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tv   QA with Benjamin Ginsberg  CSPAN  January 22, 2017 8:00pm-9:02pm EST

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president pence speak to white house staff at a swearing-in ceremony earlier today. ♪ announcer 1: this week on "q&a," benjamin ginsberg, professor of political assignments -- assignment -- political science at johns hopkins. he discovers his book, what washington gets wrong, the people who run the government and their misconceptions about the american people. ♪ ginsberg, author of what washington gets wrong. can you tell us your story that you open up your introduction with? benjamin: absolutely, this is a
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true story, and those who live in washington have heard versions of this. i was at a dinner party, and sitting next to me was a pretty senior hhs executive. very nice person. she said, what are you writing these days? i said a colleague and i conducted a survey of washington officials. everyone is always surveying americans to see what they think of washington. let's survey washington see what he thinks of america. so we did a very official and what i will call a policy community that is the contractors, who are interchangeable with officials, people who work in think tanks, everyone involved in developing rules and regulations. i said, we wanted to see what they thought of americans. my original title was, "what the government thinks of the people." but publishers never like my
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titles. i wanted to i think find out what officials thought of ordinary americans. she said, well, that is kind of interesting. but everybody knows that ordinary americans are a bunch of idiots. why should you do a survey to find that out? to me, that concerned everything we found in the book. officials,at public the people who really govern this country, it is not congress, it is not the president, it is bureaucrats. they write thousands of rules and regulations that have the force of law. we found out they don't think much of ordinary americans. they are not exactly like us. they are wealthier, they are wider, they are better educated. differing views on matters, and they think ordinary americans don't know much.
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really the government should move according to its own ideas, not taking much attention to what ordinary soaks -- ordinary folks think. they thought the same about congress. they didn't have much good to say but the president either. they thought the only ones who knew anything or other public officials. brian: you say some 14 million americans are associated with the government in some way. can you break it down? benjamin: about two and a half and 3 million are actual -- 2.5 million and 3 million are actual federal employees. the rest is contractors. as you know, in many agencies, thecontractors outnumber actual civil servants, department of education, department of energy. if you walk into an office, you don't know who is who. they call it a blended
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workforce. the have a contractor, and in addition, we have all of the supporting groups, people who work in think tanks and research foundation. and even people who work in lobby groups that are connected to particular government agencies, environmentalists who are closely connected with the epa, the environmental protection agency, for example. so all in all, from 12 million to 14 million people, and these are the people who actually govern this country. everything we learned in high school in college, maybe even including my own textbook, i will have to look and see, everything we think we learned is not exactly right, because what we learn? we learn you elect a congress that makes the law, president executes the law, courts review the laws, but that ain't exactly
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how the system works. much as we think of as the law considers rules and regulations written by bureaucratic agencies . bureaucrats who are not elected by anyone, and who often serve for decades. a lot of people are going to talk about term limits for members of congress. i think it is a terrible idea, by the way. average length of service of a member of congress is eight years. eight years, whereas the average length of service for a senior nonelected official in our country is 26 years. so if those who think term limits are important, they are in the wrong place. brian: there are very few factors around washington dc, but seven of the richest counties in the united states are all around washington,
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making an average more than most places in the united states. why is that so? benjamin: first of all, federal civil servants are themselves well-paid. is that theyine are not as well-paid as people in comparable positions in the private sector. there aren't exactly comparable positions in the private sector. when you look at the total package of pay, retirement benefits and job security which cannot they beat, this is -- cannot be beat, this is big. families that have to civil servants, sometimes you have someone drawing military retirement and drawing for civil servants. that is the starting point. remunerationalary, according to the data, is
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considerably higher than average americans'. group, surrounding this we have lobbyists, lawyers, all the folks who were trying to get the first group to do what they want. -- work trying to get the first group to do what they want. we had thousands who work in the legal lobbying industry, government contractors. they are surrounding the capital , an industry that don't produce smoke. they do produce a lot of hot air, but no smoke of pollution. this makes washington and its surrounding counties a very, .ery wealthy area it affects the way people here look at things. they may read a series in the washington post about rural property, but they are not -- poverty, but they are not familiar with it.
