Government for the People

Author: Gary Hart

There is nothing wrong with our economy that getting rid of all those bureaucratic regulations won’t cure, seemed to be the mantra of Ronald Reagan and generations of Republicans before and after.  That, together with tax cuts and military spending pretty much summarized his governing philosophy.  Oh, and there was that quaint notion of balancing the budget also, but President Clinton was the last one to do that and deficits have grown under all Republican presidents since Reagan.

What are regulations and why do we have them?  The passengers of the two recent Boeing 737 Max 8 planes probably could not have told you, but they were assuming US Government officials in the FAA had written regulations for their operations and trained pilots on the requirements of those regulations.

Wrong assumption because the FAA, which still does not have a director confirmed by the Senate more than two years into the Trump administration, chose to let Boeing certify its own planes, crews, and their performance.  That was the easy way around those pesky federal regulations on flight safety.  And people died.

We have regulations because Congress is not capable of spelling out the detailed functions of complex legislation that it passes.  That is for career civil servants who apply the laws to everyday circumstances to protect the public interest.  They are not “out of control”.  They are well trained and highly accountable to the Congress that passed the laws.

If there is a “deep state”, it is populated by thousands of career civil servants who know the laws and how they should be applied in everyday circumstances.

Tragically, the sloppiness of the FAA is being mirrored in virtually all federal agencies.  From cabinet level officers down, the natural resource agencies such as Interior and EPA, the education department, the health and safety agencies, and almost all others are administered by political appointees whose philosophy is laisse faire, whose loyalty is to Trump, and whose connections are with the industries they are supposed to regulate under the law.

Meanwhile, those industries, whether airplane manufacturers or extractive resource companies, rewrite restrictive regulations behind closed doors in their own interests and not in the public interest.

The damage being done to the public’s land and resources and our environment will take years, possibly decades to repair.  Because at least until the last election, the Republican Congress refused to hold the regulation wreckers to account.  American peoples’ lives, their health and safety, and their children’s legacy have been jeopardized in the service of “too much government.”

Political ideologies and beliefs have consequences.  Whether food and drug inspections, climate protections, transportation safety, or a host of other public interest laws and regulations, we take government protection for granted because presidents take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution and the laws of the United States.

That oath is being violated daily now and people’s lives are at stake.

Under the Constitution, Congress is obligated to oversee the operations of the Executive branch to ensure that the laws it has passed are being faithfully executed.  But if you are a Republican Senator whose ideology is opposed to “big government”, and your campaigns are financed by regulated industries, you are certainly not inclined to hold regulators to account.  Indeed, you are most inclined to tell them to lay off your corporate friends who we expect to obey the law.

Knowing little to nothing of the national government and how it operates, or is supposed to, under the Constitution, Donald Trump found himself hamstrung from eviscerating regulatory agencies and decided that there was a “deep state” out to thwart him.  Even a casual reading of the Constitution or open-minded lecture on how government works would have let him know that the so-called “deep state” was composed of knowledgeable career civil servants doing their jobs.

But, of course, with this president that is too much to ask.

As a result, everyday Americans and their children will live with the deregulatory chaos that has resulted.  Pick your airplanes, as well as your food and medicine, very carefully.

3 Responses to “Government for the People”

  1. Brian McCarthy Says:


    It never fails to amaze me that the people who are for “small government” do not hesitate to complain when the few things they DO think government should do, do not operate to their standards.

    Your post reminds me of the British officer, played by Alec Guinness, in “The Bridge On the River Kwai” who worked tirelessly to build the perfect bridge for his Japanese captors, disregarding the fact that he was working against his own country’s interests, simply out of national pride. “Of course the British can build a better bridge than the Japanese” was his motivation for aiding the enemy.

    Today, we have a president who believes likewise; that despite all evidence to the contrary, he can do better than those actually trained or schooled in international relations.

    The problem is that too many voters believe it also.


  2. Paul G Says:


    “President Clinton was the last one to (balance the federal budget) and deficits have grown under all Republican presidents since Reagan.” – GH

    Well, they never promised US a rose garden. But from Reagan to Clinton to Bush to Obama to Trump; all embrace(d) international-empire vulture funders. Described by media foxes as a “relaxing” or “easing” of burdensome regulations (proven rules to keep bears and wolves in balance), we’re now on their vulture project for a new American menu (bread and roses optional).


  3. Perry Arrasmith Says:

    Fundamentally speaking, the skepticism many Americans harbor toward federal regulations should lead us into larger questions about the role of federal agencies in the democratic process. In a republic of over three-hundred million people, an average American’s connection to Washington D.C. is naturally distant. In that sense, how would you conceive of the bureaucracy/federal agency as a part of the American democratic experiment in the present day? Furthermore, where does the civil servant fit within this experiment?

    The American Federal Government’s persistent rise throughout history, whether perceived through the United States Geographical Service’s Survey of the American West, the Civilian Conservation Corps of the New Deal, or the National Security Administration of the present day, demonstrates that Americans are always trying to ascertain their relationship with the Federal Government. How should Americans perceive regulations in the 21st century? Should the expansion of the agencies that implement regulations be accompanied by the expansion of representative democracy in arenas like Congress?

    I hope such questions do not stray too far beyond the themes you’re delving into, but I feel they indicate that anti-regulatory rhetoric is only one part of a larger, more complicated narrative. I’m a student who would be interested in investigating these ideas further, especially in terms of how they relate to the formation of states that joined the Union later in our history, such as those of the west or the Pacific. Looking forward to hearing you speak in Cambridge!

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