Taking on the Mandarins

Jonathan F. Keiler writing at American Thinker compares today’s federal bureaucrats to the Mandarins of ancient China, and then writes:

What can Trump do?

Get his administration organized so that cabinet members and agency heads will appoint politically tough and reliable undersecretaries willing to do battle with career subordinates. This sounds like a no-brainer but it is not. It’s contrary to human nature and ordinary business practice. You generally don’t go into a job assuming your new employees are your enemies.

Bring back the PACE exam or something similar. Update it so that the inevitable attacks that arise about it being prejudicial to minorities can at least be muted. While African-Americans a generation ago might have had legitimate complaints about lack of educational opportunity compromising test performance that case is hard to make today.

Maintain the hiring freeze. The freeze not only keeps the federal rolls from expanding, it inhibits empire building within agencies. This has the added effect of slowing promotion.

Reinstitute broad merit pay systems in the federal government. These have been both ineffective and unpopular in the past, but so what. If it reduces the attractiveness of federal employment, presumably we will have fewer federal employees. Plus implementing such policies, or threatening them, gives the new administration some leverage, and will further demonstrate that Trump means business.

While troublesome federal employees are difficult to fire, they can be neutered, though at a cost. Within the government are thousands of employees who for various reasons are simply given a desk, told to come into work every day, and are paid for doing nothing — the federal equivalent of “teachers’ jail” where school districts place problematic teachers who are too hard to fire. Not all of these employees are incompetent. Some simply refuse to kowtow to whatever bureaucratic imperative their bosses demand, or even perhaps display a politically incorrect mien. These people might be allies. Meanwhile, those bureaucrats who attempt to obstruct the work of the new administration but are too difficult to fire might be put out to pasture this way. You have to still pay them, but better to pay them for being harmless than undermining their boss.

Read more: American Thinker