President Barack Obama walks back to the White House in Washington, March 4, 2009, from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, after speaking about reform of the government procurement process.
Magazine or Newspaper Article, Democracy: A Journal of Ideas
Author: Elaine Kamarck, Lecturer in Public Policy
Belfer Center Programs or Projects: International Security
How to make sure big reforms work after the political limelight dims.
"Reforming government is a difficult and thankless task. Political leaders find that reform is almost always unpopular in the short term because it disrupts existing power arrangements. And if they manage to produce reforms that bear lasting and positive results in the long run, they are often out of power by the time the reforms bear fruit. I should know—I’ve been there.
As the person in charge of the National Performance Review (a.k.a. "Reinventing Government") in the Clinton Administration, I was reminded on a daily basis how hard it is to achieve the overall goals of a government reform movement. Presumably simple things, such as closing obsolete offices, were likely to step on the toes of a powerful congressman or senator who was accustomed to using the office for patronage purposes. Expensive services that should have been outsourced were often unionized, and the attempt to make them competitive angered powerful unions. Stricter regulations on industries were likely to cause them to assert that they'd have to raise prices or stop serving customers...."
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