Former EPA staffers said Wednesday the restrictions imposed under Trump far exceed the practices of past administrations.Update:

The AP has news that the EPA must submit all studies and data to review by political appointees.

Former EPA staffers said Wednesday the restrictions imposed under Trump far exceed the practices of past administrations.

Earlier:

It’s not been a week and already the Trump transition team has left chaos in its wake.

It has issued a series of gag orders, which in themselves, aren’t unusual for a transition. As the New York Times notes:

Longtime employees at three of the agencies — including some career environmental regulators who conceded that they remained worried about what President Trump might do on policy matters — said such orders were not much different from those delivered by the Obama administration as it shifted policies from the departing White House of George W. Bush. They called reactions to the agency memos overblown.

However, the orders went beyond the typical “don’t make statements to the press for the department until the department head is in place”  normal for a Presidential transition. They included orders freezing the publication of scientific reports and data, as well as information that is normally given to the public as part of the organization’s functions.  That they did so is probably due to the team’s inexperience, rather than an attempt to block citizen access to the data. The end result, though, is the same: concern and confusion.

We shouldn’t be surprised that the White House web site has dropped pages. Doing so was expected in a Presidential transition. However, the pages that are posted either read like a press release, or include links to content that disappears and re-appears daily. This includes Trump’s Executive Orders, which are, at this moment, missing.  Again, inexperience is likely the cause, but generating chaos and concern.

The Trump hiring freeze was expected. In the long run, though, it is shortsighted. These overbroad hiring freezes end up decreasing the efficiency and increasing the costs associated with upholding the laws of the land. The memo detailing the hiring freeze also notes that the agency can’t use contractors in order to meet statutory demands created by the hiring freeze. Combined, both could undermine the government’s ability to function.

Rules and regulations mandated by laws have to be enforced. Tasks mandated by laws have to be performed, and functions, fulfilled. There are no exceptions. If there aren’t enough people to meet mandated requirements, then agencies fail in their responsibilities. Leaving aside the obvious harms to the people of the country, the government can also be sued for not fulfilling its duties.

Being sued adds additional financial burdens—not to mention the chaos that will ensue because one or more judges then order agencies and departments to fulfill these tasks, and the organizations have to prioritize tasks based on judicial orders rather than critical necessity.

Trump’s administration has also ordered the agencies and departments to freeze new rules and regulations for 60 days if they can do so, legally. This is normal, this is nothing to get upset about. However, the order to the EPA to freeze grants and contracts has compounded the chaos and uncertainty. It comes without any public notice explaining the action and is leaving states, in particular, confused about what support they can expect from the federal government.

An additional concern about the hiring and grant freeze is both are accompanied by Trump-talk about reducing the size of the government, reducing regulations by 75%, and so on. A lot of disjointed big talk that might be OK for the campaign trail, but can only alarm people when mouthed by officials of the United States government.

Trump’s team is acting more like they’re conducting a hostile takeover of a business than a transition between Presidential teams. Political rhetoric aside, the two types of entities—government and business—are completely different. This should be obvious to even the most naive or idealistic observer. At a certain point in time, if Trump’s team does not get its act together, we could be looking at a broad breakdown of federal functionality.

Putin might be happy with the result. The people in the US, less so.

 

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