Trouble draining the swamp? Try returning power to the states
© Getty

The words “drain the swamp” echoed through many a convention center during Donald Trump’s conquest for the highest office in the land. For better or worse, the phrase is now commonplace in the American lexicon, serving as a battle cry for those who feel ignored and betrayed by their elected officials on Capitol Hill.

While then-candidate Trump’s message was referring to career politicians and the stereotypes of smoke-filled back rooms, the legislature is just the tip of the bureaucratic iceberg. At least at the end of every two and six year periods, the American people can chose a new congressman or senator. To truly drain the swamp, the White House needs to take a serious look at addressing the ever-growing class of political appointees the administrative state.

ADVERTISEMENT
Last week, Senator Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeEx-college classmate accuses Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct Kavanaugh accuser agrees to testify next week Reexamining presidential power over national monuments MORE of Utah addressed an overflowing room of millennials at the National Conservative Student Conference, an annual event hosted by the Young America’s Foundation (YAF). The Senator largely promoted his new book “Written Out of History,” but did touch on the issue of the continually burgeoning political class.

The senator addressed the power of the seemingly endless roster or federal agencies in Washington, and how this power has expanded far beyond the Founding Fathers’ wildest dreams.

“The men and women who run the EPA and all of our other alphabet soup executive branch bureaucracies — they’re hard working, they’re well intended, they are well educated, they are highly specialized people,” said Senator Lee. “There is one significant problem: they don’t have constitutional authority to enact laws. And they don’t work for you. You see, you can’t fire them.”

Earlier this year, Inez Feltscher, Director of the Education and Workforce Development Task Force at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) authored a report detailing the historical explanation of the administrative state, noting that this nearly unimaginable level of job security is largely due to a little known law called the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act of 1883.

Civil Service Reform for the 21st Century: Restoring Democratic Accountability to the Administrative State” acknowledges that dismantling the deeply entrenched “deep state” is a tall order, noting “Untangling the professional administrative state will require layers of action across the executive, legislative and judicial branches.” While President TrumpDonald John TrumpGrassley: Dems 'withheld information' on new Kavanaugh allegation Health advocates decry funding transfer over migrant children Groups plan mass walkout in support of Kavanaugh accuser MORE can continue to utter his famous “you’re fired” catchphrase, that does not even begin to put a dent in these nearly three million unelected officials.

The findings of “Civil Service Reform for the 21st Century” are both astounding and frustrating for private sector employees who couldn’t imagine enjoying such extensive protection from being reprimanded or fired. The report notes the countless hours federal employees have surfing the web and online shopping while on the job, IRS agents who have used audits to attack those with whom they politically disagree, and a continued list of otherwise fireable offenses. Still, many of these employees continue to enjoy the perks of being employed by the federal government.

Senator Lee’s words offer a sobering reality to a political problem that continues to go unresolved. In “Written Out of History,” Senator Lee notes, “in many, many cases that power has been diverted from the people’s representatives in Congress to unelected bureaucrats in a multitude of agencies and departments in the executive branch. To their credit, there were founders who warned us of this outcome.”

Certainly, power should be returned from these federal agencies to the elected officials that Americans chose to send to Washington to represent them. However, this mustn't stop at the federal level. Power must be returned from the unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats of the political class as well as the legislature. A federalist approach to government overreach is the only realistic answer. To truly drain the swamp, return power to the states.

Taylor McCarty is a conservative media strategist in Washington, DC. She runs press and media relations at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a voluntary membership organization of state legislators and private sector representatives dedicated to the principles of limited government, free markets, and federalism. The views of this article do not necessarily reflect the views of ALEC.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.