Wednesday, May 06, 2020

The Pandemic And The Deconstruction Of The Administrative State. Or Did Stephen Bannon Get His Way?

Eons ago, in 2017, president Trump still had his own Rasputin standing behind the throne and whispering in his ear:  Stephen Bannon.

Bannon was Trump's chief strategist and the architect of the president's ideological strategies.  Bannon may have disappeared from the Trump administration and also largely from the public view, but one of his most important goals has not: The deconstruction of the administrative state.

What did Bannon mean by that term?   The answer:

The process, he explained, began with Trump's first presidential hires.
"If you look at these Cabinet appointees, they were selected for a reason and that is the deconstruction, the way the progressive left runs, is if they can't get it passed, they're just gonna put in some sort of regulation in -- in an agency," Bannon said. "That's all gonna be deconstructed and I think that that's why this regulatory thing is so important."
So did Bannon get his way in this respect?

I think we are learning the answer while watching, in real time:  The way this administration stumbles around in its responses to the current pandemic, how it seems to be passing the proper tasks of the federal government* to individual states without apparently coordinating that change with such federal institutions as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Or compare the US pandemic policies to those practiced in countries which seem to have the pandemic under better control:

While statistics show that this wave of the pandemic in the US is nowhere near peaking, our Supreme Leader wants it to be over so he has decided that it is more or less over.

He wishes to refocus on opening the economy**, whatever the resulting cost in lives lost, because he sees a booming economy as necessary for his re-election.  And that is why he earlier today told us that he will wind down the coronavirus task force, though he has now had to walk back that statement a little bit.

I think Bannon should be pleased with the current state of the federal administrative state, even if some of the destruction has come from the uncertainty and dizziness caused by all of us having to live inside Trump's personal and weird worldview.

*  Even the most conservative of economists would agree that the fight against a globally spreading infectious disease  is the duty of the federal government.

**  It is not wrong to focus on both the pandemic and the economy, of course.
We need to be able to produce food and to get it to consumers, for example,  and even more generally the economy cannot stay in a lock-down forever.

But Trump's plan is not the kind of careful and considered "re-opening in stages" which some other countries are pursuing once it is clear that the peak of the first Covid-19 wave has passed in that country.  It's just a general re-opening, as if the pandemic has left the USA, when it is actually just checked into the second hotel in its tour around the place.