little green footballs

Scott Pruitt's Scandals and Ethics Woes Stem From Conservative Ideology

Thu, Apr 12, 2018 at 4:23:00 am

Matthew Yglesias, Scott Pruitt’s scandals and ethics woes stem from conservative ideology

as Michael Grunwald recently detailed for Politico there are significant procedural hurdles to simply undoing existing environmental regulations because “the rulemaking process can take years of technical and administrative work that Pruitt and his team have not yet had time to do.”

The result is that “so far he’s only managed to delay a few rules that hadn’t yet taken effect.” That’s not for lack of trying, but it reflects the realities of the situation. What he can do is try to degrade the agency’s institutional capacity. And corruption is part and parcel of that endeavor.Some of this is widely acknowledged. The inevitable to-be-sure paragraph of Grunwald’s article, for example, concedes that Pruitt has “sent a clear message throughout the agency to be more accommodating to businesses, a message that has helped persuade hundreds of its career public servants to retire.”

Pruitt’s unethical conduct — up to and including the habit of reassigning career staff who speak up about problems — works hand-in-hand with the overall strategy of attempting to demoralize the staff. Creating an agency culture where good work is not respected and where ethical service is punished is a good way of trying to persuade serious people to leave and ensure that staff positions will either go unfilled or will be held by time-servers with little zeal for the agency’s mission.

By the same token, while it’s politically impossible to directly cut the agency’s budget as steeply as conservatives would like, Pruitt can accomplish the same basic goals by wasting the money. Or, rather, by doing things — first class airfare, trips to Morocco, bringing a security detail to Disneyland, spending lavishly on office furniture — that seem like waste to people who believe in the EPA’s mission, Pruitt can fulfill the conservative movement’s mission of starving the EPA of the funds it needs to carry that mission out.