Adept at inept

By Neal Larson

I challenge my conservative friends to a duel! At least those who assert the government doesn’t do anything well. Some things, they do remarkably well.

Like a computer, the government works exactly as programmed. It’s just that sometimes the programmers are idiots or malevolents. While we point to the failure of the IRS, VA, HHS, and a whole bunch of other alphabet soup agencies that have become well known for their recent ineptitude, I find myself asking a simple question: Why aren’t food stamp recipients getting lost on waiting lists? How is it that the government can smoothly deliver the dietary demands for around 50 million Americans, but not the health needs for around 21 million of our afflicted and ailing heroes? Seems like the lines of dependents move smoothly, while lines for those who produce and give to society get relegated to waiting lists… or forgotten altogether.

I know, that’s an apples to oranges comparison. I get it. Procuring food is a pretty simple and straightforward process that doesn’t require coordination between multiple food providers and specialists. (Fill up the cart with expensive steaks, take-and-bake pizza, candy, and junk food, swipe the card, and boom — you’re done!) But let’s not throw out the whole comparison just yet. The very reason procuring food in America is so simple and straightforward is easy to explain: it’s handled by the private sector.

If the government decided to herd the dependent class into its own “grocery distribution centers” it would be like having to go to the DMV for food. In fact, let’s put a mirror up to this comparison. If the private sector ran the DMV for the government, on a competitive basis, getting your driver’s license and license plates might be as inconvenient as going to the Redbox.

It must absolutely rip the left to emotional pieces that their theories of collectivism and central planning — so beautiful on paper — become embarrassing headlines involving mismanagement, fraud, corruption, cover-up, neglect, etc. Yes, of course these things happen in the private sector. The difference is that economic natural selection usually weeds out the bad players in the private sector. Think Enron. Think ValuJet. The government on the other hand, responds to failure by forming a committee to discuss the possibility of convening a second committee to conduct an assessment to suggest tweaks to possibly change the policies of an interim panel looking at maybe doing something at some point. If the survival of government agencies depended on the satisfaction of its patrons, would the IRS still exist? How about the VA? Or HHS? I’m pretty sure they’d be sharing space in the bottom of history’s dustbin along with all the private sector ventures that were — also — led by the inept and corrupt.

Perhaps we can take a little lesson from the smashing success of the food stamp program. Give veterans a voucher to go shopping. Not for food, but for their own health care. If the government wants to compete for those health care dollars, ok. If they get to compete, then they have to compete. Let’s stop trying to force our heroes into a non-competitive broken system that is a clear example of what happens when the government tries to run something important.

The government does a few things remarkably well. They redistribute wealth very well. The cultivate dependency like no other. They punish our heroes adroitly.

We should never say the government can’t do anything right.

Neal Larson of Idaho Falls is a conservative talk show host on KID Newsradio 590am and 92.1fm, and also at “The Neal Larson Show” can be heard weekday mornings from 8:00 to 10:00. His email address is