March 2, 2010 at 10:36 pm #93878
This recent CNN story talked about 86% of respondents said government was broken… that can’t be surprising – the words government and bureaucracy have become synonymous with slow in our culture – BUT, what I found promising is that 81% thought it could be fixed. I thought that number would be much lower.Take this all with the gigantic grain of salt you have to take all CNN and USAToday polls – but I thought I would link to the story here and ask the following questions for discussion:If 81% of the people think it can be fixed – of the 3 P’s – who will have the biggest impact on fixing it? – Politicians, Policy Makers, or Public Servants (the life long people who run the offices in the executive branch) They all play a role, but who has the most potential to make a difference?If you are a 5% who thinks we are beyond repair… What next? Hobble along as far as we can muster, or wait for a catastrophic collapse to begin again?
March 3, 2010 at 2:07 pm #93924
Interesting. I wonder how this compares with other years
March 3, 2010 at 3:58 pm #93922
The American people tend to trust their government and it is remarkable that they do. The biggest impact on fixing government will be the fourth P – the public who vote with their ballots, dollars and their feet.
It is beyond question that government has gotten big and at what point will people say enough is enough. The tea party movement is apparently a step in that direction. It remains to be seen whether they will have an impact.
Rather sadly the state of government depends on election cycles and we have to wait until the next election cycle to see if there will be major changes.
March 3, 2010 at 4:16 pm #93920
Subroto… Nice fourth P!
I’m not as convinced as you that the election cycles have an impact on major change – they all promise it – they rarely deliver it.
And while the public get to vote – they have to give their investment through taxes and their feet can carry them only so far – Walmart can’t give you your driver’s license or foodstamps… yet
March 3, 2010 at 7:31 pm #93918
All four Ps must be involved. Also, if people on all sides of the political spectrum will open their minds, they may find there is more common ground for cooperation than we currently realize. Many liberals and conservatives often cite Reagan’s quote from his first inaugral:
“In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem.” but fail to recognize what he said in the same speech:
“Now, so there will be no misunderstanding, it is not my intention to do away with government. It is, rather, to make it work—work with us, not over us; to stand by our side, not ride on our back. Government can and must provide opportunity, not smother it; foster productivity, not stifle it.”
Ronald Reagan would have been part of both the 86 percent who believe government is broken and the 81 percent who believe in his words that it “can and must provide opportunity”. What all of us need to do now is follow through and “make it work – work with us, not over us, stand by our side, not ride on our back.”
March 4, 2010 at 12:23 am #93916
Thanks Peter – and I always like when people add context to popular quotes… And I agree all 4 have a role – but who do you think has the biggest impact to make a difference?
March 4, 2010 at 2:35 am #93914
Politicians campaign on their legislative agendas and high profile initiatives. I think they underestimate how difficult it is to execute their initiatives once they become responsible for governing. They don’t realize that they are working with large and powerful bureaucracies. The departments swallow up the political appointees with urgent day-to-day work, which slows things down even further. It’s easier for politicians in office to bypass the bureaucracy than to change it, but that’s not sustainable given the issues of today.
Politicians and public servants need to break down the power of institutional interests built up over the last half century, in order to unleash innovations (that I think people in government are itching to initiate) that can improve government performance and restore public trust in government.
March 4, 2010 at 4:30 am #93912
For voting a completely agree… I just don’t think we can right the ship from the ballot box, because I don’t think we can right it from that top position we are voting someone into…
March 4, 2010 at 4:33 am #93910
Rei – I think you hit on a great point… I’ve worked for 4 administrations at a level I could watch the politco machine in action… Within 6 months of starting – the gung-ho “gonna make a difference” elected or appointed leader is beat down… usually right after their first budget hearing.
They all come in with a grand vision of change – and leave with a quiet sigh of “I wish we had more time” – AND they all say the same thing, “The people are great – I didn’t expect that.”
Comes down to a fundamental flaw in thinking… that government is screwed up because of the people in it, or the last leaders of it, or the some magic switch that was turned off and we just need to find it… I think it’s deeper, buried… and to fix it, it’s gonna take the people who can get dirty and know what’s mucking up the lines.
