Obama is Right—The Federal Government Is Inefficient

November 13th, 2013

In a recent interview discussing the ObamaCare debacle, President Obama said something that floored me since it’s so obvious.

Describing the development of the ill-fated healthcare.gov website, he said, “When we buy IT services generally, it is so bureaucratic and so cumbersome that a whole bunch of it doesn’t work or ends up being way over cost . . . . “


I’ve come to realize over the years that President Obama is not a great student of government or history.  Had he been paying attention to those subjects, he would have already been well aware of a few things most of us have come to see as quite obvious.

First, the federal government is a morass of bureaucracies and bureaucracy as a general rule tends to be incredibly inefficient. Purchasing even a pencil is likely governed by multiple rules and regulations and probably is overseen by several different departments and agencies.

Government contracting is particularly ripe for inefficiency.  Because rules on government contracts are so complex and bureaucratic, only a handful companies (i.e., those that have figured out to navigate the system) even attempt to bid on certain projects. These may not be the best or the most qualified companies. In fact, they usually qualify for consideration for government contracts by meeting threshold “requirements” having absolutely nothing to do with their ability to perform a given task well.  Instead, they simply meet certain political objectives.

Given that, it should never come as a surprise when a road or bridge (or website) ends up costing more than originally projected and several times what it might cost if built by a private entity where cost actually matters.

I learned this firsthand as an intern in Washington D.C. years ago.  While I worked on Capitol Hill, my roommates worked in federal agencies all over the city.  We happened to be there during the end of a fiscal year, and I’ll never forget our nightly discussions as each of them described the mad rush in the agencies to spend (i.e., waste) taxpayer money in order to justify a budget increase the following year.

Obama and I are close in age, so I know for a fact that sometime during his life he heard press reports lamenting the outrageous amount of money the federal government paid for something as basic as a toilet seat.  I also know he’s at least familiar with Ronald Reagan, since he occasionally tries to strike a twisted comparison between himself and the Gipper.  Certainly he knows that one of the primary tenets of Reagan’s political philosophy was that the private sector is better and more efficient at accomplishing certain tasks than the government ever could be.

In fact, one of Reagan’s favorite jokes was describing the most terrifying words in the English language as “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

It’s really hard to believe that Obama wasn’t aware of any of this until now.  Still, that’s all we could conclude up until this point, since his entire political agenda appears to be fighting for the federal government to run and control more and more of our daily lives.

Giving him the benefit of the doubt, however, let’s pretend that he had no clue until now.  Even if that’s the case, he certainly can’t use that excuse ever again after this complete disaster.

While Obama likely won’t alter his deeply ingrained progressive ideology, we can only hope that others who follow him and have been blindly following him down this path until now will be awakened to the flaws in their thinking by Obama’s own example and in this particular case by his own words.