There should be a department to eliminate waste, coordinate redundancy and monitor the rule of law in Washington. It doesn’t exist. But it should. While no one wants another department, this one is different.
Congress has no disciplined method to force laws, regulations and rules to fit together. Government makes laws. It really has no way of amending or taking them away. The layers are stifling a once freer nation. Not to mention it has created a bureaucracy where no one is responsible for anything. Bureaucrats guard the portals of progress authorized only to say no, not yes. Waste and redundancy naturally follow.
Everyone agreed the New Jersey Bayonne Bridge needed to be raised to allow larger ships into the port, for example. It would mean billions in revenue to the area. It took 47 approvals from 19 agencies and many years just to get started. The historical building survey alone took a year and $200,000 even though no historical building would be touched. No one had authority to say yes, skip this step.
An environmental group naturally sued, alleging the project would bring in more ships, thereby increasing local traffic. They actually argued for less efficiency so traffic wouldn’t affect quality of life. Losing jobs didn’t appear to factor into quality of life.
President Obama even listed it as a priority. Every politician signed onto its speedy approval. It still took three years for just the approvals. Then the lawsuits held it up for more years. So this isn’t about politics. Neither party can control the bureaucracy.
A small town isn’t immune either. One town couldn’t let residents hook a tractor to a tree that had fallen in the town’s pond without two weeks and $12,000 worth of permits.
In Robeson County, a government entity wanted to purchase some property from a businessman. The initial offer was low so the landowner simply gave them a higher counter offer. The government entity declined, citing the property wasn’t worth nearly the landowner’s counter offer. The landowner agreed and asked would they call over to the tax office and inform it because he sent them the appraised tax value from their own department.
Politicians are actually powerless to fix this bureaucratic mess and besides, government is in gridlock anyway. Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander actually proposed a school bill that was previously proposed by Democrats. Democrats opposed his bill. When Democratic staffers pointed out it was the bill they had wanted, Democratic leaders said they didn’t want Republicans to get credit for their issue.
Every politician has a passion for lawmaking, adding to the complexity. Once enacted, a law develops its own constituencies that wish to protect it. It’s then easy politics to let people keep what they have. No one would have signed on to the billions in subsidies for various programs that exist today — such as paying $147 million to Brazilian cotton farmers. But they now exist as programs grow.
There are 82 teacher training programs, 79 renewable energy programs and 16 to teach personal finance. A department is needed to evaluate if laws and programs contradict one another while monitoring waste and redundancy.
A Law and Waste departments mission would be simply to eliminate inefficient laws and waste. The success of the department would not be measured in what they add, but what they eliminate. Much unlike the Department of Energy, created in 1977 to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil. Despite its mission, our dependence has increased, not decreased. But somehow adding a $24 billion annual budget is perceived as success.
A recent Government Accountability Office Fiscal Report revealed $105.8 billion in improper payments alone encompassing 84 government programs across 18 agencies. They can start there.
The layers and complexity of law mean nothing gets done. For once success should be measured by what we can eliminate. Not what we add.
Phillip Stephens is chairman of the Robeson County Republican Party.