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they talk to people and what we way whereocial, safe everyone goes. they live in a bubble, everyone they know is pretty well-off, the rules are pretty good. they are not familiar with america. one thing in our survey, was asked some basic questions about america. you know, i got tired of all these studies trying to show that americans don't know anything. i remember jay leno used to do lou dean.king i remember one time they were out there asking people to name members of the supreme court. a lot of people named judge judy. this got a big yuck. judge judy and justice ginsburg could be confused. they went to the same high school. james madison high school in brooklyn, along with chuck schumer and a lot of people like that. , so when we asked that are also little servants to tell us about
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-- federal civil servants to tell us about american, they did not know much. they did not know about income or level of education might be. they did not have a good idea of the racial and ethnic composition of america. they did not too, have a good idea of what ordinary americans thought. now if you have looked at the views of ordinary americans, compared them to the views of civil servants, a little different, but less different than civil servants think. civil servants think ordinary americans have views that are very, very different from theirs. why? psychologists have a concept they called self uniqueness. if you think someone is really dumb, you can possibly think that they think the important
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thoughts that you think. they must think other things. that is what our civil servants believe. ordinary americans can possibly have the same exhaustive thoughts that we do. samen't possibly have the exhaustive thoughts that we do. so this goes on that several civil servants don't know much about america. so one suggestion to make is that we send more civil servants out to learn about america. if you ask to take them, found many agencies, people work in regional and local offices. by at the policy level, hardly anyone steps outside washington except to go on vacation. there is no reason why the top officials of the department of energy or the department of congress -- commerce need to be in washington. it could be anywhere, let them
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spend time in regional offices where they get to rub shoulders with ordinary folks. all studies show bureaucrats who live among ordinary people develop more sympathy for them. brian: where would we find you on a normal day? benjamin: where would you find me? well, let's see, you might find lessons which i enjoy. you might find me walking my dogs and going to dog training. but you would probably find me in the university. brian: what university? benjamin: john hopkins. i teach political science. brian: you talk about this in the book. if someone listened to last couple of minutes, they say well, that guy is cynical. benjamin: i am so. the census is very important. i tell students that cynicism is the beginning of wisdom, because
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you have to look realistically at the world's politics. the germans have a term, realpolitik, which means realism. we don't take what politicians say at face value. what we found, they make promises lots of times, they make up things. to them, they are lessons to garner support. we need to understand what is really going on in politics. politics is usually about power, money, status. it is not about truth, justice, and the american way. brian: let me show you some video to go along with what you just sd, and we will get your un states d fo.eny >> it is my duty to the american
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renewedo report that cost elections against united states ships on the high seas and the gulf of tonkin have today required me to order the military forces of the united states to take action. note did not, repeat, did trade weapons or anything else forosta nor wd, there is no dout saddam hussein now has weapons of mass distraction. >> under the reform we seek, if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. if you like your private health insurance plan, you can keep your plan, period. brian: it is all really taken from your book. benjamin: i recognize those scenes. i always thought lyndon johnson's nose was getting longer as he spoke, but that is my imagination.
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these are excellent reminders of something that is hard for americans to remember, and that words haveiticians' a different purpose than they do to you or me. when we talk, we exchange information. we might exchange emotion. we see that as the ordinary use of language. to a politician, words are weapons. they are the weapons of political warfare, and politicians choose their words, their ideas with a view toward capturing and exercising power. so words are often designed to persuade us of something that is in the politician's interest. point viewers to the most recent presidential election, because i thought it
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was an remarkable exercise in realogy -- in realpolitik. there was a pretense at this point. they would say or do whatever .eemed useful to win power if that turned out not to be useful, they would shift and say something else. so for example, secretary clinton famously castigated donald trump for asserting that he might not accept the results of the election. that was when she thought she was going to win. it looked different when he was going to win. those who view this election objectively rather than through their partisan lenses saw politics for what it was, the struggle for power and the weapons. these three videos you showed us
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now are videos of presidents speaking because it was convenient to do so. the weapons of mass disruption -- nobody thought they were there. nobody in the white house thought they were there, but it did seem like a good thing to say. the "keep your doctor under the affordable care act" nobody thought that was true, but it seemed a good thing to say. known know, we have all people like that. people in organizations are like that. they can change direction at the top of a hat and show no indifference. that is why i am a cynic. i am a cynic because this is what i have observed, and i think if you are not a cynic, you are too easily taken in. i ask everyone, be more cynical. ,e always see in the press don't be too cynical we can't be cynical. who is more radical than
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reporters? -- cynical than reporters? i think in order to do this in the political world, you have to understand what politicians are about. in ancient athens, they said that a citizen had to understand how to rule and be ruled. so, in our country when we teach children about politics, we only teach them how to be ruled. we taught them, you should vote and to your jury duty and whatnot, but we don't tell the much about what rulers do. and the indians felt that in order to be a good citizen, you have to actually understand the arts of politics if only to protect yourself. so i think that is a lot of merit in their view. they weren't synnex, but they were realistic -- cynics, but they were realistic. brian: a lot of definitions of
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you online are that you are also a libertarian. is that true, and how often do you find libertarians in the academic world? benjamin: that is a very interesting question. i am a libertarian on some issues. the guy that writes the wikipedia article about me decided i was libertarian, so there i am. i am a libertarian on many issues, but as to the -- because i feel, years ago, i took a whassre
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the rest of us operate under
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rules that make us more diverse. they don't. brian: why is it so hard to fire someone in the government? benjamin: civil servants make it virtually impossible. they make it so cumbersome, it takes so long.
