Having lost control of the Congress in the waning years of his ever-divisive and destructive presidency, President Bush has recently issued an executive order that mandates a political appointee in all government agencies that create regulations over businesses and other entities, especially those agencies that protect public health, safety, the environment, civil rights and privacy.

According to the New York Times article out today:

“In an executive order published last week in the Federal Register, Mr. Bush said that each agency must have a regulatory policy office run by a political appointee, to supervise the development of rules and documents providing guidance to regulated industries. The White House will thus have a gatekeeper in each agency to analyze the costs and the benefits of new rules and to make sure the agencies carry out the president’s priorities.

This strengthens the hand of the White House in shaping rules that have, in the past, often been generated by civil servants and scientific experts. ” (emphasis added)

Okay- so decisions that were once made by lifetime public servants with the experience of agency and business history to guide them in decision making, now we will have a political hack as final arbiter. Where once lifelong scientists were able to make decisions and regulations based on serious science, now we will have a Bush political appointee making sure that new regs don’t run afoul of the Bush doctrine of laissez-faire corporatism and anti-scientific bullshit.

This is not an improvement, despite White House spin to the contrary. Does anyone remember the FEMA fiasco of not so long ago? That is the result of placing political hacks in positions they have no experience being in. Has Katrina faded out of memory already? Or does Bush just hope that it has?

“The White House said the executive order was not meant to rein in any one agency. But business executives and consumer advocates said the administration was particularly concerned about rules and guidance issued by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. “

Right…anything that would prevent the President or his corporate benefactors from defiling the environment for momentary financial gain must be stopped. Get those hacks to work! Or heaven forbid that workers continue to have protection advocates looking out for them…that too costs business money. We simply can’t have these agencies running around protecting people without a compliant Congress to assure that no enforcement occurs, now can we?

Not if your name is Bush, we can’t.

I’ll grant that some lifelong bureaucrats can get out of control. I’ll grant that some government agency regulations can be onerous. But the solution for reform is not to fill these agencies with political hacks who have neither the beadth of experience or likely the passion to do the largely thankless work of protecting the public and the environment from the excesses of business. If the president really thought there was a problem with the way these agencies create and enforce regulations, which by the way are what their are designed to do- create rules to enforce the laws passed by Congress- then the best answer would have been to designate independent panels of non-partisan civilians who had the appropriate knowledge for that particular agency’s mandate. By tossing the door open, and to actually mandating political appointees to be the ‘gatekeeper’ of regulation, Bush has joined a not-so-distinguished list of politicians and political systems who can only maintain power and control by infiltrating the government at every level with political loyalists.

The Soviet Communist state had political officers all over the place. So did Hitler’s Germany. And the Republicans call Hugo Chavez’s new, near-total control of Venezuela’s government a power hungry ploy. My guess though is that they’ll praise Bush for his initiative in reining in government regulatory power. Funny how to some folks a duck is never a duck no matter how many times it goes quack.

(cross posted at Bring It On!)