12 October 2017

The swamp is thriving


The nation’s capital is filled with liberals, a misnomer denoting Americans who want to expand the size and scope of the state. That it should be so is unsurprising, since the federal government is the city’s largest employer. The government may not be as generous an employer as the veritable smorgasbord of law firms and lobbying groups that feast on the bounty generated by the productive bit of the citizenry, but stingy it is not. To wit, five out of the ten richest counties in the United States are concentrated within the Washington metropolitan area.

Some of these people are my friends and they have been having a tough time since that fateful November day when Donald Trump became President-elect of the United States of America. The capital city, the myth has it, was built on a swamp. That is, at best, partially true. But, the murky circumstances of Washington’s founding gave rise to the perfect metaphor for the cynicism and degeneracy of our political class – and occasioned Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp.”

Of course, every President in modern memory has run as an “outsider,” promised to clean the Augean Stables that is the nation’s capital, and change the political culture in Washington. None have succeeded. The marble-clad Parasite on the Potomac is thriving, devouring the once-principled and idealistic men and women who venture there. That’s because Administrations come and go, but bureaucracy remains permanent. You cannot change it, but it will sure as heck change you.

Consider our recently departed Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price. When he was just an ordinary Republican Congressman from Georgia, Price vilified the Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives for desiring to buy eight new passenger jets for government use – so as to avoid mingling with the unwashed masses they are meant to serve.

After a backlash, the Democrats cut the number of jets from eight to four, but that didn’t go far enough for the Georgian defender of the public purse. “I think we’ve made it halfway of where we ought to and that is cut it from eight to four jets,” Price said in 2009. “Now we need to cut it from four jets to zero jets. This is just another example of fiscal irresponsibility run amok in Congress right now.”

Fast forward to 2017. Between May and September of this year, investigative journalists from Politico found, Price spent more than $1 million of his department’s funds on travel, chartering both private jets and military aircraft. Many of his flights were between cities that are easily accessible by train and car, and have frequent commercial airline service. Price, still smarting from the Republican failure to repeal and replace Obamacare, was forced out of office on September 29.

My liberal friends were ecstatic. Alas, their schadenfreude was short lived. Under orders from the President, the Department of Health and Human Services removed the Obama-era rule obliging employers to provide insurance coverage for contraception to their employees. This is just the latest of Trump’s moves to gut the controversial law – a process that the President started on his first day in office when he directed the government to “waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay implementation of any requirement of … [Obamacare] that would impose a fiscal burden” on the citizenry.

Liberals bemoan Trump’s actions as sabotage. They are right, but so is Trump. Not only was he elected on the explicit promise of getting rid of Obamacare, but the law, which was passed with not a single Republican vote, was so sloppily written that it can be abused in any number of different ways.

For example, the absurdly misnamed Affordable Care Act (in 2016 insurance premiums in Arizona rose by 116 percent) gives the Secretary of Health and Human Services discretion as to the law’s implementation in an astonishing 1,442 places. Why should a President elected to repeal and replace Obamacare not take advantage of the tools that are both legal and available to achieve his goal?

For years, as President Barack Obama shimmied across the American political landscape, using his “pen and phone” to impose on the country that which Congress would not touch, I kept asking my liberal friends, “What will happen when all of this awesome power of the Presidency falls into the hands of someone you despise?” I suppose they never imagined that Hillary Clinton would lose. Hubris, as the Greeks remind us, always ends in tragedy.

And so, close to a year into the Trump Presidency, the swamp is thriving and claiming more victims. As for Trump, he is using the powers accumulated by his predecessors to do as he pleases. The liberals are apoplectic, but the grotesque spectacle that is Washington, D.C. is one that they have helped to create.

Marian L. Tupy is Editor of HumanProgress.org and a senior policy analyst at the Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity