Washington Examiner: Maybe Trump should let states ‘bid’ on government agencies to export the swamp
March 26, 2018
Political geography helps determine government outcomes, and that’s one of the reasons Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and Rep. Luke Messer, R-Ind., want to export administrative agencies out of Washington, D.C.
Others have proposed moving the capitol before, relocating to a new state to escape entrenched special interest and the armies of roaming lobbyists. But Ernst and Messer are more realistic. They just want to spread out administrative agencies.
Current law requires federal agencies and departments to set up shop in D.C. Ernst and Messer have introduced legislation establishing a bidding process for states to compete for the relocation of headquarters. Pack up the Department of Energy for Dallas. Send the U.S. Treasury to New York. Banish the Environmental Protection Agency to ANWR. The possibilities are endless, and there are benefits to decentralization.
Capitol Hill is a target-rich environment for special interests where agencies are clustered close together. Special interests can rub elbows with regulators, host a happy hour with congressional staffers, and still make it across town for a dinner date with a lawmaker thanks to the density of government on Capitol Hill. Move the agencies outside the beltway and corporations have to log miles to keep up with regulatory agencies. In short, decentralization makes coordination more difficult.
Decentralization would mean a depression in D.C., but little economic booms in different parts of the country. Ernst and Messer point to a new study that estimates more than 1.7 million jobs in the beltway are tied to the federal government. That work, in theory, would move with the agencies. For once, the regulated would have a chance at drawing a paycheck from their regulatory agency.
This could create an interesting quarrel between the bills to co-sponsors oddly enough. Both Ernst and Messer come from corn heavy states and would become overnight competitors for the Department of Agriculture.
The final benefit is political and doesn’t require the legislation to even become law. Helping the country at the expense the capital is a winning populist message. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., pioneered the “move Washington” mantra back in 2014 to considerable success. With his eyes on a Senate seat of his own, Messer is pushing a similar and more realistic idea to export at least some of the swamp.