In 2010, less than 25% of high school seniors in America were considered proficient in civics according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Even worse, in 2010 only 12% of high school seniors were proficient in history. Perhaps those numbers explain the unwarranted hand-wringing taking place today regarding President Trump’s supposed “gagging” or “censorship” of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as well as other federal agencies.
If you haven’t heard, here’s why some people are in a panic:
Donald Trump’s administration has appeared to ban at least three Government agencies from speaking to journalists, providing documents to the public or even tweeting.
Department of Agriculture, Department of Health and Human Services and Environmental Protection Agency staff are all reportedly subject to gagging orders.
As well as the prohibition of social media posts, an order reportedly handed down this week, it has been claimed the EPA has been ordered to freeze all grants, contracts and other agreements until further notice.
A memo sent to EPA staff said there should be no press releases sent to ‘external audiences’ and that ‘no social media will be going out’.
Many of those who are in a panic are likely also people who fear Donald Trump will be the next Adolf Hitler. While people with such concerns will want to remain vigilant, freaking out about this move by President Trump only makes one look foolish or uneducated on how our government actually works.
The reality is that no federal agency is an independent branch of the government. There are only three branches of our government: Judicial, Legislative, and Executive. Almost all federal agencies operate within the Executive Branch, which is headed by the President.
Obviously, there is a new sheriff in town. If Donald Trump had just taken over a new company, non-profit, or even been nominated to head a federal agency, it would be reasonable for him to put a halt to communications to the public, spending, and other matters of business during a time of transition. It is not “censoring” or “gagging” when the leader of the organization stops communications until his people and policies on communications are in place.
We seem to have forgotten that federal agencies like the EPA, DEA, FDA, NSA, CIA, etc. are not independent branches of the government. These agencies were formed either originally in the Constitution or later by Congressional legislation that was approved by a past President. The powers that were given to these agencies were limited and ultimately determined by both legislation and the President’s discretion.
The fact that federal agencies seem to think they are independent branches of the government is actually a serious problem. These agencies are staffed with unelected, career bureaucrats who have enormous power and budgets. They often can – and do – ruin the livelihoods of Americans from all walks of life, whether they were acting justly or not.
People often wonder why the government fails to change despite sweeping elections. The reason is that politicians come and go, but unelected, career bureaucrats are there to stay. They actually are the people who steer our government, wielding their immense powers often unchecked. Yes, federal agencies can use that power for good, but they can also abuse that power as they often do.
For the last two years Americans have listed their top fear as “corruption of government officials”. Remember, “government officials” aren’t limited to just the ones who are elected. For the first time in my life, these unelected, career bureaucrats are being held to account by the Executive Branch as they ought to be. It’s quite an adjustment.
Nonetheless, if you are worried about the growth in government power, which many Americans are, be glad that the Executive Branch is reining in various agencies. They serve the President and, therefore, the people. We do not serve them.
(Image Credit: The Daily Signal)
Devin is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Charlemagne Institute, which operates Intellectual Takeout, Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, and the Alcuin Internship. He is a graduate of Hillsdale College where he studied history and political science. Prior to co-founding Charlemagne Institute, he served as the Director of Development at the Center of the American Experiment, a state-based think tank in Minnesota.
Devin is a contributor to local and national newspapers, a frequent guest on a variety of talk shows, such as Minneapolis' KTLK and NPR's Talk of the Nation, and regularly shares culture and education insights presenting to civic groups, schools, and other organizations. In 2011, he was named a Young Leader by the American Swiss Foundation.
Devin and his wife have been married for eighteen years and have six children. When he's not working, Devin enjoys time with family while also relaxing through reading, horticulture, home projects, and skiing and snowboarding.