H. George Frederickson, a professor in the Department of Public Administration at the University of Kansas, has written a compelling essay on "Repairing Broken Government." It addresses the need to focus on competence more than ideology. Noting the familiar list most people make on the reasons for broken government - the pervasive influence of money in politics, the power of interest groups and lobbyists, legislative gridlock and more - Frederickson touches on something of perhaps even greater importance: "bureaucracy, ineffective management, or poor policy implementation are central elements of a broken national government."
Instead of "sound-byting," character assassination and sloganeering, Frederickson calls for "substantive competence (think Katrina)" in government. He wants more competent people running things and he suggests the way to make that happen is to amend the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978.
That law, he writes, "added a thick layer of political appointees to the upper ranks of federal agencies" while the ranks of merit-based civil servants were reduced from almost 3 million to about 1.8 million. "From the standpoint of government effectiveness, this has been a deadly combination," he says.
Where are the voices of the presidential candidates promising to clean house of political appointees and replace them, not with political appointees from their party and persuasion, but with people who know what they are doing?
I care about social issues and the eroding morality of the country, but I care more about competent government. We are spending more on government than ever and getting less for our money. A government that can't keep track of nearly 200,000 weapons during a war does not inspire confidence. Let's have a little less ideology from the presidential candidates of both parties and a lot more talk of how to repair broken government.
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