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Friday, January 06, 2017

Looks like we've got us the makings of witch hunt

by digby

You've undoubtedly heard about the Trump transition team asking for specific names of people involved in federal agencies who have worked on issues they don't "believe" in, like climate change and women's issues. This is very weird. Seeking out individuals in the career jobs in the executive branch  for whatever reason is not something that's ever been done.

They do have federal protections but now the congress is sneaking in some "special" rules to make it easier to deal with troublesome types who perhaps refuse to phony up data or those who are in jobs they just want to eliminate entirely:
Meanwhile, while everyone was focusing on the melee over the GOP trying to destroy the House ethics office, House Republicans led by Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) snuck in a revival of a rule that could decimate federal agencies. The rule is known as the “Holman Rule” (affectionately called the “Armageddon Rule,” by some Democrats) – a 1876 procedural rule that permits any member of Congress to propose an amendment to an appropriations bill that targets a specific government employee or program. Talk of “appropriations” and “amendments” sounds all impersonal and procedural – but let’s be clear. This rule could have significant impact on thousands of federal workers and their families. With the Holman Rule in place, a lone Congressman from any district could propose cutting a federal employee’s salary—or even an entire program budget– down to $1. 
Prior to this week’s Congressional bedlam, Congress’ involvement with the budget of federal agencies has been more of a broad-strokes kind of thing. Congress appropriates funds for federal agencies, and those funds can be increased or decreased; but Congress does not identify specific programs or specific employees against whom to wield its mighty power of the purse. Things work this way for several reasons, including 1) civil service rules; and 2) common sense. The federal government is the single largest employer in the nation. When individual Congressmen can propose legislation to cut specific salaries or eliminate specific positions, the livelihood of every federal employee is precariously balanced between politics and pragmatism.
Those who support the Holman Rule argue that it will work to eliminate government waste, and create accountability within all federal agencies. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) defended this drastic maneuver by pointing out that voters elected Trump with the hope of fundamentally changing the way government works, and that the Holman Rule does precisely that. 
In McCarthy’s words, “This is a big rule change inside there that allows people to get at places they hadn’t before.” Well that’s sure accurate. I’d say it’s a “big change” for the thousands of men and women working for the federal government to know that their jobs can now be specifically targeted by any member of Congress.
Leave it to Kevin "loose lips" McCarthy to spill the beans.

I'm thinking we may very well see the "reverse Atlas Shrugged" scenario that Daniel Drezner wrote about  here:
The premise of “Atlas Shrugged” is that a slow accretion of government rules, regulations and corrupt bargains forces the country’s true entrepreneurs into internal exile somewhere in Colorado. There they thrive in a blissful, gold-standard-based utopia while the rest of the country suffers under the weight of government and the rent-seeking looters and moochers who need the state to make any money. 
As a slow-motion depiction of what it is like for a country to fall apart when corruption pervades every facet of life and societal norms disintegrate, “Atlas Shrugged” is pretty gripping. So here’s my question: What would happen to the United States if the reverse “Atlas Shrugged” scenario occurred?  
After all, if you believe Donald Trump and his boosters, his Cabinet of billionaires represents the finest that the free enterprise system has to offer. What if the people who self-identify as the makers take over the state and all the bureaucrats disappear into the ether?
Drezner says he's hearing from plenty of bureaucrats that they are decamping to the private sector. And the Intel chiefs who testified yesterday morning on Capitol Hill made it clear that those agencies are in danger of losing important personnel.

I worked in the private sector my whole life and my observation is that most of the John Galts of the world are a lot like the Donald Trump. The best of them are people who are smart enough to know what they don't know and have some trust in people who do. There aren't very many of those people. Mostly, I'm shocked that business succeeds as well as it does in their hands. Luck is involved, buhleeemeee.

So, maybe we're going to see exactly what happens when the swamp is drained of career professionals (aka moochers) and DC is turned into Trump's gulch. Should be fun.