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“That Old Anti-Government Mantra”: Bashing “Big” Government Is Easy, Effective And Out Of Touch With Reality

It is easy. It is simple. It plays into the current cynicism of Americans.

Bash government. Tear into not just Washington and the gridlock but into the federal government itself.

If you listen to this crop of Republican presidential candidates you will get an earful – constantly.

Carly Fiorina, for example, said in the CNBC debate, “And this big, powerful, corrupt bureaucracy works now only for the big, the powerful, the wealthy and the well-connected.” Heck, she sounds like Huey Long, what a populist. But coming from Fiorina, the epitome of the super wealthy, this statement is, indeed, rich.

And Chris Christie couldn’t resist: “The government has lied to you, and they have stolen from you.”

The debate went on and on with each candidate trying to outdo the other with attacks on government. So, you say, what’s new about that – it has been going on for decades.

Aside from being destructive and counterproductive, the attitude towards government as a big, bad, out-of-control bureaucracy increasingly does not fit reality.

First, let’s take a look at what constitutes the current federal government. Across the U.S., there are about 2,750,000 executive, legislative and judicial employees (federal civilian employees). There are another approximately 1,400,000 uniformed military employees. These numbers don’t include contractors or the postal service.

But here is a very interesting fact: Of those 2,750,000 civilian employees in government, 1,232,000 are employed in a military or homeland security capacity – about 60 percent. And the vast majority are employed outside the Washington area.

Veterans Affairs leads the list with 326,000 civilian employees, followed by the Army with 257,000, Homeland Security with 193,000, the Navy with 192,000, the Air Force with 166,00 and the Department of Defense with 98,000.

Thus, when we add those to the uniformed military we come up with about 2.7 million, which leaves only about 1.5 million working for the federal government in traditional non-defense/security-related agencies or for Congress or the judiciary.

And many of those employees whom voters typically associate as “government” have seen serious reductions over the last decade.

For those who constantly complain about government’s growth, from 2003 to 2013 we have seen workforce reductions of 17 percent at Housing and Urban Development, 14 percent at Agriculture, 11 percent at Treasury, 10 percent at Education, 10 percent at Environmental Protection Agency, 8 percent at Interior and the list goes on.

In addition, when considered as a percentage of the overall workforce, the 2,750,000 constitute just 2 percent, and the 1.5 million non-defense/security-related, just about 1 percent.

The bottom line, too, is that most of these people are working hard to do more with less, are committed to serving the public and care about contributing to society. They may not be glamorous jobs, or very high paying, but they are fulfilling because civil servants know that they are there to make a difference in people’s lives. The vast majority simply care and care deeply. And they don’t deserve the derision of politicians. Government is not the problem, and it is not bloated; sadly, that may be more of an apt description of some of the politicians.


By: Peter Fenn, U. S. News and World Report, November 9, 2015

November 10, 2015 Posted by | Anti-Government, Federal Government, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Defying The Laws Of Political Reality”: No Dirty Politics In IRS Investigations Of Tea Party

The conservative blogosphere is all-atwitter this afternoon over the revelation that the Internal Revenue Service targeted various Tea Party groups in the days leading up to the presidential election of 2012.

Sadly for the critics of the president, things are not always as they initially appear to be and the effort to paint the improper IRS activity as a White House directed political dirty trick is unlikely to gain the traction opponents would like to see catch fire.

Keep in mind that the kerfuffle does not involve the targeting of groups for audits seeking evidence of a failure to pay taxes. Rather, the problem involved the IRS’s review of applications filed by the various entities seeking tax-exempt status under the law.

At the time in question, many newly formed political organizations were seeking IRS certification that would allow them to  avoid paying taxes on funds raised—the overwhelming majority of these organizations being Tea Party related groups. As the IRS believed that many of those filing for exemptions were stretching the limits of qualification, some low-level staffers at the agency’s Cincinnati, Ohio office decided to target for closer review those organizations with “Tea Party” sounding names, such as “patriot” and, of course, “Tea Party”. In the effort to dig deeper to determine if these groups qualified, the agency people involved asked many of the filing organizations to disclose names of those who had made contributions along with other data they deemed necessary to determine if the group qualified for tax free status.

The problem is that the agents involved were not randomly conducting these checks on all the political organizations seeking tax free status and were specifically targeting the Tea Party related groups.

This was, clearly, improper activity which is why the IRS issued today’s apology.

What’s that you say? You still don’t believe that the White House was not involved in this?

That’s what I thought.

Maybe then, it will interest you to know that there are only two officials at the IRS that are political appointments—the commissioner (who is the boss) and the chief legal counsel.  And while you may be thinking that it would be a piece of cake for the White House to place a call to the Commissioner and nudge him into putting a little heat on Tea Party groups so that they would be kept busy defending themselves from government annoyance rather than putting their energies into defeating the President, it would not have been quite so simple a task for the White House to accomplish.


Because the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service during the period in question was Douglas Shulman, a political appointee of President George W. Bush.

In fact, not only was Commissioner Shulman a Bush appointee, he would certainly have had no motivation to do the political bidding of a Democrat president considering that Mr. Shulman had already announced prior to the election that he would be stepping down from his post in November.

If you imagine that the President’s staff had the ability to go around the top political appointee at the IRS and attempt to influence the civil servants who work at the agency, consider how many levels of civil servants the White House staff would have had to persuade to do their bidding given that those who pursued the policy were well down the totem-pole of seniority, working away at the Cincinnati office.

