I’ve probably got enough material from various contributors to put together a symposium on the utterly stupid behavior of supposedly super-intelligent government. Let me loop David Harsanyi at The Federalist in to make one more point about the Ineptocracy: the system deliberately moves inept people to the top, where they perpetually claim their gigantic billion-dollar agencies are broke.
This is a feature of Big Government as inescapable as its tendency toward corruption and obscurity. If you want smart, honest, and transparent government, you want small government, period. Every single effort to convince you Big Government can be efficient, clean, and open is a lie. I use the word “lie” advisedly, because it’s deliberate; the intellectual and political leaders of both the socialist and corporatist strains of Big Government philosophy know they’re not telling the truth when they promise their wise leadership and pet reforms will finally deliver the upstanding high-performance super-State they advertise. At best, they honestly believe the waste, corruption, and perpetual misleading of the American people is a reasonable price to pay for their utopian objectives.
So here’s David on the latest agency to be portrayed as tragically under-funded by left-wing pundits and politicians, the Centers for Disease Control:
For starters, the CDC’s biggest cutbacks came before sequestration. It never hurts to point out that the austerity we’re talking about was minor slowdown in the growth of spending – already corrected in the CDC’s case. In a March report by the Government Accountability Office investigating how 23 federal agencies and departments complied with sequestration, we learned that only one government job was lost during the fiscal year 2013 – at Department of Justice. And according to the report, CDC was never forced to cut back on any programs that would have undermined Ebola prevention. According to the GOA, the CDC canceled a few contracts for “administrative support and infrastructure improvements” and cut back state grant awards by five percent.
In any event, almost every story that’s been written about the funding crisis at the CDC offers these two budget numbers:
2010: $6.467 billion
2014: $5.882 billion
What is also rarely mentioned is that CDC’s funding had tripled from 2001 to 2010, with big spikes in spending after the 2001 anthrax attacks and then again after the 2005 avian flu scare.
He goes on to document various ways in which the CDC, like every other appendage of the Leviathan State, frittered away its budget on pursuits that could most charitably be described as bureaucratic mission creep, and in some cases are downright frivolous.
The same thing happens every time a federal agency fails in performing its core duties. We’re always told they’re flat broke, even though the U.S. government commands staggering financial resources and personnel. In fact, I can’t think of a single Big Government faceplant in which the incredibly modest, and largely rescinded, reductions in spending growth known as “sequestration,” from the Budget Control Act of 2011, were not blamed.
These agencies wail about being under-funded for much the same reason some individual people are perpetually broke: they can’t prioritize. The bigger they get, and the more money they command, the further they drift from their core mission. Their administrators know they have to expand, or they will shrivel; “success” depends on going before Congress every year and talking about budget shortfalls, or how much good the agency could do if it was given more resources. Saying “we handled all our duties ahead of schedule, and under budget to boot, so we’re going to stay the course!” is tantamount to bureaucratic suicide.
Additionally, the bureaucracy knows it can flourish by embracing and servicing the pet obsessions of powerful politicians. Everyone wants to get on board with the latest fad, from global warming to gun control. Those pursuits tend to be delightfully nebulous – it’s easy to jabber about making “progress” without having to worry about confronting hard conditions for success or failure.
Unfortunately for the American people, those core missions the bureaucracy grows unwilling or unable to address do have hard conditions for success and failure. The easiest way to respond when the you-know-what hits the fan is to whine about insufficient funding, a cry the political patrons of the agency are happy to support, because it lets them point fingers of blame at their fiscally responsible adversaries: “You don’t like Ebola, huh? Well, you deficit-cutting Republicans should have thought about that when you insisted on spending cuts instead of tax increases!” (Never mind that sequestration was actually Barack Obama’s idea, a fact of political history that has been almost completely obscured, because the Low Information Voter can’t process how history’s biggest spender could have had anything to do with an automated system of fiscal restraints.)
Before Ebola came along, one of the best examples of the “underfunded” dodge was the Benghazi disaster. In that case, you had some people from the State Department trying to pin the disaster on budget-slashing Republicans who left State without the resources needed to protect the American ambassador… even as people from the same department were testifying, under oath, that budget cuts had nothing to do with it.
The Ineptocracy is always broke, no matter how much money the American people give it, because it lacks the focus needed to balance its budgets… and because keeping its core missions perpetually underfunded provides both useful excuses for failing to address them, and political opportunities that can be exploited during a crisis, spinning the gold of budget increases and political victories from the straw of disaster. It remains curious that any rational American system would support constantly pouring more money into a system that will always claim it doesn’t have enough, invests most of its energy in perpetuating its own growth, and has a penchant for using its resources to create the kind of problem it enjoys managing.