Thursday, March 4, 2021

The Dept of Energy, or the Risk of Rick Perry Republicanism

Back in 1980, when presidential candidate Ronald Reagan quipped "The nine most dangerous words in the English language are: I'm here from the government, and I'm here to help," it was a clever campaign sound bite designed to set him and the GOP apart from a Democratic Party that had practically run the government since the time of FDR. Not even the Gipper could imagine how a stump speech soundbite would ultimately have such a dangerous and deleterious effect on the republic and the shining city on the hill he had envisioned for America in the late days of the twentieth century.

Yet, the disrespect, even contempt, for the institutions of society and systems of government that stabilize our society have become so extreme that the culminating election of an unqualified and incredibly naive man to the office of the Presidency have put infrastructure, stability, law and order, and public health at great risk. Michael Lewis, the wise and insightful author of books like Moneyball and The Big Short terms it The Fifth Risk: Undoing Democracy. A key player in the disaster story Lewis tells of just how badly the Trump administration fumbled their transition to the privilege of managing the federal government is none other than former Texas governor Rick Perry. No-Nothing-Do-Nothing Perry was the GOP candidate who embarrassed himself in the 2016 Republican primary debates by forgetting one of cabinet positions and departments he intended to dismantle if elected. In a purely absurdist tale, Donald Trump made him the cabinet secretary of that pivotal arm of the federal government, The Department of Energy.

“My past statements made over five years ago about abolishing the Department of Energy do not reflect my current thinking,” Perry said in his opening statement to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. “In fact, after being briefed on so many of the vital functions of the Department of Energy, I regret recommending its elimination.” -Rick Perry, 2017

This sort of inept political grandstanding and irresponsible commentary is exactly the nonsense that conservative satirist P.J. O'Rourke was referencing when he said, "Republicans are the party that says government can't work, and then they get elected and prove it." And that inept management of the institutions and systems that keep America safe, stable, and supplied with a treasure trove of information about the weather is the focus of Lewis' recent book, which should be required reading for anyone who ever runs for office or works in public service. Granted, while there is much to criticize about the size and cost and questionable decisions of "the guvmint," the focus on important, hard-working, dedicated, brilliant, and generally un-partisan civil service workers at places like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is an important education for American voters and taxpayers.

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