COMMON SENSE SOLUTIONS

January 31, 2019 at 10:25 am

Getting rid of gridlock on capitol hill, Philip K. Howard, noted advocate for simplifying government, is here with a common sense solutions so things can actually get done.

Aired on January 30, 2019.

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>>> FOR YEARS, AUTHOR PHILLIP K.
HOWARD HAS BEEN WARNING US OF
THE DIRE CONSEQUENCES TO
AMERICAN DEMOCRACY POSED BY OUR
WOEFULLY DYSFUNCTIONAL
GOVERNMENT.
FOR YEARS HE'S BEEN PROPOSING
SOLUTIONS TO BRING MUCH-NEEDED
REFORM TO OUR POLITICAL SYSTEM.
IN HIS NEW BOOK, "TRY COMMON
SENSE," HE LAYS OUT A BLUEPRINT
FOR NOT JUST REFORMING
GOVERNMENT BUT REINVENTING IT IN
A FUNDAMENTAL WAY.
JOINING US NOW TO TALK ABOUT
THOSE IDEAS IS BESTSELLING
AUTHOR AND FOUNDER OF THE
NONPARTISAN COALITION COMMON
GOOD, PHILLIP K. HOWARD.
WELCOME BACK TO THE PROGRAM.
>> NICE TO BE WITH YOU.
>> PHILLIP, IN MOST OF YOUR
PREVIOUS BOOKS, ALL THE ONES
I'VE READ, YOU HAVE MADE THE
ARGUMENT THAT BUREAUCRACIES AND
THEIR ATTENDANT RULES AND
REGULATIONS HAVE GROWN SO VAST
THAT THEY'VE TAKEN A LIFE OF
THEIR OWN, CREATING -- MAKING
GOVERNMENTS AT ALL LEVELS
DYSFUNCTIONAL, AND IF THAT
CONTINUES, IT COULD BE FATAL TO
OUR DEMOCRACY.
DO I HAVE IT RIGHT?
>> YEAH, THAT'S RIGHT.
BUT WHAT'S HAPPENED IS IT'S NOT
JUST ABOUT THE DYSFUNCTION OF
GOVERNMENT.
IT'S ABOUT THE DYSFUNCTION OF
SOCIETY.
SO WHAT I TALK ABOUT IN THIS
BOOK ARE THE FORCES THAT GOT
TRUMP ELECTED AND CREATED
POPULARITY FOR SOMEWHAT EXTREME
CANDIDATES ON THE LEFT AS WELL.
AND THERE'S THIS SORT OF SENSE
OF -- WHETHER IT'S ALIENATION,
AND ALIENATION COMES FROM PEOPLE
WHO DON'T FEEL A SENSE OF
OWNERSHIP IN THEIR OWN LIVES,
THEY WAKE UP IN THE MORNING AND
THEY DON'T FEEL THEY CAN MAKE A
DIFFERENCE.
THEY CAN'T INFLUENCE THEIR OWN
SCHOOLS, THE RULES TELL YOU HOW
TO DO THINGS.
THEY CAN'T HAVE ARGUMENTS ABOUT
RIGHT AND WRONG BECAUSE THERE'S
THE THREAT OF A LAWSUIT OR
THERE'S ANOTHER RULE, YOU HAVE
TO DO IT THIS WAY.
AND REALLY EVERY PROFESSION,
TEACHERS, DOCTORS, YOU KNOW, HR
ISSUES IN THE WORKPLACE, TRYING
TO GET A PERMIT FROM THE
GOVERNMENT, IT'S ALL BECOME
PROGRESSIVELY PARALITTIC.
>> YOU'RE ARGUING THIS SENSE OF
HELPLESSNESS AND POWERLESSNESS
THAT AMERICANS ARE FEELING
BECAUSE OF THE WAY THINGS HAVE
DEVELOPED IS WHAT HAS MOTIVATED
THEM, DRIVEN THEM TO GO TO
EXTREME POLITICAL IDEOLOGIES AND
