Saturday, April 11, 2020

Dismantled Federal Departments now in chaos

"The Fifth Risk" by Michael Lewis was published in 2018 after having major portions excerpted by Vanity Fair and The Guardian during 2017.  The book focused on three Federal government departments, Energy, Agriculture, and Commerce, led respectively by Rick Perry, Sonny Perdue, and Wilbur Ross.  It detailed the dismantling of those departments by these Trump loyalists, and the replacement of senior civil service officials with extensive knowledge that reported to them, to be replaced by Republican party hacks who were rewarded for their loyalty, and not their expertise. At the time, there were parts of the book that were humorous, if dark humor is allowed, as the incompetence of these appointees bordered on the absurd.

At this point, it appears based on their performance, that the Education Department, Housing and Urban Development, the Labor Department, and most irreparably The State Department all suffered similar fates.  Now in this time of almost unprecedented crisis due to the corona virus global pandemic, major parts of the government are close to dysfunctional.  This is not to suggest that many of these shallow souls are not trying their best at this critical time, but the project management skills that Lewis cites as the fifth risk are simply not there.  Federal departments are rife with unqualified, disinterested, and self serving employees who until a few months ago were focused on what trips they could take, what hotels they could stay in, and where they would eat dinner.

The unwillingness of Trump to establish national mandates leaves the governors of states forced to make decisions that are viewed as political.  Most would rather not be put in that situation.  The virus respects no borders, and different protocols in adjacent states makes the United States look ludicrous to the rest of the world.  Trump has ceded U.S. leadership in Asia to China and the Middle East to Saudi Arabia and Russia, and in this crisis he provides no leadership at all, in fact while deriding other countries for some of their actions, ones that he would have done well to emulate.

What's the news here personally.  I am not sick, at least not yet, but a friend of mine has been ill for over two weeks with all of the symptoms present. For now she is totally quarantined, mild fever from time to time, chronic mild cough, constant fatigue, but hopefully "getting better".  That is what she always says, but now it seems like she really is!  In New York, just about the worst thing a person could do is go to the hospital unless there is an imminent life threatening emergency.  Hospitals are contagion zones.

Enough cheery news.  On the political front, two Democratic governors have distinguished themselves in this crisis, Andrew Cuomo of New York and Gavin Newsom of California.  If Biden for any reason falters, they are ready.  The always ambitious Cuomo gets more publicity because New York is now the world epicenter of the virus by far, but Newsom is impressive.  He took early action in California that, so far, has been effective in limiting the virus there up to this point.

More at another time...


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