The VA: First, We Shoot the Bureaucrats

With all due respect to Will Shakespeare, although lawyers are part of the bureaucratic cancer, the Veterans Administration’s mishandling of veteran’s medical needs, leading to the deaths of around a hundred, (and counting), points to a killer cancer far more insidious than the vanity and arrogance normally associated with the legal class.

After I returned from the USSR in March, 1992, I penned a long article about how, in my view, it was not just the coarse Russian character (Homo Rus) who destroyed the SovietUnion as most American leftists presuppose. Nor was it entirely the fault of Marxism (Homo Sovieticus) for equally culpable was Homo Bureaucraticus, the nameless, faceless apparatchiki. In the case of the USSR, all three of these worked hand in glove, since the Russian were, and still are, backward in their basic sensibilities of the principal themes of accepted “liberal” human norms. They are largely parochial and barbaric, both primitive and tribal. But even if the Russians had the sensibilities of the Church of Rome, bureaucratism and Karl Marx would have killed the USSR just as dead.

The VA crisis highlights the deadly killer-seed bureaucracy brings to government; namely indifference. It is their calling card, often masked by dangerous but curable defects such as incompetence. Indifference reflects the soul of bureaucratism. And there is no known cure. When Marxism brings to the table its own particular chemistry of power madness dressed in paternalistic psychobabble and a systems design that cannot ever be made to work, you have a powerful recipe for national disaster….for Marxism can’t even pretend to work unless there are tiers and tiers of bureaucracies to consolidate that power. From rule-makers and enforcement, to bean counters, to paperhangers, all of whom must daily justify their existence…bureaucracies exterminate any and all external threats and are beholding only to the hands that feeds them.

The world has never known a single empire or despot who wasn’t insulated from the people by just this sort of army of bureaucrats. Even Genghis Khan, once he stopped hording around and turned to administration, saw his great empires turn to dust. The Arabs and Persians had their own style, The  Spanish and Portuguese in the Americas still another. The Europeans still others. But in the end, they are all dust, and history never fully records the cancer that killed them.

America, by its very design, had the better idea. Only now, in the first quarter of its third century, which is not really a long span of time if measured by Genghis Khan or the Romans, the virus has become entrenched here as well.

Indifference on the march in America

Barack Obama has been wrongly associated with Adolf Hitler, but while his manner of government is fascist in nature, I would separate Obama from the Nazis since the evil they did, they did on purpose. Hitler and Nazis killed because they hated certain peoples. By contrast, it was Josef Stalin who said about the Ukraine famine, which killed 3 million, and which he engineered, “the death of single person is tragedy, but the deaths of a million is a statistic.” I leave it to you to decide which is the greater evil, the psychopath or the indifferent technocrat? What Hitler did, I doubt any other German would have engineered, while what Stalin did any other Soviet leader, faced with the same set of circumstances (feeding Moscow, after having first destroyed the Russian farmers’ ability to feed themselves…by a plan that didn’t work…oops!…) would have done the same thing. The Soviet  system would have dictated it.

I submit that any system based on indifference…reliable, predictable indifference to humanity as we understand it to be…is the greatest evil on the face of the earth.

In recent revelations at the VA, it has been reported by insiders that why the Phoenix VA, and no doubt other hospitals, set up a separate set of books of patients awaiting treatment, was because administrators had to show a clean set of books…that every patient had been admitted for care…so they could receive special performance-based pay bonuses. It’s as simple as that.

And how a 100 or so veterans died is because of a simple but overlooked law of bureaucracy: that once those patients are stricken from the books, they no longer exist in the bureaucratic mind. Indifference.

Enter Eric Shinseki, tasked with the job of cutting this Gordian knot at the VA. (Personally, I think this job was a sinecure, and Shinseki had no real mission other than to kick back.) Although a man who has risen through the ranks as a toady from the earliest days of Obama, first as his Army Chief of Staff, I could almost feel sorry for Shinseki, for he faced the almost impossible mission of having to fix the VA in the only way it could be fixed, and that is by firing people. Lots of them. And in the senior ranks of the civil service, GS-10 and up. And he couldn’t. Or wouldn’t.

