Thursday, November 10, 2016

Our runaway freight train

I just heard on the news that President-elect Trump will need to hire 4,000 new people to staff his administration so he can "hit the ground running" on January 20.  This is normal.  All presidents hire their own people for key positions.  Obama did it, George W did it, Bill Clinton did it, on and on.

But here's the problem:  They're just putting their people at the helm of already dysfunctional departments of government.  For as long as I can remember candidates have promised to "fix" the government, then get to Washington and appoint their people, who proudly put their names on the doors....but then little of substance ever changes.

The departments are so vast they just chug along on their own inertia.  It's like a 2-mile-long freight train.  It's hard to make it go faster, it's hard to stop it, and it's impossible to steer it.  Every new president just puts his engineer up front to monitor the same old gauges.

Consider almost any measure the Department of Veterans Affairs is broken.  It exists to extend benefits, primarily health, disability, and education benefits, to our former service men and women.  There have been complaints about the long wait times and often poor care at VA hospitals since I was a little boy, and any correspondence with them for anything often takes weeks or even months.

The current Sec of Veterans Affairs, Robert McDonald, is the former CEO of Proctor & Gamble.  His predecessors were Eric Shinseki, James Peace, and Jim Nicholson, all retired military officers, and Anthony Principi, a government lawyer.  Four of the five no doubt think like bureaucrats. And by definition the career civil servants over each sub-segment of the VA are also bureaucrats.  Is it any wonder they can't fix it?

Can anyone think outside the box?  Could we break up this massive department into smaller groups of specific disciplines, then put recognized experts in those disciplines in charge?  No more career bureaucrats, no more political cronies.  A lawyer shouldn't run a medical school, and an engineer shouldn't run a museum, right?

"Fix" does not mean just re-shuffle the same old worn deck.



  1. It takes talent and hard work to fix anything. I doubt Trump is going to fix anything.

    1. As I mentioned this isn't something exclusive to Donald Trump. This is just the "Washington way", and it needs to change. There is a mountain of evidence to suggest that it DOES NOT WORK.

  2. Oh, I think here's where we are in for a treat: Imagine Sarah Palin as SecState....or, giving a pardon to Bernie Madoff....SecTrea!! The possibilities are endless. Mary Lou Brenner (Texas nun on board of education) as SecEd!!
    What fun the next few years will be, for about 5% of the US population.
    What other country would 59 million plus people vote for a know sexual assaulter, who is going to trial soon for raping a 14 year old, who says the things he does. Whatta country, eh?
    Yeah, this was my goal in 68, to go shoot people so we could have a leader like this.

    Jesus H. Christ, what have we become?

    1. sorry, not 'Texas nun', but 'Texas nut'. apologies

    2. Exactly my point. Sarah Palin is qualified to do little more than keep an eye on Russia from her porch. ;)

  3. Of course his Treasury nominee shortlists is mostly those from the Big Banks.

    BTW, the other night I watched a movie called 99 Homes you may be interested. It's about a construction worker who goes to work for a real estate agent specializing in foreclosures after his house gets foreclosed on. Pretty good movie about the housing bubble bursting and the dirty tricks by Big Banks and the government.

  4. My stomach is still in knots about the latest developments in politics. My only hope is that things NEVER turn out as horrible (or as great) as first anticipated. With that theory, any change in Washington will not be a revolution, but a painfully slow evolution (if we work at it).

  5. I totally agree. I have NC friends who've been so disgusted with non-education people being put in charge of education (the UNC system, for example).