New research says “dismantlers” now have the upper hand.
In 1993, President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore launched modern history’s longest-running project to fix the federal government.
Posing with two forklifts loaded with federal documents, Gore vowed to streamline an “old-fashioned, outdated government” with a ruthless focus on efficiency. By the project’s end in 2000, “reinventing government” had eliminated 640,000 pages of internal regulations, cut 426,200 federal jobs and saved $136 billion. Public trust in government rose from 25 percent in 1993 to 42 percent in 2000, the highest it had been in decades.
Today, however, trust in government has sunk back to historic lows. And as the 2016 elections approach, “government reform” is a likely plank in many candidates’ platforms.
But if it’s time for reinventing government again – the 1990s’ focus on “inefficiency” might be too pallid a prescription for government’s current woes. Americans no longer believe inefficiency and waste are the government’s biggest problems, according to a recent study by Brookings Institution scholar Paul Light. Instead, more Americans now disagree with government’s fundamental priorities. It’s not so much how government is doing its job, but what it’s doing in the first place – a problem no amount of streamlining can fix.