Mismanagement by Objective


Why am I not surprised that the Bush Administration has discovered 22 “ineffective” federal initiatives that they want eliminated and that among these programs’ intended beneficiaries are preschool children, displaced workers, at-risk youth, migrant agriculture workers, low-income college students, the disabled and families that cannot afford housing. After all, if anybody deserves to feel the pinch, it’s a grimy lot like that.

Today’s Washington Post reports that Bush’s Office of Management and Budget ferreted out these rogue programs by using its Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART). By my count, 17 of the 22 no-account programs are aimed at helping the downtrodden, underprivileged and defenseless. That’s compassionate conservatism for you. Give enormous tax breaks to society’s most fortunate and gut the programs that benefit the struggling.

These observations should not be viewed as a defense of the welfare state nor a plea to expand it. Indeed, it’s entirely plausible that the programs in W’s crosshairs are certified federal fiascos. It wouldn’t be the first time.

No, what’s telling about the findings of “PART” is what is not on the list.

Only one program run by the Department of Defense was deemed ineffective enough to make it. That is the one that oversees “chemical demilitarization.” Apparently Saddam is better at this than we are. But you have to wonder about the DoD programs in charge of post-war planning, armoring Humvees and running Abu Ghraib. It’s hard to imagine how the Education or Labor Department could screw something up that badly–but they were shamed and Rummy’s cronies went unscathed.

How about those FBI guys that didn’t listen to agents in the field saying that Middle Eastern guys were learning to fly but not land commercial airliners. Surely that’s a program with a failure at least as great as whatever horror was committed by the managers of “Upward Bound.”

And while we’re at it, who was in charge of making sure that Enron, WorldCom and Tyco didn’t steal the pants right off their shareholders by filing bogus balance sheets. Surely the program in charge of keeping that from happening should be on W’s shit list. But it isn’t.

George Tenet says Saddam’s WMD cache was a slam-dunk and he got a medal. The Department of Labor tries to help out displaced workers and they get targeted for extinction. Condi Rice blows off a memo that says Osama’s coming for dinner and she becomes Secretary of State. HHS tries to find disabled folks a home and will almost certainly see their budget blown-up.

It seems like in this administration if you botch something to do with war, terror or corporate oversight you get a pass and a promotion. But if you can’t produce adequate ROI on a program to give poor kids a job you get called to the office.

Yes, the Bush boys and girls deserve credit for giving federal programs the microscope treatment and sharing their self appraisal with the public. Yet isn’t it ironic that in their one moment of honest reflection–eureka!–they find a flaw and it’s that damn program to help Alaskan native villages.

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