In his 1981 inaugural address, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed, “Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.” The objective, plain and simple, was to portray the federal government as an unnecessary evil.
Reagan succeeded beyond his wildest dreams and those of his advisers, setting the political stage for a Republican Party that elevated anti-government grievances to an article of faith. The destructive effects of subsequent cuts to Medicaid, housing assistance, food assistance, unemployment compensation, and other crucial programs are still with us.
The Trump administration, despite vaguely unorthodox campaign rhetoric, has followed the same playbook. Trump’s chief of staff Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyTrump’s relocation of the Bureau of Land Management was part of a well-known Republican playbook. The January 6 committee issues the latest round of subpoenas for rally organizers. Pelosi faces MORE infrastructure decision openly jubilee about how many federal employees he was going to fire by making their lives miserable.
A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, released last month, offers a first-hand look at the harm caused by Trump and his lieutenants as they mistreated federal employees, both intentionally and through gross negligence. It presents a very clear warning of what to expect the next time a Republican president uses that same playbook – a warning every American should heed.
Almost as soon as he took office, Trump appointed heads of federal agencies who openly despised the agencies they were appointed to lead. Energy Secretary Rick PerryRick PerryTrump’s relocation of the Bureau of Land Management was part of a familiar Republican playbook What we learned from the Meadows documents Trump’s war with the GOP seeps in midterm MORE ran for president promising to abolish the department he later oversaw. Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittTrump’s Bureau of Land Management relocation was part of a familiar Republican playbook Understanding the Barriers Between Scientists, the Public, and the Truth Overnight Energy & Environment – Biden Formalizes Return to National Monuments Boundaries from before Trump MORE got his job because he relentlessly sued the agency as Oklahoma’s attorney general.
As chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, I’ve seen this play out at the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which manages more than 245 million acres of public land, or one in every 10 acres in the states. -United. To lead the agency, Trump appointed a man named William Perry Pendley, who called BLM “the worst neighbor you could imagine” and, in a former position in the Reagan administration, had been caught undervalue mining leases for the benefit of industry at public expense.
One of Pendley’s main goals under Trump was to move the BLM’s staff headquarters from the Washington, DC, area to Grand Junction, Colorado. The plan was originally conceived by the former Home Secretary. ryan zinkeRyan Keith ZinkeGOP-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund unveils first midterm endorsements Trump’s relocation of the Bureau of Land Management was part of a familiar Republican playbook, who resigned amid multiple ethics inquiries less than a year into his term. the stated reason as BLM’s relocation was intended to bring staff closer to the lands and resources they manage, which Pendley spoke with great urgency despite the fact that 97% of the agency’s employees are already working in the field.
BLM isn’t as recognizable by name as the National Park Service, but the agency is hugely important to the fossil fuel industry, which leases millions of acres of public land for drilling and mining. One of the few bands to applaud The decision was made by a fossil fuel lobby group called the Western Energy Alliance, which pushes for more drilling and mining on federal lands, low environmental standards and low public royalties.
When my committee colleagues and I asked for analyzes showing the need to move BLM’s headquarters, or the plans for keeping key personnel in place to maintain institutional knowledge, or an understanding of the impact the move might have of the agency’s black employees, more than 40% of whom worked in the head office, we were either given cursory answers or met with complete silence. The committee sent letter after letter after letter after letter after letter ask for clear answers. In September 2019, we held a hearing on the plan where Mr. Pendley testified. In all cases, the administration dodged our questions and responded to our requests with irrelevant information or documents that were already public.
In March 2020, under the threat of summons, the administration eventually sent the committee a 20 pages”business case” for the move. It offers little more than vague descriptions of the alleged public benefits of the move, no labor impact analysis beyond wishful thinking (as documented by the GAO), and no realistic overview. damage that the move ultimately caused.
As the Washington Post First reported, the new GAO analysis found that in the year since the move, BLM headquarters saw an increase of more than 200 vacancies as the number of black employees was reduced by more than half. BLM employees said the move hampered their ability to do their jobs, and those who had not yet quit described a team with no sense of leadership and little ability to function beyond day-to-day operations.
The sad truth is that it was republicanism in action. BLM’s headquarters move wasn’t designed to solve a real problem. Much like Reagan before him, Trump was happy to throw public workers under the bus in the name of the angry anti-government ethos that still drives party leaders in Washington today.
Dismissing dedicated career public servants and empowering big business and their lobbyists is not a good way to go, but it is what Republican leaders continue to promise and deliver. We should start paying more attention to the consequences and remember that the alternative to a fairly treated, productive and hardworking federal workforce is not a free enterprise utopia. It’s the Robber Baron era again.
Raúl M. Grijalva chairs the House Committee on Natural Resources. He has represented Southern Arizona in Congress since 2003.