Indeed, to suggest that the White House could get career civil servants to do its political dirty work would truly defy the laws of political reality.

If you doubt this—and you are someone who believes that the State Department behaved improperly in the Benghazi matter—consider the inability of State to direct the three highly placed State Department civil servants who testified before Congress this week to do as the politicians asked. This should give you some indication as to just how impossible it is for elected or politically appointment officials to get government civil servants to participate in their political schemes—let alone keep it all a secret heading into a presidential election.

Of course, all the obvious and logical explanations in the world for what really happened here will prove insufficient when it comes to  persuading some Tea Party groups that this was not the work of the White House.

As proof of what we can expect, check out what Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin had to say when calling for President Obama to personally apologize—

“It is suspicious that the activity of these ‘low-level workers’ was unknown to IRS leadership at the time it occurred. President Obama must also apologize for his administration ignoring repeated complaints by these broad grassroots organizations of harassment by the IRS in 2012, and make concrete and transparent steps today to ensure this never happens again.”

Clearly, Ms. Martin has very little grasp on how widespread the activities of the IRS are if she imagines that, in the big picture, the relatively small number of reviews of Tea Party related applications in the Cincinnati office was going to somehow capture the attention of the IRS Commissioner…who happens to be a Republican appointee.

One wonders if Ms. Martin’s indignation has anything to do with the fact that she and her husband were indebted to the IRS in the amount of over half a million dollars when they filed bankruptcy in 2008? Maybe it is Ms. Martin who owes the apology?

Still, the opportunity to make some political hay over the error will likely prove irresistible to the GOP.

So, let the Congressional hearings commence! I can’t wait to see Darrell Issa’s movie-style poster hyping these hearings as he did in this one posted to his Twitter site to get us jazzed about his Benghazi hearings—

Maybe this time he’ll spring for full-color art


By: Rick Ungar, Op-Ed Contributor, Forbes, May 10, 2013

May 12, 2013 Posted by | IRS, Tea Party | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Danger of “Scoring Points”: By Trying To Make Obama Look Bad, Romney Makes Himself Look Like An Asshole

Mitt Romney is running for president. And I guess it can be hard, when you’re running for president and your focus every day is convincing the American voter that you’re a great guy and your opponent is awful, not to approach every new development in the world by seeing it as yet another opportunity to tell everyone that your opponent is awful. But when the only question you ask yourself is, “How can I use this to make my opponent look bad?” you run the risk of making yourself look like a jerk. Sometimes during a campaign, a candidate will be asked, “Is there anything your opponent has done that you agree with?” or “Is there anything good you can say about him?” Usually they say, “He has a lovely family,” as though the thought that he might have done a single thing right is just impossible to contemplate. To say otherwise would be passing up an opportunity to “score points.”

And this, I think, is the root of why Romney did what he did yesterday and came out looking like such an asshole. American civil servants had died in the line of duty, and the only thing he could think to do was use it as the occasion for a weak, unpersuasive attack on Barack Obama, delivered at an appallingly inappropriate moment. All he wanted was to “score points.”

Romney seems to be laboring under the mistaken belief that his challenge on foreign policy is to make voters think poorly of Barack Obama. In fact, his challenge on foreign policy is to make voters consider him a credible president. That’s really all. As long as they think Romney would be reasonable on foreign policy, which is a secondary consideration for almost all of them anyway, it would be enough. Romney is just never going to be able to argue persuasively that Obama has been a foreign policy disaster, and he doesn’t have to. Four years ago the average voter thought the sitting president was such a disaster, committing blunder after blunder and undermining American interests around the world. But today only the most partisan Republican believes that, and Romney no longer needs to appeal to partisan Republicans.

At times of crisis and tragedy, Americans want our leaders to channel the emotions we’re feeling and be the people we want ourselves to be. That’s why, for instance, the best moment of George W. Bush’s presidency was when he stood on top of the rubble at the World Trade Center and said, “I hear you, the world hears you, and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.” For all the spectacular screw-ups that came afterward, at that moment Bush perfectly expressed Americans’ anger and their desire to be strong and resilient (and take revenge). That’s why his approval ratings shot up to over 90 percent.

Mitt Romney failed to realize that when Americans are killed overseas, it’s not like every other thing that happens during a campaign. According to The New York Times, Romney’s reaction to the violence was actually the product of a lengthy discussion with his aides, during which I guess they agreed that what really mattered in this situation was not so much that American officials had been killed, but that a statement released by the Cairo embassy could, with the proper disingenuous description of the chronology involved, be described as some kind of weakness and “apologizing” and also attributed directly to Barack Obama. It sounds utterly insane, but that’s the conclusion they came to.

What they obviously didn’t do was take a moment to put themselves in the shoes of a typical American. Was the typical American going to learn of these events and say, “What really has me steamed isn’t the murders in Benghazi, it’s that statement the Cairo embassy put out.” Of course not. Instead, the typical American voter ended up watching Romney and saying, “For cripe’s sake, Americans died, all because of some insane amateurish movie, and this is what you have to say? To come out and whine about how the Obama administration handled a frigging tweet sent out by an embassy staffer? Are you kidding me? What a jackass.”


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, September 13, 2012



September 13, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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