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John Livingston

The Concentration of Power

Before I begin my discussion about the ever-increasing concentration of power into government bureaucracies at all levels, let me say that I have tremendous admiration and respect for people who put themselves and their families on the line to run for public office, and if elected serve, many times sitting at endless meetings and briefings when they could be watching Monday Night Football.

I personally know many of our legislators and they are good honest people and have been pillars in their communities, serving as examples to their families and their friends. Many have built up businesses from scratch and competed in the marketplace. Others have established careers in the professions and are respected by clients, patients and peers.

What I don’t understand is what happens to many of our politicians when they come to serve in our State legislature, our US Congress, and even in our municipalities. There is no question that running for election and being an effective policy maker takes different skill sets, but the decisions made in a vote at City Council or before the legislature requires the same fidelity to a moral predicate and the same discipline in analyzing information as what one practices in running their own businesses or family. The arguments so often given is that there are so many issues and so many complexities. City Council members rely on city planners employed by the city to explain the complex issues surrounding Planning and Zoning Applications, land divisions, and Special Use Permits. They rely on city attorneys and even on the attorneys for the applicants (developers) to create new ordinances. The people living in the communities affected are allowed 5mins before government agencies to make their case, while the developers work in hand with city fathers and employees for up to 5 years.

At our legislature, a Medicaid Joint Committee “nibbled around the edges” of Medicaid reform relying on bureaucrats from the Department of Health and Welfare, to direct the process. Several of these people come from the private sector—hospital administration and the insurance industry. Who represents WE THE PEOPLE. The reality is that today Medicaid is serving fewer of the people it was originally designed to help than it did prior to the passing of the Affordable Care Act. Waiting times for appointments are longer and ER visits are more frequent because of the long waiting times. Lobbyists representing corporate interests and bureaucrats representing their own fiefdoms ran the show and controlled the process.

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Scholars and political pundits in academia and the media, from both the left and the right, agree that at all levels of government, political power has migrated from the legislative branch to the executive branch. Most importantly a new branch of government has evolved over the past 100 years that has little accountability to WE THE PEOPLE, or even to the executive and legislative branches—the bureaucratic “deep state”. The Federal bureaucracy over time has usurped power from the two other branches of the Federal government, they have also facilitated the transfer of power from the States to the Federal government. The fault for this I must suggest lies with legislators at both the Federal and State levels.

As power has accrued to the bureaucrats at all levels of government, citizens are feeling more and more marginalized. According to PEW research this is one of the reasons for voter apathy. A lobbyist or a bureaucrat that controls the process of governance from behind the scenes has far more influence than everyday citizens at all levels of government. The tug of war that our Founding Fathers designed between the various branches of government and between the States and the Feds, contentious transparent debate, is now worked out over lunch at private clubs or at Chesapeake Bay private estates, or at a Cor d’Alene condo or at The Governor’s Cup.

It is time for City Councils and legislators in Idaho to stand up to Mayors and the bureaucracies within many of our city governments and to our government and the State of Idaho “deep state”

It is also time for those at all levels of government in our State to stand up to the Federal Government. When over 60% of our State’s budget comes from the Feds—over half of the $4.9 billion Medicaid Idaho state budget comes from the Feds, the State quickly becomes supplicant to the Federal Government. When the Department of Health and Welfare is merely and conduit for transfer payments to large corporations and non-profits, who by the way contribute large sums of money to political campaigns at all levels of government, then why have JFAC even involved in the allocation process of those specific funds?

I have called on several occasions for audits of the Idaho (DHW) and those institutions receiving more than $100million of government transfer payments. It would also be instructive to ask for outside audits of local government agencies that receive large sums of government grant money. The key I believe, is the “outside independent audit” by a disinterested auditor. The taxpayer stands in the same position before his government as a stockholder does before a corporation that they have invested in. IT’S OUR MONEY and our investment in ourselves!

One last red flag was raised recently in the Wall Street Journal. From the beginning of 2018 until today Covid and programs under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) filtering down from the Feds to the States have had a price tag of $5.5trillion dollars, but the national debt has gone from $22trillion to $32trillion dollars. The infusion of cash from the public to the private sector had a cost to the public sector of over twice the amount of the infusion. At least one third of that cost (enough to fund our military for over a year) was from increasing interest payments over the past 3 years. And let me point out our military spending until this year under Mr. Bidon has decreased!

Our ever-increasing dependency on Federal programs at all levels of government needs to be addressed this legislative session. One of the questions dividing the Idaho Republican Party today is should we just keep kicking the can down the road and hope the cost of economic chaos is manageable, or do we tighten our belts today, look at these programs where there has been obvious mismanagement or even malfeasance—who knows, and let’s run government like it is our own business or family—or even better like a fiduciary. If the fiduciary standard were applied to the people’s investments in government (taxes), and how our scarce resources are allocated, there may be some missing seats in our City Councils and State legislature.

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4 replies on “The Concentration of Power”

Yep. I’ve said for some time now, we no longer live in a Democracy. We live in a bureaucracy. No matter who’s in power (R or D behind their name) the real puppeteers are the bureaucrats. Saw this first hand over 30 years ago at my local school board. It’s not something new, just much more obvious.

While the legislators and City Fathers are being winned and dined by lobbyists and developers, the beuracrats are working late into the night making laws.

Some relief may be at hand. It looks like the USSC is about to abandon the Chevron doctrine where the courts have bowed to the decisions of the administrative state as to what the law REALLY (read should) mean.

https://www.scotusblog.com/2024/01/supreme-court-likely-to-discard-chevron/

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