Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Politicization of the Bureaucracy

The Fiscal Times relates that 142 years ago, the federal government undertook to replace the "spoils" system of awarding federal jobs with an allegedly neutral and professional bureaucracy in order to tackle rampant corruption. In 1939, Congress passed the Hatch Act, prohibiting federal employees from conducting political activities. The problem is, it hasn't worked:

Seventy-four years later, the civil-service system has been exposed as a failure – at least in this administration.  Instead of an independent workforce of professionals who implement federal regulation in an even-handed and competent manner, we have returned to the era of partisan retribution and politically-motivated malevolence. 
This goes far beyond the simple incompetence of government eminently displayed by the Department of Health and Human Services in its rollout of the Affordable Care Act exchanges. ...  
This, however, pales in comparison to the politicization of the civil service exposed over the last few months at the IRS, and perhaps even more so in the shutdown.  In May, the Inspector General for the IRS found that the agency had targeted groups applying for tax-exempt status on the basis of their political beliefs, especially those groups that referenced the Tea Party. Those target lists continued to be used as IRS officials such as Commissioner Douglas Shulman testified to Congress that the agency conducted no such targeting. 
Nor was that that the only way in which the IRS scrutinized President Obama’s opposition.  USA Today reported three weeks ago that the IRS specifically targeted groups that had "anti-Obama rhetoric" in their literature.  
[But] [e]ven this pales in comparison to the example shown by the National Parks Service during the shutdown.  ... 
When the shutdown went into effect last week, NPS reacted not by going off the job or closing national parks alone, but by actively blocking access to areas normally accessible 24/7 without impediment. That included putting up signs and guards at the World War II Memorial on the National Mall, despite the fact that (a) the memorial was built with private funds, and (b) there are no gates or barriers under normal conditions at the memorial – nor at the Lincoln Memorial, nor at the Martin Luther King Memorial, both of which were similarly shut down by the National Parks Service. 
When people simply moved the barricades to access the memorials, the supposedly shut down NPS arrived on scene to wire them together .  When people gathered anyway, the US Park Police arrived on horseback to disperse them. Stephen Hayes asked an NPS spokesperson who ordered these actions, and was told that the Office of Management and Budget – a White House agency – ordered them to barricade the memorials.  
It gets even worse than that.  Unknown at the time but reported this week, the National Parks Service chased down a group of senior citizens at Yellowstone National Park when the shutdown commenced on October 1st.  After informing the busload of tourists, some of whom were tourists from other countries, that the park was no longer accessible, the rangers locked them into a closed hotel for several hours with armed guards posted at the exits.  When finally allowed to get back on the bus and leave Yellowstone, rangers stopped the tourists from pausing to take pictures, chasing after them for “recreating.” 
That arguably constitutes kidnapping or false arrest, especially conducted under color of authority for no other reason than to score political points in the shutdown.  One of the tourists called it “Gestapo tactics,” and an NPS ranger anonymously confirmed this as a deliberate strategy by NPS.  “We’ve been told to make life as difficult for people as we can,” the anonymous ranger told The Washington Times. “It’s disgusting.” 
It certainly is, and it’s part of a disturbing pattern emerging in the second term of Barack Obama. When law enforcement and tax enforcement become rankly political, Americans can no longer trust in their federal government, even when it’s not shut down – and that won’t stop after Obama leaves office, either. ...

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