WASHINGTON -- I love talking with listeners on my Sirius 126 nightly 6-8 p.m. radio show or those who watch my local and national TV programs. The one question I get more than any other is: Gosh, is it really that bad in Washington? Can folks really get nothing done up there, even with a president such as Donald Trump?
Then I come back to the Federal City and I hear from my colleagues and friends in the journalism world, and I’m led to believe that Trump is single-handedly dismantling the federal government.
The reality is activity is occurring in Washington, and that activity signifies progress, and that scares folks, especially the bureaucratic machine that turns the gears and cogs of government.
I get it -- sometimes fresh ideas still stink, no matter how well-intentioned or well-meaning. We are, after all, talking about taking steps that can and will impact the lives of millions. One thing I always give credit to on both sides of the political spectrum, however, is they all want to see the country adapt, change and succeed. I can’t always say that about the opponents of the president, and that’s unfortunate.
One idea is teeming with promise. The White House’s proposed plan to overhaul the federal bureaucracy and take a hard, scrutinizing look at the way this town governs is long overdue, and an idea worth pursuing with extreme vigor.
Set aside the rhetorical promise to “change Washington as we know it.” Yeh, yeh, we’ve all heard that before. It scores political points on the campaign trail, yet traditionally, has led to nothing else.
But this proposed Office of American Innovation to be led by Jared Kushner – the president’s son-in-law – has the makings of pure genius. There are three reasons for such optimism:
This office will exist among the highest echelons of public oversight. Speed is the new currency in this information and digital age. And a bureaucracy that is slow to change drags even industry down around it. Kushner appreciates that aspect and need more than anything else. He knows how to use both power and authority to push ideas beyond the blueprint phase; to give them a chance even in an incubation stage. That’s notable, and worth someone taking the time to focus on it.
In some small yet smart fashion, that’s the idea behind new innovations in Medicare through pushing payments based on clinical outcomes vs. just the federal payer reimbursing per test performed on beneficiaries. That’s smart medicine, and while it’s not nationwide, experts see the promise in it. If Jared can bring the best and brightest and test ideas in small, workable ways, then chances are they could work on far larger, macro scales. But you need the nimbleness of an office in the White House to push that.
Expect experts from the financial and business worlds to participate. It’s ironic how factions line up on either side to argue that government can’t be run like a business. But I know for a fact that government can benefit from bedrock principles of business such as balanced budgeting, efficiencies, economies of scale, creative design and so on.
Trump and Kushner appreciate this aspect. And why not try it? If every other public solution has failed abysmally to make government more efficient and effective, the American people deserve better. They’re not dumb, and they’re willing to try different approaches because, quite frankly, the status quo is unacceptable. We fail ourselves if we look at every idea that we didn’t develop with disdain before they are even explored. And I hope some fail, because that will mean Kushner’s team is stretching traditional roles and determining what’s in the realm of the possible.
The final reason is related to the second: The current system is broken. It’s no accident that Kushner wants to target the Veterans Affairs Department. It needs help. And his simple mantra of demanding “excellence in government” isn’t too much to ask for. Further, by focusing on innovation, the White House is hanging out a help-wanted sign to bring in the best and brightest of America’s tech sector to offer their expertise.
Is the White House plan ambitious? You bet. But this country is tired of timidity.