A better response to Jon Stewart’s question

Jon Stewart asked ( starting at 4:20) Nancy Pelosi a central question in US politics. Expanding and paraphrasing, the question is: One party argues the government plays an important, positive role in our lives, while the other argues that government creates more problems than it solves. Given that, shouldn’t the party that supports government put a lot of emphasis on governing competently?

Nancy’s answer missed the mark completely. She kept asserting that there was no excuse. True, but not responsive. Excuses seldom serve any useful purpose.

I wanted to hear an answer along these lines: “I agree completely. Government provides functions necessary to fulfill the promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But ineffective and inefficient government programs undermine public confidence. The healthcare.gov rollout debacle and the VA’s ongoing case backlog give aid and comfort to our political opponents.

“Are these problems systemic? Certainly.  Governments immemorial have struggled with the influence of rich and powerful people and institutions. Rulings like Citizens United make the problem worse.  (In the extended interview she concedes that money corrodes the process, but cast it all as an issue for the other party.) And I can’t ignore the evidence that well-meaning efforts to avoid failed government contracts have created byzantine complexity, frequently as a result of those powerful interests subverting the regulator’s intent. 

“Sadly it all falls apart at the next step, where we change policies to correct these structural flaws. Implementing these changes would require legislative action, and the party that wants government to fail whenever possible along with the impacted special interests will do whatever they can to block them. Oh, and any substantive administration action would generate cries to impeach the Imperial President. The effort grinds to a halt, while the media moves on to the next outrage. Wash, rinse, repeat.”

 If men were angels, no government would be necessary. James Madison

Some may be angels, but not enough to make government unnecessary. Fight all you want about what government must do, but whatever it does, put focus on doing it better. 

P.S. For extra credit I’d love to hear her point out that large technology projects like these have a horrible track record, public and private. Rolling out new solutions in a way that acknowledges this would be another great step—and as such would be opposed by all the vested interests.