An Ethical Musings reader sent me these thoughts about the recent problems at the Veterans Administration:
I believe that one of the greatest weaknesses in our government today is the lack of strong Cabinet secretaries who have experience in their responsibilities. The reasons are obvious: the White House has increased its control over decisions made by departments; the secretaries are a refuge for out of office politicians; and the financial sacrifice that business executives have to make all works against having highly qualified people wanting to have a Cabinet position. What is the upside?
I believe one of the problems with the VA is what I believe is the benign neglect at the White House. This is not intentional, but it is not an area that anyone in the 'inner circle' of this or the Bush administration has a personal or political interest in – this is a mundane administrative issue as is Medicare and Medicaid – the only headline would be a bad one so who in the White House wants responsibility for that?
Since everyone in every administration on every level wants to do something 'important' and 'ground breaking,' very few politicians simply want to make the government simply work since that is both hard work and not noticed, since that is what government is supposed to do and who likes government workers anyway?
I think this reader has identified a huge problem with government today: nobody wants to "mind the store," doing the mundane, quotidian tasks that ensure people receive authorized services in a timely, efficient manner. The Civil Service certainly has many conscientious capable staffers, but, as with any system, that is insufficient. A ship with a good crew but ineffective or incompetent captain will eventually flounder. The same is true in government: departments, bureaus, agencies, and other entities require good leadership from the political appointees who comprise top management.