One of These Things is Not Like the Others

Wisdom from Big Bird:

One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn’t belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?
.

I would like to proceed with a simple examination of the success (or not) of the various US Federal cabinet departments toward their stated missions.  I will do this by selecting for examination one or two appropriate measures for each department.

NB: Keep in mind, the success is relative to the mission statement, not based on my views of either the Constitution or libertarian theory.

Horrendous

Department of Defense:

The mission of the Department of Defense is to provide the military forces needed to deter war and to protect the security of our country.

There are fourteen major military operations listed for the United States since World War II.  Other than the 1991 Gulf War, the rest might – at best – be considered dubious victories; more often, embarrassing defeats.

A success rate of 7% would qualify as horrendous.  Weighting the conflicts for cost and lives destroyed, I suspect the success rate would be lower than 1%.  Is there a category below horrendous?

Department of the Treasury:

Maintain a strong economy and create economic and job opportunities by promoting the conditions that enable economic growth and stability at home and abroad, strengthen national security by combating threats and protecting the integrity of the financial system, and manage the U.S. Government’s finances and resources effectively.

Protecting the integrity of the financial system?

The financial crisis of 2007–2008, also known as the Global Financial Crisis and 2008 financial crisis, is considered by many economists to have been the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s.  It threatened the total collapse of large financial institutions, which was prevented by the bailout of banks by national governments, but stock markets still dropped worldwide.

Total collapse = Horrendous.

Department of the Interior:

The U.S. Department of the Interior protects America’s natural resources and heritage, honors our cultures and tribal communities, and supplies the energy to power our future.

Life on the reservation:

  • Living conditions on the reservations have been cited as “comparable to Third World…”
  • …depending on the reservation, four to eight out of ten adults on reservations are unemployed.Among American Indians who are employed, many are earning below poverty wages…
  • The overall percentage of American Indians living below the federal poverty line is 28.2%. The disparity for American Indians living below poverty on the reservations is even greater, reaching 38% to 63% in our service area…
  • “…30% of Indian housing is overcrowded and less than 50% of it is connected to a public sewer.”
  • “The average life expectancy for Native Americans has improved yet still trails that of other Americans by almost 5 years…”

Department of Agriculture:

We provide leadership on food, agriculture, natural resources, rural development, nutrition, and related issues based on sound public policy, the best available science, and efficient management.

Nutrition:

  • Obesity in the United States has been increasingly cited as a major health issue in recent decades. While many industrialized countries have experienced similar increases, obesity rates in the United States are among the highest in the world.
  • Obesity has continued to grow within the United States. Two out of every three Americans are considered to be overweight or obese. During the early 21st century, America often contained the highest percentage of obese people in the world.
  • The United States had the highest rate of obesity for large countries, until obesity rates in Mexico surpassed that of the United States in 2013.

The highest rate…well, until last year.  As one year does not make for a trend, the Department of Agriculture will remain, for now, in the horrendous category.

Department of Transportation:

Serve the United States by ensuring a fast, safe, efficient, accessible and convenient transportation system that meets our vital national interests and enhances the quality of life of the American people, today and into the future.

Transportation infrastructure:

  • …America now ranks 23rd for overall infrastructure quality, between Spain and Chile. Its roads, railways, ports and air-transport infrastructure are all judged mediocre against networks in northern Europe.
  • Americans spend considerably more time commuting than most Europeans; only Hungarians and Romanians take longer to get to work. More time on lower quality roads also makes for a deadlier transport network. With some 15 deaths a year for every 100,000 people, the road fatality rate in America is 60% above the OECD average; 33,000 Americans were killed on roads in 2010.
  • America’s fastest and most reliable line, the north-eastern corridor’s Acela, averages a sluggish 70 miles per hour between Washington and Boston. The French TGV from Paris to Lyon, by contrast, runs at an average speed of 140mph. America’s trains aren’t just slow; they are late. Where European passenger service is punctual around 90% of the time, American short-haul service achieves just a 77% punctuality rating. Long-distance trains are even less reliable.

Old + late + slow + broken + unsafe = horrendous.

Department of Veterans Affairs:

To fulfill President Lincoln’s promise “To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan” by serving and honoring the men and women who are America’s veterans.

