Problems in Washington


When I was in Washington, I was impressed with the politicians and the bureaucrats. As Majority Leader and later as President, Lyndon Johnson got a lot done. Presidents Reagan, Bush Senior, and Clinton were effective at accomplishing policy changes that made peoples’ lives better and made government work better. Part of the problem these days is that the extreme factions of the parties have driven so many moderates out of power.

I see a big shift at the cabinet level. Cabinets used to have people with solid experience. You don’t often see senior business people with global experience in cabinet positions anymore. There’s been rising influence among political consultants, pollsters, and young White House staffers. Somebody who’s been a CEO of a global company has a problem not being heard by the President and dealing with snarky staff people. It’s a weakness that’s evolved at the White House. Think about Lincoln and his “team of rivals.” He surrounded himself with people he knew disliked him and competed with him, but it worked because he actively sought the full spectrum of opinions, he managed the process, and he produced decisions that reflected all that input. We don’t have that today.

Government is supposed to figure out solutions for people and must collaborate to do that. I again stress the importance of my rules of collaboration. You can’t achieve the most basic element of those rules, mutual respect and trust, when you put extremists in key jobs. They don’t want to compromise to get effective solutions for the majority. I like to see groups work collaboratively, whether at the small unit level, corporate level, industry level, government level, or global level. I don’t care too much who gets credit, it’s about moving forward, accomplishing goals. Unfortunately, the culture of a government bureaucracy tends to be such that rapid change puts people at risk. Unlike the culture we created at Applied, government staff often are scared of bad news. They don’t want to go through the transformation exercises; change is not a medium of opportunity, it’s a risk to your job and promotion.

I believe a strong and fiscally responsible economy is a paramount goal, without borrowing from our grandchildren. The extremists today make me concerned that both parties are leaving moderates like me out of the process. Parties can’t just be against everything the opponents are for; parties have to be fiscally responsible and lead, govern, and solve problems for all Americans.

I’d like to hear from you on this topic, please comment below.

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