Fixing Things That Aren’t Broken

Would you buy a used car from this man?

Would you buy a used car from this man?

President Trump issued an Executive Order on March 13, 2017. It’s something like the 19th of his presidency, if anyone is keeping count. It’s grandly titled, “A Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch.” It’s not a plan, it’s not comprehensive and it doesn’t reorganize anything. But it is potentially very dangerous, and worth a look.

Stripped up the pomposity and pretension, it requires that “the head of each agency shall submit to the Director [of the Office of Management and Budget] a proposed plan to reorganize the agency, if appropriate, in order to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of that agency” within six months. The OMB Director then has another six months to

submit to the President a proposed plan to reorganize the executive branch in order to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of agencies.  The proposed plan shall include, as appropriate, recommendations to eliminate unnecessary agencies, components of agencies, and agency programs, and to merge functions.  The proposed plan shall include recommendations for any legislation or administrative measures necessary to achieve the proposed reorganization.

There are vague guidelines for the Director to follow in developing this proposed plan, but they are pretty fuzzy and subjective.

Alaska readers of this blog may recall that Governor Sean Parnell issued a very similar directive. It was called REGS, and proposed to wage regulatory war on unnecessary – as defined by the Governor – regulations. Nothing ever came of it; REGS sank without a trace, and it took no skill of WC’s to predict that was what was going to happen. It may well be that President Trump, who has the attention span of a hyperactive kitten, will move on to other twitter storms.

But its also possible that the President – or more likely, his superego, Steve Bannon – will do some follow-up, which puts the focus on the Director of the Office of Management and Budget.

And that would be former Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R, South Carolina). That would be the same Mulvaney who helped orchestrate a government shutdown over the debt limit. The one who is controversial enough that he was confirmed as Director by a very narrow 51-49 margin. The same Mulvaney who wants to make drastic changes to both Social Security and Medicare.

Now Mulvaney has a pretty full plate already, what with having to raise the debt limit,1 prepare a budget and develop a tax plan. He’s also publicly opposed to increased military spending – causing Senator John McCain to cross-over and vote against him – and to expenditures on the infrastructure, both of which put his at odds with campaign promises of Trump. Cabinet meetings of the Trump Administration must be something else.

For WC’s money, the Trump reorganization is dead on arrival. Any likely reorganizational proposal doesn’t have a chance of getting into law. Yes, there are Congresspersons who loath the EPA, for example, but a majority of both the House and the Senate recognize that the EPA exists because of real problems which are still significantly unsolved. Air quality and water quality are much better than prior to 1971 – there’s no longer an immediate danger that the Cuyahoga River will catch on fire, and dunes of dead fish no longer wash up on Chicago beaches – but outside of the Tea Party caucus, no one believes the problems that have been addressed will stay addressed if the EPA were gone. The same is true for other “reorganizations” that the Republicans trumpet.

That’s not to say Mick Mulvaney doesn’t bear watching. An increasingly distracted Trumpster may very well attempt by Executive Order what he can’t get Congress to accomplish by law. But the courts will sort that out, using the useful precedent of the Republicans’ challenges to President Obama’s efforts in the last administration. Who says irony can’t be fun?



  1. You can anticipate a street riot from the Tea Party caucus in the U.S. House over this one. 

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