The federal government is terrible at everything, Republicans are mostly to blame and former President George W. Bush is the most failing commander in chief to have ever failed, or so says a very important study by a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution.
The report, put together by New York University professor Paul C. Light, covers data from the Pew Research Center's News Interest Index. It cites news events, including the September 11 attacks and the current debacle involving the Department of Veterans Affairs, but it only looks at 41 specific cases, each chosen based on news interest.
And because Light only looks at 41 cases, many contemporary issues, including the government shutdown and the downgrade of U.S. credit, are left out of his study.
He explains that he chose to focus only on “management/delivery failures by agencies. Some of these failures involved poorly crafted policy as a contributor, but failure had to come from the bureaucracy in some way."
Therefore, issues arising from Washington gridlock have been excluded from the report, which is pretty amazing considering it's a report about federal failures.
And although Light's work shows that federal failures have increase over time, he really, really wants you to know that George W. Bush was the most failure-ridden president ever.
In fact, as noted by the Washington Post, the 43rd president of the United States “averaged 3.1 failures per year -- overseeing more than twice as many annual failures as his father.”
Then there's President Obama.
"Good government is not just a function of good laws, it's also a function a faithful execution,” Light said, adding that the president's grades are probably “the lowest of any post-war president.”
“I'd give him a C- on attentiveness, and a D on reform,” he added.
But how could this be? What about Obama's many promises to clean up Washington?
Well, as it turns out, Obama “never followed through. He was either too distracted to concentrate, too bored by the nitty-gritty of management or too frightened of the Republican backlash to make the effort needed to make big government work.”
Oh, those Republicans! It's amazing what they can do when they put their minds to it.
Also, according to Light, Obama's bad grades aren't entirely his fault (of course!) because Bush created most of these modern-day crises.
The current White House “could have fixed the information technology systems that led to the healthcare.gov and veterans breakdowns, but didn't. They could have fixed the civil service system that led to the problems in the Secret Service and the General Services Administration, but didn't,” Light said.
“And of course they could have fixed some of the policy problems that led to the 2008 financial collapse and the West, Texas, fertilizer plant explosion, but didn't,” he added.
Further, according to Light, when government failures involve Democratic lawmakers, simple negligence is usually to blame.
But those Republicans? Man, they're vicious.
Here's how Light explains it:
Republicans exploited the Democratic cowardice by doing everything in their power to undermine performance. They stonewalled needed policy changes, and made implementation of new programs as difficult as possible; they cut budgets, staffs, and collateral capacity to a minimum, proving the adage that the logical extension of doing more with less is doing everything with nothing; they used the presidential appointments process to decapitate key agencies, and appointed more than their share of unqualified executives; and they muddied mission, tolerated unethical conduct, and gamed the performance measure process to guarantee failing scores for as many government policies as possible.
In summation, the federal government is a mess, political polarization is apparently worse than it has ever been, Republicans are vicious and Democrats are more or less incompetent.
If only Barack Obama knew what he was getting into when he first ran for president in 2008!