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Monday, March 13, 2017

The Daily Combover - March 13, 2017

Four months ago we started to hear rumors that Trump was going to be making appointments in his cabinet that were the antithesis to the roles of the cabinet.

Three months ago, it started to happen. As Ed Kilgore pointed out:
But perhaps the most disturbing feature of the Trump cabinet so far is the number of appointees who do not believe in the core missions of the agencies they are being asked to run. Indeed, they seem designed to sabotage any effort to fulfill those missions.
We will have a pretty dramatic example in former Texas governor Rick Perry, whom Trump has tapped as his secretary of Energy. Perry famously proposed to eliminate that department (and two others) during his first run for president in 2012, and even more famously could not remember its name in a candidate debate that probably doomed his White House aspirations. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t repeat that same pledge in his subsequent presidential run, though his underlying hostility to any energy policy deeper than “Drill, baby, drill” did not seem to change.
Other Trump cabinet picks are equally conspicuous in their near-hatred for the historic roles of the entities they may soon supervise.
Perhaps by the time of his confirmation hearings, EPA Administrator–designee Scott Pruitt may be able to think of a single EPA regulation he favors. But it will take some hard work and ingenuity to find it. His official biography as Oklahoma’s attorney general boasts that this fossil-fuel enthusiast is “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.” The venerable Sierra Club described his appointment as “like putting an arsonist in charge of fighting fires.”
Labor Secretary–designee Andrew Puzder, CEO of the company that owns the Carl’s Jr. and Hardees fast-food chains, will if confirmed have the rare distinction of rapidly moving from being a prime target of a federal agency’s regulatory efforts to becoming its chief. He has opposed higher minimum wages, the expanded overtime pay rules promulgated by the Obama administration, and (of course) making companies that operate through franchises accountable for the labor practices of franchisees. The department he has been tapped to lead found that more than half of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. locations had wage violations, according to a Bloomberg BNA analysis this year.
Trump’s choice for Education secretary, Betsy DeVos, is part of a husband-wife billionaire team that has devoted its time for decades to the cause of making public funds available to private schools via vouchers or to minimally regulated charter schools. It says a lot that some education advocates are reassuring themselves that the damage she could do to public schools will be contained by the relatively limited role of the federal government in K-12 education.
It would not be accurate to say putative attorney general Jeff Sessions would just as soon shut down the U.S. Department of Justice. But it is true that in many respects he will execute a 180-degree turn in the policies and priorities of his department, much like Puzder can be expected to do. Sessions is almost certain, for example, to stop prosecuting recently proliferating incidents of state and local government voting-rights violations and instead ramp up prosecution of the phantom menace of “voter fraud.”
The appointment that is perhaps hardest to explain (other than as perpetuation of the job involved as a “diversity hire”) is Dr. Ben Carson at HUD. He has zero experience in this field. But he has manifested a strong hostility to federal anti-poverty efforts, which makes him another potential warrior against his own employees.
Granted, not all of them have survived the office long enough to destroy it. As Trump continues to point out, his Cabinet is still missing a few key pieces:
And so last night when Trump announced last night he was going to make a big reveal today in which he was going to announce how he planned on reorganizing the executive branch, the world trembled. Was this lunatic going to move Ben Carson to the Pentagon and slide General Mattis over to HUD? Would this all be a game of musical chairs?



It turns out the joke is on us. The actual Executive Order (his 29th for those of you keeping track at home) is even worse than we imagined:

COMPREHENSIVE PLAN FOR REORGANIZING THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:
Section 1.  Purpose.  This order is intended to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of the executive branch by directing the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (Director) to propose a plan to reorganize governmental functions and eliminate unnecessary agencies (as defined in section 551(1) of title 5, United States Code), components of agencies, and agency programs.
This alone should make you worry. But let's dig in.
Sec. 2.  Proposed Plan to Improve the Efficiency, Effectiveness, and Accountability of Federal Agencies, Including, as Appropriate, to Eliminate or Reorganize Unnecessary or Redundant Federal Agencies.  (a)  Within 180 days of the date of this order, the head of each agency shall submit to the Director a proposed plan to reorganize the agency, if appropriate, in order to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of that agency. 
Looking for redundancies to eliminate in a corporate environment can be a good idea.  In the government? You're bound to find redundancies because the government provides so many different services to so many different entities. It's easier to localize certain things in each Cabinet Department rather than having one universal source.  For example, the Secret Service operates under the Treasury Department whereas most law enforcement, including the FBI, operates under the Department of Justice. But then the CIA actually operates on its own outside of the DoJ and the State Department. Etc.
(b)  The Director shall publish a notice in the Federal Register inviting the public to suggest improvements in the organization and functioning of the executive branch and shall consider the suggestions when formulating the proposed plan described in subsection (c) of this section.
Clearly Trump voters know more about the inner workings of the Executive Branch than lifelong Federal appointees.
(c)  Within 180 days after the closing date for the submission of suggestions pursuant to subsection (b) of this section, the Director shall submit to the President a proposed plan to reorganize the executive branch in order to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of agencies.  The proposed plan shall include, as appropriate, recommendations to eliminate unnecessary agencies, components of agencies, and agency programs, and to merge functions.  The proposed plan shall include recommendations for any legislation or administrative measures necessary to achieve the proposed reorganization.
(d)  In developing the proposed plan described in subsection (c) of this section, the Director shall consider, in addition to any other relevant factors:
(i)    whether some or all of the functions of an agency, a component, or a program are appropriate for the Federal Government or would be better left to State or local governments or to the private sector through free enterprise;
(ii)   whether some or all of the functions of an agency, a component, or a program are redundant, including with those of another agency, component, or program; 
(iii)  whether certain administrative capabilities necessary for operating an agency, a component, or a program are redundant with those of another agency, component, or program; 
(iv)   whether the costs of continuing to operate an agency, a component, or a program are justified by the public benefits it provides; and
(v)    the costs of shutting down or merging agencies, components, or programs, including the costs of addressing the equities of affected agency staff.
(e) In developing the proposed plan described in subsection (c) of this section, the Director shall consult with the head of each agency and, consistent with applicable law, with persons or entities outside the Federal Government with relevant expertise in organizational structure and management.  
So basically the President has just given himself the right to shut down anything he wants for whatever reason he wants.  This is Kilgore's worries incarnate.
Sec. 3.  General Provisions.  (a)  Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:
(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or
(ii) the functions of the Director relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.
(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.
(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.
And it basically indemnifies the White House against any damages that might occur when we no longer have a Department of Education or Health and Human Services or Commerce or Treasury, etc.
DONALD J. TRUMP
THE WHITE HOUSE,
    March 13, 2017.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, we know. You love putting your name on things.



Catch you on the flip side.

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