Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Art of the Game

I love a good game of chess. Whether I win or lose, I really appreciate the skill or fortuity in making a good move or witnessing the same. This President is a master gamesman. Some say he is a student of Sun Tzu's Art of War. I sincerely believe it when witnessing orchestrated moves well in advance of detection that leave his opponents no escape when he finally calls them in check. Maybe it takes another gamesman to appreciate his moves, but again and again I smile when I sense the obvious (to me) skill behind a move that suckers his opponent to make a move that ultimately (obviously) will leave them entrapped.

The current play lies clandestine within his move to cause the Congress to initiate a government shutdown. Hidden within the play is his stated objectives to downsize a bloated Washington and to root out recalcitrant members of a counter-productive Deep State. At 25 days, already the longest shutdown in history, we are but five days away from a heretofore obscure threshold enabling permanent layoffs of bureaucrats furloughed 30 days or more.

In a bureaucracy, a layoff is called a Reduction in Force and comes with a seemingly endless burden of civil service protections. But, if the guidelines are followed, bureaucrats can be laid off from their government jobs.

A recent essay written by an unidentified senior Trump official claims that the majority of time and effort are taken up with "process" by a majority of federal bureaucrats and is used by enemies of President Trump's initiatives to stymie legitimate orders issued by his senior officials. It is common knowledge within our burgeoning bureaucracy that perhaps 80 percent of government employees feel no pressure to produce results. If they don't feel like doing what they are told, they don't. Why would they? They cannot be fired. As long as they do nothing that warrants punishment, they can get away with doing nothing of external value. A typical workday consists mostly of errands for the sake of errands – administering, refining, following and collaborating on process. "Process is your friend" is what delusional civil servants tell themselves. Even senior officials must gain approval from every rank across their department, other agencies and work units for basic administrative chores.

One senior official noted: "Most of my career colleagues actively work against the president's agenda. This means I typically spend about 15 percent of my time on the president's agenda and 85 percent of my time trying to stop sabotage, and we have no power to get rid of them. Until the shutdown." For the last 25 days, and soon to be 30, those officials who waste time and stymie the president's initiatives are not at work because they are not categorized as "essential." Due to the lack of funding with the shutdown, many federal agencies are now operating more effectively from the top down on a fraction of their workforce, with only select essential personnel serving national security tasks.

The President has found a way to end this abuse. Senior officials can re-prioritize during an extended shutdown, focus on valuable results and weed out the saboteurs. Most employees need not return, because things working better without them. Saboteurs that have heretofore been hard to get rid of can now be included in the layoffs if they meet the criteria in terms of seniority and service, and given 60 days' notice. But once they are gone, they are no longer free to obstruct using the "process" as their friend, because they are gone. Check Mate.

This would explain why President Trump goaded Chuck and Nancy in his televised meeting with them, boasting that he would take credit for the shutdown. How could they resist a prolonged shutdown when he made it so easy to blame him?

In five days the trap will be sprung. Chuck and Nancy will be faced with the unthinkable in their minds, a mass RIF. They don't see it coming, it will be strongly criticized, with lawsuits from every direction, but it will be successful and perfectly legal. Where will these cuts come from? It's where the bureaucrats most in need of layoffs happen to be. Well played, Mr. Trump.

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