In a major economic address Monday at the Detroit Economic Club, Donald Trump offered up some boilerplate GOP criticism of his Democratic rival: “All Hillary Clinton has to offer,” he said, “is more of the same: more taxes, more regulations, more bureaucrats, more restrictions on American energy and American production.”
Criticism of bureaucrats is nothing new for Trump. Like most other Republican candidates for president, he has been known to dismiss career government employees as impediments to economic growth and effective government. Indeed, talking points distributed to media outlets in advance of Monday’s speech said Trump would promise to "remove bureaucrats who only know how to kill jobs [and] replace them with experts who know how to create jobs."
He didn’t actually do that in the speech, possibly because his staff realized it would be difficult, if not impossible, under today’s civil service rules to keep such a promise. And in fact, what Trump did say in the address showed an unusual amount of faith in the bureaucracy.
Trump said he would “ask each and every federal agency to prepare a list of all of the regulations they impose on Americans which are not necessary, do not improve public safety, and which needlessly kill jobs. Those regulations will be eliminated.”
Presumably, that list preparation would be done by career government employees, unless Trump wants to wait until he has thousands of appointees in place to undertake the task — a process that could take years. Expecting the employees who write, implement and oversee federal regulations — and who, by and large, are dedicated to the missions of the agencies that issued them — to identify which rules to slash shows an awful lot of trust in them.
This isn’t the first time that Trump has said he would rely on career civil servants to come up with ways to root out inefficiency at the agencies they work for. In his speech at the Republican National Convention accepting his party’s presidential nomination, Trump said would “ask every department head in government to provide a list of wasteful spending projects that we can eliminate in my first 100 days.”
From identifying unneeded regulations to reporting on wasteful spending, the early days of a Trump administration would apparently be a very busy time for career managers and executives.