Can Trump Cut the Office of Personnel Management, or Any Federal Agency?

Trump administration officials have put the Office of Personnel Management on the chopping block,” Fox News reports, “in an ambitious but controversial bid to reorganize the federal government.” OPM employees could be sent home “if Congress will not agree to their plan to eliminate the agency.”

The Trump administration wants to divide operations among three other federal agencies, but the OPM, like the HAL computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey, does not like the prospect of disconnection.

OPM boss Margaret Weichert is even bucking proposed furloughs and wants a “legislative solution” that would keep the OPM around. Congressional Democrats charge that Trump is “taking 150 federal employee hostage” and blast his plan as a political ploy to control the civil service system.

As this plays out, taxpayers might try to recall the last time a president aimed to eliminate a federal agency. It could be easier to remember the last time an administration created a new one. 

As we noted back in 2012 in Financial Crisis and Leviathan, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was created during the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression, not a good time to expand government. The CFPB was based on the assumption that even educated and informed consumers were unable to look out for themselves, and duplicated the work of existing bank regulators. The CFPB was funded by the Federal Reserve, which is obviously improper. The CFPB has no board to oversee its affairs and is not accountable to Congress. Presidential appointee Richard Cordray basically called all the shots. The CFPB should have been eliminated at the first opportunity but in typical style it endures. 

If President Trump succeeds in cutting the OPM, his work will not be done. The federal Department of Education dates from 1980, a payoff to the National Education Association for supporting Jimmy Carter. The Constitution gives states, not the federal government, domain over education, so eliminating the federal department would be prudent policy. 

That done, the president should turn to the, count ‘em, 17-member “Intelligence Community” which proclaims, “together our work helps keep America safe.” However many members it had in 2001, none managed to stop a small band of terrorists from crashing hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center and Pentagon. The “Community” is actually a bureaucracy, and it should be a target-rich environment for cuts. Meanwhile, cutting the OPM would be a good start, so taxpayers should watch carefully how President Trump makes out with that. 

K. Lloyd Billingsley is a Policy Fellow at the Independent Institute and a columnist at American Greatness.
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