Via Drum, a Republican criticizes the current administration:
It’s hard for a program staffed mainly by folks in the industry to impartially conduct oversight of the industry
The scandal du jour involves too much chumminess between universities and the student loan industry, but he could be talking about any regulatory body in today’s government. Any doofus could anticipate that swapping hacks for oversight will lead to dysfunction. I guess we should take it as a good sign that a select few people have learned from experience what common sense should have told them in advance, but I really don’t. You can’t fix the kind of stupid that prevents these people from anticipating the obvious. On some new issue, with some new government, they will do it again.
The point transcends one party or another. George Bush’s party affiliation had nothing to do with why I could tell more or less from day one that his reign would be an unmitigated disaster. I simply had to apply the rule that any time you remove oversight from a system and swap in hacks with an interest that supercedes simply doing the job right, dysfunction follows like water flows downhill. Set your watch by it.
In that vein I think Fester has a salient concern:
[W]e are not in a healthy political environment. This poisoning of the body politic has provoked an immune response so that the emerging dominant coalition is the sane versus the insane. This coalition will be extremely beneficial to the Democratic Party in the short to medium run, but if this is the political discourse for the next half dozen election cycles than the self-correcting and limiting mechanisms of government and governance will be suspended, therefore increasing the probability of Democrats doing really, really, dumb things.
Sure, I’m thrilled to know that the GOP seems dead set on throwing its electoral future down the Iraq hole. Since my policy preferences dovetail with the Democrats almost all of the time I won’t complain if Dems govern until crazy people stop running the Republican party. For me, the major caveat is the crucial role that opposition parties play in the body politic.
It would be silly to pretend that the principles that I describe here apply to one party but not the other. In my view, certain things need to happen in the near future if less hackish Dems don’t want to find ourselves on Tom Maguire’s ledge.
First on my list, the House and Senate Ethics committees need to get off their asses and sanction someone*. Who doesn’t really matter to me. It could be nothing but Democrats for all I care. Set the bar so low that only one in five investigations lead to an actual sanction, if that is what it takes to create a sense that bad acts or smelly innocent acts will bring an invitation to testify in front of Tim Johnson or Stephanie Tubbs Jones. The next president needs to fully reverse the Bush standards of transparency and conflicts of interest in civil service. Working with Congress and a departmental Inspector General looking over your shoulder is a time-consuming pain in the ass, but I can safely say in principle and from recent experience that competent work will not get done any other way.
(*) This might seem insensitive to Sen. Tim Johnson, who is still in therapy recovering from a brain hemmorrhage. Oh well. Isn’t there a way to discipline someone by conference call? Microsoft NetMeeting seems like it should work for that sort of thing.