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Carmen, I thought you wanted to shrink government (in progress)

Updated: Sep 15, 2023

Yes, is one of my favorite websites, even though it's fictional. It should exist right? If I become president, it will exist. It will be a primary tool of reducing the government in size and scope. It will be a communication and prioritizing tool. With this official website we can define the most important places to trim the overgrowth of our beautiful garden. The purpose of trimming the branches is to regain the constitutional contours of our government. This primarily means cutting and cleaning, but there are also areas for government growth. Yes, our government needs to shrink. Part of doing that is to increase its competence.

Almost all of government growth in the last 100 years has been in just one of the three branches, the administrative or executive branch. This is the branch with the President at the top. Growth in the administrative branch has far outstripped the growth of the legislative and judicial branches. If we count the number of agencies, bureaus, and departments, the growth of the administrative branch is around 15 to 1 compared to the Congress and the courts. If we compare sheer number of employees, the growth of the administrative branch dwarfs the other two. It's closer to 200 to 1. (These are rough numbers. For example, we're not counting the post office. If we did, we could still round conveniently to 200 to 1, it wouldn't change the analysis.)

Depending on how you count, the President of the United States has between 2,000,000 and 6,000,000 employees. Congress and the legislature have 20,000. You can just count zeros to get a feel for the difference. The administrative branch is the big stinkie of the government. This is where your money goes. They take your money, slice and dice it, pile it, shovel it, hide it, and spend it. They also use your income as collateral for borrowing. They spend as fast as they can borrow. Congress watches all that happen. And Congress claims it happens by their direction and under their oversight. That is not accurate. Congress cannot effectively supervise the operation of the administrative branch.

Let's recall this statement from 2017 “I didn’t know there was 1,000 troops in Niger,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, told NBC’s Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press” Sunday. “They are going to brief us next week as to why they were there and what they were doing.” In one of the increasingly rare times where the headline matches the article, we learned that key senators admitted they didn’t know the US had troops in Niger. I'm going to guess that the plural in 'senators' was probably upwards of 70%, and I feel that's probably being generous.

That is a stunning admission. While I might be tempted to admire the apparent honesty and forthrightness, the political strategy shows through pretty quickly. Let's analyze what must have happened. We know the senators didn't know about US troops in Niger. After the deaths of four US service members, they learned that troops were stationed in Niger. Sen. Graham said the substance of the brief was to be 'why they were there and what they were doing'. That was now five years ago. Smart money says that brief happened.

I'm sure they were briefed by now, five years later. For some incomprehensible reason, now that they know there are troops there, Congress said, "Meh." Ironically, the same troops that the US has provided aid to for years has now recently deposed their democratically elected president in a military coup. We can learn what their overall mission was from the Department of Defense website: The U.S. forces in Niger have the mission to help the Nigerien forces combat terrorism and develop military capabilities.

Please take a moment and click the link to the DOD news release. You'll see an impressive picture of Nigerian soldiers in a training exercise. I know the photo was taken by the US Army, and that we sponsored the training. Did any of that training eventually contribute in force or posture to the coup in 2023? The safe money is on yes, American and French training helped the coup planners develop the military capability they needed to depose the democratically elected president. And even safer money is on American and French politicians downplaying that connection. Now back to Lindsey Graham and the 30-70% of senators who didn't know that US troops were stationed in Niger.

I think Congress has a hard time standing up to the Department of Defense. Let's be honest. It's about 20,000 to 1. There is no contest. Congress is butter compared to the DOD. Everything works in the DOD's favor. They are professional. Congressmen and women love to be treated professionally. The DOD is a master of ceremony, professional courtesy, paperwork, and official status. It's the king of everything we think the government might or can do. It's full of heroes. It's a fountain of American pride, from the War of Independence to today's "Support the Troops". As long as the DOD maintains the veneer that Congress is in control, they can bend Congress to rubber stamp just about anything.

So the Senate was briefed after the US soldiers were killed. But apparently they were actually re-briefed. According to the CNN article, someone at the Pentagon said they had previously briefed the Senate on Niger. And I strongly suspect it was brief. Was it perhaps slightly longer after the soldiers were killed? Did they spend a few extra minutes on the matter? Apparently no strategic direction changed because there are 1,100 troops there today, five years after the briefing. Seeing as Congress knew almost nothing about it, prior to being briefed, they completely bought the reasons we were there.

