December 05, 2007

Not the Kremlin after all

Back in January of this year I wrote a bit about a new Executive Order decreeing that all Federal agencies henceforth must have political appointees at their head. Then in February I revisited the issue because Paul Krugman had discovered that this had been a goal laid out by the Heritage Foundation in 2001 as Bush was being inaugurated.

The blueprint for Bush-era governance was laid out in a January 2001 manifesto from the Heritage Foundation, titled “Taking Charge of Federal Personnel.” The manifesto’s message, in brief, was that the professional civil service should be regarded as the enemy of the new administration’s conservative agenda. And there’s no question that Heritage’s thinking reflected that of many people on the Bush team.

How should the civil service be defeated? First and foremost, Heritage demanded that politics take precedence over know-how: the new administration “must make appointment decisions based on loyalty first and expertise second.”

Second, Heritage called for a big increase in outsourcing — “contracting out as a management strategy.” This would supposedly reduce costs, but it would also have the desirable effect of reducing the total number of civil servants.

Well, now comes news that the Democrats in Congress are moving to strike down that Executive Order.

It is a single sentence, on page 147 of the annual appropriations bill funding the White House, listed under the title "Additional General Provisions."

The 18-word clause eliminates the money to pay for political appointees in each federal agency whose jobs are to approve any new regulations. By cutting the money for the positions, Congress would effectively repeal President George W. Bush's 11-month old initiative.

Good. The reason the Civil Service Act was passed in 1883 was to end the revolving door of appointees moving in and out of government service as new Administrations took over and to fill the ranks of Federal jobs with qualified people rather than political friends (Mike Brown, can you hear me now?). Interestingly, the final impetus for the Act's passage was President Garfield's assassination by a "frustrated office-seeker." I remember reading that description of Charles Guiteau in history books and not quite comprehending what it meant at the time. As it turned out, Guiteau had not been given a job when Garfield came into office, and he was angry about it.

Posted by Linkmeister at December 5, 2007 09:32 AM | TrackBack

What took my Party so GodDAMNED long?

Posted by: Serge at December 6, 2007 05:38 AM