Higgins: 2011 The Year of the BureaucratWritten by Tim Higgins | | email@example.com
According to the Chinese Zodiac, 2011 will be yet another Year of the Rabbit. On the surface, this may seem particularly fitting, since the elections of 2010 attempted in every way possible to make voters afraid of something. The Democrats looked to create apprehension that a return to any part of a Republican controlled legislature would be a return to failed policies of the past and doom the future. Republicans in turn attempted to panic voters into believing that keeping Democrats in charge would continue their blundering approach and likewise place the future of the country in hazard. So it would be of little surprise if all of us wanted to act like rabbits and crawl back into our holes in fear when looking at the coming year.
Both parties seemed so intent on demonizing their opponents and making us afraid of what they would do if they gained authority, that they appeared to pay little attention as much of that control was wrested from their grasp. While all of the typical election year rhetoric and infighting was going on, the largely overlooked truth was that bureaucrats had begun to quietly assume the real power that most of us thought we had either kept for ourselves, or ceded in limited amount to elected officials.
While failing to get “death panels” passed as part of the recent health care reform, new Medicare regulations taking effect January 1st will seek to provide most of the same options for end-of-life care that so many citizens and legislators rejected. The Secretary of Agriculture and the USDA have now assumed control of the number of fund-raising school bake sales that can take place and what kinds of goods can be sold at them. The Department of Health & Human Services just announced that health insurance companies attempting to raise rates more than 10% must have permission from the government. The FCC, ignoring threats from Senators and rulings from the courts, assumed the beginnings of control of the Internet under self-imposed net neutrality rules. The Environmental Protection Agency decided on its own to regulate oil refinery and power plant emissions of CO2 in an attempt to reduce the effects of global warming. The Department of Homeland Security will be able to help them in this effort, as they plan to form a committee to identify and assess the impact that global climate change could have on their mission.
The results of the 2010 elections are now in, and mean that Republicans will be in control of the House and the Democrats will retain control of the Senate in 2011. But perhaps the real power shift in government for the coming year may be from elected to unelected government employees. Of course, Congress can attempt to stifle such efforts. Not only can they pass specific legislation to limit the functions of these bureaucracies; but with their budget and oversight powers, they can in theory control the funding and operation of these departments. Unfortunately for all of us, they have shown little predilection to do so in the past, regardless of the party in power; and it is unlikely that the new crop of legislators will change this in 2011.
So while it may in fact be the year of the Rabbit according to the Chinese, the only ones likely to be acting like cute little bunnies are legislators too fearful to upset the status quo of government agencies that were there long before they were, and will be here long after they have gone. For the rest of us, 2011 is more likely to be the first of many years of the Bureaucrat. For the foreseeable future we are likely to be forced to live in fear of what those we did not choose and cannot ignore will have on our day-to-day lives.