It is not uncommon when a tragedy occurs, where politicians want to come across as great stewards, by asking “but, how could you let that happen?” The tragedy could range from a child under social services being maltreated by guardians to a train catastrophe, where safeguards that could have been in place are not. Yet, it also is not uncommon for part of the answer to the question to be from an overworked and underfunded department, who is overwhelmed and doing the best they can with limited resources.
I recognize budgets are important, but we seem to reconcile budget cuts on areas that can least afford it. These underfunded departments are ticking time bombs. For example, a social worker should ideally have about sixteen clients, more or less, depending on the complexity and coverage area. Yet, with budget cuts, you may hear of social worker in social services with 160 clients, a tenfold increase. The social worker cannot do an effective job with that many clients and something will slip through the cracks. “But, how can you let that happen?” will be asked.
Or, a train will crash or a car part recall will be handled poorly, because the Department of Transportation is so underfunded to make sure procedures are in place. Just today, Congress called the DOT on the carpet for not handling the announcement of the Takata recall very well. While Congress was not incorrect, a department of eight people was doing the best they could with all the things on their plate. Underfunding the DOT and the Highway Trust Fund worries me, as we will have more and more incidences occur where bridges collapse, poor roads will cause significant accidents or a train will derail. Our Congress has kicked the can down the road 33 times on funding a long time plan to address our infrastructure deficiencies.
This is basic stuff and does not even include preparing for natural disasters and the impact of climate change. To give an example, the Army Corp of Engineers told the US government in the early 2000s, that the city of New Orleans could not withstand a direct hurricane hit and the levees would give. That was before Katrina. Yet, nothing was done in advance. We have a water crisis that will continue to get worse if we do not plan ahead. These water crises will affect more than just California, Texas and Oklahoma. And, the water crises will be exacerbated by climate change, which will cause other problems, as well. Yet, we do not want to openly talk about it and we have one political party who wants to deny a problem exists, that the rest of the world is dealing with.
Failing to plan ahead is planning to fail. And, we will see a lot more of these failures in the future. But, how could you let that happen will be asked when those failures occur.