Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Why Are Some Reforms So Much Harder Than Others?

A coalition of labor organizations and liberal groups believes it can stop President Bush’s proposed Social Security reforms before they even get out of committee. They’ve targeted eight Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee that they believe can be convinced to vote against privatization of Social Security.

Right now, Republicans have a 24-17 edge on the committee so just flipping four of the eight targets would stall any reform legislation in committee. Much like Clinton’s attempt to reform healthcare, President Bush’s attempt to reform Social Security seems likely to wither on the vine. And once again we’ll hear how our Congress can’t make major reforms.

But this isn’t true. Clinton and a Republican congress made some sweeping welfare reforms. And recently we’ve witnessed major reforms in the intelligence community. Reform is possible. But it’s a lot about timing. Clinton tried to reform healthcare as we emerged from a recession and before HMOs had soured most of the nation on the current system. And now Bush is trying to reform Social Security in the midst of a hiccupping economy and in an environment where “security” is still a very important idea.

I admired Clinton for tackling healthcare (even if the plan presented was poor) and I admire Bush for tackling Social Security. But I think the lesson we may be learning is that most Presidential legacies are not forced into place. They are built on responses to problems identified not by the man in office but by the public at large or the events of the world. Or, in the case of welfare reform (or Nixon’s visit to China), they are built by a President breaking with tradition and reforming one of his party’s own policies.

Maybe Bush should tackle healthcare. Demand for reform is significant and a Republican finding a way to insure all Americans would definitely be a break from tradition. Unfortunately, it may be too late for such a bold move. I have a feeling Bush’s legacy will be nailed firmly to the war on terror with anything he achieves domestically a distant second.


At 4:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I view some Reforms as being more difficult than others, not harder. In a funny way, reading this section left me to wanting to “reform” your section. In some ways asking the question of reform as you have can be simplistic, however perhaps to understand it better, a deeper view is required. As you briefly stated, there are many sublevel variables that relate to how difficult a Reform might be than others. Any one of these variables is a factor that needs to be understood.

Certainly by the time we start working on reforming anything, it's probably years over due anyway. Lag time that plays into this is another problem that needs to be accepted and is part of the decision making process as well.

Timing with surfacing the reform is important. When everyone wants something, timing might be considered to be at it’s best. It would also be far less difficult to move it through the process. One reason for this is the topic is already well known and understood. Of course, there is a difference between being known and understood as those voting need to understand it.

To reform issues that may be complex and not well known, sales and marketing efforts are needed to raise awareness. Emergencies though, can force change by speeding up the process and issue reforming will take place in record time. Reformed issues have a life cycle and proceed through processes that can be measured in calendar time. Hence, depending upon variables, the life cycle in time of this process is a sliding scale.

Creativity involves making continuous ongoing decisions. These decisions are progressively evolutionary intending to improve a focused goal. This means that what we create today, even with the best minds and intentions, still will need to be improved later. A good example is that Windows started with version 1.0, what are you running on your computer today? Versions are necessary because they catalog progressive improvements. Reform is change and sometimes involves changing an existing system. Hence, reform can produce a new version.

Clinton to me is more of an opportunist and would be expected to do well with “timing” situations. Wasn’t the major reform in the intelligence community a result from an emergency? Comparing creativity as an evolutionary process with reforming the intelligence community, what took place was a need to produce a better version. Because of the intense World Wide criticism with such a highly rated issue, it really qualified as an emergency and moved along quickly.

Clinton’s try with tackling healthcare gave us something to think about. As mentioned above, creativity is evolutionary. In order to start the process, you need to surface the first one and allow opportunities for criticism. As Windows version 1.0 is long gone, now we have something to really crow about. Hence, what’s important is to at least try.

The Healthcare issue to me is important but not at a point where it can be resolved. There are more than a few “things” on the front that have yet to be surfaced. Aside from this is what might be considered an out of control wide spread corruption problem that threatens to undermine the best attempt to reform the Industry. Certainly, looking back through the news, it’s easy to see that many things are being done to clean up the existing mess, but if reform is attempted now, it may well turn out to be a disaster. The corruption problem is enormously out of control and takes root in most all areas that have links to Healthcare. Just to name one – how about the scandal in the Insurance area, Healthcare insurance is one of those and there’s a lot more yet to do.
Deep throat II


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