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America in middle of a crisis of trust

It will be an election of change in 2008, for our federal government has failed us in almost every measurable way. Under the Bush administration there is a pervasive “can’t do” attitude that empowers the excesses of capitalism and diminishes the competence of government.

It began with a Republican philosophy, the conviction that all government regulation is bad. That philosophy was buttressed by the financial contributions of big business, who sought to avoid any and all regulation. So we had a political philosophy supported by the kind of funding support that keeps elected representatives in office.

The philosophy found its effectiveness it several ways: It placed “politicals” in every federal agency to assure that the philosophy was followed. It required White House clearance on any policy changes that might be seen as regulatory restrictions or political concerns. It underfunded agencies charged with oversight. It staffed agencies with unqualified but politically correct managers.

It all works pretty simply. Want hired by the Bush administration as a civilian to help Iraq? No problem. The first step is to apply at the Pentagon where Jim O’Beirne would interview you. Qualifications?

Hardly.

Jim would ask these questions: Did you vote for George Bush? Do you support the War on Terror? And, for some applicants, where do you stand on Roe vs. Wade?

How did this function? You can imagine how it might work once you know we sent a 24-year-old who had never worked in finance to re-open the Iraqi stock exchange and hired the daughter of a neoconservative commentator with a degree in home child care to administer Iraq’s $13 billion budget.

It works in the EPA as well. The EPA had already understood its role was to not act in any way when the Supreme Court ruled that the Clear Air Act required the agency to act. So under this requirement the EPA responded, submitting a rule to the White House that would limit greenhouse gas emissions as a public

health risk. The White House demanded the agency cancel its e-mail within seven minutes after it was sent. But the EPA Associate deputy Administrator, Jason Burnett, refused. So the White House refused to open the e-mail and failed to permit the new EPA rules to be enacted.

It works with encouraging imports as well. And why should we care if our toys come with free lead paint that stops brain development in our children? After all, under the Bush administration we had “Bob” of the US Consumer Product Safety Commission inspecting toys. That’s right, just Bob, no one else, just Bob. Just Bob in a rundown rodent infested facility in Gaithersburg, Maryland testing toys for an agency determined not to succeed.

And then of course the policy worked at FEMA, sort of the poster child for the incompetence of political appointees. At the time of Katrina the three top agency leaders had Bush campaign ties and another was a Chamber of Commerce official and a fifth a Republican lieutenant governor from Nebraska. Nine of the ten regional directors of FEMA were “acting” directors at the time.

Whether John McCain or Barak Obama assume the presidency, America needs to trust again that our regulators will regulate, our agencies will function, and our government will act with integrity. Lacking such trust, Americans will continue to turn out any and all elected officials until we get our government back from the unregulated capitalism that is undermining the nation.

Calvin Coolidge had nothing on this group, and his presidency preceded a revolution in American politics.

Jim Crawford is a contributing columnist for The Ironton Tribune.