Author: Jay R. VanOrman
This essay is an attempt at describing why the Swamp is so hard to drain. There are many other articles, tweets, threads, working out the details of the #DeepState, so I will not be working from that angle. What I hope to show is that the entrenched bureaucracies, acting in concert sometimes with the Deep State, but acting for their own benefit, work to make the act of draining the Swamp as difficult, if not totally impossible, to drain to our satisfaction.
What is a Six Figure Cat Herder? I define it as a bureaucrat who gets paid in salary and benefits, more than $100,000 per year. There is no such thing as a cat herder to begin with, and the six figure variety, to me, is often worse than useless. Their actions are a detriment to the functioning of government, and of little to no value to the people they are paid to serve. Spending all day almost every day in interminable meetings and drinking coffee, they seek to complicate things to prove that they are instrumental and absolutely vital to the functioning of government. They do not share information willingly with their subordinates, or superiors. Knowledge is power. So by making any information vital to the workings of their agency proprietary as it were, they hold more power than their job would otherwise allow.
I agree with the sentiment of removing these people from positions of power. But then how do we get government to actually work for the people? The cat herders have successfully blocked anyone else from knowing how to make the bureaus work. They hire only those who are in lockstep agreement, and have shown a willingness to be corrupt in order to get the next higher position. Go look at some government job applications, and tell me if you are qualified to get a job.
Another thing you may not know is that six figure cat herders only talk about training. They don’t actually train the employees. You’ll get the annual safety trainings or training that another department offers, but there won’t be anything that’s actually job related. And what they talk about between themselves is how much money they are saving by not offering any training to the employees. Why don’t they train their people? For fear the workers would then be qualified to get a better job and leave. It’s hard to write job performance evaluations that state the worker is so stupid, the supervisor is amazed they got their job to begin with, if said worker is qualified for much better jobs than currently employs them. This part is what makes it so difficult for Trump supporters to assume positions within government to Make America Great Again.
Mission Creep: a popular phrase used to describe how a bureaucracy, after establishing its ability to carry out its original intent, discovers new ways of gaining more power and ability. To me, this is what Obama did with $10 trillion dollars of borrowed money. He enabled federal bureaucracies to overachieve.
Technological illiteracy: you have heard how air traffic controllers operate a system that was invented more than a half century ago. That the Department of Defense still uses floppy discs from the 1970s to operate our most advanced weapons systems, like ballistic missiles. Government employees are even still writing down the time they worked on paper cards. Yet they will throw millions of dollars at a computer program that not one of them understand, cannot fix, and have no way to improve the system once in operation. It would have been cheaper to fully train a new hire to learn from scratch computer programming and to create a system than it is to buy one off the shelf, or have a proprietary system made for them. But because of what I just wrote, they can’t do that. Six figure cat herders assume those people would leave for better pay, if they got the training.
There is a Lack of congressional oversight. This part is where I am not in full agreement with those seeking term limits on congressmen. The phrase that needs be kept in mind here is “Institutional Memory” Term limits ends institutional memory. This would allow bureaucracies, who have little oversight now, to be almost completely outside the controls of government. Maybe you have heard the ruckus over the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Term limits means more of this same agency run amok. AS it stands now, there are over 500,000 employees of the federal government in and around the Washington DC area. There are 535 members of congress to oversee all those employees and those who work outside the area. I can’t imagine the level of dysfunction term limits would unleash.
Inertia. The phrase here is “this is how it’s always been done” If no new thoughts are allowed, when things break down, because the old system isn’t working anymore, you have only chaos to turn to. This leads to the other thought that crisis management means your management team always manages to get themselves into a new crisis. I have worked under those conditions in the private sector a time or two. I am so glad I don’t work in those places anymore. Most of them have since gone out of business, or new management was put in place to stop the bleeding. But management doesn’t get fired in government, nor is it changed, except by an act of congress. And probably takes 60 votes in the senate to do that. Which means it ain’t gonna happen anytime soon.
I don’t know if you ever read it, but former senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma wrote a report titled Back in Black. It was a blueprint to cut $6 trillion of the federal debt. Good luck finding it to read now. The last time I tried to find it, Internet search engines were no help. But mostly the means of effecting this reduction was by removing inertia from government. It sought to eliminate duplicate programs, of which there are literally hundreds, end welfare for the wealthy, end programs that are ineffective and merge programs that actually worked as planned, with programs that were not living up to their advertising, but were in the same line of work.
All decisions must go through Washington DC. This really got going under Bill Clinton. Yes the big decisions always went to the capitol, but local managers used to have discretion as to how their agencies operated at the local level. This is micromanagement of the very worst order. All the local knowledge, all the years of experience mean nothing to the czars in charge back in DC. I only know this because I was told this by someone who worked in government all his life. He watched it happen. There was nothing he could do to prevent it. The Clintons decided they needed more control, and they made it happen. Bush didn’t stop it, he just rode along thinking along those lines of inertia.
The only thing I can think of how to end this practice is to stop treating everyone who is not in Washington DC as if they are too stupid to do their own job. Let those who have worked in an area for twenty or thirty years be able to make their own decision based on what they know about the people they serve.
Author: Jay R. VanOrman
I earned a bachelor’s degree in English shortly before my 50th birthday. I have enough science credits, that if they gave them, I could have had a BS in English. I try to play well with others, but I aim to be a good man, not a nice man. I normally think outside the box. I’m a Navy veteran, and I do for a living what they once trained me to do.