Many years and a few lifetimes ago, I received Presidential appointments to serve in the federal government. It was an experience I will never forget and I was honored to serve.
It was an eye-opening experience in how our Washington government actually works, or doesn’t work as the case may be.
I went to DC and assumed the post of Associate Administrator for Public Affairs at the General Services Administration with all the idealism of Jimmy Stewart in the 1939 classic “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”.
It didn’t take long to find out that I was just the latest in a long line of naïve greenhorns who actually believed that they could make a difference.
In fact it took the sum total of about a week.
On my first day in the new job, Dale, my deputy and a good guy who was a career government official, was taking me around introducing me to the folks in the office I would now lead. We were a team of like minded patriots, I foolishly believed.
I soon realized that the federal government’s “corporate culture” is dominated by career bureaucrats with no passion for their product and no incentive to improve. Appointees, like me, were tolerated not welcomed. They would wait us out.
When I met everyone, the team was very nice and welcoming, even encouraging. But one guy was dismissive from the very start. Snooty and snarky, he was the very definition of an arrogant career federal official. A walking example of why Americans despise bullying bureaucrats.
Make no mistake, the federal government is run by these bureaucrats no matter who is President.
As Dale introduced me to him, he extended his hand and with a slight smirk on his face said, “Welcome Mr. Dorinson. I am a ‘We Be’.”
I asked, “What is a ‘We Be’?”
His reply was curt and direct. He wanted to let me know who was really in charge.
“We are the permanent government. We be here when you come. We be here when you leave. Enjoy your stay.”
From that moment I realized that the real power in Washington was not the political parties or the White House or even the lobbyists. It was the army of bureaucrats throughout every government agency who are our masters.
President-elect Donald Trump and his team will soon run smack into this wall of “We Bees” and the culture they represent. It is the single greatest threat to the success of a Trump Administration.
But it’s not just the bureaucrats who cling to a 20th-century status quo government. The Democratic Party and its partners in the media establishment picked Hillary Clinton, a 30-year government veteran, as their change agent. The “We Bees” must have been thrilled.
Hillary would not have asked Congress to make it easier to fire workers for poor performance or malfeasance. Her administration would not be writing regulations and rules to make doing business in the United States less onerous.
And a President Hillary would have appointed cabinet secretaries and agency heads who had no interest in reducing the bureaucratic ranks or eliminating the unnecessary programs that keeps them employed.
The “We Bees” protect their turf. They will not give up the power they have accumulated over decades without a fight. Look for many to hunker down and quietly subvert Trump’s agenda from inside the federal leviathan.
But in 2016, they lost. Bigly. And this presents an opportunity for new a team of patriots to make real changes in the massive federal system.
There is chance that Trump’s band of government outsiders can break the hold on our vast, bloated federal bureaucracy. Many in the Trump Administration have private-sector experience taking on inefficiencies and could bring common-sense solutions to an unwieldy system.
Maybe, for example, DC bureaucrats can stop bankrupting California farmers over a two-inch bait fish with a one-year life cycle.
So here is your Cowboy Wisdom for the Week.
“Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status”.
Only time will tell if the loss of status will cause lasting damage to the bureaucratic quo, but we can hope.
President Trump has said he hopes to rein in the federal bureaucracy, making it more accountable to the taxpayers, reducing the size of the federal payroll, and eliminating the bad apples who clog the system. If he succeeds he will have done a great service to the nation.
The “We Bees” should be put on notice that just like anyone in the private sector they serve at the pleasure of their employers – in this case, the people.
And while currently it is difficult to fire them, they can be transferred out of Washington to the government equivalent of Siberia.
How about a nice cozy regional EPA office in Alaska near the Arctic Circle counting Polar Bears and measuring those icebergs that are melting?