VA hospitals:

  • By June 5, 2014, Veterans Affairs internal investigations had identified 35 veterans who had died while waiting for care in the Phoenix VHA system.
  • An internal VA audit released June 9, 2014 found that more than 120,000 veterans were left waiting or never got care and that schedulers were pressured to use unofficial lists or engage in inappropriate practices to make waiting times appear more favorable.
  • On June 11, 2014, the Federal Bureau of Investigation opened a criminal investigation of the VA.
  • President Barack Obama ordered a White House investigation. On June 27, 2014, Obama’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Rob Nabors, reported “significant and chronic system failures” and a “corrosive culture” inside the Veterans Health Administration.

No comment necessary.

Department of Homeland Security:

The Department of Homeland Security has a vital mission: to secure the nation from the many threats we face.

Notable failures; too many to list here.

Very Bad

Department of State:

The Department’s mission is to shape and sustain a peaceful, prosperous, just, and democratic world and foster conditions for stability and progress for the benefit of the American people and people everywhere.

The Global Peace Index:

The Global Peace Index (GPI) is an attempt to measure the relative position of nations’ and regions’ peacefulness.

Out of 162 countries in the ranking, the United States ranks at number 101 – the fourth quintile.  That’s very bad.

Department of Commerce:

The U.S. Department of Commerce promotes job creation, economic growth, sustainable development and improved standards of living for all Americans by working in partnership with businesses, universities, communities and our nation’s workers.

Real Median Household Income in the US has remained flat for the last 15 years.  Very Bad.

Department of Labor:

To foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.

Since 1970, the US unemployment rate has reached 8% or higher four times.  That isn’t good.

Department of Health and Human Services:

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is the U.S. government’s principal agency for protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services, especially for those who are least able to help themselves.

Chronic Disease:

  • As of 2012, about half of all adults—117 million people—have one or more chronic health conditions. One of four adults has two or more chronic health conditions.
  • Seven of the top 10 causes of death in 2010 were chronic diseases. Two of these chronic diseases—heart disease and cancer—together accounted for nearly 48% of all deaths.
  • Obesity is a serious health concern. During 2009­–2010, more than one-third of adults, or about 78 million people, were obese (defined as body mass index [BMI] ≥30 kg/m2). Nearly one of five youths aged 2–19 years was obese (BMI ≥95th percentile).
  • Arthritis is the most common cause of disability. Of the 53 million adults with a doctor diagnosis of arthritis, more than 22 million say arthritis causes them to have trouble with their usual activities.
  • Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, lower limb amputations other than those caused by injury, and new cases of blindness among adults.

Fat, sick, in pain, amputations.  Very bad.

Department of Housing and Urban Development:

HUD’s mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD is working to strengthen the housing market to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes; utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination, and transform the way HUD does business.

The Rent is Too Damn High:

  • Rapidly rising rents and stagnant incomes have made renting an expensive proposition across the country. Nationally, renters are spending more of their income on rent than they have at any point in the past 30 years.
  • …renters across the nation are currently spending almost 19 percent more of their incomes on rent than they did in the pre-bubble period between 1985 and 2000.

Department of Energy:

The mission of the Energy Department is to ensure America’s security and prosperity by addressing its energy, environmental and nuclear challenges through transformative science and technology solutions.

Energy efficiency:

The International Energy Efficiency Scorecard ranks the world’s largest economies on their energy efficiency policies and programs….The US ranks #13 out of 16.

Ahead of only Russia, Brazil, and Mexico.

Department of Education:

ED’s mission is to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.

Performance in mathematics, reading and science:  In mathematics, the United States ranked below the mean performance of the OECD average.  In reading and science, the United States ranked at the mean performance of the OECD average.

Average to below average = Very Bad.

Not Very Good

No examples found.

Meets Expectations

No examples found.

Usually Exceeds Expectations

No examples found.

Excellent

No examples found.

Practically Perfect

Department of Justice:

To enforce the law and defend the interests of the United States according to the law; to ensure public safety against threats foreign and domestic; to provide federal leadership in preventing and controlling crime; to seek just punishment for those guilty of unlawful behavior; and to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans.

For 2012, the US Department of Justice reported a 97% conviction rate.  In an environment defined by mediocrity at best, and failure most often, this is exemplary performance.

I wonder how they do it.

Conclusion:

Did you guess which thing was not like the others?
Did you guess which thing just doesn’t belong?
If you guessed this one is not like the others,
Then you’re absolutely…right!
.

Reprinted with permission from Bionic Mosquito.