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Transparent or Secret Government

March 20, 2017

My new book, The Coming Death and Future Resurrection of American Higher Education, lists thirteen ways to reform American higher education. Most of these proposed reforms can be achieved by administrative action, so it is important to know who is in charge of the U.S. Department of Education.

The normal course of action is to nominate trustworthy persons whose political views are consistent with the President or his Party. These positions require nomination by the President and confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

This cumbersome process gives transparency to deliberations and decisions taken at each government Department and is designed to protect the public interest.

Private companies, as explained in a post in this space on March 13, do not have to disclose who is in charge, even if they control a major media enterprise. We don’t like it, but that’s the difference between private enterprise and government.

On February 28, 2017, in an interview on FoxNews, President Trump announced his intention not to follow past practice and nominate persons for top positions in this Cabinet agencies. At the time I said to myself, “there he goes again.”

But, today the Washington Post reports on findings by ProPublica that the Trump Administration has inserted hundreds of persons in every Cabinet Department. Some hold GS-15 and SES positions, government jobs, and are accountable for their actions to civil service standards.  Others, however, called “senior White House advisers,” report to Rick Dearborn, the White House deputy chief of staff for policy.

But, ProPublica reports that “The Trump administration’s model is based on plans developed but never used by the unsuccessful presidential campaign of Mitt Romney.”

It is hard to understand that someone with Romney’s background would develop a method for circumventing traditional methods of government organization. The Washington Post also reports that former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, “said the president needs to dispatch political allies to the agencies to monitor a bureaucracy that’s being targeted for reduction.” Whether that means that Dr. Gingrich approves of a plan that destroys institutional ways designed to assure transparency is not clear.

 

The principal problem is that when official actions are taken using the Trump/Romney method, the public has no knowledge of who made those decisions, who they are, what their backgrounds are and whether they are acting responsibly or may be engaged in self-dealing.

One example of possible hell to be paid for operating in this manner was reported by the Chronicle of Higher Education’s “Daily Briefing” for March 15 that ” Senate Democrats on Tuesday sent a letter to Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, seeking an explanation of why the Department of Education had decided to delay the effective date of the gainful-employment rule until July 1.”

Two U.S. Senators “Patty Murray of Washington and Elizabeth A. Warren of Massachusetts, sent a separate letter to Ms. DeVos asking for clarification of reports of a higher-education task force to be led by Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University.”

Stay tuned, because this isn’t going away.

 

 

 

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