Amid the talk of draining swamps, restoring political might to blue-collar America and turning off the spigot of taxpayer cash that showers Washington, a familiar battle cry is ricocheting through this city: Move the bureaucrats out.
It has the ring of a Trumpian fantasy. Dislodge arms of the federal government from Washington and reattach them in faraway places, spreading the wealth generated by these well-paid agency workforces and forcing senior bureaucrats to face the people they affect. But the idea has established populist roots that spread across party lines, and they are reemerging at this unique political moment.
The swaggering Interior secretary from Montana is putting the finishing touches on his plan to move the headquarters of three large public lands agencies to the West. The Stanford economist representing Silicon Valley in Congress sees opportunity to strategically seed regions of the country with pieces of the federal bureaucracy that can benefit them — and that they can benefit. The unlikely prospect of locating the Department of Transportation in Los Angeles is dangled by Republicans eager to show this crusade has bipartisan cred.
There hasn’t been so much buzz about getting “Washington” out of Washington since Franklin D. Roosevelt sent 30,000 federal workers to the Midwest after a presidential commission advised such moves would ensure the prototypical federal employee “remains one of the people in touch with the people and does not degenerate into an isolated and arrogant bureaucrat.”
The problem with Washington today is that far too much power and money is concentrated in a small geographical area, which lends credence to the Leftist fantasy that a country as large and diverse as the United States can be controlled from central command. Westerners, for example, have long known that the Bos-Wash corridor kidz have no real understanding of the issues that lie beyond the Hudson and Potomac rivers; getting some federal agencies closer to their areas of jurisdiction can only help.
None of it is going over well with die-hard Washingtonians. Many scold that the idea will flame out the same way it did when the Clinton administration pondered and then dropped a big relocation initiative, and the Reagan administration did the same before it.
How about that! After the war, the West German government was dispersed, so as not allow a concentration of malevolence such as occurred during the National Socialist regime to repeat itself. Now that the Left has declared the “Resistance” to the GOP victory in the 2016 election, we might want to think about the German example, before it’s too late. At the very least, it will ease pressures on the D.C.-area real estate market, give the bureaucrats some much-needed fresh air and sunshine, and expose them to the real world beyond the Mall. Who knows, they might even learn something.