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Sleeping with the enemy

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Monday, May 08, 2017 08:52 am

I'll have to think about this some more, but my initial reaction is that it is a terrible idea, and not just because it's from a Democrat:

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) is touting a bill that would “decentralize” the federal government, moving parts away from Washington.

“We have a lot more employees in the federal government than we ever imagined as a country, and we are in a position where a good number of these jobs don't necessarily need to be in Washington, D.C.," he told the Washington Examiner in an interview published Saturday.

[. . .]

The Ohio Democrat says his bill is less about breaking up the federal government's presence in the D.C. metro region and more about spreading economic benefits throughout the country.

"Even if you could move 10 percent of the 300,000 — back of the envelope — say you could move 30,000 jobs and you can move them a thousand at a time," Ryan said. "I can't tell you what that would do for the city of Youngstown or Gary, Indiana, or Milwaukee.”

That's because the idea is also being pushed by libertarian law professor Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit fame:

Donald Trump ran for president on the slogan “Make America Great Again!” And he's also promised to “drain the swamp” in Washington. But maybe the way to do that is to make Washington a little less great. Because as Washington has prospered over the last several decades — to the point where people are making Hunger Games comparisons — the rest of the country hasn't done as well.

So perhaps it's time for a role-reversal. I propose that over the next several years, we transfer a lot of federal employees out of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, to parts of the country that aren't doing so well economically. This would provide a boost to places like Buffalo, New York, or Quincy, Illinois, or Fresno, California, while getting federal bureaucrats out of the D.C. bubble.

[. . .]

 During the next four years, the Trump Administration — and Congress — should plan to move at least 25% of the federal workforce located in the Washington, D.C. metro area to other locations around the country: Places that are economically suffering (which will have the advantage of making federal workers' salaries go farther) and that need the business. Should Trump get another four years, he should do it all over again.

That would mean that in 8 years, the population of bureaucrats in the Washington, D.C. metro area would be roughly halved. That would make Washington less vibrant, but more affordable — and those bureaucrats working out of offices in the hinterland would be brought closer to the American people.

From the two advocates, two principle reasons for the diffusion of the bureaucracy emerge.

One is that Washington will diminish in importance, be less arrogantly affluent and insufferably superior. That is true, but I'm not sure it would be worth all that much. Notice in the story about Ryan the quote marks around "decentralize." That's because the author of the article knows full well that the federal government's power will not be decentralized in any meaningful or constitutionally important way. The players will be merely moved around. The federal behemoth will be as large and intrusive as ever.

The other is that the affluence associated with the federal bureaucracy will be spread around, perhaps boosting areas with distressed economies. That is also true, and it's the main reason to be very wary of this notion. Just consider the problem we've had with military bases. There are always ones that could be closed at a huge cost savings because they no longer serve a strategic purpose. But it's next to impossible to close them because the communities that have come to depend on them economically raise a stink, and the members of Congress who represent them dig in and fight the closings.

Imagine (it shouldn't be too hard) the same dynamic playing out with various federal government departments ensconced in, say, Fort Wayne or Toledo or Boise. As hard as it is to cut back on the federal government now (and it's almost impossible), it would be ever harder if it can start insinuating itself into the fabric of our local communities.

I like the idea of having the enemy bunched up in one place, where we can better keep an eye on them and the mischief they're up to. As long as we keep them distant and aloof, we can properly disdain them. I don't want them cozying up to us in the boardrooms and bedrooms of our cities, trying to seduce us with false promises of friendship. The federal government is not our friend.

There is one good reason to consider splitting up the bureaucracy. As concentrated as it is, the federal government is highly susceptible to a coordinated series of terrorist attacks aimed at wiping out a whole lot of our governing infrastructure in one fell swoop. Having some of our highest officials based outside of Washington would help mitigate that danger.

But that would take the major kind of relocation Ryan and Reynolds are talking about.

ELSEWHERE IN THE NEWS

Why do Americans smile so much? "It turns out that countries with lots of immigration have historically relied more on nonverbal communication. Thus, people there might smile more . . .  In the countries with more immigrants, people smiled in order to bond socially. Compared to the less-diverse nations, they were more likely to say smiles were a sign someone 'wants to be a close friend of yours.' "

One more voice of warning about E.T.'s intentions: If aliens visit, don't expect a Hollywood ending, director Ridley Scott warns. The story quotes a scientist who scoffs that that Scott's information about such hostile, and abundant, aliens is off-base and unsupported. And suppositions about aliens' good intentions aren't equally unsupported?

The food that really made America fat — and it's not sugar. Yes, it's corn: "It's almost unthinkable that a single type of grain could cause the obesity epidemic and possibly be at the root of so many health problems, but when you look at the human and canine Barneys all around us, along with the poor health of the country in general, it's hard to come up with a suspect that might be more culpable."

The news media are losing their search for truth. Actually, i think they stopped looking for it quite a while ago.

New York's Mayor de Blasio signs a law forbidding employers from seeking salary histories of job applicants. But salary history is one piece of evidence about how the applicant has done at his job. Don't you want the best possible employees you can . . . no, of course you don't.

Are we doing high school right? Mostly not. It's time for High School 2.0. Consider the Indiana student who got a college degree, while still in high school — that's doing it right.

The federal government does something right: The Department of the Interior has a "bring your doggy to work" day. If they want to be really brave, they should do it for cats.

Get well soon: Loretta Lynn is hospitalized with a stroke. She was one of my first country music heroes. How couold you not like "Don't come home a drinkin' with lovin' on your mind"?

Well, it's about time: Military judge sets trial date for Bowe Bergdahl. He is appropriately charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.

Nepal wants to set age limit for Mount Everest after 85-year-old dies in climbing attempt. The minimum age is 16, but there is no upper limit. Officials are talking about 76 as the possible limit. I dunno. I know it's a much greater risk for them, but it's one they voluntarily undertake.

Wow. It's like they want to join the roster of civilized nations or something. Saudi women will no longer need a man's permission to travel, study or make police complaints. Of course, those privileges were granted by the king, so it's not like they're real rights that can't be taken away. 

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