"Government needs more than its current two gears: inert and glacial."
Big Government drives me crazy: Some friends recently filed a 100 page application to form a non-profit—a 501c3 in IRS parlance—and have been not-so-patiently waiting to hear the fate of the charitable venture since. An anxious call to the IRS this week revealed the following Kafkaesque situation: application is stuck in “unassigned inventory”. Please, let’s contemplate this euphemism, “Unassigned Inventory”. The “I Haven’t Gotten to it Yet” pile might be more transparent. Worse yet, they won’t be assigned a person to whom they can complain until—yes, that’s right!—until the application is removed from “Unassigned Inventory.” Beckett or Pinter could have done something with this plot line!
Their Big Government story is surreal, but affects only a few people. Sometimes, however, our government’s sluggishness hurts thousands and costs the economy millions. When I was Lieutenant Governor, I advocated with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for an emergency review of draconian federal fishing regulations that would eventually drive hundreds of fishing families in Massachusetts into bankruptcy. I was told—with a straight face—that an emergency regulatory review would take three months. How long, one had to ask, would a “Take your sweet time” regulatory review take? Three years? Clearly, our emergency was clearly not theirs.
In May, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal struggled to gain emergency federal approval to build 80 miles of sand bar berms to protect the fragile Louisiana coastline--and his state’s fishing economy—from the on-coming black tide of British Petroleum. I read with horror, that he was delayed for weeks while the Army Corps of Engineers mulled over the merits of the plan!
Then there were the oil-clean up boats that lost critical days of operation while the Coast Guard checked to see if they had enough fire extinguishers and life vests on board. That’s days—not hours. How could this process take longer than the time it takes to board, inspect and count?
The bottom line is that some government regulation is necessary and good—for example, let’s all agree that we could have done with stricter enforcement of banking and mortgage industry regulations leading up to the global financial crisis. But there are times when standard operating procedure simply should not apply. Government needs more than its current two gears: inert and glacial. It needs to be nimble enough to actually respond to real national emergencies—like the BP oil gusher—not in months, weeks or days but in hours.