On the Swamp, Cronyism, and Gaming the System

Derek Hunter,

President Donald Trump was elected on the pledge that he would “drain the swamp.” The swamp, as has been painfully obvious since day 1, has been fighting back. But not all of the swamp that thrives in Washington, DC, is in the intelligence community or actively working against the president. Much of it is institutional, bureaucratic, and more interested in scamming taxpayers out of as much money as possible.

This part of the swamp, likely the largest part, operates under the radar, in offices with titles you’ve never heard of, overseen by the staffs of deputy assistant under secretaries of some insignificant segment of a department no one cares about. Programs started to address some form of perceived problem or correct what was declared an injustice, have long outlived their usefulness or need.

Still, they thrive. As Milton Friedman famously said, “Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program.”

Not all these swampy bureaucracies were meant to be temporary, of course, but they were created to address something or other that, presumably, once solved, would mean they were no longer necessary. But no one in Washington will ever admit what they do is unnecessary, just as everyone with a specialty will ever admit their area of expertise is unimportant. And no one with a job will come close to admitting to themselves that that job should not exist.

But countless jobs should not exist, countless programs should not exist, and even more recipients of government aid should not be getting it.

It’s not just “Lobster Boy,” the surfer dude who collected food stamps he used to buy lobster. While Jason Greenslate, the lobster boy himself, got a lot of attention, well-deserved attention, he’s small potatoes compared to the gaming of the system that goes on in government.

I was reading the other day about the IT companies with some lucrative government contracts providing services for Job Corp., a Johnson-era social program that trains young people for tech jobs. The contract to provide IT support was at one time held by Rodney P. Hunt, a celebrated minority government contractor, and his company RSIS. When that company was sold due to some “issues,” stakeholder Ron Trowbridge took his payout and formed a new company, T&T, placing his daughter at the helm making it a woman-owned company, and therefore eligible to receive special government set asides.

And the new, woman-owned T&T subsequently acquired a disabled veteran-owned business, Altech, expanding the possibilities for obtaining even more government set aside contracts with this additional, government favored designation. But there’s more. Another company was also introduced into the mix when Enlightenment Capital purchased T&T, thus bringing those government approved contractor statuses under their umbrella.

The link between all these companies is one employee, Christine Brandell, who, somehow, has managed the contract on behalf of these businesses and Linda Estep, a Labor Department information technology director. They reportedly “are really close. They go way back at least 10 years.” To boot, the terms of contracts seem to be under “generous” terms with lax reporting requirements.

As was reported over at American Greatness, “Granted, this kind of seeming cronyism, race hustling, and inefficiency is par for the course in the federal government and so this story isn’t exactly news. Yet as an example of what passes as ‘good enough for government work,’ this deal appears to have it all. As such it is one of the most visibly representative cases in some time of the very comfortable rot at the core of the federal contracting system.”

The Times of Israel, reporting on the same story, concluded, “How does this system fare for actual small businesses, the kind started by middle class Americans who are minorities, women or service-disabled veterans? Especially when it would seem that the services that are provided have serious problems. Not good. Small business government cronyism is alive and well.”

Perhaps it’s because I’m naturally cynical, or that I’ve been in DC for 18 years (which certainly doesn’t help with the cynicism), but this sort of cronyism and gaming the system is not only common, it’s inevitable.

When you have a gigantic federal government distributing trillions of tax dollars, people will always game the system. The government is too big to keep track of itself, or to know when it’s being played. And in most cases, it’s not being played – because most of this is perfectly legal, no matter how wrong it looks.

Derek is the host of a free daily podcast (subscribe!), host of a daily radio show on WCBM in Maryland, and author of the book, Outrage, INC., which exposes how liberals use fear and hatred to manipulate the masses.