Now I'm not saying we shouldn't be in Niger because, for example, I, as president, would have known that our military assistance in Niger was likely to turn against the democratically elected government. Nope. I would have said, "We have no business being in Niger at all, for any reason, unless Congress specifically declares a war against someone or something there." I would have then given Congress the professional courtesy of 48 to 96 hours for them to declare war. Failing to do so, I would have recalled all troops from Niger.

So Congress is exceedingly lucky if I become president. One, I'm going to do some of their job for them. I'm not going to pretend to have Congressional war making authority. As president I have constitutionally limited authority to repel invasions. Since we weren't being invaded from Niger, there was no war to have without Congress. And since the representatives of the states and of the people didn't even know about our troops being there, that's double the reason to leave. I highly doubt they would have found the political will to declare war during my offer of 48-96 hours. Back to Congress being lucky.

Secondly, I want Congress to grow. That's right. I want Congress to grow in scope to deal with complex problems. There are many highly complex issues we deal with on a daily basis, that our Founding Fathers could not have conceived of. It's fair that we have a legislative branch that is more capable. But let's be cautious. I'm not talking about just adding to the pile. I strongly suspect there are places that Congress can be trimmed. Just look and you see weeds all over the place, blowing in the wind. We're talking about constitutional lines. The principles that will guide us to trim these branches will also guide us to foster proper growth.

One place I want to grow the courts is for the judiciary to feel confident and capable in dealing with national security matters. Congress can definitely help them in this area by passing legislation. Courts love legislation as guidance. One of our guiding principles is that the face of one man sharpens another like iron sharpens iron. Our courts are critically important in national security matters, but the current capability of the judiciary clearly needs improvement. The FISA courts are an abomination to constitutional principles.

While Congress is helping the courts deal with top secret information, they need to help themselves do the same. There are tens of thousands of clearances for secret and top secret information in the United States. Very few of them are in Congress. But this is a problem when the people's representatives either cannot see or have extreme difficulty seeing what the most dangerous parts of the administrative branch is doing. If they have trouble keeping secrets today, then that is an area where they need to grow and be as competent and capable as the administrative branch, and even more. They are the people's representatives. They must truly be in the know, or they are not representing.

My hunch is that the reason the Constitution is so little heeded today, so little understood, is the tremendous growth of the administrative branch (there are the benign tumors of the welfare state that consume the vast bulk of federal spending and the aggressive tumors of the warfare state. Both are dangerous. Benign tumors can and do kill their hosts. They effectively run themselves. They effectively push Congress around. The Constitution is can be safely ignored when it is followed one letter at a time. Then the administrative branch can say "we're following the Constitution" while ignoring its spirit and the clear intent. And the administrative state has published tens upon tens of thousands of pages of rules and law. It doesn't make sense to have those rules if you're not going to follow them. There's so much more momentum away from the Constitution that has grown in the last 100 years, right along with the administrative branch.

The people's representatives need to grow. The direction of this growth is on the spiritual principles, starting with one called rule of law. That often misunderstood phrase means that the law itself is ruled by law. That means that people in government can't just do whatever they want. They have to follow the law. If not, they can be fired, impeached, or prosecuted. And it's for one key purpose: that all Americans are truly equal before the law, that no one is preferred before another, that justice is truly blind. These are the deep spiritual principles that need to flower and grow.

My goal is not to bully but to guide. Was I too hard on Lindsey Graham? After I wrote this I looked him and up and see he's facing all kinds of trouble. I didn't pick him out of the Senate to piggy back on any of his current troubles. Pure coincidence. So let's look at Congress as a whole. Congress is full of people. We are all limited. We are all influenceable. We are all imperfect. Being limited and imperfect is not the problem. The problem is when we get used to that limit and hide behind it. Or when we believe we can't rise above our limits. Those are lies that have shaped our thinking. That's a universal, daily human problem. Don't blame Congress for being susceptible. Instead, accept that Congress has that problem too.

The solution is trimming ugly, harmful growth, and promoting new growth, along principled lines. So yes, one of my goals as president is for the government to be bigger and more capable. We need a capable government. We also need to avoid mistaking size for capability.

I took a screenshot of the picture I mentioned from the DOD link. This picture is from 2018, the year after four American service members were killed in Niger. This annual exercise is the largest training for US Central Command in Africa. It has been conducted every year since 2005 in various host nations.

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