Michael A. Tams
The Institute for Balanced Government
March 11, 2011
I’m thrilled to be a guest contributor here at For the Good of Illinois. Adam and I go back to when we were both entering the public policy world. Organizations like ours are reaching people like you, and together we’re doing honorable work. If you’re interested in what my organization does, click here for starters.
The work that Adam and I do is a lot like turnaround management, but focused on the government. If you’re not familiar with it, turnaround management is the corporate equivalent of the relationship a sick person has with their doctor. Not surprisingly, if you read the title of this post, the ailing patient exhibits symptoms of being unwell; they seek help from a professional who determines why they are having these symptoms; the professional outlines a course of treatment or remedy; and the ailing patient improves, or the process begins anew.
Q: Does government at every level exhibit the symptoms of being not well?
Last week, somewhat under the radar, DuPage County was in the news when it was revealed that there was gross mismanagement in the DuPage Housing Authority. To Chairman Cronin’s credit, he’s taking action, but the horse is already out of the barn. The DHA, which receives federal funds and administers housing assistance, owes Uncle Sam an estimated $10.75 million as a result of improper payments and financial mismanagement. Which means, fellow residents of the County, ultimately you and I owe Uncle Sam that money.
I could spend the next week regaling you with stories of government not being well, but based upon your involvement with FTGOI, I’m guessing you don’t need the additional evidence. We concur that government seems to be broken infrequently, and not working well the remainder of the time. Let’s cut to the diagnosis.
For too long, government has operated in the absence of citizen involvement and outside the realm of its intended responsibilities, and under the assumption that next year’s budget will be 5% more than this year’s. The latter has covered up widespread instances of sloppy and unprofessional management, and the former has ensured that government grows and that those instances never saw the light of day. This is the diagnosis. Stopping here, without a plan and the will to return to health will just result in further sickness; in government this is called an economic death spiral.
The prescription is rather easy to outline. First, we deserve a better class of elected official – and it appears that in many cases we’re getting them. This is because of heightened citizen involvement. Increased citizen involvement through groups like mine and FTGOI also acts like an insurance policy – actions that might never have seen the light of day before are going to be discovered and reported. Now before we all pull a muscle patting ourselves on the back, we ought to consider that we’re just touching the tip of the iceberg, and the funny thing about icebergs is that it is what you don’t see – the giant mass that remains hidden – that is the real risk to the survival of the ship.
If we keep up the work, if we continue to ratchet up our involvement and activism, if we exert ourselves like free men (and women) defending our liberty, the day may come when we realize the cure: accountable government, restricted at each level to the things it is designed to do, which delivers necessary services and stays out of the way in everything else.