July 21, 2024

Paving the Way for the No-Nothings

Though I haven’t seen any of these “Funded by President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law” road signs Joni Ernst complains about in her recent column, I have seen a photo of one of them in a Politico article, so they must exist. (They do NOT say, “Funded by President Joe Biden,” as Ernst claims). Given all the complaints about not knowing where our tax money goes, one might think that when people have to wait for road flaggers or squeeze down into one lane to avoid the dreaded orange road barrels, it’s a good idea to put up a sign telling them what’s going on and where the money is coming from.

In fact, that’s what the letter from an Office of Management and Budget staffer back in early 2023 suggested: “The Administration believes that clear and prominent signage on projects is one of several ways to inform taxpayers about how Federal funds from these laws are being spent and advance the goals of accountability and transparency of Federal spending.”

So it’s interesting that Ernst ends her article by giving her June 2024 “make-em squeal” award to the Office of Management and Budget for “playing politics with taxpayer money.” (It is actually the Department of Transportation that is spending money on the road work and the signs explaining the road work).

It’s interesting because the OMB is probably one of the least political of agencies of the executive branch. Out of 448 employees, only six are political appointments, and the OMB director, Shalanda Young, has a distinctive reputation for bipartisanship. Lindsay Graham said about her, during confirmation proceedings in 2021, that “Everybody who deals with you on our side has nothing but good things to say.”

It’s not only interesting, but ominous. Project 2025, the “presidential transition plan” touted by the Heritage Foundation think tank and funded by Leonard Leo’s collection of dark money collaborators, proposes replacing tens of thousands of merit-based nonpartisan federal employees with political appointments. This is just the sort of thing that will result in the government being run by a bunch of no-nothing nincompoops trying to climb a steep learning curve to do their jobs by reading Wikipedia. It won’t matter whether Republicans or Democrats are in charge if most of the government jobs are being done by political appointees without degrees or qualifications for the jobs they are supposed to be doing.

Iowa has a merit system for most state government employees. Most of us know people who hold some of those jobs, and do them competently for their entire careers. The federal government has the same system. Ernst’s attack on the OMB is a sign that Project 2025 is a real threat supported by rank and file Republican candidates, and not just a pipe dream of DT’s surrogates.