Administrative agencies – the "fourth branch" of our government – have long been the left's most effective means of expanding government's reach. So it's no surprise that the statists feel threatened by President Trump's audacious nomination of new agency leaders whose backgrounds portend radical transformation.
The truth is, any true conservative tapped to head these agencies would endanger the status quo, because the very existence of federal agencies like the Department of Education, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development presents some fundamental conflicts with conservative ideology. But President Trump's selections pose more than just a generalized threat to these bureaucracies. When one compares each nominee's background and achievements with recent activities of the agency he or she has been chosen to lead, the nominee appears ill-suited to perpetuate the agency's legacy – but perfectly suited for deconstructing its bulging repertoire of unconstitutional overreach and shifting its authority back toward the people.
Take, for example, the choice of Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt is intimately acquainted with the EPA from his tenure as Oklahoma's attorney general, during which he participated in multiple lawsuits against the agency. EPA groupies cite this as evidence that Pruitt has some nefarious entanglement with energy companies and a lack of commitment to the environment. But in fact, what the evidence exposes about Scott Pruitt is his commitment to our nation's first principles; to a federal government that is limited to specific, defined powers and to state governments that are more than just minions.
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Betsy DeVos, Trump's pick for secretary of education, is best-known for championing the ability of parents – not the federal government – to decide which type of school is optimal for their kids. She has worked to ensure that all families have access to quality education through innovative state programs including charter schools and vouchers. The powerful National Educators' Association equates these efforts with "working to dismantle public education."
But disassembling the apparatus of mediocrity and the barriers to innovation is not the same as dismantling public education. For Americans who are eager to see their tax dollars escape the clutches of centralized control and become a student's ticket to a first-class education, DeVos' appointment is a harbinger of hope.
To some, President Trump's choice of Dr. Ben Carson to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development appears random, in light of Carson's lack of expertise in the specific area of housing. But consider the jaw-dropping breadth of HUD's self-stated mission: "to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all." If this is really the mission, then Carson's idea for fulfilling it is as good as any I've ever heard: Carson wants to reduce government programs to "a springboard to move forward," and eliminate people's dependence upon them.
What better way to build strong, sustainable communities than to strengthen the people who create the communities and empower them to sustain themselves and each other?
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Those of us who are truly committed to constitutional government should see these Trump picks as a turn in the right direction: an about face from the centralization of power in unelected bureaucrats. The statists who bemoan the appointment of agency heads who bring "an ideological disposition inherently antagonistic to the department's goals" aren't really just taking issue with President Trump; they're taking issue with the Constitution he recently swore to uphold. Under that Constitution, many of these agencies' goals are dubious, at best, as they involve powers reserved to the states and the people.
In fact, the reason these agencies exist at all is because Congress has long sought to regulate more than it was ever meant to regulate under Article I of the Constitution. The representatives we actually elect can't possibly manage our farm ponds, tell our local school officials how to regulate restrooms and still have time to "create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities."
In the long term, America desperately needs to simply undo a lot of its bureaucracy by putting the federal government back inside its constitutional boundaries. But as long as these agencies do exist, let's cheer for leaders who will drastically curtail their reach.
Is this a case of sending foxes in to the hen house? Absolutely. But it's also a case of "hens" who have flown the coop and begun harassing the livestock and devouring the crops. In cases like these, a determined team of foxes just may be the farmer's best friend.