The Pew Research Center has conducted polls over the past several years on the public’s confidence in government. The results are not encouraging nor surprising. In 2010, 74% rated the federal bureaucracy as only fair or poor. Last year, 75% said they trust the federal government to do what is right only some of the time or never. And it a later poll by Gallup, 51% estimated the federal government wasted over 50 cents of every dollar it spends.
Why is that? Unlike private businesses, which face competition and have to regularly restructure to stay aligned with customer wants and to beat competition, it has been almost 70 years since there has been a major restructuring of the government, which is a monopoly. In 1947, President Truman set up the Hoover Commission. Its report and recommendations became the basis for the Government Reorganization Act of 1949. According to Professor Paul Light of New York University, a survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center last July found that 50% of American’s favored reducing federal programs to reduce the power of the bureaucracy and over 50% concluded that the government had the wrong priorities. We have reached the point where the federal government is too big to succeed but not too big to fail.
According to the Congressional Budget Office federal deficits will continue to grow in spite of increasing revenue. There is no end in sight. Social security, Medicare along with debt service will continue to consume an increasing percentage of federal spending and discretionary spending will, under current law, drop close to zero in a few decades. Increasing deficits, increase the national debt and increase debt service. That is a waste of resources.
Congress and the President’s solutions to our fiscal problems always involve more tax revenue because they always want to spend more, not less. The only way to fix this problem is a high quality, 21st century Hoover commission structured along the lines of the Base Realignment Act. Congress would have to vote the final report and recommendations up or down. No picking and choosing.
This would be a tough task and there would be a political price to pay because of the enormous special interests that live off of federal spending and regulations. But, the price of kicking the can down the road will be much higher and will be borne by the generations that follow ours. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, if not now, when; if not us, who?
It does not take a lot of imagination to identify potential targets. Why in a world that is economically interconnected do we need a Department of Commerce? Why do we need a National Weather Service when there are a large number of free weather sites? The Department of Energy was created to deal with energy shortages and growing dependence on imports. Yesterday’s shortages are today’s surpluses and imports have dropped to a level lower than exports. Today, DOE seems to spend a lot of energy on subsidies to failed initiatives and crony capitalists—Solyndra, A-123 batteries, Tesla come to mind. Agriculture subsidies continue to flow to large corporate businesses instead of small farmers. Why in a global economy do we need any subsidies? DOD is famous or infamous for its waste. Why in the 21st century when the nature of warfare and threats have radically changed do we have an armed forces that is similar to the structure that won World War II? Why do we still have intercontinental missiles in easy to target fixed sites? Why does each service have its own air arm? The list for each department could go on and on.
Creating an inventory of questions is only to point out the obvious. The time has more than come to reorganize the federal bureaucracy to focus on what government should do. Beyond restructuring the federal bureaucracy, it has been clear for decades that social security has big problems and needs to be fixed, a fix that can be made without taking away benefits from current recipients. Last but not least, the IRS has been shown to be a rogue agency. The best way to fix it is through radical tax reform that allows individuals to fill out their own tax return and that has corporate rates that are internationally competitive, not the highest in the developed world.
This article appeared on the FuelFix weblog at http://fuelfix.com/blog/2015/06/28/making-it-work/