It’s taken a while, but I’ve finally read the summary of each title and section in the Obama jobs bill. On the whole it’s not bad. It relies perhaps too much on the only real tool the federal government has, and that’s money. The intent of proposed tax cuts and grants is to stimulate private sector hiring in ways that will trigger additional job growth in important sectors of industry as well as better prepare some people for the more technologically demanding job market of our present times. We need that, and it could work.
So far so good. The problem with all such plans is in the inefficiency of implementation. The policy initiatives and associated cash have to pass through successive funnels of bureaucratic approvals that begin at the federal level and continue on down the food chain to the very recipients themselves. The process of implementation gets slowed down at each stage as the desired benefits are jumbled in with all the other matters that must be handled until, at last, it is their turn to flow out of the funnel into the next one. Lest anyone think I am accusing government of being overloaded with inefficient bureaucracy, I will argue that every complex organization is loaded with inefficient bureaucracy because that is the nature of complex organizations. Moreover, you don’t have to be big to be complex. My own city hall is a case in point. We are not a large city, our staff is relatively small, and no one dawdles around wasting time. Just the same, the complexity of local interests competing for municipal favor within the context of local, state and federal laws and regulations means that our little city hall is a complex organization.
In like manner, so is our local tractor dealer, fiberglass manufacturing plant and YWCA. They are all complex organizations, and even though they might each be the recipients of some of the bill’s money, they are also funnels through which everything must flow in it’s own time along with a myriad of other things that have to flow through it.
What can be done about it? President Truman assembled the Hoover (Herbert) Commission in the late 1940s to ask that question and find some answers. They did, and they did it well, but politics pretty much sank their boat. It turns out that legislators have little interest, beyond complaining in front of the camera, about streamlining government at any level. They are fond of merging and then spinning off departments and agencies, just as corporations merge and then spin off divisions and companies, but that has nothing to do with improving efficiencies. Nor are they willing to allow the executive to have the authority to do it without their approval. For what it’s worth, large corporations are not different and insurance companies are the worst.
Obviously the fewer layers of management the better. The fewer funnels through which something must pass the better. The number and complexity of administrative regulations also matters. Those who complain about over regulation and desire to eliminate regulation seem to me to be naive, ignorant or both. I’m not one to give up regulations that help insure our health and safety, but simplifying them, writing them in plain ordinary English, and paying a little attention to duplications and conflicts would go far toward improving efficiency. It only makes sense, but where would the motivation come from to do that? My guess is that it can only come from a strong executive with the authority to make and enforce a new way of doing things.
It can but doesn’t often happen in large corporations. It can and sometimes happens in smaller companies and local not for profits. It can and sometimes happens in local and even state governments. I imagine that it could happen at the federal level, but it would be very hard to accomplish, especially in today’s environment with the idiocy of Tea Partiers screaming for the dismantling of government and liberals defending the bulwarks. I’ll side with the liberals on this one, but only until sanity returns to the national scene. May it please God that happens in my lifetime.