Trump Administration

21
Mar

The Policy Debate We Need

A project at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, under the direction of noted public-sector leader Stephen Goldsmith, has compiled what it regards as the 30 best reports on “Operational Excellence in Government” – and my firm, Public Works, is the author or co-author of three of these. Harvard cited our government-wide efficiency and management work in Iowa, Colorado, and Louisiana. This confirms what we’ve always said: Although we’re a small firm, we can match our record in this area against any of the largest consultancies in the world.

Meanwhile, in Washington the Trump Administration has unveiled plans to down-size government in a manner very different from how we pursue our efficiency and streamlining work. It’s the difference between hiring a surgeon to cure your ills – or a guy with a chain saw and hockey mask.

I wrote about this larger “hollowing out” of government at which the Trump Administration aims in The Hollow Men in U.S. News & World Report:

The Americas Bannon and Trump envision are depressing, but not totalitarian: One is illiberal but not necessarily authoritarian, the other authoritarian but not necessarily illiberal. Both lead to a society embodying not so much the banality of evil as the evil of banality. And where they overlap is not the creation of a fascist state, but rather the opposite: The hollowing out of the state as a viable institution. And, in that, they represent not a radical departure from the modern trajectory of the U.S. (and most other countries today) but an acceleration of it.

“All of this should be concerning,” I concluded, “but, while liberals have been warning not to ‘normalize’ Trump for the last year, the mistake is to ‘abnormalize’ him.” I elaborated on this theme in my next piece, Parallel Universe of Trump-World: “Right now, the opposition is focused on furious assaults against the very tar babies that keep Trump’s supporters in his column; such attacks will do nothing to weaken his grip on his alternative universe,” I argued.

I simply don’t agree that becoming your enemy is how to defeat him – a sentiment liberals argued vehemently in opposition to Bush-era depredations of civil liberties in the “War on Terror” but now deride as comic-book morality in the Age of Trump. How quickly our values have collapsed into not opposition, but conformance, to Trump’s.

So how should we respond to the pathologies of the Trump Administration? By focusing on policy, of course:

The real question is, What will create economic growth for the huge numbers of Americans being left behind? What will salvage the communities of an alternative universe being ground under by the advance of what is, to them, an alien culture and destructive economy?…

You really want to save truth, justice and the American Way? Stop seeing every Trump outrage as a cause for, well, outrage: Stop “ab-normalizing” him. Embrace the pathetic reality: He is a politician like any other, to be judged by his vacuous policies that fail even his supporters. Offer real policy alternatives that will protect the families of those who wrongly believe he is their hope. Start doing that, reality will take care of itself.

And that takes us to this week’s policy-oriented post – on the appallingly bad, long-awaited Republican alternative to Obamacare:

[T]he Republican health care bill concerns itself mainly with stripping millions of their coverage, recreating those halcyon health care days of the Bush years for most, and providing massive subsidies to – get this – the wealthiest. That ultimately makes plain the real Republican philosophy of government.

There are three basic conceptions of government’s role in human affairs. Some believe it is properly a force for collective good. Rightly or wrongly, that’s the vision liberals propound today.

Others believe – and this is, of course, a deep strand in American political thought – that while government might indeed be used for good as well as ill, in practice it tends to reflect what Francis Fukayama has called the “stationary bandit” theory of the state: It is a coercive force for extraction and exploitation of the many by the few, and thus to be constrained wherever possible. And then there are those who do the extraction and exploitation and recognize government as the best institution for achieving that.

Republicans love to talk like they fall into the second category. The chief virtue of this health care bill is that it makes transparent that they actually comprise the third.

You can read the whole analysis, The GOP’s Health Care Shock, here.

Easy links in this update:

30 best reports on “Operational Excellence in Government

U.S. News & World Report: The Hollow Men and Parallel Universe of Trump-World

The GOP’s Health Care Shock

As always, I welcome your comments below!

