To Reinvent Government, Make It Flexible

Most Americans think the service they receive from government stinks and feel that their taxes are not well spent. It is this sentiment, not merely the weight of the overall tax burden, that is at the heart of the popular distrust of Washington. So we applaud Vice-President Al Gore's current efforts to "reinvent" government and make it more efficient. Gore appears ready to recommend ending centralized procurement policies and empowering employees to make decisions on their own. Simply bringing the government office up to par with the corporate workplace by replacing typewriters and paper with computers and E-mail will boost productivity, assuming that managers and secretaries who are no longer needed are let go.

But the big challenges--and big savings--are going to come from the kind of tough political decisions that the Clinton Administration has, so far, avoided. The civil service code, the equivalent of union work rules, must be rewritten to provide the kind of flexibility that companies are now experiencing in the private sector. Government unions, afraid of a loss in jobs, are probably going to fight against this change.

Dumping outmoded agencies and programs, many of them antiques left over from the Depression Era, will also be difficult. Do we still need a Rural Electrification Administration as we approach the year 2000? Do we want a special Farmers Home Administration providing low-interest loans for elderly farmers? Of course not. If Vice-President Gore has the courage to tackle this government incrustation head on, taxpayers across the land will bless him.

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