As Congress and their symbiotic bureaucratic, media and lobbyist co-conspirators return to Washington after a month’s vacation, they will find they missed all the explosive summer fun.
It was not pleasurable but the government did detonate the Colorado Gold King Mine in August when the Environmental Protection Agency tested how new procedures could be used to clean-up one of the hundreds of abandoned mines in the American West.
The EPA has been struggling with pollution control since 1980 when newspaper reports of benzene and dioxin traces were found in property owned by a school at Love Canal New York and Congress established a Superfund under the EPA to clean up the most dangerous chemical waste sites.
Unfortunately, the EPA test turned into 3 million gallons of toxic mustard-tinted sludge containing lead and arsenic spilling into a river system extending into New Mexico and Utah.
Unable to cleanse its own 1,300 sites, EPA immediately changed the subject by issuing a new regulation ordering the private sector to clean up methane gas emissions, threatening recovery in the oil business.
True, much in Washington was much less dramatic as the bureaucracy turned out its millions and millions of checks to Social Security and government retirees, Medicare health enrollees, veterans, students, farmers, subsidized businesses, states, contractors, employees, researchers, and grant recipients.
While sending checks is pretty simple, the fraud and error rates totaled 12 percent, with improper payments for seven Health and Human Services programs alone announced at $78 billion for 2014.
One of my first experiences in government, in the 1980s, was to visit the Federal Aviation Administration to view its plans for a massive new mechanized air traffic control system and its need for more flexible personnel rules.
Three decades later this August, FAA was finally installing new software. Unfortunately, this failed and cancelled 476 airline flights.
My old agency itself, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) announced the number of hacked personnel and security clearance files increased from 18 to 22 million, which national intelligence head James Clapper said not only increased exposure risks but that future hackers could change information to make the guilty appear harmless and the innocent compromised.
At the same time, the Internal Revenue Service found that 610,000 tax files had also been hacked.
Housing and Urban Development Inspector General David Montoya reported 25,000 low income public housing tenants were richer than allowed, one earning $497,000 a year.
After setting the destruction of the Islamic State as a presidential priority, the summer found only 54 moderates graduating from the “train and equip” program to confront ISIL in Syria although 72 more were promised soon.
Worse, five of the New Syria Force's graduates were captured by al-Qaida affiliate and nominal ISIL opponent al Nusra soon after they arrived in Syria and the force has degraded since with many of their U.S. arms now in enemy hands.
Meanwhile, the economy struggled to exceed the anemic 2 percent growth against historic recoveries twice that rate. The administration’s solution was to increase the minimum wage and get tough on business.
During the summer doldrums, Wendy’s restaurants announced higher minimums would cause them to cut jobs and increase automation. Likewise, investment bank Keefe, Bruyette & Woods estimated that “Since 2009, 49 financial institutions have paid various government entities and private plaintiffs nearly $190 billion in fines and settlements” with only one conviction.
How many jobs could have been created with $190 billion?
Following last month’s embarrassment over 30 years of National Institutes of Health advice against cholesterol and fats proving wrong, a Columbia University study questioned the national Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommending breakfasts to reduce overweight, finding the extra meal actually increased heaviness in overweight people. Duh.
A recent study in the journal PLOS Biology reported half of all such biomedical studies are flawed.
And all of this governmental incompetence happened over just one month.
What will Congress do? The leadership plans the old Kabuki routine of a stop-gap funding bill or a continuing resolution before the end of the September fiscal year and last minute increases in the debt limit and highway trust fund with no real reform.
The leadership has promised that there will be no government shutdown and no debt default but the presidential aspirants and many back-benchers in both parties are threatening to do both.
The nation’s top public administration professor Paul Light concludes the national government cannot faithfully execute its laws.
The national government is doing everything, and nothing works. No wonder Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are toping the polls. No one seems to care that the bloated ossified national government simply is dysfunctional.
The administrative state is imploding and the only solutions are a socialist’s more of the same old statist bureaucracy or a blond autocrat on a white horse promising personal benevolent authoritarianism.
Donald Devine is senior scholar at the Fund for American Studies, the author of "America’s Way Back: Reclaiming Freedom, Tradition and Constitution," and was Ronald Reagan’s director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management during his first term. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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