The Brookings Institute came out with a study last week that looks at failures by the federal government. It concludes what we’ve talked about many times: that the federal government is fumbling the ball more and more often:
The federal government is failing now more than ever. That’s the conclusion of a unique taxonomy of federal ball-dropping just released by Paul C. Light, a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution.
The study tracks the growing failure rate through the past five presidents. While many factors contribute to the generally increasing frequency of bureaucratic failures, the fluctuating numbers do reflect on an administration’s overall managerial competence. Light believes that Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush led especially competent White House teams. Reagan, his study shows, averaged 1.6 failures per year during the final part of his term.
On the other hand, George W. Bush’s administration was the most failure-ridden of them all. W. averaged 3.1 failures per year – overseeing more than twice as many annual failures as his father.
Of course, by Light’s account Obama isn’t looking too hot either – he’s currently running 2.9 failures per year, with a little over two years two go. “Good government is not just a function of good laws, it’s also a function a faithful execution,” he said. In that area, President Obama does not get good grades. “Probably the lowest of any post-war president,” said Light in an interview. “I’d give him a C- on attentiveness, and a D on reform.”
In the report, Light writes that Obama promised reform and modernization but “he never followed through. He was either too distracted to concentrate, too bored by the nitty gritty of management or too frightened of the Republican backlash to make the effort needed to make big government work.”
First of all, I’ll say right out that I am dubious of this “study”. It seems to consist mainly of scouring the news for bad things and blaming them on the government. There is little rhyme or reason to it. The Navy Yard shooting is listed as a government failure, for example, while the S&P credit downgrade is not.
That aside, I think his basic conclusions is correct, give or take a few failures. This Administration is showing a staggering incompetence at executing even the most basic functions of government. They are light years behind Reagan or Bush 41 or Clinton. The reason is what I’ve said for a long time: a President has to be more than just a good speaker with some ideas. He has to be … an executive. He had to run the government.
It’s true that the government wasn’t running terribly well when Obama came into office. I agree with Light’s assessment of the Bush 43 Administration as incompetent. But all Presidential administrations inherit problems. All government agencies accumulate cruft over the years that impedes their functioning. Good Presidents — Reagan, Clinton, Bush 41, Eisenhower — understand that you have to periodically overhaul government agencies or they get bogged down in their own red tape. Obama has done none of this. He’s just given the government more and more and more to do and then acted all surprised when it can’t do it.
However … Light simply can’t resist the Cult of Obama. In the end, the real villains out there are .. brace yourself … Republicans. Some of this is the usual blame of the previous Administration (although Bush apparently take all the blame for 9/11 even though he was only nine months into office and the only prior warning was a vague assessment that Al-Qaeda was going to strike in the US). But there’s also this:
Republicans exploited the Democratic cowardice by doing everything in their power to undermine performance. They stonewalled needed policy changes, and made implementation of new programs as difficult as possible; they cut budgets, staffs, and collateral capacity to a minimum, proving the adage that the logical extension of doing more with less is doing everything with nothing; they used the presidential appointments process to decapitate key agencies, and appointed more than their share of unqualified executives; and they muddied mission, tolerated unethical conduct, and gamed the performance measure process to guarantee failing scores for as many government policies as possible.
This is … not to put too fine a point on it … bullshit. Almost all of Obama’s failure are his own damned fault. Very few can be pinned on Republican obstructionism or Democratic “cowardice” (Democrat cowardice being defined as a refusal to enact the most radical far Left agenda imaginable). Let’s go through the Obama failures they list one by one and see where the blame lies:
I would add one more to that list: the Border Crisis. The Border Patrol are overwhelmed by the current crisis and the problem throws its roots down in long-term policy. However, Obama wasn’t exactly screaming for more resources or demanding changes in the law. If anything, he’s neglected the border and ignored the exploding violence in Central America.
Look over that list. Maybe you can shade some blame on Republicans for the fertilizer plant explosion or the VA scandal. Both of those problems long pre-date Obama. But even in those two cases, it wasn’t like he was screaming for more resources to deal with them. He has neglected the basic oversight duties of the government and then, when it literally blows up, tries to blame it on Republicans.
But even punting those two, almost all of Obama’s failure are the result of incompetence or idiocy by members of the Administration. Almost none were a result of Republicans “gutting” spending and oversight or intimidating the President. They are the result of a disorganized bumbling Administration that can’t manage the basic functions of government but is constantly coming up with new ones for it to try out.