HOME



Digby's Hullabaloo
2801 Ocean Park Blvd.
Box 157
Santa Monica, Ca 90405



Facebook: Digby Parton

Twitter:
@digby56
@Gaius_Publius
@BloggersRUs (Tom Sullivan)
@spockosbrain



emails:
Digby:
thedigbyblog at gmail
Dennis:
satniteflix at gmail
Gaius:
publius.gaius at gmail
Tom:
tpostsully at gmail
Spocko:
Spockosbrain at gmail
tristero:
Richardein at me.com








Infomania

Salon
Buzzflash
Mother Jones
Raw Story
Huffington Post
Slate
Crooks and Liars
American Prospect
New Republic


Denofcinema.com: Saturday Night at the Movies by Dennis Hartley review archive

January 2003 February 2003 March 2003 April 2003 May 2003 June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003 October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 July 2007 August 2007 September 2007 October 2007 November 2007 December 2007 January 2008 February 2008 March 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 February 2009 March 2009 April 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 September 2009 October 2009 November 2009 December 2009 January 2010 February 2010 March 2010 April 2010 May 2010 June 2010 July 2010 August 2010 September 2010 October 2010 November 2010 December 2010 January 2011 February 2011 March 2011 April 2011 May 2011 June 2011 July 2011 August 2011 September 2011 October 2011 November 2011 December 2011 January 2012 February 2012 March 2012 April 2012 May 2012 June 2012 July 2012 August 2012 September 2012 October 2012 November 2012 December 2012 January 2013 February 2013 March 2013 April 2013 May 2013 June 2013 July 2013 August 2013 September 2013 October 2013 November 2013 December 2013 January 2014 February 2014 March 2014 April 2014 May 2014 June 2014 July 2014 August 2014 September 2014 October 2014 November 2014 December 2014 January 2015 February 2015 March 2015 April 2015 May 2015 June 2015 July 2015 August 2015 September 2015 October 2015 November 2015 December 2015 January 2016 February 2016 March 2016 April 2016 May 2016 June 2016 July 2016 August 2016 September 2016 October 2016 November 2016 December 2016 January 2017 February 2017 March 2017 April 2017 May 2017 June 2017 July 2017 August 2017 September 2017 October 2017 November 2017 December 2017 January 2018 February 2018 March 2018 April 2018 May 2018 June 2018 July 2018 August 2018 September 2018 October 2018 November 2018 December 2018 January 2019 February 2019 March 2019 April 2019 May 2019 June 2019 July 2019


 

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Hullabaloo


Monday, May 20, 2019

 

The first thing we do, let's kill all the government experts

by Tom Sullivan

That famous Shakespeare line about lawyers is typically construed as a slur against the legal profession. In the context of “Henry VI, Part 2,” the line spoken by Dick the Butcher, a member of Jack Cade's uprising, is open to several interpretations, including one offered by Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens in a case footnote. Stevens wrote, "Shakespeare insightfully realized that disposing of lawyers is a step in the direction of a totalitarian form of government."

Killing off the lawyers meant upending the rule of law. Replacing civil servants with for-profit consultants opens government to plunder.

Now "$44 billion over budget and 13 years behind schedule," California's bullet train project went off the rails after an army of consultants convinced the state it could save money by hiring them rather than assembling an in-house team of hundreds of engineers and rail experts. What resulted instead was "awesome delays and cost bloat," The Week's Ryan Cooper writes:

This demonstrates a fundamental problem with modern American governance — lack of basic state capacity. A government must have in-house expertise if it is to undertake difficult, complicated projects. The first step to getting some is to stop this reliance on private companies to do the state's job for it.
Management of the Texas Permanent School Fund, for example. For 165 years state employees oversaw it. Twenty-five years ago, the state turned it over to consulting firms and, Cooper writes, "The result was a giant increase in fees, worse fund performance, less money for students, and what looks like naked corruption, with billions of fund money reportedly invested in well-connected companies."

Stories of such failures are everywhere. Water privatization. Highway construction. Charter schools. Private equity firms taking over military parts suppliers.

Cooper continues:
At any rate, the ideology behind the consulting boom is classic neoliberalism — an ingrained belief that society must subordinate itself to the self-regulating market, and that government functions should be outsourced or privatized wherever possible. The results speak for themselves.

Now, in theory there is nothing wrong in principle with government hiring private firms for certain tasks. Other countries do it all the time — hiring engineering companies to design projects, construction firms to build them, and so on. Indeed, the U.S. itself did this at a vast scale in the 1930s with the Public Works Administration, which hired private companies to build high-quality projects across the nation, like the Grand Coulee Dam and the Lincoln Tunnel.

But the state must still keep a tight grip on those firms, providing clear guidance and strong oversight to make sure the jobs are done properly and at a decent price — and often, it makes perfect sense for the state to just do the project itself. Conversely, as we see today, if government is inept, ignorant, or timid, consultants and contractors will simply line their own pockets and turn in shoddy, overpriced work.
Michael Lewis in his book "The Fifth Risk" describes Donald Trump's as embodying that trend. The government manages a portfolio of risks that requires "mission-driven" careerists, experts with a dedication to the work, not to making big money from it. Donald Trump's administration came to Washington to upend that system. Not to improve it, but to exploit it for profit. They abandoned data collection on anything Trumpers opposed, the New York Times review explained, "like climate change or food safety regulations, or that they didn’t care about, like poverty, or stuff that they assumed were government boondoggles, which was most everything not involving the Pentagon."

The Trump administration refuses to listen to in-house experts. Trump installed unqualified cronies with no commitment to managing the people's business. Or else he left posts unfilled. Nearly 20 percent of the top 6,000 civil servants left in the first year under Donald Trump, Lewis says [timestamp 7:30].

But "classic neoliberalism," as Cooper puts it, affects not only government but private industry. A consultant in private industry for decades, I have watched cost- and staff-cutting at Fortune 500 and global firms over time result in the near-lobotomizing of their in-house expertise. This leaves them little expertise in managing company core functions and reliant on people like me to know their business for them.

Putting under-experienced personnel in charge of massive capital projects in itself results in delays, cost overruns, and shoddy work. This leaves us with having to teach clients' own staff both what they need to know and what they don't know they don't know ... if they will listen. That's why for years my cocktail party reply to the question, "So, what is it you do?" has been that clients pay a lot of money to ignore what I tell them.

Now a know-nothing client like that is in charge of running the country. The results are predictable.