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Is Trump trying to purge the government of disloyal elements?

In his State of the Union speech this week Donald Trump asked Congress to give him the power to purge cabinet agencies. He said:

"Tonight I call on the Congress to empower every Cabinet secretary with the authority to reward good workers and to remove federal employees who undermine the public trust or fail the American people."

In other words, Donald Trump is saying, "I would like Ryan Zinke over at Interior to be able to fire the government employees who are standing up for our public lands, I would like Scott Pruitt over at the EPA to be able to fire anybody who works for the Environmental Protection Agency who's really working to protect the environment. We'll replace them all with toadies provided to us by Monsanto and the big chemical companies - Koch Industries, ExxonMobil. They've got a lot of people that they'd be glad to stock the EPA with."

That's essentially what he was saying. Now, congressman Mark Pocan said on the show that he thought that this was maybe an effort to destroy the unions that represent federal employees, because he had seen Scott Walker do that with state employees in the state of Wisconsin, because the federal employees unions will go to bat for people who are arbitrarily fired.

And I think that would be a twofer, but I think the real big issue here is how you run a government. He was asking Congress to undo laws that have been passed over literally the last hundred years or more - this is not some recent unionization thing.

Back before Abraham Lincoln, prior to the Civil War and for the first 30 years or so after the Civil War, the executive branch of government was one of the most corrupt branches of government. The opinion of government had fallen so low because it was so corrupt.

Here's how it worked: every time a new president came in, they literally fired everybody and replaced all those hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands as time went on, and the federal government got larger and larger. They would fire everybody and replace them with cronies and donors. So the result of that was just massive widespread corruption within the executive branch - within the branch of government that is under the president's purview: within the Justice Department, within the EPA, within the Transportation Department, within the Education Department, within Health and Human Services. Whatever it would be if those agencies existed back a hundred years ago, they would be totally corrupt.

The Pentagon, the military, totally corrupt, filled with cronies of Ulysses S Grant, for example. So Congress said, we've got to do something about this. So what they did was they said okay, we're going to set it up so that at the highest level, the secretaries, the director and the assistant director, they can be appointed by the president.

So he gets to make I think it's around 3500 appointments, there's about 3500 people in the federal government that the president can say, okay I can put my campaign donor, I can put Betsy DeVos in as Secretary of Education - she made big contributions to my campaign, she's a multi-billionaire and she cares about education, she wants to have our federal support for public schools decimated and replace it all with private school money and particularly Christian school money. So cool I can do that.

But he can't go to his Department of Education employees and just randomly fire them because they support public education or because they might be registered Democrats. You can't do that and the government, our government, our Congress, a hundred years ago or in that neighborhood passed laws to put these into place to prevent corruption.

Now, with that background listen again to what Donald Trump said in his State of the Union speech:

"Tonight I call on the Congress to empower every Cabinet secretary with the authority to reward good workers and to remove federal employees who undermine the public trust or fail the American people."

Now what the hell does 'fail the American people' mean? That is not a phrase of law. Those are political weasel words. So what he wants, what Trump is asking for, in my opinion, and I believe I'm absolutely right on this, is he wants Scott Pruitt to be able to do a purge of the Environmental Protection Agency - those damn people who believe in global climate change, we've got to get them out of there.

And I was shocked when I heard this.

As Mark Sumner writes over at Daily Kos, "Trump's State of the Union included a call to purge the government of disloyal elements". He writes:

"Most government workers are protected from being fired without cause explicitly so that each change in administration doesn't bring with it a wholesale swap of every slot. Those rules were put in place more than a century ago after the government faced enormous problems with patronage and corruption explicitly because every slot in the existing government was open to being flushed when a new resident moved into the White House."

What Trump is trying to do is he's trying to undo a hundred years of anti-corruption laws.

This is huge.

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