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Government Executive Editor in Chief Tom Shoop, along with other editors and staff correspondents, look at the federal bureaucracy from the outside in.

How a Bureaucratic Job Turned Ted Cruz Into a Political Renegade

Sixteen years ago, when a young Ted Cruz moved to Austin, Texas, to work in the presidential campaign of George W. Bush, he had big aspirations. A lawyer by training and an indefatigable political operator, he envisioned ending up as White House counsel in a Bush administration.

Things turned out a bit differently. “When Bush won, however,” Shane Goldmacher and Daniel Lippman write in Politico Magazine today, “Cruz would not get the White House post he had dreamed of; instead, he found himself in the bureaucratic backwater of the Federal Trade Commission.”

“I burned some bridges on that campaign,” Cruz told Politico, blaming his youth and immaturity. “It was a difficult chapter when you poured your heart into something for two years and the desires of your heart are denied. That’s hard. And particularly when you’re seeing so many of your friends rewarded.”

The desires of Cruz’s heart involved working in the West Wing. The problem was his relative lack of experience and tendency toward self-promotion.

So Cruz had to settle first for a stint at the Justice Department and then a high-ranking position at the FTC, where he apparently threw himself into his work. Indeed, during...

Labor Secretary Likens Department’s Job Centers to Match.com

Saturday’s broadcast of the NPR news quiz “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” featured Labor Secretary Thomas Perez describing his department’s 2,500 job centers nationwide as similar to Match.com.

Perez was introduced by host Peter Sagal as the man for whom “technically, his job is all the jobs. What exactly to you do?”

The secretary invoked the online dating service, saying “We help job seekers who want to punch their ticket to the middle class. We match them with employers who want to grow their business.”

Reminded that “this is still a capitalist country” and that the government can’t merely command employers to hire, Perez said, “We’ve worked with a lot of state and local governments to help raise the minimum wage because the Republican leadership in Washington has refused to do so.”

Asked if he was slandered during his confirmation hearing, he called that “a fair statement.”

Asked what skeletons were in his closet, Perez said he once went into a grocery and entered “a six –item line with nine items.” He revealed that as a teenager his first job was holding three paper routes, and that later he picked up golf balls...

When ‘Ignorance’ and ‘Contempt’ for Government Is a Political Winner

Several good-government groups have mounted campaigns to improve the presidential transition process this year, with the aim of smoothing the path for the next administration to begin governing effectively. But there may be a complicating factor: Several of the candidates on the GOP side have little faith or trust in government, much less interest in doing the hard work in advance to make it work effectively.

“Ignorance of the traditional levers of government and contempt for those using them seems to be an advantage” in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, said Joshua Bolten, White House chief of staff to President George W. Bush, Wednesday. Bolten spoke at an event marking the launch of the Center for Presidential Transition at the Partnership for Public Service in Washington.

Exactly one year out from the next presidential inauguration, Bolten and Thomas “Mack” McLarty, chief of staff to President Clinton, talked at the event about the challenges facing incoming and outgoing administrations.

When George W. Bush took office in 2001, he was viewed as an “illegitimate president” by half the country due to his bitterly contested victory over Al Gore, Bolten said. Since then, polarization in politics has gotten even worse, he...

State of the Union Highlights: Bureaucracy, Big Government and Benefits

Live updates from President Obama's State of the Union address, highlighting his statements about government management and federal employees. 

10:09 p.m. The State of the Union, in one word: "strong." And that's a wrap. 

10:02 p.m. A challenge to all Americans on working to get the government they want: "It will depend on you. That’s what’s meant by a government of, by, and for the people."

9:57 p.m. The big issue: Big government. “Our founders distributed power between states and branches of government, and expected us to argue, just as they did, over the size and shape of government, over commerce and foreign relations, over the meaning of liberty and the imperatives of security.”

9:49 p.m. On the Ebola response: "Our military, our doctors, and our development workers set up the platform that allowed other countries to join us in stamping out that epidemic."

9:45 p.m. For a speech that wasn't supposed to focus on a "list of proposals for the year ahead," it sure has a lot of proposals for the year ahead. 

9:39 p.m. It wouldn't be a State of...

One-Fourth of Agency Leadership Posts Are Unfilled

As President Obama embarks on the final year of his presidency, the number of leadership vacancies around the government has reached as high as one-fourth of available positions, according to research published on Tuesday by POLITICO.

Fully 103 of the top 379 Cabinet-level administration jobs are currently without a Senate-confirmed leader, according to the compilation titled “Obama’s Vanishing Administration.” The largest numbers of high-level vacancies are at the State Department (51) and Defense (45), followed by Justice (18).

At the Environmental Protection Agency, more than half the agency’s top slots are held by interim leaders, the piece noted. The job of Education secretary, held until last month by Arne Duncan, is likely to be held through next January by acting Secretary John B. King Jr., who previously was senior adviser delegated duties of deputy Education secretary.

 “As senior aides have bolted for higher paying gigs, their jobs have remained empty — in some cases with replacements stuck in Senate limbo who may never get confirmed,” wrote reporter Darren Samuelsohn.

“The sheer number of vacancies is having a real-world effect on Obama, whose government is on high alert for terrorist attacks and still plans to wage domestic policy fights right...