Redefining the "Deep State"
5 things to know about The Vanishing Congress:
The Book - The Vanishing Congress: Reflections on Politics in Washington [Amazon]
The Topic - Former FBI Director James Comey recently denied the existence of a “deep state.” Rather, he says there is a “deep culture” of so-called meritocratic technocracy. That sounds like deep euphemism to me, but it’s worth asking what this vague and sinister term actually means before asking whether it exists.
Jeffrey Bergner, author of The Vanishing Congress, is a long-time Washington insider who has found the roots of something like a deep state in the legislative branch’s abdication of its one job: to make the laws. This might sound like a dream come true for libertarians, but since nature abhors a vacuum, this vital function ends up getting usurped by unelected bureaucrats and unaccountable district judges.
The Guest - Jeffrey Bergner served as Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs from 2005 until July 2008. He is the President and Managing Financial Partner of Bergner Bockorny, Inc., as well as an adjunct professor at the National Security Studies Program at Georgetown University.
The Problem - Bergner says that Congress has ceded too much of its authority to the executive branch — with its mutant bureaucratic army — and broken down the checks and balances that the Founders designed to ensure that government represents the people and not its own entrenched interests. When the executive branch is given such broad leverage to implement laws without express authorization of Congress, presidents and executive agencies are encouraged to legislate by fiat. Then come the executive orders…
The Solution - For starters, Bergner suggests that Congress would be 20% more efficient with 20% fewer staff. I’m conflicted, since I like the idea of shrinking government, but I’m not so sure about increasing congressional “efficiency.” Is getting more stuff done always a good thing?
I’ll question Bergner on this idea, as well as his proposal to reduce debate on cabinet nominations from 30 hours to 2 hours, and how direct election of senators forever changed the political landscape in America.