Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

The destruction of the US government proceeds apace

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Heather Cox Richardson writes in her column:

I’m going to start tonight with an important story that slipped under the radar on a day when one outrageous performance after another grabbed headlines.

On its surface, the story doesn’t seem terribly important. A number of congressional committees have asked the Office of Personnel Management for updates on how the OPM is handling working conditions for federal employees during the coronavirus crisis. OPM is declining to answer the requests. “It has always been difficult to get information from this administration, but the refusal to provide Congress with a basic briefing during a pandemic is especially egregious,” said a Democratic Senate aide to Politico reporter Daniel Lippman. “We’ve never been denied a briefing like this before.”

But the story is actually very significant. The OPM oversees the 2 million workers in the federal government. In mid-February, after Republican Senators acquitted him in his impeachment trial, Trump set out to purge the federal workforce of civil servants, whom he sees as “snakes,” and replace them with political appointees loyal to him.

To head the Presidential Personnel Office, which recruits candidates for the executive branch, Trump brought in John McEntee, who had been fired from a former position in the White House by former chief of staff John Kelly over a security clearance. On March 17, McEntee forced the director of the Office of Personnel Management, Dale Cabaniss, who had significant personnel experience, to resign. Michael Rigas, formerly of the right-wing Heritage Foundation, took his place. (Phew. I know… but this is going somewhere important.)

The change from Cabaniss to Rigas at the head of OPM transpired just as the novel coronavirus pandemic hit the nation hard.

Rigas has said he believes the 1883 Pendleton Act is unconstitutional. Congress passed the Pendleton Act, also known as the Civil Service Act, after a mentally-ill office seeker shot President James Garfield in 1881. Until then, government positions had been handed out to political loyalists, regardless of their capacity to do the job, but the assassination created a public outcry. Charles Guiteau shot Garfield with the expectation that, once elevated to the presidency, Garfield’s vice president would give Guiteau the position his delusions made him think he deserved. The assassination built momentum behind the idea that government should be non-partisan, and that positions should be filled by people actually equipped to do the job. This sentiment has ruled the nation ever since.

Non-partisan civil service has proved a blessing to the nation in two ways. First of all, over time, as more and more positions came under the act, the government got much more efficient. Second, a non-partisan corps of officials has kept the nation stable since they give their loyalty to the country’s government, rather than to any particular president. Administrations come and go, but government bureaucrats keep the nation on an even keel.

Now, Rigas, the man at the head of the federal government’s 2 million workers, wants to get rid of that system and make all employees of the executive branch political appointees, loyal not to the country but to Trump. Rigas is working with McEntee at the PPO. As of a few weeks ago, agencies now have to submit job openings to the PPO to see if they have anyone they want in the position before they can submit their own choice for it. PPO is filling positions with keen regard for their loyalty: recently it has hired four college seniors to become administration officials.

OPM is the office that is refusing to tell Congress what it’s up to.

Today offered some guesses. Dr. Rick Bright, the director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, claimed that he was let go from his job for crossing Trump. BARDA is charged with protecting us from pandemic influenza and emerging infectious diseases (EID) and Bright is a specialist in those areas. He headed the federal agency developing a coronavirus vaccine, and refused to use the agency’s significant budget to promote hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malarial drug Trump has been pushing as a treatment for the coronavirus. Bright was . . .

Continue reading.

And nothing is done. We’re watching it happen, and nothing is done to stop it — well, something was done: Trump was impeached. But the GOP refused to convict because the GOP wants him in office and the GOP, thanks to the Senate’s grossly disproportionate representation, can stop progress. And they do.

Written by Leisureguy

23 April 2020 at 4:42 pm

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