March 4, 2010 at 3:43 pm #93908
We all need unicorns and dragons… at least on occasion. Your ship analogy reminded me of cabinet leader who was able to make some significant changes in his area. He used to talk about getting a large department to turn was just like a ship – the very inertia of 20 years of “that’s the way we’ve done it” puts enormous pressure on the rudder and by itself makes it difficult to turn – He went on to say TRIM TABS, the tiny rudders within the main rudder are used to disrupt the water and break up the pressure.. making a turn possible. In his organization he equated key improvement efforts to TRIM TABS and the turn as culture change…
March 4, 2010 at 5:13 pm #93906
Excellent points…the statement itself (“the government is broken”) is a result of limited thinking. There are things ABOUT the government that are definitely broken and need fixing. Let’s get in the muck, find out what they are, and start making the repairs. Incremental changes are what make big changes happen.
March 4, 2010 at 11:42 pm #93904
Yes at all levels, Federal, State, Local.
Federally, there’s this Virginia/Maryland/DC, Mid-Atlantic “Old-Guard” regional poltical culture of laziness, poor work ethics, and elitism permeating to other US areas and public sector levels away from the eastern seaboard. This may be a reason why states tied to Capitol Hill’s east-coast, “Rip Van Winkle-style”, “Washington is the Center of the Universe” budgetary allocations and inactions–places far from DC, wishing to be national, progressive, “get it done now leaders” (i.e. California, Texas, etc.)—those who want to break free from the scandalous “left behind,” geographically- shortsighted eastern US purse strings handlers–they just can’t get things done for their citizenry.
The western states want certain processes and justices done NOW, not in 50-100 years, as many with the puppet strings east of the Mississpppi would rather see happen to most Americans. That’s why both hard-working Repubs and Demos away from Washington often hate and resent Capitol Hill’s puppetry moves that seems year-after-year, to unethically favor lazier, “get nothing done, more culturally backwards” eastern states closest to DC/Maryland/Virginia.
March 5, 2010 at 3:41 am #93902
Now we’re getting somewhere… I was just having dinner tonight with a good friend and we were discussing General Powell’s recent rant on someone having to be willing to compromise before the whole system comes to a grinding halt (paraphrasing). I think his was a more heart felt and frustrated voice than the lip service usually given these sentiments. BUT, underlying it all is the idea that government work is a party issue – Once you get past a cabinet, or a council, or a board – political affiliations mean so little to the people answering child abuse hotlines or working to fill potholes. Ironically – the closer to the voter, the less the politics play… Yet at high levels we seem to think it will get food stamps delivered quicker if we make a deal to extend benefits if you’ll also throw in building a road and paying for a study on the mating patterns of the Three-Spined Stickleback fish in my district.
I totally agree that the beltway is more old guard than many other areas, and also the most highly covered by the publications that monitor our work… Another reason I think if it is going to be – it’s up to the life-long public servants to make it happen!
March 5, 2010 at 3:54 pm #93900
It is clear that the first “P” cannot do anything. Here is a quote from Byron Dorgan about eliminating the (National Endowment for Democracy) NED:
Sen. Byron L. Dorgan, North Dakota Democrat, lamented after the National Endowment for Democracy was founded: “If we cannot cut this, Lord, we cannot cut anything.”
The National Endowment for Democracy was founded by Reagan to promote democracy in the Soviet Union. This year they were given $168 million which amounts to 0.00000001% of the budget. Clearly democracy has won and there is no need for the NED. Yet the NED exists and flourishes.
Congress can’t eliminate this little agency then what chance does the other 2 “P’s” have of succeeding to get rid of this agency?
March 5, 2010 at 4:50 pm #93898
Alas, a small percent of that 19 percent seem to think the answer is attacking the IRS with planes and anthrax.
March 5, 2010 at 5:15 pm #93896
All three have to work together for a lasting fix. Support and buy-in from all three levels increases the likelihood that any initiative or policy will be successful. Politicians can identify the bigger picture and help garner support to improve the chances that an initative will be funded; policy makers provide the regulatory structure and criteria to support and measure the success of the initiative; and public servants are the ones that make it happen.
Of course, I’m a big fan of the public servants!!! But we can’t do it alone. No funding, no emphasis, no support, and no criteria equals a failed inititiative, no matter how hard the public servants work–resulting in a lot of frustrated public servants.
March 5, 2010 at 10:03 pm #93894
Yes, they do begin to realize how much of an asset the public servants are, but it can take half a term, or even a whole term for them to build the kind of trust required to work with them effectively.
