The three pillars of the science fiction story are, traditionally, “What if?”, “If only,” and “If this goes on.”
The first two have embraced in the irrational proposition that if only all regulations and laws were suspended and greed is enshrined as our sole engine of governance, an Ayn Rand Utopia of strong individualists progressing civilization into an unsullied paradise will ensue.
It is the third we are concerned with herein:
House Republicans revive obscure rule that could allow them to slash the pay of individual federal workers to $1
Washington Post, January 5 at 9:59 AM
By Jenna Portnoy and Lisa Rein
House Republicans this week reinstated an arcane procedural rule that enables lawmakers to reach deep into the budget and slash the pay of an individual federal worker — down to a $1 — a move that threatens to upend the 130-year-old civil service. The Holman Rule, named after an Indiana congressman who devised it in 1876, empowers any member of Congress to offer an amendment to an appropriations bill that targets a specific government employee or program….
Though the House and Senate must vote to accept the amendment, we know that these sorts of riders are added all the time in the middle of the night. Therein lies the rub.
Let’s take a look at what this actually means. First, it means that the 130-year old Civil Service reforms (which drove the election of Democrat Grover Cleveland in post-Civil War GOP America) are at grave risk.
Prior to 1871, the “spoils” system ran the Federal government. The term comes from the old saw “to the victor goes the spoils.” All federal positions were dependent on who won the election, and the hackery, corruption and cronyism of the spoils system had finally sickened the nation. We needed a professional work force, able to do their jobs without the constant drum beat of partisanship, and U.S. Grant and congress created the first United States Civil Service Commission, funding it for two years.
And then congress, in its infinite corruption, decided NOT to fund the Civil Service Commission because it was cramping its patronage and its perquisites. The 1881 assassination of James Garfield (who asked for and did not receive funding for the Commission) by a disgruntled office seeker seems to have permanently altered the mood of the country and Grover Cleveland — elected to “drain the swamp” of Gilded Age Republican corruption was able to pass the 1883 Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act –fueled in part by the public outcry over Garfield’s assassination.
And we have had a federal work force (both my parents were federal civil servants at some point) insulated from partisanship and concerned with doing their lawfully mandated jobs ever since. NO ONE pretends that this reform was a bad idea nor that the republic has not benefited immeasurably from it thereafter.
But this is not the agenda of the “swamp drainers” in Congress for the One Hundred Fifteenth renewal of two angry drunks fighting over the wheel of the ship of state passing through parlous straits.
Ironically, perhaps, it is the Republicans who have promulgated this “experiment” — the 1876 Holman Rule was quietly approved with the proviso that it would sunset unless reauthorized in one year to placate Republicans in the House who objected. And ironic indeed that the Holman Rule was CREATED in 1876 to undo what little anti-corruptive damage had been done to the spoils system by the ORIGINAL Civil Service legislation.
So what does this mean? Well it means that any congressman or senator (almost exclusively GOP) can, in essence, terminate/eliminate almost any civil service employee who incites their wrath. You know: if an EPA employee demands that some well-connected polluter stop, the House GOP can’t undo the law, but they CAN undo the employee — unless, of course, said employee can live for a year on a dollar.
This is a de facto prescription to overturn ALL regulatory enforcement that the “Free Market” pirates of the House GOP deem “bad for business.” And, for a year, the Republicans in Congress can PURGE the Civil Service of all those “obstructionist” employees who insist on doing their jobs as prescribed by law. Think of what they did to Lois Lerner of the IRS, for example, who only attempted to enforce the charitable regulations of the IRS code. In a little-noted move thereafter, the GOP congress essentially gutted all 501(c)4 provisions, making it perfectly legal to launder dark money with zero accountability for political purposes — a complete overturning of the original intent of Congress in CREATING the section 501 provisions prohibiting charitable activities from being partisan POLITICAL activities, or, in essence, allowing the rich to engage in politics on your dime, Mr. and Mrs. US Taxpayer.
distilling angels into demons
The implications of this “rule” are staggering when you apply the “if this goes on” test to it. And recall that you don’t really need to go after ALL civil service employees to create a chilling effect. Just make a few examples of “uppity” civil servants.
I recall clearly a cartoon from the Clinton era wherein a short viking-costumed Newt Gingrich was seen with a battle-axe attacking wildly, with the caption, “It takes a pillage.” That seemed hyperbolic at the time. Now it merely qualifies as sober reportage.
We continue to watch a slow-motion coup d’etat on the part of the (minority) GOP, wherein receiving fewer votes gains them control of all branches of government, while obtaining a majority of votes in the House, the Senate and the Presidential races gets the majority bupkis.
Remember: Augustus Caesar ended the Roman republic by announcing its restoration.
Now, if any pesky scientist objects to the hysterical hallucination that there is no global warming, their pay can be dropped to one dollar a year. (Whether they would receive eight and one-third cents a month or the lump sum of a dollar at the end of that year is unknown.)
There is one small fly in the ointment, however (emphasis added):
U.S. Code › Title 5 › Part III › Subpart A › Chapter 21 › § 2101
5 U.S. Code § 2101 – Civil service; armed forces; uniformed services
For the purpose of this title—
(1) the “civil service” consists of all appointive positions in the executive, judicial, and legislative branches of the Government of the United States, except positions in the uniformed services;
(2) “armed forces” means the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard; and
(3) “uniformed services” means the armed forces, the commissioned corps of the Public Health Service, and the commissioned corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
In other words, many members of the Public Health Service and NOAA can’t be touched by this rule, and thus questions about Zika virus-type situations and global warming can’t be neatly silenced by an ideologue/demagogue congress increasingly uninterested in real world science and information.
This is small consolation.
Gustave Doré: Welcome to another Sabbath
Even before the Black Mass called the “Inauguration,” the handwriting is on the wall that this may well be one of the most socially destructive congresses in memory, helmed by a dangerously unstable and ignorant chief executive who can never let the slightest slight go unanswered.
There is no legitimate purpose to this rule, other than to facilitate misrule.
I can offer no prescription for action, nor inoculation against the malevolence of the incoming claque, save that humans rarely express their displeasure by throwing their literal feces, so your wardrobe ought not suffer.
Now, more than ever,