So what do you do when a regulator flagrantly violates its own regulations? Let’s say you hate the fact that the Animas River in Colorado got deluged with arsenic by the USEPA. Let’s say you think there needs to be a law. Let’s say you believe the responsible party should both open their wallet and surrender their personal liberties in payment for their vile crime and as a precautionary example to anyone else who would even consider taking the risk of similarly despoiling a wild and scenic American river. Under Barack Obama, and given the unwillingness of the US Congress to properly impose legislative guardrails on how regulatory agencies can operate, the answer is you shut up and like it.
It gets back to a problem that Roman Satirical Poet Juvenal made light of in one of his comedies. “Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?” The poet inquired. Who will guard the guardians? Under Barack Obama, you get the flawed and incorrect answer that Greek Philosopher Plato offered to a similar question. The guardians guard themselves. With guardians like Lois Lerner, this is a legitimate cause for alarm and political concern.
This doesn’t have to remain a problem once President Obama has been duly replaced with a more enlightened chief executive. We should not have to just sit there and watch the EPA pollute a river they were sworn to protect any more than we would have to watch a petrochemical firm discharge fracking waste into a river. The behavior should be a poor evolutionary strategy for anyone to embark upon. There should be no droit du seigneur for any elected, appointed or hired official to commit acts that would land Billy-Bob the Sub-Contractor in the Metal Bar Inn.
Here’s what needs to be done.
1) Pass legislation that restricts the interpretive powers and activities of regulatory agencies. If the EPA had been restricted in its survey to a firmly defined and enforced set of inherently governmental functions, they would not have had the operational authority to turn a Hazmat containment dike into their own personal Chernobyl Toy.
2) The next President can and should go through that directorate of the EPA like a teed-off hurricane of condign vengeance. Lots of people need The Trump Treatment.* It must not be nice or fair. EPA morale arrogance must be shattered. Other regulators must be put on notice that stupid decisions are also career decisions.
Regulators are not nice or glamorous people under the best of conditions. When their powers are abated by sound law, conscientious judgment and a certain wholesome fear of retribution and consequence, they perform a dirty, but necessary function. Like an NFL referee, you should only hear their whistle for fair and disinterested reasons. But that will not happen until Barack Obama leaves office and someone with a legitimate capacity for adult decision-making assumes charge of our Executive Branch.