Having looked at some of the higher level threats posed by our incoming President, let us pause to realize far more danger lurks in the little nooks and crannies of the federal government where true mischief can be made with very little detection unless or until a massive screw up occurs.
Consider some of the power wielded by the Bureau of Land Management within Department of Interior. More than 247 million acres of federal land come under BLM’s purview, but you rarely hear much about this governmental backwater unless it is rocked by a major scandal, as it was during George W. Bush’s administration when oil and gas industry lobbyists plied DOI employees with drugs, engaged in sexual relationships with BLM employees and showered them with other goodies like tickets to concerts, football games, and baseball games, along with paintball outings and golf trips. BLM collects $10 billion a year in oil and gas royalties from the regulated industry, so it is not hard to see why employees there might have their hands out, but who is going to watch the henhouse in a Trump Administration when the fox is in the White House?
Sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll not your speed? Google “Monica Goodling” to see what happens at the Department of Justice when inexperienced and ideological attorneys are given massive power over hiring high-level attorneys to enforce our nation’s laws. This does not even take into account the ability of offices like the Voting Rights Section to engage in partisan investigations of the mythical New Black Panthers or more realistically, the Black Lives Matter movement. And the largely defanged Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms had a brief rejuvenation by getting a full-time Director a few years ago, but expect the NRA to tell their President (those millions in ads supporting Trump were not done out of the goodness of their heart) to stuff ATF back in the box so people remain largely ignorant of the causes of gun violence in our country.
Other agencies like the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Health and Human Services oversee billions of dollars that flow through grant administration and are ripe targets for graft, double dealing, kickbacks, and other sweetheart deals that people Trump associated with in the business world could easily bring into the federal government.
Still not worried? What about science, medical research, and technology. Small agencies like NOAA are critical to our understanding of climate change, the formation and path of hurricanes and tornadoes, and much more but is an Administration skeptical that climate change is even manmade going to maintain funding levels necessary to continue this critical work? How about the National Cancer Institute? Vice President Biden was put in charge of a cancer “moon shot” but will there be much interest in this work, even though the Vice President’s report asked for a mere $1 billion to advance a number of initiatives geared towards finding cures for various forms of cancer.
Of course, this does not even scratch the surface of what may happen due to lax regulation or oversight of Wall Street, rubber stamping large scale corporate mergers, or changing the government’s position on Internet neutrality. When the reins of government stretch so widely, deeply, and broadly, there is literally no end to the type of malfeasance that could occur if the wrong combination of people are put in positions to take advantage of their power.
Unfortunately, because Trump is so radioactive and has so little connection to the Republican establishment, you might just see some random former Apprentice contestant running, I don’t know, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. And because smaller agencies and programs are not widely covered by the media, little will be known until, as we saw with Hurricane Katrina, what happens when unqualified people are put in charge of government agencies who have real responsibility for the health, safety, and welfare of our fellow Americans.
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