Who is the Bigger Problem in our Government, Elected Officials or Unelected Bureaucrats?

Having worked in a public school system for over thirty years, I am well acquainted with how the bureacracy in any organization can be crucial into whether or not that organization succeeds.

In the school system, while the Superintendent or other administrators might be the public face for the schools, the biggest impact to whether the school system has success or not lies in the hands of the front line, the teachers.

How can that be?

Consider this. When I was Supervisor of Testing, the evaluation of how well I did my job centered around the organization and security of the testing. If there was a lapse in security, my head was on the chopping block. But, that security depended on the honesty and competence of every teacher or classroom aid conducting that testing. If one teacher screwed up, I was done. The teacher could also be prosecuted, but the union would provide legal representation. I didn’t have that luxury.

On the flip side of that, when I was a high school athletic director, I had ideas and procedures that I wanted to implement shot down by a middle level administrator, the county AD, who worried more about her self-perceived power than what was right for kids. And, she had little to no experience with actual athletic programs.

Two extremes of bureacracy and how it can impede an organization working in a competent and productive way. This is certainly true at the local level and in corporations, but imagine this.

There are currently anywhere from 2 million to 7 million federal employees. Some even estimate that number to be as high as 9 million. Now, some of them, approximately 3.7, are federal contractors who deliver security in war zones, janitorial services, statistical services, etc.

For this blog, let’s just deal with the over 2 million full time federal employees. Six hundred thousand of them are postal workers. Other agencies such as the military and the Department of Veterans Affairs comprise another large portion of the federal workers. And, of course, there is the military which contains over a million active duty personnel ( as of 2018).

So, other agencies, EPA, Department of Education, HUD, FBI, NSA, CIA, DOJ, and so on, divide the 400,000 remaining federal workers.

Where am I going with this? Well, I want you to think about our government. The President and his administration have a maximum of an 8 year tenure in office. Congress, while not having term limits, still face re-election every two to six years.

A federal employee, unless hired on a limited contract, can stay in their job forever. And, they have a union to defend them and prevent them from being “fired.” Neither the President nor the Congress has that. Hold on to this information.

From personal experience, I know that the process to fire an employee protected by the union is extremely expensive and time consuming. A superintendent told me in 1999 that it costs ” a half million dollars” to remove a tenured teacher. I’m sure it is more than that now. Federal employees are no different. Short of murdering or raping someone, those employees are there as long as they want to be. Remember Lois Lerner? The worst thing that happened to her was that she “retired” with full retirement and benefits. They are untouchable.

Every morning, I watch a show called “Too Cute.” It is about cute puppies and kitties and follows them from birth to when they are adopted to their forever homes. It’s a nice, safe, pleasant way to begin my day.

Many times, they show a mother dog ( or birther dog) who is nursing a number of puppies without have a teat for each puppy. The puppies crawl over and struggle mightily with each other to get a teat. At some point, one or two puppies are left out. They eventually get the leftovers, but every meal time they fight with the others to get a spot.

I think that many federal agencies are like the “birther dog” and that many of their employees are the puppies, fighting to find their own teat, their own turf, their own power. They use their jobs to move up the federal ladder. The more they get the attention of their bosses, the bigger their share of the teat.

So, while a President, Senator or Congressman can get on T.V. and say what he/she has to say and can influence millions of people, a federal employee can make sure that important actions will or will not occur or happen so slowly that they are ineffectual.

Imagine this. Let’s say that a President has demanded a certain Executive Order be carried out. Just for fun, let’s pretend he has ordered that all information on the dangers of vaccines be coalated and given to his advisors. Some middle level bureaucrat at the CDC decides he/she doesn’t want to have that information out there because he/she believes in the vaccines. Or, even more important, their boss or bosses may want to make the President look bad. That bureaucrat can “slow walk” that information in the hopes that the administration will forget about the request. Or, they can either create omissions of certain information before sending it. Remember that the CDC now says that some of the statistics regarding deaths from Covid were ” fudged.” ( My word, not theirs.)

Okay, so that’s bad. But, most of us don’t think that is such a critical problem. We are wrong.

I am in the process of reading a book called, “Gang of One; Memoirs of a Red Guard,” by Fan Shen. I recommend you read it, but if you do, be prepared. It is one of the most terrifying books I have ever read, and it is all true.

The author details his memories as a 12 year old in 1966 during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. It shows how members of the Red Guard did horrible things to make sure the Revolution succeeded.

One of the most horrifying aspects of their actions was how people in different stations of life would turn other people in as “traitors to the cause.” They did this in order to improve their own standing in the party and to move up the ladder. I can’t describe the horrific things done, but let’s just say there was extreme torture, murder, and banishment to prisons and “re-education” camps. Many of the people who committed there horrors were bureaucrats, eager to show their loyalty and to destroy people who might impede their rise in the party. And sometimes they just wanted to hurt people they didn’t like.

We are not at that point yet, at least not with our general population, but pay attention. Agencies such as Child Protective Services, Health Departments, the Internal Revenue Service, are prime candidates to use the tactics of their bureaucratic offices to deny rights to citizens. The IRS has been at it for a long time. So has CPS. Not on the scale of the Chinese Communist Party, but each little breach of citizen rights takes us down that road.

Our only hope is that the good people in these agencies will stop the others. Or that the ones doing wrong will see how bad this is. Fan Shen did after he had been participating with gusto and pride with the Red Guard. He escaped and now tells the story, a cautionary one.

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I am a 67 year old runner and conservative. I taught for 31 years and retired a few years back. In my life, I have coached and judged gymnastics, coached softball, and raised two amazing kids.

Thanks for commenting!!