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 this....by 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.