George W. Bush is entering the final phase of his presidency, a time when many modern presidents begin to think about what they have achieved as leader of the United States, to think about their ‘legacy.’

Legacy is most commonly described as something left behind by one generation to the next. Sometimes legacy refers to something that was done that will provide benefits for years to come. (Social Security. Medicare.) Other times legacy can define a course of action or policies that achieved a specific goal. (Defeating Communism. The Interstate Highway System.) In most cases though, legacies refer to the good things accomplished under a president’s watch. Sometimes they do not. (Watergate. Vietnam. )

What will be the lagacy of George W. Bush? Will it be the disasterous war in Iraq? The mangling of the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe? Or maybe it will be the systematic gutting of the Federal government.

Bush has done little in the way of making life better for average Americans, but it would be a mistake to believe that his actions are due to incompetance. In fact, the opposite is more likely to be true. In his push to privatize government and position party loyalists and all around hacks into positions of power, one of the greatest and longest lasting legacies bestowed upon us and future Americans will be the destruction of our federal government’s “nuts and bolts.”

In a recent article in The Nation, Dan Zegart examines the purposeful decimation of the federal government through the appointment of political cronies to government agencies who have no knowledge of the mandates of those agencies, or at worst, are determined to dismantle generations of government regulations that had once made American products and consumers among the safest in the world.

“…what is actually happening is more complex and far-reaching than mere brain drain. More accurately, the executive branch is undergoing a brain transplant. An entire culture of civil service professionals loyal to their agency’s mission is being systematically replaced with a conservative cadre accountable to the White House. While every President appoints his own “politicals” to run the departments, the Bush team has broken new ground, attempting to realign the executive branch permanently by junking a 100-year-old system of merit-based hiring for career bureaucrats.

While the embedding of politicals in career jobs did not originate with Bush, the scale and coordination with which it is being done under this Administration seem unprecedented, according to more than fifty current and former government officials interviewed during an eight-month-long Nation investigation. “They’ve put people in charge of many offices who simply don’t believe in the mission of the office,” said William Yeomans, a twenty-four-year veteran of the Justice Department’s civil rights division who quit last year after being inexplicably transferred to the criminal unit. “And they are there to insure that those offices will never return to carrying out the policies or enforcing the law in the way that they used to. And they’re going to do that by changing the people who are in the bureaucracy.”

The Bush practice of appointing political loyalists to positions of power is bad enough. That most of those appointees come from industries diametrically opposed to the mission of the agencies they are given control of is another altogether. From the FDA to the EPA to the DOJ, career employees, who have not only the experience but the know how to navigate an already complex bureaucracy, are being given the ax, either through transfers or demotions or by making their workplaces so hostile that they leave on their own. The result is an emasculated federal agency, bent on not performing it’s mission, so that Bush can ‘prove’ their claim that government is ineffective. Just look no farther than FEMA, Brown, and Hurricane Katrina to see the results of this practice. This may be among the most extreme examples, but it is classic Bush policy and it is being duplicated all over the place at the federal level.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that our federal government is over-bloated and has a ton of waste. But gutting the programs or agencies isn’t the way to reform a system gone astray. Unless of course that is your prime goal.

It is said that the future is in the hands of those who teach the children. The political correlation would be that the future is in the hands of those who stock the bureaucracy. Bush will be gone in 2008, at least in the sense of being head of our government. But one domestic legacy he created will live on for generations, and sadly, it’s nothing to be proud of. For this particular legacy will have no good effects, only negative ones.