Forget ‘Great.’ Trump Should Just Promise to Make America Work Again

Forget ‘Great.’ Trump Should Just Promise to Make America Work Again

© Lucas Jackson / Reuters

Let’s be clear: There are no excuses for the incompetence that Americans routinely experience from the federal government.    

  • There is no excuse for any American missing his plane because the TSA cannot do its job.
  • There is no excuse for a single veteran to be denied critical care because of long wait times.
  • There is no excuse for the IRS not answering your phone call.
  • There is no excuse for allowing tens of thousands of Central Americans to cross our southern border illegally.
  • There is no excuse at all for ineptness on such a grand scale.

But, there may be a cure. As Americans flock to vote for a change in Washington, what they may actually want is a country that works. Where the programs administered by the feds are efficient and where taxpayer dollars are not incinerated through stupidity. Where the roads are passable and the streets are safe, where kids learn the basics in school and jobs are plentiful. These are the things that people gripe about, not which bathrooms transgenders use in North Carolina. Most people’s needs are not impossible, but the government all too often fails to deliver.

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This is Donald Trump’s platform: Making America Great Again. A lot of people would settle for: Making America Work Again.

When President Obama took office, many worried about the unprecedented lack of private enterprise experience in his administration. This was an ideological issue, reflecting concern that an Obama White House would tilt towards big-government solutions. It was also a nuts and bolts issue; a lack of management expertise heralded administrative failures, critics charged.

Both of those concerns have been realized. It takes some time before incompetence at the head of a large organization – much less a sprawling enterprise like the federal government, with its 2.7 million employees – trickles down. In 2014, Republicans delivered a crushing rebuke to the president, spurred mainly by White House goofs: the collapse of security at our border, the ill-considered swap of deserter Bowie Bergdahl for five Taliban leaders, the bungled handling of the Ebola outbreak, the inadequate response to ISIS, the IRS scandal and ongoing VA problems. Angered by so many examples of utter incompetence, Obama’s approval ratings had swooned; riding the tide, Republicans took over the Senate.

Ironically, the GOP victory may have been the best thing that could have happened to President Obama. It allowed him to shirk responsibility for all kinds of problems, by blaming Republican obstructionism. Too many black kids in jail? If only the GOP would pass criminal justice reform. Too long a wait in airport security lines? Not able to get your IRS phone calls answered? Thank the Republican penny-pinchers in Congress. Deportations too high? If only we could pass immigration reform.

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Obama’s White House doesn’t have the management expertise to run a Dunkin Donuts franchise, much less the vast unmonitored spread of federal bureaucracy. Even so, at every turn, Obama adds to the federal to-do list. More job training programs, more healthcare departments, programs to train doctors, more prisoner rehabilitation efforts, more environmental monitoring, increased oversight of labor practices…and the list goes on. An alarming data point: no one knows how many federal agencies there are; estimates range from 60 to 430.

Donald Trump supporters hope he can do better. They cite his business success as proof that he has the ability to run an organization. People hope he will hire smart, capable managers to fill in the multiple blanks in his portfolio. As he rolls out his national campaign, he needs to make that case by bringing on   recognized, thoughtful executives and leaders who can reassure voters that The Donald is not flying solo.

People like Mitch Daniels come to mind. Daniels, the former governor of Indiana and current head of Purdue University, has made a career of fixing what is broken, standing for conservative principles while also managing progress. His success as a governor began when he fixed the interminable and unpleasant experience most people in his state encountered when visiting the DMV.   

When people used to ask Daniels on how he balanced the budget, and about his other achievements as governor, he would say, “It’s not rocket science.” He’s right.

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For instance, do we not seriously imagine that today’s computer algorithms could significantly enhance the efficiency of the TSA? That the known travel patterns of most Americans could qualify them for TSA PreCheck? The agency bemoans the “disappointing” rate of PreCheck sign-ups; only 2.7 million have signed up, instead of the hoped-for 25 million. There are reasons for that – not enough places where travelers can apply, lengthy waits for appointments, weeks of processing time and excessive fees for membership, for starters.  Also, the agency relied on word-of-mouth to advertise the program. In other words, people will miss flights this summer because of bad management. It is a real problem, impacting real peoples’ lives. That’s what politicians should aim to fix.

Hillary Clinton gets that. She tells voters she’s going to make daycare affordable for young families. But, like so many nostrums from the left, there is a yawning chasm between good intentions and reality.  Specifically, Hillary wants to limit outlays for child care to 10 percent of a family’s income, using an unspecified combination of subsidies and tax credits. On the other hand, she is advocating the RAISE initiative, which aims to hike pay for childcare workers. Surely those two ambitions collide. 

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Republicans start at a disadvantage. Their support comes from more educated voters, who understand that the government is not one giant ATM. They have to sell voters on their ability to do better with less. It’s not an easy pitch. But – it can be made. And, by the way, it is what nearly every business executive has had to do in recent years.

In 2012, Mitt Romney was intimidated into ignoring his main appeal to voters – his impressive resume of management expertise and accomplishment in both the private and public spheres. Democrats attacked his business career, making it out to be something shameful, and Romney didn’t punch back.

That will not be the case with Donald Trump. His credentials are not as impressive as were Romney’s, but he has done a far better job of selling them to GOP voters. Now he has to convince the nation.