Simplistic Solutions

The 2012 presidential campaign is off to an unserious start.

Politicians, especially presidential candidates, have never been much for embracing complexity. So it's not surprising that the 2012 race already has entered the stage of oversimplification. As the problems confronting the United States-from dealing with a seemingly endless recession to overhauling health care to drawing down U.S. forces from two major overseas conflicts-grow more complex, the political class seems to be embracing more simplistic solutions.

In early June, GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty threw his hat into the oversimplification ring, proposing his Google Test: "If you can find a good or service on the Internet, then the federal government probably doesn't need to be doing it," he said. Analysts were quick to point out that approach would mean, for example, the privatization of the military services.

Indeed, this is nothing but a high-tech variation on the old Yellow Pages test for deciding whether government functions should be outsourced. And the reason it's never fully applied is because it quickly falls apart. Sometimes, the reasons are practical: FedEx and UPS do the same thing the U.S. Postal Service does, but they don't deliver to every address in the country. Other times, political considerations intrude: Does Pawlenty favor abolishing the network of Veterans Affairs hospitals because there are plenty of nongovernment hospitals? I doubt it.

Pawlenty wasn't alone on the oversimplification trail. Former Godfather's Pizza executive and Republican presidential contender Herman Cain made a speech just days before Pawlenty's in which he pledged not to sign any bill more than three pages long. Setting aside the term-paper practicalities (What font would be allowed? Is single-spacing OK?), the serious issue this proposal ignores is that legislation is complex because government is responsible for dealing with a complex world. Wishing that away in the name of simplicity is at best naïve.

Not to be outdone in the race to score political points with simplistic solutions, President Obama took to the Internet in mid-June to highlight the administration's new campaign to root out wasteful government spending. In a video posted at the White House site, he gleefully mocked "pointless waste," "stupid spending" and "ridiculous practices." Can you give us an example, Mr. President?

"Did you know that federal government pays for a website devoted to a folk music ensemble made up of forest rangers?" Obama said. "They're called the Fiddlin' Foresters. I'll put their music on my iPod, but I'm not paying for their website."

And there you have it, America. The solution to our deficit problem: Get the Fiddlin' Foresters off the Internet.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.