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On October 17, 2016, Donald Trump issued a press release and subsequent Tweet stating, “I will make our Government honest again — believe me. But first I am going to have to #DrainTheSwamp.” in Washington, D.C. Thereby creating a campaign slogan that was instrumental in his winning the 2016 election as Trump seized on an extremely popular position that resonated with a majority of the electorate.

Trump recycled a phrase used by Ronald Reagan in reference to the necessity of reducing a bloated government bureaucracy. In 1983, Reagan described his primary mission as “draining the swamp” in Washington, D.C. Trump used the phrase to describe his intentions to derail rampant corruption by venal lobbyists, entrenched bureaucrats, and the self-serving governing elites of both parties.

Both men failed in their respective attempts to “drain the swamp.” Reagan was stymied by a Democrat-controlled House for both of his terms. Trump, during the first two years of his term, was hamstrung by an avalanche of politically-motivated leaks and inane investigations as well as intransigence on the part of the Republicans in both Houses of Congress. In his second two years, a malevolent Pelosi-led House focused almost entirely on impeaching him twice.

With the failure of the two most conservative presidents over the past sixty-four-years, and in the case of Ronald Reagan, the most popular president since Franklin Roosevelt, to “drain the swamp,” the question has to be asked. Can the swamp be drained and if so, how?

As with almost everything in the current political arena, the first step is to follow the money. Discretionary spending (all government outlays outside of entitlement programs and interest) accounts for over a quarter of annual federal government spending and is subject to the whims of Congress on a yearly basis. In 1999 discretionary spending amounted to $572 Billion, in 2023 $1.72 trillion, or an increase of 200% while the cumulative rate of inflation since 1999 is 82%. 2023 discretionary spending was larger than the annual gross domestic product of Australia or South Korea.

There is virtually no appetite in Washington, D.C. to cut spending as numerous companies and countless organizations are feeding from the seemingly bottomless trough continuously being replenished by 535 mostly self-serving members of Congress who will not curtail spending as they benefit from sizeable political donations from 13,000 lobbyists spending over $4 billion a year, the millions of dollars in unaccountable “dark money,” and the personal profit from insider information. There is a reason so many become multi-millionaires after only a few years in Congress.

Then there are the 430 departments, agencies, and sub-agencies and the millions of federal employees issuing regulations and edicts while effectively distributing or spending unfathomable sums of money. Thus, being overwhelmingly susceptible to bribery and extortion.

Officially there are three million federal employees, the vast majority of whom are protected by a near-intractable web of civil service laws and regulations. They are exceedingly difficult to fire regardless of the justification. Additionally, there are another 8 to 10+ million federal contract employees scattered throughout virtually every department, bureau, or agency all with contractual employment protection.

Finally, there is the increasingly Left-leaning federal judiciary which will be sympathetic to legal actions filed in opposition to any executive orders issued by Trump to dismiss vast numbers of federal employees or to curb the spending, regulatory, intelligence gathering, and audit powers of any government agency. The judiciary will stymie virtually any attempt to use executive orders to “drain the swamp.”

The leviathan that is the “Swamp” has been allowed to grow to the point where it cannot be drained on an incremental basis. Any pledge to “reform” the government or any department or agency is nothing more than a hackneyed political slogan that will never come to fruition.

Government has become so large and corrupt that the only means of potentially “draining the “swamp” is by abolishing entire departments and agencies, thus reducing discretionary spending and potentially eliminating corruption.

The citizenry, while claiming to be upset that the government is too big or intrusive, needs to elect to Congress those pledged to reduce spending and corruption. If Donald Trump, the Republican Party, and candidates running for Congress campaign on “draining the swamp” they must lay out the following plan on how to accomplish it.

All 430 departments, agencies, and sub-agencies were created by acts of Congress and signed into law by the president; therefore, Congress and the president can eliminate and/or restructure any or all of them.

This includes the rogue CIA, NSA, FBI and 14 other “intelligence agencies” all of whom should be disbanded, their intelligence activities reconstituted in one or two new agencies and limited to foreign-originated threats while the FBI’s domestic police activities are transferred to the states. Further, after the unmitigated debacle of Covid-19, the FDA and CDC and other health bureaucracies must also be eliminated and replaced.

By abolishing entire departments and agencies, the employees of those agencies would be effectively terminated. Those agencies not eliminated could be merged into more efficient and less intrusive entities.

The Courts would have no say in the process as these are actions unquestionably in the purview of Congress per Article One, Section 8 of the Constitution.

Despite the inevitable blustering and baseless accusations by the Democrats and their sycophants in the legacy media, these overhauls can be achieved by a simple Republican majority in the House and 52 or 53 Republican seats and the use of the budget reconciliation process in the Senate. Donald Trump, as president, would have to not only promote this strategy on the national stage but forcefully keep the Republicans in Congress united and focused.

If Trump regains the White House and the Republicans win control of Congress and they fail to do what is necessary to fulfill their pledge to “drain the swamp” then the “Swamp” will continue to grow incrementally larger, become more corrupt and intrusive, and evolve into being essentially drain-proof.

If Joe Biden is reelected, the “Swamp” will continue to grow larger at an accelerated pace, become vastly more corrupt and intrusive, and will be permanently undrainable.

Image: Marciej Kraus