The Next 500 Days: Time for Massive Government Reform


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It is troubling when unelected bureaucrats working at government agencies or government-funded associations hurt the very people they allegedly serve.

It is also disheartening to see examples of our elected leaders using government agencies as attack dogs to harass their political opponents.

Just recently, some of the Senate’s most liberal Democratic senators signed a letter to the IRS urging the agency to “closely scrutinize” applications from several private colleges attempting to convert from for-profit status to nonprofit, tax-exempt status.

Senators Elizabeth Warren, Richard Durbin, Patty Murray, Bernie Sanders and others strong-armed the IRS to act against a handful of schools in much the same way the Obama administration pressured the IRS to discriminate against conservative organizations filing for tax-exempt status.

A college’s move from for-profit to non-profit status needs approval by the IRS, Department of Education, various accreditors and state regulators. Privately run schools have the right to explore such options and should not be subjected to undue scrutiny from the IRS. To demand an agency do so — as these over-reaching senators have done — crosses the line by pressuring a government agency to become a political instrument.

Thousands of private colleges offer their students excellent educations, and many of these schools enroll nontraditional students, such as veterans and older adult learners, which should be a high civic priority.

The Chicago Tribune reported that, in a 2017 federal study, veterans represented a large part of the population of students attending private colleges. Minority students and women also make up large portions of student bodies at privately run colleges and universities.

But Senators Warren, Durbin, Murray and activists such as Robert Shireman and David Halperin all believe in the government-controlled education model as the only viable education option in America. The IRS should never be leveraged to harass conservative groups or private colleges simply because liberal senators and far-left activists don’t like them. Consumers have every right to make their own decisions regarding their education and future.

The IRS should not be used as a political action committee and IRS officials should resist efforts to use the agency in such partisan, political activities. Senators and activists advocating for such activity should be strongly reprimanded for doing so.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is another example of how a well-intended government operation can wrongly be used for political action. The CFPB was supposed to protect consumers from unfair, deceptive or abusive practices and take appropriate action against companies that break the law.

Sadly, the CFPB at its birth became a partisan arm of the Obama administration — spearheaded by Senator Elizabeth Warren and former Director Richard Cordray, who ignored calls for rigorous oversight. Director Cordray openly shook down corporations for cash and then used his ill-gotten gains to fund numerous liberal causes. Under Cordray’s direction, the CFPB promoted needless rules which restricted access to vital financial services — especially lending services for low-income consumers.

Current CFPB Director Mick Mulvaney is turning the organization around. He is making recommendations on how the CFPB should become a bipartisan commission with real, accountable, actual structure and oversight.

When we look at government regulation in need of reform, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) tops the list. First proposed by Congress as a modest law to protect the environment during government infrastructure projects, NEPA has become a bureaucratic leviathan that Congress never envisioned.

America’s permitting and regulatory process is now so tightly wound in red tape that virtually no major energy or construction project can be accomplished without years of needless permitting delays, involvement of multiple government agencies competing for jurisdiction and seemingly endless litigation.

According to a 2016 review by the National Association of Environmental Professionals, it now takes an average of five years to complete one NEPA environmental impact statement. This timeline doesn’t include the years of litigation that routinely follow every major energy and construction project.   

New infrastructure projects to provide clean drinking water, reliable electricity, safe bridges and tunnels are crucial for our nation as our economy begins a much-needed revival. The Trump administration is tackling the issue of permitting reform head-on, laying out a comprehensive plan to expedite approval for major infrastructure projects. Congress needs to do its share in the form of some heavy lifting and streamlining the process.

Liberal Senators, leftist activists and faceless bureaucrats should not be allowed to pull levers deep within government agencies to advance their politics. We urge the Trump administration to stay focused on enacting policy reforms that will keep government agencies out of the political fray and appoint managers who appropriately serve the taxpayers who pay their salaries.

Cherylyn Harley LeBon is a lawyer, strategist and commentator.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.