Politicizing Government Agencies

Quietly each month we learn about yet another Executive office that has chosen politics over good government. Under President Bush the day-to-day workings of Executive agencies have been pressured to make decisions and act along ideological lines. Areas such as women’s health and the environment reports based on scientific research and rigorous study have been suppressed if they do not toe certain policy lines. This practice is destructive and ill informed.

Grover Norquist, the anti-tax crusader and conservative activist, once said he wanted to shrink government “down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” Mr. Bush, perhaps realizing that the government is here to stay, has taken a different approach: he has turned the government away from the principles of a functioning bureaucracy and transformed it into yet another political arm. He has shifted government away from helping people and doing valuable research, preferring instead to use its massive resources to pursue his party’s ideological agenda.

Government can and should add value to its citizens’ lives. “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are easier to accomplish with the support structures of a functioning government. While many conservatives may believe that the free market will solve all problems, there is no morality or safety in the pursuit of monetary gain. Large corporations with their eye on the bottom line will dump toxic chemicals in the water even if it ruins the livelihood of the small farmer down stream; auto companies will continue to build gas-guzzling vehicles if they sell; gun manufacturers will continue to manufacture weapons whose only real purpose is to kill. Reasonable restraints on the market, while perhaps a slight hindrance to the bottom line of large corporations, help insure a higher quality of life for all.

Mr. Bush and the GOP in some ways already have drowned the government in the bathtub. By suppressing studies and policies that may help people live better and healthier lives, the government as an entity for the benefit of all its citizens is dying a death of a thousand cuts. The politicization of the government does not represent one well-reasoned philosophy instead of another, nor the product of a healthy debate. The vast resources of the government have been marshaled to keep a small number of people and interests in power. The effect on the average citizen, while subtle, is also extremely harmful. The damage done in the last six years is deeper than simple policies that can be replaced or reversed. There is an insidious rot that pervades the current structure of our government. Unless this rot is addressed and fixed, I fear that our country may be in deep trouble.

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