Monday, October 13, 2008

FEMAfication

Paul Krugman on how a smart guy like Henry Paulson managed to screw up the response to the financial meltdown:

It’s hard to avoid the sense that Mr. Paulson’s initial response was distorted by ideology. Remember, he works for an administration whose philosophy of government can be summed up as “private good, public bad,” which must have made it hard to face up to the need for partial government ownership of the financial sector.

I also wonder how much the Femafication of government under President Bush contributed to Mr. Paulson’s fumble. All across the executive branch, knowledgeable professionals have been driven out; there may not have been anyone left at Treasury with the stature and background to tell Mr. Paulson that he wasn’t making sense.

Luckily for the world economy, however, Gordon Brown and his officials are making sense. And they may have shown us the way through this crisis.

(hat tip, Kevin Drum commenter)

The FEMAfication refers, of course, to the disastrous Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) response to Katrina under unqualified political appointees.

One useful (but unpopular) thing a President Obama could do would be to get rid of 95%, or better, 99%, of the thousands of political appointees every president chooses and replace them with career professionals.

Nothing like that could happen under McCain, of course. Sarah Palin proves that the Republican party remains, to borrow another Krugman phrase, "the Party of stupid."

The problem with Republicans is that their ideology keeps colliding with reality, and with that, colliding with the opinions of knowledgeable experts. Their response has been to proclaim that expertise doesn't matter. On dozens of subjects from foreign policy to economics to evolution to the environment, Republicans have chosen their gut over the brains of the experts. We are reaping the fruits.