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27
Jan

Taking a Holistic Approach: Our New Education Practice

 

One of the many flashpoints emerging in the early days of the Trump Administration is the commitment of President Trump and his education secretary-designate Betsy deVos to the privatization of education in this country – and then the defunding of education, and most forms of human capital investment, completely.

This is an issue that I and my terrific colleagues at Public Works have been involved with for years. We decided last year to build one of the top education policy consultancies in America. In 2017, this is shaping up to be even more important. In this update, I’d like to let you know about our approach to education – including stressing creativity over doctrinaire approaches of any kind.

We undertook three major education projects in 2016. We spent the bulk of the year enmeshed in two distinct performance reviews of the state of Alaska’s Department of Education and Early Development (DEED) and the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education/Alaska Student Loan Corporation (ACPE).  The unique significance and sensitivity of education issues in Alaska demanded a high degree of oversight; you can read our full DEED report here. ACPE is the state entity for central planning for higher education and financial aid programs; our ACPE report is available here.

We also were retained by the Eagle County (Colorado) Department of Human Services and the Eagle County School District to develop an Early Childhood System Roadmap to identify principles and best practices essential to a comprehensive early childhood system, and strategies for building such a system in Eagle County. The report is available here.

And 2017 is off to a fast start: We just completed a comprehensive performance review of the Dalhart (Texas) Independent School District for the Texas Legislative Budget Board. That report hasn’t been publicly released yet – but the Progressive Policy Institute in Washington, DC, did release this month a report I wrote on the Springfield (Massachusetts) Empowerment Zone Partnership – an attempt to create within the public schools the conditions that make charter schools successful, without the poisonous politics: It’s very close to the model Public Works has developed for our clients and advocated around the country for years. You can read it here.

The objective of our education practice is to help guide human capital investment so that all Americans, of every age, can receive world-class education and training enabling them to achieve their full potential. We’re combining expertise throughout the entire educational “pipeline” – from early childhood to K-12 through post-secondary and higher education, on to the adult workforce system – and building bridges between them.

We’ve helped multiple states construct P-20 systems, uniting everything from early childhood education through post-secondary training in governance, coordination, policy and substance. We’ve designed model early childhood programs for localities and national think tanks – and led the restructuring of adult workforce systems in a dozen states, bringing together all segments (PK-12, community colleges, and universities) in the public education system. In short, we’re taking a holistic approach to education.

We also take a holistic approach to effecting meaningful change, working on education policy-making at the highest levels of states governments, but also with principals and superintendents on improving district and building leadership – and community engagement. We’ve put together a team of about two dozen education consultants, with a core team that has some of my favorite people:

  • JoAnn Cox education experience includes teaching, district administration, and leadership at a state Department of Education, and then headed up the PK-12 Education practice at MGT of America. Dr. Cox has earned a national reputation for improving outcomes and generating savings.
  • Laura Dukess was Director of Professional Development the Office of School Leadership of the New York City Department of Education, worked at New Visions for Public Schools, and was a law school classmate of mine.
  • Pamela Kondé, is an expert in policy analysis, government relations and legal advocacy, with a focus on parental engagement, community building, and strategic grassroots organizing. She also teaches and runs after-school programs and a summer camp for creative writing. Previously worked with the National League of Cities and on Capitol Hill.
  • Marybeth Schubert was the founding executive director of the Advanced Programs Initiative, a New Mexico-wide foundation dedicated to advancing public education through partnership with public school districts, and previously was my firm’s southwest director.
  • Ester Smith has more than 30 years of experience in the design, implementation and management of education evaluations. She has conducted program evaluations and management and performance reviews in school districts in Texas, Tennessee, Florida, Illinois, and Wisconsin.
  • Ken Weil is a principal at Social Impact Solutions, focusing on social impact bonds, pay for success contracts, and other new revenue paradigms for early childhood, K-12, and higher education. He previously served as regional Executive Director of College Summit, a national leader in increasing college enrollment and persistence for low-income students.

If your state or city needs intelligent new approaches to helping its schools, universities and workforce-preparation systems work better, we would love to hear from you. There’s really no more important issue in the years ahead if you truly want to keep America great.

 

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