubt it is with anyone in the White House. They can’t even grasp the sector they are supposed to be helping and developing and pushing along to the future as if no one could do a thing without the czar’s brilliant insight and access to the president’s ear – so that the big decisions can be made.

Why the hell are we giving all this decision making power to just a few people in a building we’re not allowed to even visit anymore is really beyond my grasp. But, that’s the problem. We have made the president too powerful, we have given to government vast control over everything, and then Congress has sloughed off the actual rules to people who knows who – faceless bureaucrats – and who we argue over the lobbyist-industry insider-bureaucrat revolving door. And few politicians on the hustings seem remotely interested in streamlining any of it, reducing the most ridiculous stuff, and getting the budget’s income and outgo columns in balance.

We’re going to spend ourselves into debt and poverty and have millions of bureaucrats available to help fix the mess they created. This is not good. Neither party is worth anything anymore. What is needed is a third party to come along to shake things up, and begin the great dismantling we need.

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