I have tried to keep track of executive failures over the past eight years in financial, health, and safety regulation. But I have been overwhelmed. As James Galbraith argues in The Predator State, the past administration appointed the most extreme anti-regulatory voices it could find, across the board. Now the Center for Public Integrity has released a report on the results: the “eight-year tenure of the Bush administration was marked by more than 125 systematic failures across the breadth of the federal government.” As they note,
[T}he failures are rooted in recurring themes: agency appointees selected primarily for ideology and loyalty, rather than competence; agency heads who overruled staff experts and suppressed reports that did not coincide with administration philosophy; agency-industry collusion; a bedrock belief in the wisdom of deregulation; extensive private outsourcing of public functions; a general failure to exercise government’s oversight responsibilities; and severely slashed budgets at understaffed agencies that often left them unable to execute basic administrative functions.
The question now is, what to do about it? Responding to the administration’s torture policies and other human rights violations, Jack Balkin and Bruce Ackerman have suggested two approaches. Both of them are worth looking into with respect to some Bush-era holdovers who will be on independent agency boards for years to come.