Watching MSNBC last night it struck me again how ignorant politicians and pundits are about bureaucracies. The subject this time was the IRS vs. the Tea Party, but it could have been Benghazi or most of the other “scandals” that flame up and burn out on our TV screens.
Few talking heads or politicians have served much time in large bureaucracies. I have, starting at the absolute bottom as a private in the U.S. Army. The experience taught me how to look on military officers, which is generally down. Obama and Clinton would have profited greatly from a similar immersion in reality, as would most of our soldier-sniffing and cop-loving patriots. Bringing back the draft would put a stop to a lot of this idiot babble about the greatest fighting men in the history of the known universe and all universes henceforth to be discovered.
All right, back to the point.
Next I became a sort of sub-boss in a much smaller bureaucracy — assistant city editor of the Washington Post. Then I was deputy director of the U.S. Information Agency’s two-man outpost in Casablanca. From Morocco I went to Laos as press attaché for the secret war (go figure). My next job was near the very top of the largest bureaucracy of them all, the federal government. From the White House I went to the Federal Aviation Administration as chief of public affairs. My only promotion in any of these bureaucracies, I’m proud to say, was the automatic one from private to private first class. My ambition seems to have been low to none, but then ambition is well known to be blind. Thus there was nothing wrong with my eyes (speaking metaphorically. In fact, my eyes suck.)
And so I am massively unastonished to learn that the top leadership of the IRS was unable to impose its will on a bunch of GS-11s in the Cincinnati office. I once spent a great deal of time and the taxpayers’ money on developing and implementing a program to modernize graphics throughout the FAA. Thirty-five years later, the Depression-era logo I thought we had killed off still shows up regularly on the evening news. The new, improved model seems to have survived only at the Department of Transportation.