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JerkIn her aerie high above the teeming avenues of her beloved New York, Sister Peggy Noonan of the Order of Beefeaters Straight leafed through the mail her man-servant had fetched from the box on the co-op’s first floor. She was in a dark mood, as so often seemed the case these days. The country was sick in spirit, unable to put together a working web-page or clean a hotel room properly. Worst of all, the country was failing to care for all those thousands of veterans of its recent wars. Not caring for veterans! Why, she was righteously indignant about the fate of all those people she knew existed somewhere (she was sure of this, she had seen them on her television). How dare the terrible Moor in the White House whom she had loathed since Day One not care for these broken shells of human beings that the man she had championed to be his predecessor had created! It was a travesty, one which she could surely pretend to be outraged about while ignoring her own small part in its creation.

The scandal also prompts this thought: Barack Obama is killing the reputation of government. He is killing the thing he loves through insufficient oversight […]

The president’s inattention to management…is undercutting what he stands for, the progressive project that says the federal government is the primary answer to the nation’s ills.

Is there anyone left on the planet, outside of the feverish imaginations of Peggy and her fellow wingnuts, who thinks that moderate, technocratic centrist Barack Obama is a progressive who believes this about the federal government? Peggy, Bo and Sunny know Obama doesn’t believe that.

Anyway, we’re so old we can remember when Peggy thought that the IRS scandal was going to kill the progressive dream of people trusting government to solve problems. And when she thought the rough rollout of Obamacare would kill that dream. And when she thought the contraception mandate would do it in. And when … you get the point.

It appears that part of the VA story is that local managers and administrators were given bonuses and the prospect of promotions for reducing wait times — so they falsified the records. What was meant to be an incentive to productivity became an incentive to lie.

Have we seen this before? Yes. The VA scandal is starting to look like the public school scandals in which administrators fudge test scores to get more money for themselves and their schools. Higher test scores equal more money and a chance to advance professionally. So they claim higher scores.

Whatever extra money some school administrators received in whatever these scandals were pales in comparison to the money earned by unscrupulous mortgage brokers who preyed on wannabe homeowners during the real estate bubble of the last decade. It certainly pales in comparison to the money earned by unscrupulous banks and financial industry professionals right before they nearly destroyed the world’s economy a few years ago. It just wouldn’t be a Peggy Noonan column if she didn’t throw some shade at public schools and the terrible teachers unions while ignoring the far greater crimes of the private sector.

Making sure that things work doesn’t seem to be his conception of his job. Words are his job. He argues for a bill, the bill becomes a program, and someone else will make it work. He talks about health care for three years, it debuts with a terrible crash, and he’s shocked.

Once again, you withered old corn husk, the website had a terrible debut and has now been fixed. You know this is true because the GOP has stopped screaming about it every five seconds. The program that is Obamacare did not crash. The program that is Obamacare has gotten access to affordable health insurance and Medicaid for millions of Americans who did not have it before, and the country’s health care spending has slowed to its lowest rate of growth in fifty years. This was an explicit goal of Obamacare, and it is being achieved, even with Talky McTalkstein’s apparently terrible executive management skills.

The current lack of serious and effective management damages the progressive project because it presents that project as utterly cynical. It presents progressives as people who don’t really care. If they cared, they’d oversee. They’d make sure it works when the rubber hits the road. They’d make sure the thing they supposedly want to happen (first-rate treatment for vets, for instance) happens.

We’re not going to pretend to know a whole lot of detail about the current scandal, largely because it is still unfolding. We do know that the Veterans Administration has been a fucked-up mess since long before Obama came into office and does not seem to have gotten any better. Is part of the current problem the result of poor management from the very top of the administration? Likely. Is it partly a result of the VA being as underfunded as many other government departments? Also highly likely. Did congressional Republicans underfund the VA? No question that is true.

But the big question: would the VA be so overburdened today if the foreign policies of the last administration, the one that came from Peggy’s own party, had not done such a great job of creating so many veterans in desperate need of extensive medical and psychological care? Most definitely. Maybe Peggy should have thought about the burden she would be putting on veterans and the people tasked with caring for them before she cheered on Dubya’s military adventures. It is the height of dishonesty to write a column about the mess at the VA and not at least acknowledge your own small role in creating that mess.

Jesus H. Christ on an appointment waiting list, Peggy. Please retire soon, before fact-checking your bullshit column every week kills us.

[WSJ]

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