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brian: why is it set up this way? benjamin: to protect civil servants who invented the rules. brian: why are they different from the united states? benjamin: you have to be cynical to answer that question. they write the rules to protect themselves. they write every rule for us. agencies, they don't really try to fire people because it is too cumbersome. they transfer them. you have civil servants that you transferred around and finally wind up in several offices where you have the rejects that you transferred in their, and they don't do much during the day. brian: what are the politics of most civil servants? benjamin: most are liberal democrats. notice for example that there has been a lot of commentary about the trump's cabinet and subcabinet. the number of people who were drawn from the military and from business rather than from
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government. the reason for that is plain simple. government agencies are will overwhelmingly liberal and democratic, and if you want to staff up with republicans, you go to the military, or you go to business p or two can't recruit on the upper levels of the government. brian: you have language that i assume -- i don't know the other -- average person would have ever heard it before. i will just read some of this back to you. you talk about the administrative procedure act of 1946. you talk about the office of information affairs. the unified regulatory agenda. benjamin: i will tell you something, these are something we need to know. these are things people should be taught as part of cynics. these are critical to the way we are governed. the administrative procedure act is the bible for regulatory
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agencies. when regulatory agencies write rules and regulations, under the terms of the administrative procedure act, they have to be published or what is called noticed -- notice and commentary. they have to be published and they have to solicit comments. and this is the basis for rulemaking in the united states, and rulemaking is the basis for our governance. kids learn in school how a bill becomes a law through congress, but they don't learn how the rule or regulation is promulgated through the bureaucracy, which is important. you mentioned the office of information and regulatory assessment or ira. this is a very, very important office. it fits with the white house management of budget. it is through ira that
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presidents attempt to shape the regulatory agenda. and issuess agencies regulatory prompt to the agencies telling them what the president wants. again, this is part of how we are governed that students don't learn. if how an in civics bill becomes a law. how that is wrong. they don't learn the basics how we and americans are actually governed. if you want to know that, these terms i mentioned should not be a secret anymore. the ada, administrative procedure act, no -- oira. brian: what is the 1979 paperwork reduction act benjamin:? benjamin:[laughter] the name is sort of funny. small business was complaining
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that they were required to fill out too many forms, so congress said, ok, we will have a paperwork reduction act so they will not have to fill out as many forms. it wasn't more paperwork as you might imagine, but it was under the paperwork reduction act that oh -- that oira was created. brian: you have centralized presidential oversight of agency rulemaking. benjamin: under executive order 12291, and again, this is something people should know, what our executive orders? a lot of the government is executive orders, executive memorandums. president obama said he would not issue as many as president bush, so instead he writes memorandums. it is the same thing. 1 was issuedder 1229 during the reagan administration
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. and in that order, reagan said that henceforward, rules and regulations promulgated by the bureaucracy would have to be ra for review. when clinton came in, he added one step further and said from will send proposals to the agencies, which we want them to do. president's tool for controlling the bureaucracy, a very important presidential tool. but it does not give the president any kind of absolute control. de tocqueville said, describe that roman emperor. ,e said, his power is ferocious but its reach is limited. the same could be said of the president and the bureaucracy. when a president wants to do something, by god
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host: what impact did the civil service reform act of 1978 have on this government? creating large the number of bureaucratic officials subject to presidential appointment. the number is still small. , there was ame in lot of how many appointments he could make. but the number is maybe 4000 of various sorts. i think it should be more. ishink that if an election to affect the bureaucracy, presidents should be able to .ppoint more top officials i don't agree with andrew jackson. he said that any american could do any job in government, i think that is going to far. there are more americans that
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could carry out the people's will as expressed in an election. i think the number of federal officials appointed by the president should be increased. trumpso it's president said, come into the oval office, bring your book with you, but you were given a few minutes to tell him what to be wearing of -- wary of, what would you say? prof. ginsberg: i would tell him that in relation to the bureaucracy, that bureaucratic agencies march along their own trajectories. they march according to their own drummers. if a president interferes with them, and they regarded as interference, a president and his appointees interfere, they will roll with the punch and try to resume the course they have set for themselves. once the bureaucracy is created, it is very hard to change it,
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very hard to take control of it. this is a terrible example and people will be mad at me for using this, that mao zedong decided he was going to attack the chinese bureaucracy, and here he was the absolute ruler, and he lost a cultural revolution. he is gone and they are still there. it is very difficult. is toice to any president try to appoint individuals who understand the agency but don't like what it is doing. change agents, as they say. and trump has done this. several of the individuals he has appointed were enemies of the agency. that is a start. the agencies eventually wear them down. host: there is a list of some 15