EXTREME POLITICAL CANDIDATES?
>> YES, ABSOLUTELY.
FRANCES BUKIAMA HAD A BOOK OUT
LAST YEAR ABOUT IDENTITY, ABOUT
HOW AT THE SOURCE -- THE BOTTOM
OF ALIENATION ISN'T JUST THAT
GOVERNMENT IS INEFFICIENT AND
INEFFECTIVE, WHICH IT CLEARLY
IS.
THERE'S NOT A PROGRAM THAT'S NOT
BROKEN.
BUT PEOPLE DON'T FEEL THEY'RE
IMPORTANT ANYMORE.
WHEN THAT HAPPENS, AS HAPPENED
IN THE 1930s, PEOPLE GRAB ONTO
ABSOLUTIST IDEOLOGIES, ON BOTH
SIDES.
>> IT'S VERY DANGEROUS.
>> IT'S A VERY DANGEROUS TIME
FOR DEMOCRACY.
AND WHAT I ARGUE IN THIS BOOK
IS, WE CAN'T REALLY REPAIR IT.
>> WE'LL GET TO THAT, BUT GIVE
US SOME -- A MORE EXTENDED AND
CONCRETE EXAMPLE OF THE THINGS
THAT ARE WRONG.
>> ALL DAY LONG.
IF YOU WANT TO START A
RESTAURANT IN NEW YORK CITY, YOU
HAVE TO GO GET APPROVALS FROM 11
DIFFERENT AGENCIES.
HOW IS SOMEBODY SUPPOSED TO KNOW
WHAT THE AGENCIES ARE AND
TRAIPSE AROUND?
IT WOULD COST A LOT IN LAWYER'S
FEES, WHICH MOST SMALL BUSINESS
PEOPLE DON'T HAVE THE MONEY FOR,
OR IT WILL TAKE SIX MONTHS.
OTHER COUNTRIES HAVE ONE-STOP
SHOPS WHERE THEY HELP YOU
NAVIGATE IT.
THAT'S ONE LITTLE EXAMPLE.
IN TERMS OF THE COST OF
GOVERNMENT AND THE WASTE IN
GOVERNMENT.
THE SECOND AVENUE SUBWAY IN NEW
YORK CITY COST $2.5 BILLION PER
MILE TO TUNNEL.
THE SAME SIZE TUNNEL, USING
EXACTLY THE SAME MACHINERY, IN
PARIS, FRANCE, A COUNTRY NOT
KNOWN FOR ITS EFFICIENT WORK
LAWS, COST ONE FIFTH AS MUCH.
ONE FIFTH, 20% AS MUCH.
AND THE REASON IT COSTS SO
MUCH -- THERE ARE A NUMBER OF
REASONS BUT ONE OF THE REASONS
IS THAT THE BUREAUCRATIC RULES
AND THE LABOR RULES AND
ENTITLEMENTS HAVE GROWN UP, YOU
KNOW, SORT OF LIKE KUDZU OVER,
YOU KNOW, OVER THE LAST 50
YEARS, SO THAT YOU HAVE TWO OR
THREE TIMES AS MANY PEOPLE
RUNNING THE TUNNEL.
YOU HAVE HOURS THAT ARE REALLY
CONSTRAINED.
YOU HAVE ALL THESE REQUIREMENTS,
SOME OF WHICH MAY MAKE SENSE AND
MANY OF WHICH DON'T.
>> BUT HOW DID IT COME TO THIS?
HOW DID THESE BUREAUCRACIES AND
THESE RULES AND REGULATIONS
DEVELOP?
YOU READ YOUR BOOKS AND
SOMETIMES YOU THINK, I MEAN,
IT'S AN INEXORABLE, INEVITABLE
THAT THESE THINGS HAPPEN, BUT
THERE ARE PEOPLE RESPONSIBLE.
>> SURE.
ALL OF WASHINGTON, JUST FOR THE
STATUS QUO, ALL THOSE 5,000
INTEREST GROUPS, THEY WANT TO
KEEP THINGS THE WAY THEY ARE.
THERE ARE ARMIES PROTECTING EACH
RULE THAT SOMEBODY IS MAKING
MONEY ON.
IT'S TRUE WITH CORPORATE TAX
