Rot

The Ukraine crisis is more evidence of incompetence. To deter Russian President Putin from an attack, continuing to expand the lethal aid deliveries started in the Trump administration is just common sense. Russia began to move forces to the Ukraine border last spring. Making Ukraine a much harder nut to crack could’ve raised the price of an assault to the unacceptable. Instead, we paused our lethal aid. Biden even O.K.’d the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to appease Germany and Russia.

The Trump era deliveries, especially the Javelin anti-tank missiles, allowed the Ukrainians to stabilize their eastern front. Adding anti-aircraft and anti-ship missiles could’ve raised the price of invasion higher than the Russians could afford. The prospect of a long sustained war for an economy about the size of Italy while under sanctions might not seem palatable to an aggressor.

Recently, we’ve resumed deliveries, but with the invasion already begun, it is far more challenging to get them in the hands of the defenders. Still, the Ukrainians are valiantly holding out. Think how much better their position is if we had sent arms earlier. Maybe there wouldn’t even be an attack. 

How could we have made such mistakes? One has only to look back at the Afghanistan fiasco. Could anything have gone worse? The same climate zealots who failed to acknowledge relinquishing energy independence had dire national security consequences are still calling the shots in Washington. The same people producing our greatest humiliation in decades are still in charge. Unbelievably, not one person in our national security establishment has lost their job. The better question is why we expected better.

I think this is evidence of a rot infecting our bureaucratic establishments. Look around. We spend more on healthcare than almost any other advanced nation. Yet, we will be suffering from our disastrous lockdowns far into the future. We relied on data from other countries, such as Israel, throughout the pandemic for accurate data. This is despite the billions given to these bureaucrats. Again most of the major players are still in place. 

Our public K-12 schools spend more per student than other nations, yet we lag in all areas. Unless we believe our children are naturally dumber than others, we are cheating them of their future at a high price. 

In 2008 we spent nearly a trillion dollars on infrastructure. These were the famous “shovel-ready projects.” Can you name anything actually done? Now we appropriated even more for similar projects. The high-speed rail link proposed in 2008 between L.A. and San Francisco will get more money to meet its massive overruns. So far, it runs from Merced to Bakersfield, 119 miles out of the planned 500miles. We may never see it completed. Even if it is, it probably won’t be highspeed

The project is the poster boy of the difficulty to do anything in the U.S. Try to build or extract anything, and you’re in an almost impenetrable maze of bureaucratic rules and legal hurdles. In my home state of Arizona, the Resolution Copper mine is now in its 27th year in search of approval. If we’re going to have everything electric, you have to have copper. You’ll just get it from somebody else, maybe an enemy. For sure, it will be dirtier. 

We spend so much now we are in the grip of inflation. How then do our leaders explain a defense budget declining after inflation? If Ukraine has taught us anything, we are faced with expanded military challenges. We don’t spend enough to give our pilots enough flying time. Our navy is inadequate. The cost overruns and confusion of the California train plague our ships and war technology. No wonder our enemies are threatening on all fronts.

Our nation is literally strangled in a bureaucratic nightmare. No amount of wealth diverted from our productive private sector can improve performance. We pore more and more money into government endeavors only to fail to improve. In some areas, we do even worse.

If it isn’t about money, the problem lies elsewhere. Our bureaucracies are filled with bright and educated people. Still, they have spent little or no time in the market economy. Add academia and the ever-increasing government research money doled out to see how the bureaucracy dominates the market economy. In 2021 The Federal Government alone accounted for 30% of GDP. Combined with State and local governments and academia, well over half our economy is out of the hands of our vaunted free market. 

This means most of the U.S. lacks the discipline of the marketplace. Responsibility is defused. Pie in the sky or ivory tower thinking isn’t subject to its bloodless verdict. The incompetent remain.

Worse, bureaucrats lack a sense of time. In fact, the longer a task takes, the more job security you have. In the open market, time is money, and you better not forget it. Don’t deliver; you’re gone. The incentives are all wrong.

The next administration must bring more of America under market or marker-like discipline. Many economists attribute the Trump pre-pandemic boom was due to regulatory curbs equally or more with tax cuts. 

Adopting Dave’s plan or something similar would subject more healthcare to the market. Vouchers would create an educational marketplace. Giving a single manager control of each government or government-regulated project would place responsibility. These are all things I’ve advocated on these pages.

For most of our history, the marketplace brought efficiency and wealth to our nation. We must restore its reality to dominance in order to continue prospering. Ever-increasing bureaucracies just make us a poor imitation of our enemies. We must return to what makes us exceptional and winners. This will be the challenge of any new administration.

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