Don’t Just Shrink Government — Run It Right

President Obama’s new Cabinet appointees are shaping up to be a too-late lesson for Republicans.

for example, Shaun Donovan, President Obama’s Secretary of Housing and
Development. Donovan would win just about any best resume contest. An
architect by training, Donovan served as New York City’s Housing
Commissioner, held a top housing finance job at Prudential, headed a
major HUD bureau, practiced architecture, taught at NYU, and developed affordable housing. By contrast, Senator Mel Martinez, George W. Bush’s first HUD
secretary, came to the job after 25 years of legal practice and an
uneventful stint as the part-time chair of the Orlando Housing

Bright people with good resumes sometimes burn out in Washington, and Donovan might well steer HUD
in the wrong direction. But his resume alone shows that he is unlikely
either to idle away his time in office in search of a big private
sector payout or disengage from his own department’s management. Like
nearly every person President Obama has appointed to the Cabinet,
Donovan knows how to run things. George W. Bush, despite his status as
the first “MBA President,” never seemed to care about simple managerial

And it cost him. Indeed, the Bush administration often got into trouble because of management failures: FEMA’s
inability to get the resources it needed from the Pentagon and Interior
Department caused immense suffering in the wake of Hurricane Katrina; a
lack of sufficient body armor resulted in increased troop mortality
rates in Iraq; and the failure to even present an cohesive agenda
killed any chance at social security reform. It’s notable, indeed, that
the two most lauded managers in Bush’s administration—Secretary of
Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs James
Peake—didn’t even take office until after the 2006 elections.

simply, the Right has been wrong to assume that simply wanting to
shrink government absolves one from the task of running it. After all,
federal administration that defended the nation, enforced the laws,
conducted foreign affairs, secured the borders, helped the truly needy,
maintained national monuments, and built roads would still consume
between fifteen to twenty percent of national income. And government’s
explosive growth under George W. Bush shows that conservatives have no
genuine will to cut government anyway. Without clear values and
compelling vision, managerial expertise will do nothing to advance the
conservative agenda. But, if it ever hopes to rebuild a majority
coalition, the Right must pay far more attention to the actual business
of governing.

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