We live in a world where federal government bureaucrats can declare a few cattails in a drainage ditch a "federal wetland" (and fine you out of existence if you disagree); or falsify patient death records at the Veterans Administration and still get a bonus; or where the IRS can destroy its own hard drives to prevent accountability for violating citizens' first amendment rights. It's no wonder many of us are screaming "Where is the accountability!?"
Evangelicals, Catholics, and others who are still trying to decide who to hire as the head of Washington's vast federal bureaucracy, should remind themselves of a core theological principle: All people, including bureaucrats, are tainted by original sin and require accountability structures lest their conduct become corrupt, unjust, or self-serving.
Everyone, including bureaucrats, has a worldview — that is, a view of how things ought to be. But government also has the power and the money to impose their worldview on the rest of us. James Madison warned that, "The accumulation of all powers — legislative, executive, and judicial — in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many . . . may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny." Likewise, John Adams viewed any man who held political power as "a ravenous beast of prey." Their genius solution was the constitutional framework of accountability structures: the three branches of government and a framework that prevented unrestrained persons from wrong conduct.
Unfortunately, Madison and Adams did not anticipate that America would eventually have a "fourth branch" of government — one that would grow to employ some two million people, every one of them holding certain ideologies and worldviews and power.
The late political scientist Dwight Waldo, termed the fourth branch of government "the administrative state." Waldo argued that this branch could make most government decisions based on "scientific principles and expertise."
Today, these administrative state bureaucracies create laws (called regulations), investigate violations of these laws, and adjudicate accusations — all within the walls of a single agency, making them immensely powerful and they make thousands of grants with taxpayer dollars to promote their views.
What does this mean for the way Americans should think about their vote next week?
Try these examples:
Take the issue of national security. The bureaucrats at the Departments of State and Homeland Security, who are managed by the current political appointees of these agencies, have revealed their worldview through such initiatives as the ludicrously named Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) programs. These programs assume that Islamic radicalism rises from "grievances" that need to be rectified, such as a lack of education and opportunities. Thus, bureaucrats create programs that support "a sense of belonging, adventure, and self-esteem." Meanwhile, well-educated, Islamic extremists from wealthy families continue to attack us.
The Department of Justice, whose job it is to find and prosecute terrorists, is instead in the thralls of the Civil Rights Division's many bureaucrats, who are focused, not on protecting safety for Americans, but upon purging all mention of the words "radical Islam" and "Jihad" from policy documents and training materials for law enforcement. This version of tolerance and diversity, ignores reality and is a recipe for our own destruction.
Another example: The political appointees and bureaucrats at the Department of Agriculture have launched a "Cultural Transformation Initiative" to help "create diversity in the workforce critical to generating new ideas and inspiring innovative solutions to the many challenges…" The result? An LGBT farmer outreach initiative and the training of farm loan officers, county executive directors, program technicians, and the like. Should we be surprised that this worldview is even being driven down to the National Forest Service, partnering with local LGBT organizations for a "GET OUT" hiking program to recruit LGBT volunteers and sponsor LGBT pride parades to promote "self-affirmation, dignity & increasing visibility as a social group"?
Bureaucrats like these in other federal agencies are the people who can declare your Christian school a "public accommodation" and require you to hire people opposed to your values. These are the people who can engage in misconduct, destroy computers, use government credit cards for gambling and pornography — and still get bonuses.
Worst of all, this fourth branch of government thumbs its nose at Congress, takes years to answer Freedom of Information Act requests from Congress and the public, uses private email to conceal their conduct, and destroys evidence needed by abused citizens who seek redress in the courts.
Though we need a more permanent solution, next week we have an opportunity for improved accountability: We will choose a President — either Hillary Clinton who will probably keep many Obama-appointees or Donald Trump — who will remove 7,000-plus of President Obama's appointees, and select replacement executives, lawyers, and policy makers who will manage our vast, unelected bureaucracy.
What will be the worldview of these political appointees? What agenda will they follow? Will they further enhance the power of the fourth branch or will they engage in trench warfare to restrain it? Will they engage in social engineering — or try to shut it down? Daily decisions to stop waste, fraud, corruption, and abuse will not always be the fodder of press conferences and policy announcements, but it must be done.
As President Ronald Reagan once warned, "Personnel is policy."