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administrative agencies under the administrative procedures act. what is different about that than theen say -- department of state? prof. ginsberg: the department of state, the department of defense, these are important agencies, but they don't engage in rulemaking aside from internal housekeeping rules. they don't issue rules that affect you and me. whereas say the department of federaln, the various social agencies, the issue rules that have the effect of law on your knee. , thexample, even noaa weather men, they have a
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jurisdiction over several pieces of federal legislation where the issue rules and regulations. administers noaa something called the marine mammals protection act, which you and i have never heard of. but recently, someone was sent to prison for violating a noaa regulation under that act that prohibited harassment of marine animals. what did this person do? -- whalewill watching watching boat and he whistled at the whale. host: he went to prison for that? prof. ginsberg: he did. harassment of a marine mammal. study,ccording to one
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"major" rules and regulations adopted by federal agencies between 2009-2012 imposed $70 billion in new costs to the american public. how do you know that? prof. ginsberg: i didn't do the study. economists try to look at the impact of the rule on the behavior of those affected by it. in that case, i think it was a rule governing corporate behavior. what do corporations do to follow this rule? one of the things they do is to staff up. in the banking industry, one of the reasons small banks have theppeared is because quantity of staffing you need, accounting services, legal services that you need to comply
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with the the act is so substantial that only big banks can afford it. that is a cost of regulation. use one kind of fuel rather than another. environmental relations -- regulations impose costs. the people who study these rules estimate costs. by privateudied economists and by the presidential budget office. the cost of regulation is very high. just recently, in the context of talk about -- talking about why the u.s. lost manufacturing jobs the last decade, one study suggested that about one million jobs were lost because of regulatory costs. that became a factor in corporations shifting jobs overseas. host: you write that perhaps the
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why someght learn cynical washington observers of the department of education say that seldom in the course of human events has so little bit accomplished by so many. prof. ginsberg: that was a little bit of snark on my part. are some agencies in washington, that being one of them, that most people who live in this town don't think they do much of anything. some -- some agencies are extremely hard-working, no question, but there are others, i would say education, energy, commerce. the output is not that great. this is a local prejudice, no one quite knows what they do there. host: what would you say to somebody who is deeply involved in washington, you have absolutely no idea what you're
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talking a? -- talking about? prof. ginsberg: they tell me that all the time. washington officials. they say, you have no idea how hard-working we are, how much we do for the people of the united states. you have no idea how much we value the views of americans, to which i say, i do have a 90n i -- an idea, and you don't care what americans think. this is the first time this is been done, we're going to make our questionnaire and results available. people can look at what we did, and hopefully people can move on from there. 800 plus people respond? prof. ginsberg: in the polling business, when you do telephone polling, most people don't want to respond. they don't want to waste their time. my view is that in the case of
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the survey, first of all, i am going to be snarky again, a lot of people don't have much to do. this was an amusement. second, people who work in washington are self-important. not unlike professors, we are self-important,be e deed o te n dii a sisowhayos.
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here anklino roelt an the neealersiewed welfstitns and tructeore in of ticawer thal sensib rumenthara ofhe prines is p emis on religious and moral appeals over the past quarter century. , this is in your book to suggest the politicians on both sides will do whatever they have to do to get elected. prof. ginsberg: that is for sure. host: why not the administrative agencies that sit there on a 26 year average, they are working off of the law and not off of whether they get elected. isf. ginsberg: there
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something good about politicians working to get elected, because if you are working to get elected, you have to pay some ,ttention to what voters think even if all you want to do is manipulate them. you still have to pay attention to them. our federal bureaucracies are insulated from all that. they don't know what people think and they don't care what people think. again, maybe they do no more than the average american. host: that's not every civil servant. prof. ginsberg: no, not everyone. we are not talking about individuals. we are talking about the aggregate. on the aggregate, they don't think americans know very much and don't really care, and that is what makes them different from my doctor or lawyer. if i perceive that my doctor rk bmienhere about
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>> if you enjoyed this week's interview with benjamin ginsberg, here is some other programs you might like. senator tom coburn talks about his career, politics and his reasons for early retirement. comptroller general david walker discusses the mission and competence of the general category office. and david bossi, president of citizens united and citizens united productions talks about his career in activism. you can watch these anytime or search our entire deal library at c-span.org.
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>> c-span's "washington journal," life every day with news and policy issues that affect you. whatg up, discussing president trump is expected to do his first day and week in the white house, and which executive orders he could reverse. aboutwe will talk president trump's possible actions on immigration. todd harrison will join us to discuss what approach president trump might take when it comes to the defense department budget. be sure to watch "washington journal," live at 7:00 a.m. eastern monday morning. join the discussion. ministerbritish prime theresa may takes questions from members of the house of commons. after that, highlights from friday's presidential
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inauguration ceremony. at 11:00, another chance to see "q&a." >> on wey,ritish lacent on hxitcu speech from previy. so ar queson t citizeing in cou and img th'ersa althe syst thth

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