At CPAC this week Stephen Bannon, the Chief Advisor and intellectual heft behind the Twittering infant that sits in the Oval Office, provided a little glimpse of the future he has planned for all of us.
In the clearest explanation for why nearly all of Trump’s cabinet choices are known mostly for despising and attacking the very Federal agencies they’ve been designated to lead, Bannon explained—in very clear language–that they weren’t appointed to lead these agencies, but to destroy them:
Atop Trump’s agenda, Bannon said, was the “deconstruction of the administrative state” — meaning a system of taxes, regulations and trade pacts that the president and his advisers believe stymie economic growth and infringe upon one’s sovereignty.
“If you look at these Cabinet nominees, they were selected for a reason, and that is deconstruction,” Bannon said. He posited that Trump’s announcement withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership was “one of the most pivotal moments in modern American history.”
The crippling or wholesale elimination of Federal agencies that ensure we receive such things as clean air, clean water, fair labor laws, fair housing standards, anti-discrimination laws, financial protections, food and drug safety, national education standards and the like, has been a goal of far-right “thinkers” for decades. Their rationale, propagated by corporate and industry-funded think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation, has always been that that the existence of these “unelected” agencies represents a mortal threat to American “sovereignty and self-government.” This is exactly the line Bannon was peddling at CPAC today. It is delusional, right-wing garbage.
The reality is that these extensions of the Executive Branch—the Department of Labor, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Education, for example– exist to serve the interests of all the American people, performing the painstaking and complex task of regulating the very things that make all Americans’ lives worth living. They perform this function because history has clearly shown that neither the Congress nor the states are remotely up to the task of doing it. They have neither the time, the expertise, the manpower, or the ability to handle such mammoth responsibilities in a country of 330 million people.
For example, these are the Department of Labor’s core functions:
The purpose of the Department of Labor is to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights. In carrying out this mission, the Department of Labor administers and enforces more than 180 federal laws and thousands of federal regulations. These mandates and the regulations that implement them cover many workplace activities for about 10 million employers and 125 million workers.
When EPA responds to a massive toxic waste spill or a Deepwater Horizon explosion, or simply tells a coal company that it can’t pollute the surrounding air and water with its carcinogens, it is taking on a task on behalf of all Americans, not just the locals who happen to be affected. When the Department of Health and Human Services administers a nationwide program of medical care for the elderly, it is responding to the needs of all Americans, not just the well-off.
The nature of “Federal” agencies is just that—to preserve uniformity throughout the country so that (in theory at least) no single state or locality is treated with preference over others. The hundreds of thousands of people who work for these agencies are there because of their expertise and their dedication. They are not politicians. They are not “elected.” But they do work for all of us.
Bannon knows that there is no realistic substitute for these Federal agencies. When Bannon talks about dismantling the “Administrative state,” what he’s really talking about is allowing corporations and industry the absolute right to do whatever they want, whenever and wherever they want, regardless of its harmful impact on American citizens. “Deconstruction,” in the pie-in-the sky fevered dreams of the Heritage Foundation, means exactly what it sounds like, as the report linked above illustrates— a process by which no Agency regulation for protection of the public may occur without Congressional approval. In practice, with the current composition of the Republican-dominated Congress, this amounts to complete corporate predation, the absolute elimination of our ability as citizens to halt corporate malfeasance. In essence, he’s talking about corporate-enforced slavery, aided and abetted by a Congress corrupted through and through with corporate largesse.
Bannon is a fanatic, a clear and present danger to the America we all know and care about. Unfortunately, his fanaticism, poured into the ear of someone as fundamentally incurious and vain as Donald Trump, brings us closer to the wholesale destruction of this country than any of us could have expected in our lifetimes.