Drain the Swamp, or Spread the Swamp? Lawmakers Pitch Relocating Agency Headquarters
The U.S. government plans to spew occupying forces far and wide within the United States.
Or… The U.S. government will distribute the income of the bureaucratic class across distressed regions of the country.
Are they spreading the wealth, or spreading the swamp?
The government’s definition of decentralizing is certainly not the same as ours. They think moving government agencies’ central offices out of DC is decentralizing the government. It’s like an Amelia Bedelia book. Well, the people said they wanted decentralized government!
But generally, when people advocate decentralizing government, they mean the power structure, not the physical presence of government agents.
But still, it is not so clear whether moving agencies out of DC would be a good thing or a bad thing.
DC is an echo chamber. It is an insular club where people never see the American people they supposedly work for, represent, and serve.
While only 15% of the federal workforce is in Washington, it is where most of the top decision makers live and work. David Fontana, a professor at George Washington University Law School who is writing a book about decentralizing the federal government, says their bubble is growing evermore insulated from reality.
Embedding government agencies throughout the country could make top bureaucrats more empathetic towards the average American when they see how their decisions hurt them.
Citizens’ concerns might actually be heard when government officials are their neighbors. Instead of a tally on a spreadsheet, officials would hear it from a friend.
Increasing physical distance between bureaucrats, lawmakers, and other agencies could cut down on corruption, behind the scenes string-pulling, and closed-door collusion to harm the American people.
DC suburbs include the five richest counties in the entire United States. The lowest median household income among these counties is $108,706 per year! That is almost twice the median household income of the United States at large. Altogether, 9 of the 20 highest income counties in the USA are suburbs of DC.
Instead of that money remaining in the DC area, some of it would be spread out across the country. Original tax dollars paid out as salaries to government employees would be spent in a local small town establishments instead of in DC.
When the Chinese invaded Tibet, they sought to destroy their culture by importing Chinese businesses, citizens, and government agents. Of course, they claimed to be improving the economies of impoverished Tibetan regions. And technically, they have made Tibet wealthier by injecting billions of dollars into the region.
DC could end up exporting its culture across the United States. Greed, corruption, crony-deals, and power hungry ideals would come with the money. Local officials would become like crime bosses, trading favors for federal cash.
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.
In Tibet, the less educated locals end up doing menial jobs, while the best gigs go to imported Chinese nationals. Will the people living near the new government offices become a servant class? It would be the ultimate reversal of what the government is intended to do: serve the people.
One of the most oppressive government agencies is the Bureau of Land Management. The BLM controls 260 million acres of land, 90% of which is west of the Mississippi. That’s why some lawmakers are calling for the central office to be relocated.
But that is essentially inviting the fox into the henhouse. The BLM has confiscated land, stolen cattle, and issued excessive fines to hikers and property owners. They took 90,000 acres of land along a river in Texas, and refuse to even talk to property owners.
This could escalate and increase occurrences of standoffs like the one on the Bundy Ranch. The agencies would essentially become an occupying force.
Would the American people come to see up close how terrible their government really is? Or would they become more sympathetic–or even corrupt–by the presence of government agents in their communities?
“Decentralizing” the government offices could make the U.S. divide into factions based on what agency is embedded in particular areas. It is already bad enough having Congressmen fight over federal funds. Things could get messy if they advocate for a particular agency which most their constituents belong to. Then you might have the BLM battling with the National Parks Service.
“There is all this unused office space outside of Detroit where the FBI could build for not much money,” said Paul Kupiec, a scholar at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute. That city, unlike suburban Washington, desperately needs the economic surge such an agency would bring, he said. “Why are we spending billions of dollars on these headquarters in Washington?”
Will the FBI, then, run Michigan? They would have some pretty intense pull in the local scene. And perhaps any Congressmen who don’t want to help out Michigan lawmakers might end up… under investigation.
What Would Really Help…
Maybe it isn’t the government agencies which need to stay away from DC, but the politicians. In the internet age, why do they need to spend tax dollars flying to DC, and staying in swanky accommodations, eating expensive food?
All the members of Congress can simply video call in for their votes. They can talk to other politicians via government technology that records their meetings. That way, there is a record of their communications. That means fewer backroom deals and more pressure from constituents. No more hiding in DC!
We can dream.
What do you think? Would distributing the government offices across America breed harmony or resentment? Would government officials become empathetic towards their fellow Americans, or simply abuse them from a closer range? Would the people in surrounding areas be enriched by tax-funded salaries, or sink into the swamp?