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  • Correcting Krugman's Nonsense

    New York Times columnist Paul Krugman was less than honest when he totally misrepresented my 2001 essay, “Taking Charge of Federal Personnel.”

    My point was simple: To achieve significant change, a president needs key appointees dedicated to pursuing his vision and mandate, not entrenched D.C. “wise men” intent on pursuing policies that reflect their own “expert” views.

    To promote his own “expert” view that the Bush Administration was unqualified to govern, Krugman lifts a sentence fragment from my essay and places it in a false context. Yes, I urged then President-elect Bush to “make appointments based on loyalty first and expertise second.” But Krugman presents this as evidence of “contempt for expertise.” Nonsense!

    “Expertise cannot be ignored,” I stated. But picking appointees “merely [emphasis added] in terms of expert qualifications can be disastrous for an Administration genuinely committed to change….”

    A loyal policy executive should seek out and listen to the expertise of the permanent civil service. But these experts tend to be change resistant, because (my essay notes) they are already “part of the status quo–the permanent government.”

    Obama’s early picks for top posts have disheartened many of his supporters precisely because he seems to be recycling the same “experts” from the Clinton era. No one advocates loyalty to the exclusion of expertise. But if President-elect Obama truly intends to pursue “change,” he’ll need to fill the top policy slots with non-careerists who personally share his vision of the future.

    That’s the point of my essay. It was good advice in 2001, and it’s good advice now.

    Posted in Ongoing Priorities [slideshow_deploy]

    5 Responses to Correcting Krugman's Nonsense

    1. JP, Ohio says:

      Thanks for making the distinction.

      Too many DC "careerists" are like the blood vessels that feed a tumor. Have to take most of them when you remove the malignancy for a chance to heal.

    2. jjay - Louisville, K says:

      There is some wisdom in retaining those who understand the system so they are not duped by it at the outset or in the long run. Too many however who are there have been around so long that they know every loophole to use in order to avoid visible responsibility by creating stalemate or havoc for the opposition so that nothing gets done and then publicly blame the opposition for "doing nothing" – as in Senator McConnell's long worn-out seat of control and many others.

      There should be term limits on careerists such as those who know nothing else but legislation, too easily forget who they are representing and think too often they are the experts in every field of decision making without the need for input from there constituents.

    3. Ric Davidge, Alaska says:

      Most Americans have no idea how effectively Pres Carter was in changing the rules for new Presidents. His OPM promulgated a new rule, which was later approved by Congress, that stops any new Pres from changing any (none Schedule C) federal employees position, level, etc for 160 days.

      This means that the immediate window of opportunity (no more tha 90) days for any new Admin to make substantive management changes is gone.

      Carter then was successful in moving many of his Schedule Cs from political appoinments into general government service senior management positions so that with a new Pres they would be "safe".

      NO REPUBLICAN PRESIDENT has been able to change this.

      If we, or any new Pres, is going to take control of his administration, this must be changed.

      Many top agency and regional directors are NOT schedule C appointments but career buracrates. In fact, I discovered, and have since found it to be generally true across the federal system, that it is the Regional Directors who effectively make up their agencies Board of Directors, and unless they are changed to Schedule C appointments it will be very difficult for any new Pres to make substantive management changes.

      I wish Heritage would do an article about this and sponsor this change.

      former member of Pres Reagan's Admin.

    4. Mike Sheahen, Hickor says:

      As Shakespeare could write at this point "Alas the poor word 'change', again brandished ad nauseum and with guile by the power-hungry, minldessly repeated by the willingly misled, signifying nothing but more of the same".

    5. Howard Wolf, Lake Fo says:

      Is there anything more disgusting than "experts" who know what's best for the rest of us. After Yassir Arafat received a Nobel Prize, I lost all respect for the institution. So its possession by Krugman conveys no merit as far as I'm concerned.

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