INSTITUTIONAL CAPACITY

Posted in Rants on July 9th, 2017 by Ed

The Federal bureaucracy is like the world's most anal-retentive child meticulously building a sand castle for decades. The Trump administration is the asshole who kicks the whole thing down in thirty seconds. Nowhere is that becoming more obvious than in the State Department.

Politico has a piece and Slate has a related podcast on the disintegration of the State Department in less than six months since Trump was inaugurated. Like every aspect of governing under what is essentially a third world style autocrat, every function of the state has been assigned to either a family member or an inner-circle sycophant. Why do we need ambassadors or people who know anything about countries other than the United States? Just send Jared. We can trust Jared. Jared's real smart. Jared will fix it.

This underscores a fundamental reason that Republicans have the upper hand in modern politics. Their only goal is to tear down as much of the structure of government as possible or, perhaps even preferably, turn it into a poorly functioning tool for channeling government contracts to their hangers-on. Democrats, even in the lukewarm Centrist style of Democrats like Hillary Clinton, want The State to do things. Implementing any policy, law, or initiative in which the government has to do something requires the bureaucratic capacity to do it. And in the era of the annual tax cut and the deluded belief that we can budget-cut our way into the black, just maintaining existing capacity is a challenge. Expanding it is out of the question. What is lost during periods of right-wing governance rarely is recovered.

What is happening with the State Department – previously seen, alongside the Pentagon, as one of the few parts of the state Republicans did not actively attempt to set ablaze – is particularly damaging in the long term. For a country that still likes to see itself as the "leader" of the world or at least some portion of it, the machinery of diplomatic interaction would seem to be a prerequisite. The number of career diplomats the State Department has lost and will lose under Trump, combined with a hiring freeze that will create a large cohort gap of talent for the future, virtually guarantees that the ground lost around the world will never be made up. We are looking toward a future in which major world events will take place uninfluenced by the interests and wishes of the United States. When that nightmare for conservatives comes to pass, the blame will of course be ladled on whoever happens to be in the White House at that moment. Historical memory isn't a thing they do, broadly speaking, and no one will recognize the staggering amount of damage done in a short amount of time under Caucasian Mobutu.