Does Congress really represent us?

It isn't our representatives; its the system

The U.S. congress is not competent for its job

Facing the need to save on expenses, the Cobb County school system recently decided to eliminate about 20 percent of its school bus stops. Not surprisingly, when parents strongly objected, most of the cuts were rescinded. 

This raises several questions. One is: what did the school system expect the reaction to be? Another is: do they really know how many eliminated bus stops it takes to provide the million dollar savings anticipated? Still another is: does the public trust the school system's competence? Probably not. 

I am confident that the school system's employees are as intelligent and hard-working as those in any other enterprise. They simply lack the experience and training needed to run such a large, multi-faceted organization.  Even their governing body - the school board - is composed of well-meaning citizens who, by and large, are little better prepared than the average parent to oversee such a complex organization.

The Cobb County School System is not alone in having management problems. The City Council of Marietta, by its ventures into hotels, real estate and parks, has demonstrated something akin to a governmental "Peter Principle" that an organization can work well at one level, but fail when it undertakes too much.  But, the problems besetting our local organizations are minor compared to the chaos that reigns in our giant national bureaucracy.

Most government organizations are simply too large to work effectively. Federal agencies, because they are the farthest removed from the watchful eye of the public, are also the least manageable. Can you think of a single federal agency that is known for its efficiency or for its response to the public's concerns? 

Medicaid is acknowledged to be overrun with fraud, but the program's administration appears unable to control the losses. The Postal Service cannot make a profit, in part because it is assigned a money-losing task. The safety of our airways is in doubt because the government has never been capable of installing a modern computer-controlled traffic system. 

Why are federal agencies so prone to ineptitude? It is not necessarily that federal workers are personally incompetent, but that the agencies they struggle in are designed by the most incompetent component of our government: the congress. 

Who knows what motivates Congress to create new laws? Do not most laws seek to "correct" some aspect of a law previously passed? Once a "need" is perceived, laws are written by congressional staffers whose jobs are to write text that most of us will not fully understand. The proposed laws are then voted on by senators and representatives, many of whom are so "busy" that they have to rely on other staffers to tell them what the bills actually say. 

It is probably accurate to say that almost no one in Congress will have fully understood the law's content. Even fewer will have considered the inevitable, unintended and unexpected consequences. Congress sends the law, with its inscrutable wording, to an administration that is not competent to implement it. High level administration bureaucrats will make political decisions about implementation; and lower level bureaucrats will try to act on finer points that even the laws originators did not understand. 

One need only look at the recent TARP, "Stimulus" bill and the "cash for clunkers" programs to confirm that Congress often ignorantly passes laws that are essentially inoperable. Any law that approaches 1,000 incomprehensible pages is guaranteed to be impossible to administer effectively. 

Is there a remedy for this gigantic ineptitude? We can only hope that strong public scrutiny and demand for smaller, more responsive government will have some effect on our "public servants." Perhaps we could give congress a year off and just let the bureaucracy catch up!

Needed: Remedy for Congress' 'gigantic ineptitude'
by Rod Paramoure, Columnist Marietta Daily Journal Sep 13, 2009