But, how could you let that happen?

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.

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7 thoughts on “But, how could you let that happen?

  1. The original budget cutters somehow always end up on the other side of the coin, the how could you let that happen questioners. See the IRS and the recent hacks as a result of the strangulation caused by budget cuts of the repubs.

    • Agreed. Usually those who shout the loudest have the most to hide. What is interesting about the IRS example, is greater funding creates even more revenue through audits.

  2. Politicians are so afraid of raising taxes to support the programs that need funding badly. I’m not sure if they really want the systems to fail or if they have painted themselves into a corner by pledging – and running on the platform of – no new taxes. We’ll just limp from crisis to crisis because no one seems to understand that it is far more expensive to build something back up once it has failed rather then to spend the money in advance to ensure it keeps working.

    • Your observations are very astute. Grover Norquist has extorted this pledge and wants to drown the government in the bathtub. Yet, that recipe would take us down the drain. A contributing reason to why Dem White Houses have much better economic, jobs and capital market numbers than GOP White Houses is investing in the country with public/ private partnerships.

  3. I’m reminded of Alfred E. Newman: “What, me worry?” The whole bunch should be tarred and feathered. They are risking the future of our children’s children simply out of self-interest and short-sighted avarice.

    • Thanks Hugh. The short-sightedness is appalling. I am intrigued by Nebraska’s unicameral legislature, which overrode the Governor’s veto on the death penalty. but also overrode a veto on investing in the roads and infrastructure. Apparently, once elected, they are less beholden to party lines and seem more free to vote their conscious. The unicameral nature is getting attention of other states. Yet, here in NC, we continue down a path of ignoring the real issues as we pass bills to let magistrates not marry gay or lesbian couples if they have “sincerely held beliefs that this is wrong,” which is unconstitutional now.

  4. Note to Readers: I should add that this concept of leaders finding fault with others to avoid scrutiny, is not restricted to government and has a seemingly bottomless pit of blaming. In no particular order:

    – an old colleague who had a key role in a large bank told his boss the CEO that buying a certain company was a bad move. The firm was bought and dragged down the buyer. Before the buyer went bankrupt, it was bought. The CEO had long been fired, but the new CEO fired my old colleague as he should have advised the CEO not to buy them.
    – before the VA scandal hit the fan last spring, Congress voted down a funding request to hire more doctors and improve services to the tune of approximately $65 Billion. The VA scandal hit and Congress was quick to blame the President. Truth be told it was a collective failure over many years. Congress magnanimously granted about $16 Billion later that summer, which was 1/4 the request and after the failures became known.
    – A new CEO came on board to a company and made some changes going back to an approach that had failed several years before. She would not listen and when it failed again, she blamed the employees for not doing it right. Over several years of bad decisions, downward finger pointing and scathing survey feedback of her, she was swept out with her entire leadership team.

    Sometimes, I feel like Christopher Walkien’s character in “The Dead Zone” where he can see the future and has the ability to alter the hazy part. When he tells a tyrannical father not to coach ice hockey on the lake ice that day, the father ignores him. He says loudly “the ice is going to break.” The father seemingly relents, his son who likes Walkien’s character stays behind, and then the father proceeds to have practice….and the ice breaks and children drown.

    So, I want to shout out – the sea level is rising and will rise more or fracking is using a significant amount of water and is not as safe as portrayed or more bridges will collapse and you will act surprised when they do.

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