WELFARE AND LABOR RULES.
THERE ARE ALL THESE SUBSIDIES
FROM THE NEW DEAL FOR FARMERS.
THAT'S BEEN 75 YEARS SINCE THE
FARMER WAS IN DANGER OF
STARVING, YET WE STILL HAVE
THESE SUBSIDIES.
IT COSTS $15 BILLION A YEAR.
>> YOU SAY THIS CANNOT BE
REFORMED.
WE ONLY HAVE A COUPLE OF MINUTES
LEFT.
TELL US IN THOSE TWO MINUTES
WHAT IS TO BE DONE.
>> FUNDAMENTALLY WHAT HAPPENS IS
YOU NEED TO REPLACE 1,000-PAGE
RULE BOOKS NOT WITH
DEREGULATION, THAT'S WHERE THE
REPUBLICANS ARE WRONG, BUT WITH
MORE PRACTICAL, SIMPLER CODES
THAT PEOPLE CAN UNDERSTAND, AND
GIVE PEOPLE THE FLEXIBILITY IN
THEIR COMMUNITIES TO TRY AND
MAKE SENSE OF THEM AND THEN BE
ACCOUNTABLE.
THAT'S HOW LAW WORKS, THAT'S HOW
THE CONSTITUTION WORKS.
YOU LOOK AT ANY PUBLIC SCHOOL
THAT WORKS, IT'S BECAUSE PEOPLE
ARE ROLLING UP THEIR SLEEVES AND
DOING WHAT THEY THINK WORK BEST,
NOT BECAUSE THEY'RE SITTING
THERE WITH THEIR NOSES IN RULE
BOOKS.
SO WE NEED TO SIMPLIFY
EVERYTHING, TO GIVE PEOPLE
BACK -- TO RESTORE HUMAN AGENCY.
LET PEOPLE WAKE UP AND FEEL
IMPORTANT.
>> QUICKLY, HOW DO WE MAKE THIS
HAPPEN?
WHO ARE THE AGENTS THAT ARE
GOING TO FORCE THIS ON A
BUREAUCRACY OR AN AL ELITE THAT
DOESN'T WANT TO CHANGE?
>> I ARGUE IN THE BOOK WHY
NEITHER PARTY IS GOING TO SOLVE
THE PROBLEM.
I'M TALKING TO SOME POLITICAL
LEADERS NOW, MODERATES ON BOTH
SIDES, AND BY THE WAY, THIS NEW
MOVEMENT SHOULDN'T BE A LAUNDRY
LIST OF REFORMS.
IT SHOULD BE FUNDAMENTAL
PRINCIPLES, LIKE INDIVIDUAL
RESPONSIBILITY AND
ACCOUNTABILITY, A HIERARCHY FOR
PEOPLE TO MAKE DECISIONS AND TO
HAVE THEM, YOU KNOW, SORT OF
REVIEWED SO THERE AREN'T ABUSES.
IT'S BASIC PRINCIPLES WE'VE LOST
SIGHT OF.
GOVERNMENT IS NOT GOVERNMENT,
IT'S BUREAUCRATIC KUDZU.
>> IN ABOUT 20 SECONDS, YOU'VE
WRITTEN MANY BOOKS BEFORE,
OFFERED MANY SUGGESTIONS.
BUT WE'RE STILL HERE.
WHAT GIVES YOU THE OPTIMISM THAT
THIS TIME YOU WILL BE LISTENED
TO?
>> CHANGE DOESN'T HAPPEN
INCREMENTALLY.
IT HAPPENS IN BIG GULPS.
IT HAPPENED IN THE 1930s, THE
NEW DEAL, THE PROGRESSIVE ERA.
DONALD TRUMP IS A SYMPTOM OF THE
FACT THAT WE HAVE CHANGE COMING.
CHANGE IS NOT AVOIDABLE.
THE QUESTION IS WHAT THE CHANGE
IS GOING TO BE.
>> THANK YOU SO MUCH, PHILLIP,
AN INTERESTING CONVERSATION.
>> THANKS SO MUCH.

Mutual of America PSEG

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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