More than 50 years ago, Ronald Reagan quipped: “No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programmes, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth!”
Well, the White House of Donald Trump has proposed major changes, cuts and even elimination of scores of government programmes. Along with anticipated changes to regulations, these proposals may offer political leaders and lobbying organisations unprecedented opportunities to reshape how the nation is governed.
The power mix in Washington is unusual this year; the Trump campaign and individual Republican legislative campaigns ran on different tracks, with few concurring elements. And, at confirmation hearings, the president’s top appointees did not always echo the president.
He seems OK with that. He has chosen people who have achieved substantial success professionally and financially: the wealthiest cabinet ever. They take these jobs with the hope that they can achieve something of significance. Each has taken broad orders, turning to their tasks based on promised priorities, but hopefully with wisdom as well as energy.
The president has also tapped loyal and experienced people to serve on his White House staff. In many administrations, these senior aides come to believe that their counterparts in the cabinet resist the president’s programmes, that agency heads are co-opted by career civil servants and the agency’s constituencies.
So in addition to having alignment issues between the president and legislative leaders, there is also the potential for cabinet officers to weigh in (sometimes seemingly at odds) as the president’s proposals work their way through Washington’s process of lobbyist-aided legislation and change.
Mr Trump has set a broad and ambitious agenda and, if you can get past the noise of distracting tweets, the real work of governing seems to be under way.
Daniel Malachuk works with business and government leaders on global direct investment strategies. He has advised many of the world’s leading companies and served in the public sector as director of White House operations.