Everybody knows what the problem in the VA is; bureaucratic sloth, incompetence, and arrogance of power, and that is just middle-management against upper-VA management. But for Obama to fire Shinseki would be to admit what two million Americans who’ve lost their heath care plans already know, namely that Barack Obama doesn’t know squat about selecting good horse flesh…only his narcissism prevents him acknowledging this, either to the world or to himself, so the VA beat goes on.

So first and foremost, like the bureaucracy, the narcissist is indifferent to the sensitivities, pains and discomforts of others. Only so is the sociopath and there’s the rub. The bureaucracy’s entire world view is through it’s own lens of personal survival and advancement. The original mission that created it and enabled it quickly slides to the second tier of priorities, and often off the page altogether.

This law is equally true in the private corporate sector as well as governments, only, when they fail another private company moves in to fill the vacuum. A government, however, can prevent its own failure, usually by the simple expedient of raising taxes. The Founders understood this, so they designed a government that would be answerable to the marketplace and all the stockholders, rather than a single board of directors, so that it could easily be replaced when it got too fat. That has changed.

I can’t speak for Lenin or Stalin as to whether they saw the bureaucracy as a necessary evil, or like Marx, was indifferent to the whole idea of bureaucracy so long as it consolidated power (which it does). But the modern  American left, since Wilson, and growing steadily since, sees the bureaucracy, top to bottom, to be the state’s number one constituency. They court it. They want to make it grow. Do any of you out there doubt this? We have many fine Americans who are government employees, and many would qualify as “bureaucrats” (versus service providers, i.e., school teachers vs administrators at the board of education, etc), but most of the good ones will agree that as many as half of the people in their office or department are useless, and that the office runs on the shoulders of only a few key people. The rest are dross.

This is always the case.

But it is also true that those deadbeats are the most reliable voters, and they vote for the hand that feeds them. Regardless of how the Soviets viewed the buffer zone of bureaucrats that eventually killed their system, the American ssytem actively pursues them, and they pursue them under the theory that compassionate American voters would never fire them once hired. Since Obama has been in office the ranks of federal hires has accounted for the majority of higher paying jobs in America, while entry-level federal jobs (GS-3) have remained flat.

Consequently, the federal and state bureaucracies are the principal constituencies of the Democrat Party, not the folks back home, since most of the money they raise through taxation goes to their care and keeping. The Dems probably enjoy a 6o-40 split here. But they will someday kill us just as they did Stalin’s USSR. When I was in the USSR in 1991 the leading cause of AIDS was dirty needles…in clinics, because health care providers no longer cared to sterilize them.

Now there are good-better-best ways to cure this, depending on whether it’s the VA, Department of Education, Department of Agriculture, or EPA. Just like transportation unions, they can shut down government, and they can even take to streets, with the full weight of media sympathy. I have a 20-year attrition plan that is movie worthy for a brave producer,. But the gang-mower method is the most expeditious and cost-saving.

Containing the bureaucracy should be a top issue to be tackled by presidential candidates in 2016. It’s why I favored Herman Cain, a private sector problem solver, in 2012, for he’d been through this before, and from a private conversation I liked his plans for dealing with it. Just know, especially for the Romney, Christie, Jeb Bush wing of the Republican Party, American government is no longer a well tended garden on a level tract of land than can be tended with a rake and hoe. The VA debacle proves it now requires a bush hog and weed whacker to clean up this mess., and this is where both Reagan and Bush held back.

Bottom line: Indifference is now abroad in the land and it is accelerating it growth. And we are all at risk. Just ask any Russian who can remember the dreams they dreamt in 1992, and how that worked out for them.

If you are going to sin against God, or the bureaucracy, sin against God. At least He will forgive you. (Admiral Rickover)





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