SEATTLE – “It’s a dangerous approach to governance … We get weaker, not stronger, by limiting the scope of government.”

That was Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, complaining last week that President Bush is covertly low-balling certain line items in the federal budget in order to reduce the deficit. That’s because Bush, says a Scripps-Howard newspaper report, is really one of those conservatives who believes less government is better government.

Well, I don’t know if our president is really one of those kinds of conservatives, considering that the size and scope of the federal government has increased mightily under his reign. But aside from actually eliminating a federal agency – a rare occurrence in Washington – the next best thing to limiting the scope of the plethora of agencies that micromanage our lives is to reduce operating budgets.

But if you subscribe to Daschle’s rules of government – bigger is better – then the absorption of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, with all its border control components, into the massive fold of the new Department of Homeland Security will mean our borders will become impregnable, right?

Wrong. In fact, the larger the old INS became over the years, the more inefficient it became at securing the American people against the scourges of illegal immigration, drug smuggling and the importation of terrorist elements.

Little has actually changed along the border since 9-11. True, politicians and bureaucrats in Washington have claimed advances in security, but line agents and border-patrol elements sitting on “X’s” in the desert and along our northern border with Canada know better.

As one example, former Border Patrol officials say a multi-million dollar camera system erected near in the Blaine, Wash. border sector since the attacks on Washington and New York City has turned into an expensive boondoggle that doesn’t work.

One former Border Patrol official says the initial outlay for the program was $5 million, but that millions more have been poured in since, though the surveillance system is fraught with problems. One of the camera systems was erected in the middle of a stand of trees, all but eliminating its camera’s view. “Too many layers of bureaucracy, too many fingers in the pie,” said the official.

Agents also say supervisors, sector chiefs and other mid- to upper-level managers in the border-control agencies have a history of downplaying threats and warnings of threats for political reasons. Many, if not most, of these people will remain in their posts as part of the process of merging some 22 agencies under Homeland Security. In fact, field personnel say they actually expect more layers of bureaucracy to be piled on existing layers. Based on the history of empire-building among federal bureaucrats, there is absolutely no reason to doubt this will happen.

In the end – even though this new super-agency will cost tens of billions more to operate, will employ some 170,000 people and generate reams of new regulations – border security will still be as abysmal as it always has been, because the dual impetus driving Washington to look the other way – cheap labor and new votes – still takes precedence.

Bigger government may be better for the little socialist Napoleons in D.C., but based on its track record, bigger government hasn’t been a success along the border. In fact, seasoned vets say, it’s been a hindrance. On March 1, it got a great deal worse.

“We get weaker, not stronger, by limiting the scope of government.” It’s obvious to me that Daschle wasn’t talking about our nation, he was talking about himself and his colleagues.

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