Are we properly organized for our public servants to work well with political appointees and elected officials? In some ways, I think the government is organized against that. The departments are so complex, so large, and so rich with resources, it’s hard for elected officials, who are often thin on staff, to move the government any particular direction. This gets even worse when an issue requires capabilities across territorial government departments, which is increasingly the case, at least in the area I know: national security.
I think most public servants recognize how silly it all is and how they are in many ways set up for failure or at least a lot of difficulty in implementing whatever initiative it is. However, elected officials and the public often default to blaming the public servants as a whole, rather than realizing they are the ones with the power to reshape these institutions, and public servants would like that as well.
However, we need to be realistic. While we have a vision for a new generation of public service, change has to begin with small wins, under present conditions, that attract people toward a new way of doing things. Change by fiat will not really be change. Elected officials can give the effort a push, but they get so sucked into urgent day-to-day things — “firefighting,” politics, the news cycle, crises, new events — that this is often dropped as a priority. I think it’s great that so many people are beginning to raise awareness about this.
March 6, 2010 at 1:58 am #93892
Sad, but true…
March 9, 2010 at 2:12 pm #93890
The problem is everyone’s sense of entitlement. For example, many complain about airport screenings and waiting at but all want to travel safety. How do change the perception that Feds don’t contribute? Be Feds of character and competence. Read Steven M Covey’s “The Speed of Trust” to learn how to do so. Words won’t do it, only action will change this perception.
March 9, 2010 at 2:57 pm #93888
I agree. The time has come to stop doing busines as usual and take more advantage of technolgy. We as government officials need to take a look at all the laws and requirments that we are responsible to comply with as an agency that may be overdue for updates and that may not have the same implications that they once had (ten or more years ago), or may not have the same relevance now that they were inteneded to have in the 90s. Some of these process need to be looked at in greater detail and the wealth of information that is provided by agencies to OMB may need to be evaluated and analyzed to acheive different end result than what the law spelled out. A wealth of information can be found in the GAO Audit reports. Politicians come and go and all are looking out for themselves. We are here for the long haul and we are the only ones that can make the difference. We do not need new laws from Congress to guide our agencies. We need to step up and take action.
March 9, 2010 at 3:26 pm #93886
US Federal has built one of the most robust governance structure that exists no where in the world. Unfortunately it has been gamed and obfuscation rampantly promoted. When genuine “will” in people arise to make the system work then it will work, no matter how arduous the challenge.
March 9, 2010 at 5:05 pm #93884
I am sure there are many Americans who strictly adhere to the Constitution that feel the government is working exactly the way it should, with checks and balances. What most of us see though is absolute, dead in the water road block. If it was up to me, I would have a Balanced Budget amendment to the Constitution, a Term Limit amendment and a shorter Congressional term. In Colorado our Legislature is in the session for 120 days, period. The governor can call a Special Session if needed for an emergency, but otherwise the legislators are out there, working in the real world, just like the rest of us. If I could wave a magic wand, I would have all current politicians not re-elected and all the lobbyists would just disappear.
March 9, 2010 at 5:25 pm #93882
More than ever a magic wand is needed. In lieu of that term limits and a balanced budget amendment would probably be the best approach.
However just try telling that to a politician and you get a blank stare. The only politician I remember that had a sensible thing to say was Malcolm Forbes. He wanted a flat tax and look at how far he has gotten.
March 9, 2010 at 7:09 pm #93880
Jeremy Michael LongParticipant
I think it can be fixed, it’s all just a matter of time, but it’s goint to take all the right people to do it, and not just “The Three Ps,” well, maybe Politicians and Policy Makers who know what the hell they’re doing, and Public Servants – definitely, based upon the many, many years of experience that they have in dealing with economics and other government issues, especially healthcare. But, what the Politicians and Policy Makers need to do is wise the hell up and listen to the more experienced executives, who have been in office for a long, long time and stop thinking that they know everything because they don’t. There’s entirely too much arrogance and pride being displayed, especially with the Democrats. In the past, Democrats and Republicans used to share ideas, opinions etc. with each other. Now it seems that, like Sandy Ressler said in an earlier GovLoop blog, that this country has become more and more polarized, in other words, right wingers have become far-right-wingers and left winger become far-left-wingers, thus making us all in what Sandy describes as being “Wingnuts.” But, all I have to say is that the government had better damn sight do something quickly before another catastrophic collapse occurs.
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