Crippling Our Civil Service

Bill Scher

Bill Scher blogs for Campaign for America’s Future.

Today’s NY Times reports that Bush issued a new executive order intended to undermine our civil service:

…each [government] agency must have a regulatory policy office run by a political appointee, to supervise the development of rules and documents providing guidance to regulated industries. The White House will thus have a gatekeeper in each agency to analyze the costs and the benefits of new rules and to make sure the agencies carry out the president’s priorities.

This strengthens the hand of the White House in shaping rules that have, in the past, often been generated by civil servants and scientific experts. It suggests that the administration still has ways to exert its power after the takeover of Congress by the Democrats.

The Bushies sought to spin this power grab as just “a classic good-government measure that will make federal agencies more open and accountable.”

Hilarious. Especially on the same day that Dem Rep. Henry Waxman and GOP Rep. Tom Davis hold a public hearing on how Bush’s political appointees pressured our civil servant scientists to downplay climate change … and the White House refuses both of their requests to release relevant documents. (HuffPo’s Lane Hudson flagged this earlier.)

Check out these clips from today’s hearing: Rep. Henry Waxman walking through how the White House manipulated climate change reports, and Rep. Jim Cooper reveals that the White House wouldn’t let a top official say the phrase “global warming.”

This is classic secret and unaccountable government. Classic bad government. Classic conservative government.

This power grab is not simply a feature of George W. Bush’s personal, monarch-esque tendencies.

It is the foundation of how Washington conservatives believe our government should be managed, or more accurately, mismanaged.

In January 2001, when Bush was assuming the presidency, the right-wing Heritage Foundation issued a white paper: Taking Charge of Federal Personnel.

That report effectively counseled Bush to suffocate the ability of our civil servants to provide objective and factual information, making it impossible for the public to make informed decisions and communicate our will to policymakers in Washington.

It sniffed at the “Public Administration Model” of government as “emphasiz[ing] the Progressive ideal–a value-free ‘scientific’ program of government administration.”

Instead, it preferred the “Political Administration Model” which it defined as “providing presidential leadership to committed top political officials…holding them and their subordinates personally accountable for achievement of the President’s election-endorsed and value-defined program.”

We’ve seen Bush implement Heritage’s vision of conservative government for six years. We’ve seen his political appointees:

•  Run roughshod over our intelligence community.

•  Threaten to fire Medicare staff for telling Congress accurate cost estimates of White House prescription drug plans.

•  Use the Social Security Administration to pump out misinformation.

•  And of course, pressure scientists in multiple government agencies to mislead the public about global warming. (Check out the newly released survey of 1600 climate scientists from the Union of Concerned Scientists, finding “435 occurrences of political interference in their work over the past five years.”)

That’s conservative government in action. Squelching factual information so it can cater to its corporate backers and pursue a reckless foreign policy agenda.

The voters rejected conservative government in November.

But Washington conservatives fundamentally do not believe in representative government that responsibly informs the public and responds to the will of the people.

And so, the conservative agenda to cripple our civil service will continue, until the people take the White House back.

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