Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Barack Obama's Double Talk

The Wall Street Journal reports that Barack Obama has said that he aims to cut back government spending. This contrasts with his statement yesterday that he aims to increase government spending. Democrats have long argued that they can improve efficiency in government while maintaining existing programs. When I worked in the New York State Assembly Ways and Means Committee staff in 1991 this was precisely the committee's stated goal. However, as an analyst I quickly learned that real cuts were verboten. Upon reading about the principles of quality management several years later I learned that it is impossible for government agencies to cut costs and be run efficiently without a major overhaul of government processes, an overhaul that would require Herculean courage in the face of public sector unions' political pressure on elected officials.

It is good that President-elect Obama aims to make government more efficient, but it is unlikely that a politician lacking in executive or management experience will know where to begin. I would not take claims about making government more efficient very seriously. Rather, this kind of rhetoric will be accompanied by waste and mismanagement.

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