By James A. Kidney
Presidential Rasputin Steve Bannon called for “deconstructing the administrative state” at a convention of those-who-used-to-be-known-as-Reagan-conservatives-but-are-now-just-Trump-nuts Thursday at the new MGM gambling palace in Maryland. “Deconstructing the administrative state” echoes Lenin after a couple bottles of vodka screaming in Red Square, or maybe just a long-haired 19-year-old outside the 1968 Democratic convention. It is both threatening and laughably cracked.
The phrase probably is just a word pudding for the old Republican oligarch’s favorite book, A Treasury of Economic Nonsense, a political Kama Sutra coauthored during a fevered coupling of Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman. These are the erotic (to Republicans) positions that cause enthusiastic ejaculations by Paul Ryan – no taxes, no rules, no government, except to buy military equipment and to protect patents.
Give Bannon credit for PR. “Deconstructing administrative excess” certainly is gentler sounding than “gutting the government.” Once you are accustomed to the sound of it, the phrase is less Red Revolutionary in tone and more the sleepy academic title of an easy elective at a second-class business school. (“Class, wouldn’t the organization operate with less confusion if we cut the 40 Vice Presidents to 35 on the org chart?”)
But Bannon’s phrase is crazy because it is all insane economic theory and not based on actual economics or the even less serious “science” of politics, or even on How the World Really Works.
Class, let’s dissect the cadaver. Be prepared for the rancid odor of mental decay from the corpse.
First, the phrase, and whatever vague “policies” it stands for, suggests America has set out to design a state of regulatory excess that grew without plan or purpose, like a plant in Little House of Horrors. Despite decades of trying to prove it, the evidence of “excess” is thin or inconsistent. The usual lament is that regulations are “job killers.” Of course, in the fevered theater of the GOP, every government act at any level is a job killer. But query: Don’t regulations create jobs? They require scrubbers for polluting plants that must be built, installed and maintained. Inspectors must be hired to keep food safe. The professions must enforce standards which require education and monitoring. You get the idea. Surely there are unnecessary regulations to be identified and removed. Regulations might in some cases reduce productivity; but regulations rarely “kill” jobs. They more often create them.
Bannon’s phrase also is intended for an audience of nearly all white men and women, many very well off or wealthy, who regularly embarrass their ancestors and progeny by claiming to be victims of something or someone. “The administrative state” is shorthand for civil rights laws, income transfer from the wealthy to the poor and sick, clean air and water, public access to nature, free education, etc. Bannon’s phrase allows the oligarch to say, “I’m not racist, or against helping the poor. I just think we are saddled with too many rules and regulations that kill jobs and steal our freedoms. We just need to moderate things a bit.”
But most regulations spring from a desire in the body politic for economic, social, medical and environmental protection. Bannon (and his student, Donnie Trump, age 8), as well as their audience of oligarchs and white supremacists, see these goals of the commonweal as interfering with their own “freedoms” to live as they damn well please while making obscene profits.
So let’s strip “deconstruction of the administrative state” of its pompous disguise and call it what it is: Creating a world designed by oligarchs at the expense of the freedoms now accorded to the rest of us.