Monday, June 07, 2010

Klein Again

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been a subscriber to Time magazine for about 25 years. I guess that makes me a dinosaur (in several ways). I was reading a back issue that was laying in the truck while I was waiting for something interesting to photograph to wonder by. The young folks can go ahead and snicker. But there wasn’t even cell phone reception where I was much less wi-fi. Besides, let’s see you fan yourself with your iPad or swat mosquitoes with your Droid.

Joe Klein is one of Time’s regular columnists. I really don’t read him that much but here I am, writing about him again.

Management 101: What the Democrats Need to Learn

It’s a pretty good far as it goes.

”Democrats tend to be more interested in legislating than in managing. They come to office filled with irrational exuberance, pass giant fur balls of legislation — stuff that often sounds fabulous, in principle — and expect a stultified bureaucracy, bereft of the incentives and punishments of the private sector, to manage it all with the efficiency of a bounty hunter. This has always been the strongest conservative argument against government activism. Traditionally, Republicans were more concerned with good management than Democrats — until the Reagan era, when the "government is the problem" mantra took hold. If you don't believe in government, you don't bother much with governing efficiently. You hire political cronies for jobs that professionals should be doing. Eventually, you wind up with the former head of the Arabian Horse Association — the infamous Michael Brown — trying to organize federal aid after Hurricane Katrina. “

The problem, of course, is what to do about it. Klein hints at it but he never comes out and says it.

”Orszag learned his trade in the Congressional Budget Office, an agency known for a culture of excellence created by its first director, Alice Rivlin, and reinforced by rewards and punishments that resemble those found in the private sector. And the Obama Administration has worked hard to manage its programs well: the stunning absence of corruption in the disbursement of stimulus funds is attributable, in large part, to Vice President Joe Biden's vigilance.“

In other words, government can work and it can be well run. The difference between well run and poorly run is what it always is. It’s the people you choose to run it. From the President all the way down to the janitor -- it’s the people. People matter. Sure the technology matters. Sure the structure of an organization matters. But in the end, it is the people that matter most.

That is the reason this economic crisis is such an opportunity. There are millions out of work. There are millions more that would recognize and appreciate an organization that truly values them. An organization that lives up to its commitments of a decent living and a decent retirement. There are millions that would appreciate the opportunity to do something that matters -- something that is meaningful and would make their country a better place. Selling people on government service would be so easy right now -- now, when private industry has allowed itself to sink to such depths. Bernie Madoff. British Petroleum. Wall Street. Goldman Sachs.

It makes you wonder if that isn’t the reason some have chosen this moment in time to vilify government employees. (Be sure to notice the quote from Cato -- the libertarian side of the conservative think tank triumvirate.)

Don Brown
June 7, 2010

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