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By Cheryl Bolen
The next Cabinet will dismantle the entrenched federal bureaucracy instead of fighting it, predicted former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), an adviser to President-elect Donald Trump.
“And they will have no choice, because if they tolerate this city they will fail. So my guess is, as a historian, they’re going to take it apart,” Gingrich told an audience of attorneys attending a Dec. 14 forum in Washington titled “Drain the Swamp? Regulatory Reform Under President Trump.”
Gingrich doesn’t have a formal role in the Trump administration. But the former speaker was an early supporter of Trump during his campaign and has the ear of the incoming president in an advisory capacity.
The regulatory forum, held at the offices of law firm Covington & Burling LLP, was sponsored by Common Good, which calls itself a nonpartisan reform coalition that proposes simplified regulatory and legal structures.
Trump’s revolution begins with his Cabinet, which Gingrich believes will have fewer lawyers than any other Cabinet in modern times.
This means Cabinet meetings will follow a “bizarrely” achievement-, success-, and productivity-oriented model with almost no process discussion, Gingrich said. “So they will be immediately befuddled by the legions of government lawyers whose job is to explain why it’s not possible,” he said.
When Trump wanted to appoint retired Marine General James Mattis as secretary of defense, experts said it was not possible because of the law that requires a civilian appointment for that position.
“Well, it’s only against the law until you waive the law,” Gingrich said. “Which Trump understands, because his entire career was built on waiving the law,” he said, pointing to county law, zoning boards and the New Jersey Gaming Commission.
“The great crisis of the Trump administration will be about 90 days in, when they will have a meeting of the Cabinet, and they will realize that in fact, the bureaucracy is massively denser than they thought it was. And the capacity of the city to resist them is extraordinarily denser than they thought it was,” Gingrich said.
But, the Cabinet will have two Marine four-star generals, a series of billionaires, the longest-serving governor in the history of Texas and a world-class neurosurgeon, Gingrich said. They will look at each other and ask, “Are they going to beat us? Or are we just going to take them apart?” Gingrich said.
Gingrich predicted a profound change and liberation in the movement from regulating behavior to regulating output.
The Trumpian movement allows for extraordinary decentralization, Gingrich said. It will allow others to decide how to do things, as long as they meet the standard of outcome, not the standard of input, he said.
People with the most interest in this are governors, mayors, commissions, school boards and companies, Gingrich said.
Gingrich also referred to an essay by Nassim Nicholas Taleb titled “The Intellectual Yet Idiot,” which he said argues that at least 40 percent of the people who are in governance are good at taking tests and writing essays.
“The problem is, none of these people know anything,” Gingrich said.
Gingrich said this explains a range of behavior he has encountered in his career, which he said is getting steadily worse. “And that is, people are just idiots,” Gingrich said. “They have a degree, or they have a law degree or something, they’re idiots. They shouldn’t be allowed near anything to manage.”
About 288,000 federal workers are employed in Washington, and “I’ll guarantee you” 35 percent or 40 percent of them fit Taleb’s description, Gingrich said.
“The answer is not to figure out how to manage them, but to get rid of them,” he said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Cheryl Bolen in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at pHendrie@bna.com
Copyright © 2016 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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