American Elephants

What’s the matter with Big Government, anyway? by The Elephant's Child
February 23, 2009, 8:41 pm
Filed under: Domestic Policy, Economy, Politics, Progressivism | Tags: , ,

Bu•reauc•ra•cy n. 1. Administration of a government chiefly through bureaus staffed with nonelective officials.  2. Government marked by diffusion of authority among numerous offices and adherence to inflexible rules of operation.  3.  Any administration in which the need to follow complex procedures impedes effective action.

Why do Republicans always talk about “small government” and oppose “big government?” Don’t we need “big government” to fix things, to keep us safe, to build highways and regulate all the things that need regulating?

And isn’t this just hypocrisy?  I haven’t noticed Republicans making the government a lot smaller, nor having the government take on fewer tasks.  True.  It is far, far easier to create a new task force, a new bureau, a new department than to find a way to close one down.

Government and business grow in much the same way.  Workers don’t like working hard all the time, they want more help.  Managers like to have more people to manage, it makes them more important. Senior managers enhance their managerial credibility by reorganizing their department to “increase efficiency”.  CEOs add another layer of management to simplify the number of direct reports. And so it goes.

New Presidents, Governors or Mayors bring in favored associates with their new administration, and create new positions or new departments for those associates.

For example, President Obama is not only struggling to fill all the Cabinet positions, but the positions of  the assistant to the Secretary and the Deputy Secretary, and the Directors of other Bureaus and Departments,and the Deputy Directors,  but he is creating any number of Czars who will overlook something or other and have confused relations with the Cabinet Secretaries who were confirmed by the Senate to be in charge of essentially the same thing.

If anyone can explain the tasks of the various Czars and what the relationship is of the Energy Czar to the Energy Secretary and the Head of the EPA and the Interior Secretary, I would be very interested.

This is how government grows, and how business grows.

In the business world, when things aren’t working or when times turn down, whole layers of management may vanish.  You have heard of massive layoffs, 20,000 here and 30,000 there.  Did you hear of government — any government — laying off people in such numbers?  Eliminating a layer of management? Or eliminating a department?

The car companies are in trouble.  Union agreements have been too generous.  They have too may retirees who receive more retirement benefits than they can afford.  Congress demands ever-increasing mpg from ever less efficient fuel with mandates that the car companies cannot meet.  Car companies cannot build cars for a price that Americans will pay.  Normally this kind of thing is solved by a bankruptcy court.

The White House has announced a Presidential Task Force that will serve in lieu of a bankruptcy judge.  It will contain the following members:

  • Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner
  • National Economic Council Director Larry Summers
  • Secretary of Transportation
  • Secretary of Commerce
  • Secretary of Labor
  • Secretary of Energy
  • Chair of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers
  • Director of the Office of Management and Budget
  • Environmental Protection Agency Administrator
  • Director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change

– Ron Bloom, Senior Advisor on the Auto Industry, Department of Treasury

Official Designees of the Members of the Presidential Task Force

  • Diana Farrell, Deputy Director, National Economic Council
  • Gene Sperling, Counselor to the Secretary of Treasury
  • Jared Bernstein, Chief Economist to V.P. Biden
  • Edward Montgomery, Senior Advisor, Dept. of Labor
  • Lisa Heinzerling, Senior Climate Policy Counsel to the EPA Administrator
  • Austan Goolsbee, Staff Director and Chief Economist of the Economic Recovery

Advisory Board

  • Dan Utech, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Energy
  • Heather Zichal, Deputy Director, White House Office of Energy and Climate Change
  • Joan DeBoer, Chief of Staff, Department of Transportation
  • Rick Wade, Senior Advisor, Department of Commerce

Bureaucracy kills innovation, destroys initiative, and generally turns possibility into pudding.  Republicans may not be very good at making government smaller and more efficient, but at least they have that as a goal.

Democrats believe that bigger is better.

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