Has The Federal Government Become Ungovernable?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Has the federal government become ungovernable?  It certainly seems that way if we take the reports on recent failures at face value.  Or for that matter anytime something goes wrong. 

Apparently, low level IRS employees and mid-level state department employees are running amok.  And who knows what the other federal employees are doing.  Everyone running around doing whatever, however they want.  Seemingly immune to any management controls senior managers might institute.  And the actions, according to news reports, are beyond the control of our elected and appointed Constitutional officers. who were chosen to manage the Executive Branch departments and agencies.  Over in Congress, government employees appear at "oversight" hearings where they lie is such a non-elite word, so let's say, dissemble without consequence.  In the end, we're are left with pontifications that "they should be held accountable."  Which provokes the question, If not by you, then by whom?

In speaking about the IRS scandal, President Obama said:, "And they have to be held fully accountable. Because the IRS as an independent agency requires absolute integrity, and people have to have confidence that they’re … applying the laws in a nonpartisan way.”

"And they have to be held fully accountable."  This is an odd phrasing to be used by the person who is the chief of the Executive Branch and responsible for the proper operation of the executive departments and agencies, of which the IRS is one.  If not you, Mr. President, then whom? 

Obviously, if there were crimes committed, we have a system to deal with that.  But there seems to be no argument that there were policy, operation and management control problems, i.e., administrative problems, that permitted these low level employee actions to occur.  So why the passive voice?  Where is the Executive of action who will see that this doesn't happen again?  Is there some confusion in the White House as to who was elected to oversee the Executive Department.  Is there some confusion as to what an independent agency of the federal government is?   

Yes, the IRS is an independent agency, but that doesn't mean it is not answerable to the Executive for administrative matters.  It means that the IRS has a direct pipe to the White House and the Congress without going through the Secretary of Treasury and other political appointees at the department.  

Let's not get tangled up in what senior officials knew and when.  We all know now, so the question to those hired to run the federal government is, What are you going to do to ensure that it can't happen again, that it is discovered as soon as possible if it does and to improve the IRS culture so that employees would find such behavior unconscionable in the future? 

Has a fourth branch of government arose?  One that is unmanageable by the elected and appointed officials in the Executive Branch, unable to be monitored and given oversight by the Legislative Branch and that on the whole ignores the Judicial Branch?  Has the federal bureaucracy grown so large as to be ungovernable?  If so, should we not pare it down; return to the core responsibilities; moving other programs to lower levels of government closer to the voters or perhaps shut them down?  Fair and non-partisan collection of taxes, conduct of foreign relations, including ensuring the safety of diplomatic personnel, providing for a national defense are all core federal responsibilities, yet we seem to be doing so much that these core duties are suffering.  

Which provokes the question, Has the federal government become so large and so involved in non-core activities that it is ungovernable by  our Constitutionally elected representatives leaving us at the mercy of unelected and amorphously "accountable" bureaucrats who act in their own interests and according to their own partisan beliefs?   

Should we as citizens of the United States not act to bring the federal government to heel and back into the control of our hired help, i.e., elected representatives?  If not us, then whom?

Jeff Brown
Georgetown

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