Vote With Your Feet And Tax Dollars: What you can do without a Dept. of Education and the EPA

I have been thinking about the possible elimination of the Department of Education and The Environmental Protection Agency. We will see the Republicans add more agencies to their elimination list. But right now there are two House bills to eliminate the Department of Education and the EPA, H.R.899 and H.R.861 respectively. The bills have been referred to their respective committees.

I know people are all up in arms about the possibility that these departments will be eliminated. One thing we must keep in mind is that it is very difficult to eliminate government agencies. There are about 4,400 employees in the Department of Education and about 15,300 in the EPA. This is about 20,000 people the government will have to either absorb or layoff. What a public relations nightmare. President Trump has tried to make PR gold with saving 1000 jobs. What can this look like if he lays off 20,000 people? In addition, it is difficult to layoff career civil servant employees in the US. These people have strong unions and power of their own. But it has happened before. Government agencies have been eliminated.

All presidents since Regan have talked of eliminating or restricting government to be more efficient. Depending on what side of the aisle you sit on, your reasons for elimination or restructuring will be giving power back to the states, efficiency, and/or cost savings. When Obama tried to eliminate the Commerce Department in the Consolidating and Reforming Act of 2012, there was opposition from all sides. The move would have eliminated 2,000 jobs over time and divided some of the agencies work over 5 smaller agencies. As objection to the bill grew from special interest groups, the bill was buried in committee. There are many special interest groups and unions who will fight the elimination of the Department of Education and the EPA.

Let us imagine a U.S. in which the Department of Education and the EPA are dissolved, does it mean it is the end of regulation as we know it? No. The job of regulating will go to the states. All states have some form of the Department of Education and EPA. The problem is that state agencies will create and enforce regulations in varying degrees of consistency. The U.S. is a large country with vastly different cultural norms from region to region and state to state. Even with Federal and local agencies oversight, situations such as the Flint, MI water crisis, coal ash from Duke Energy in water in North Carolina, and Coal mining company Alpha Natural Resources polluting the water in West Virginia continue to happen. I would expect more of these environmental disasters.

In regards to education, it might be a good thing that education regulation goes back to the states. Most of us in education hated No Child Left Behind (or as I like to call it, No Child Left Untested). It put unrealistic expectations on overwhelmed teachers and cash strapped schools. It forced teachers to teach to a test rather than encourage thoughtful engagement and creativity. But once again, state to state differences may become incredibly obvious. There are many poor states in this country and public education is expensive. Access for disabled and special education students is even more expensive. The quality of your student’s education may become more than just what school district you live in, but what state you live in.

There are states which are doing great things. The nation has followed California on environmental policy time and again. The number of states looking to institute free community college is growing after Tennessee was the first to institute it in 2014 and Oregon followed shortly after. So with this in mind I have some advice. Move. If over the next few years we see more federal power going back to the states, find a state which aligns more with what is important to you and your family.  I know it might be scary or hard. I have moved across the country twice, once to each coast, and lived in Europe for a short time. I think it might be time to vote with your feet and tax dollars.

References

Congress.GOV. n.d. H.R.861 – To terminate the Environmental Protection Agency. Accessed February 9, 2017. https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/861?q=%7B”search”%3A%5B”Environmental+Protection+Agency”%5D%7D&r=2.
—. n.d. H.R.899 – To terminate the Department of Education. Accessed February 9, 2017. https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/899/actions.
Pianin, Eric. 2013. “Why Obama’s Pitch for Government Reform Hit a Wall.” The Fiscal Times. February 20. Accessed February 9, 2017. http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/2013/02/20/Why-Obamas-Pitch-for-Government-Reform-Hit-a-Wall.
Wikipedia. 2017. United States Department of Education. February 9. Accessed February 9, 2017. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Department_of_Education.
—. 2017. United States Environmental Protection Agency. February 7. Accessed February 9, 2017. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Environmental_Protection_Agency.

 

 

 

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