The “deep state” thwarted Trump’s agenda in his first term. There is a scheme to prevent it from happening again.

Donald Trump’s major policy initiatives during his presidential term were a massive tax cut and a government-wide effort to reduce tax regulations claimed it cost the American economy trillions of dollars and “devastated entire industries.”

Lax oversight of environmental, safety and labor standards, to name three categories, has been a political linchpin that united Trump loyalists and mainstream Republicans — the latter wary of Trump’s erratic style and attacks on free trade and traditional alliances – probably contributed to strengthening the situation. SPX of the US stock market.

The Wall Street Journal’s conservative editorial page, for example – at times skeptical of Trump – lauded Trump’s first year in office in December 2017 as “curbing and scaling back the regulatory state at a pace faster than even Ronald Reagan.”

That same month saw the signing of the biggest legislative signature of the Trump era, an overhaul of the tax code that critics say has disproportionately benefited big companies and wealthier taxpayers.

From the archive (April 2019): Trump’s tax cuts are not being felt by American taxpayers, according to a Wall Street Journal-NBC poll

See also (February 2018): Now we know where the tax cut will go: stock buybacks

Additionally (March 2018): S&P 500 companies plan to buy back $800 billion of their shares this year

But the former president’s advisers argue that the deregulatory push undertaken by his administration could have been much stronger if not for a federal workforce that was ideologically opposed to Trump’s agenda and worked at every turn to sabotage it.

The federal workforce constitutes “a fourth branch of government” that has usurped the powers of the president, Congress and the courts, according to Paul Dans, former chief of staff in Trump’s Office of Personnel Management.

“This is a merger of powers by people who are completely independent of the will of the people,” Dans told MarketWatch. “They have a permanent foothold in Washington and essentially cannot be removed by anyone.”

Today, Dans is the director of the conservative Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025, an effort to recruit and train a new generation of Republican bureaucrats, so that if Trump is re-elected in November, “he’ll have a team of people lined up ready to go on day one.” ”. .”

From the archives (September 2023): “Project 2025”: The Heritage Foundation leads the right-wing coalition in drafting a program to overhaul the US government on “day one” of the next Republican presidency

So far the effort has led to more than 7,500 Americans submitting their resumes in hopes of hiring staff for a second Trump administration, and Dans has coordinated a series of online training sessions led by conservatives with experience in the federal government.

He is also part of a larger network of Trump administration veterans sounding the alarm about the federal workforce’s ability to thwart policies that aggrieve it.

James Sherk, Trump’s former special assistant, has compiled an extensive list of policies that he says have been thwarted by bureaucrats, including career staff in the Justice Department’s civil division refusing to work on cases charging the Yale University racial discrimination against Asian Americans and careers. lawyers at the National Labor Relations Board refuse to draft precedent-altering decisions if they disagree with the conclusions.

“The popularly elected president has very little say in politics,” Dans said.

The Justice Department declined to comment. NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo told MarketWatch in an email that the agency’s “career staff uses their considerable talent and expertise to implement our congressional mandate, regardless of who sits in the White House,” and has criticized Sherk for “casting unsupported slander upon these loyal citizens.” servants.”

Destroy the administrative state

Former Trump strategist Steve Bannon said in 2017 that the administration’s goal is nothing more than “the destruction of the administrative state,” as he described the departments, agencies and regulators that implement and enforce the rules that govern the American economic life.

For Dans and other activists involved in Project 2025, the stated mission is not necessarily to destroy the administrative state but, they say, to make it accountable to the US electorate. “Let’s restore democracy,” Dans said. “Far from attacking it, we are working to allow the people to once again have a say in their own government.”

To that end, the conservative movement expects the Republican White House to reinstate a policy known as Schedule F, which would exempt about 50,000 federal workers in policy-making positions from civil service rules that make it difficult to fire workers who defy government directives. president. . The “deep state”, Trump, Bannon and their allies have defined it.

From the archives (November 2023): Trump’s plans for a second term include deportation raids, tariffs and mass firings of career public workers

Trump issued an executive order creating the Schedule F classification for federal workers in the final months of his term, but he had little time left to take advantage of the new rule, and President Joe Biden quickly rescinded it after taking office in January 2021.

Democrats, labor leaders, public policy experts and other critics argue that Schedule F would hinder government performance by replacing career experts with inexperienced ideologues and would effectively reduce democratic accountability.

“Increasing the number of political offices would create a new venue in which political polarization would undermine the quality of government by replacing moderates with extremists,” wrote Georgetown University political scientist Donald Moynihan in a recent analysis for Brookings.

The civil service’s proposed approach dovetails with the conservative movement’s strategy in federal court to curb the power of regulators like the Environmental Protection Agency to enforce greenhouse gas emissions standards, or health and safety administrations on the work of implementing COVID-19 vaccine mandates. .

The US Supreme Court, reorganized by Trump’s three nominees, has struck down numerous rules put forward by the Biden administration, and the conservative movement’s hope is to accelerate this trend of deregulation by reorganizing the 2 million-strong federal workforce.

“Root and Branch”

Program F could be implemented via executive order, but it would only affect a small portion of federal personnel, and the right-wing political wing is eager to see more fundamental changes.

Last year, Senator Rick Scott of Florida and Representative Chip Roy of Texas, both Republicans, introduced the Public Service Reform Act, which would eliminate substantial protections unionized federal workers enjoy from being fired from their jobs.

The bill would eliminate the Merit Systems Protection Board, one of several agencies to which federal workers can appeal with the argument that they were wrongfully fired, and would generally make it easier to fire federal workers.

The Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025 recommendations would go even further, arguing that Congress should reconsider whether federal employees can form unions, because, unlike the private sector, there is no threat that the government will go out of business to force unions to moderate their requests. for higher wages, greater benefits and job protections.

“When civil service reform was enacted in the late 19th century, only about 10% of workers were protected, and now 99.8% enjoy de facto careers,” Heritage’s Dans said.

“This should be an issue for both parties,” he added, but argued that polarizing trends mean the federal workforce is increasingly made up of partisan Democrats.

“This is now a one-party issue,” Dans said. “A conservative who gets to the White House is staring at an executive branch that is completely populated by people who oppose his agenda.”

Moynihan, the Georgetown political scientist, argues, however, that intentionally politicizing the bureaucracy could be a problem for Americans of all persuasions, as research shows that political appointees tend to be less responsive to Congressional and Freedom of Information requests Act.

“This decline in responsiveness affected both policy-related inquiries and constituency service inquiries,” Moynihan wrote. “In other words, both elected officials and members of the general public experience the effects of politicization in terms of decreased responsiveness.”

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