What Does It Take to Run the Federal Government?

Yesterday I suggested that, in effect, Americans stop electing Presidents and their running mates and start electing administrations. I proposed that we voters should know before our Presidential elections -not after who the key appointees will be in the administrations of our candidates. In other words, I suggest that we should know not only the president and his or her running mate, but also who the president will appoint to head the departments of Defense, State, Health, Justice, and at the minimum every one of the 20 cabinet level agencies and departments in our government.

When we cast our votes our decisions should not be based solely on the personality or charisma of the presidential candidate and running mate but his or her ability to assemble and lead a team of competent governmental executives.

Before the last election I unsuccessfully tried to convince the Democratic Party and the Kerry team to adopt this strategy and tell America who would work with Kerry in his administration. We all knew who the incumbents were; I wanted his team to show Americans the administration he would appoint. This idea fell on deaf ears that I knew were more concerned about election strategy than in showing Americans what and how American government would change with a Kerry team.

From that frustrating experience I've concluded that such an approach – one that runs a team of people rather than just two - must originate outside the two party system. So yesterday I suggested that a group be organized for 2008 to give America not only a choice outside of the Republican and Democratic parties but also to give America a look at who the top people would be that would work in the President's government.

What does it take to run the Federal Government? There are over one million federal employee and over 3,000 of them are appointed by the President to be in charge of this gigantic operation that we call the government.

Take a look at the Progressive Government Institute. We’ve created an online model of this mammoth infrastructure where we look at a few thousand of the appointees and where they fit into the whole government structure. When you get into understanding the breath and depth of our government, you’ll likely be overwhelmed by its complexity. We sure were and it took us thousands of work hours to identify the 2,500 people or so that we profile at the PGI website.

And then, once seeing how the government and that appointees that make up its top echelon, imagine what it takes for each of these appointees to do their job? For instance the Secretary of Agriculture, Michael Johanns has 109,832 people and a discretionary budget of $19.1 billion under his command. Clearly, this is a massive body to deal with and to do so well requires particular skills, experiences, and expertise. We need to know who will fill these roles before we elect a president.

And Becca summed it up perfectly in yesterday’s blog: "This 'cult of personality' is damning and damaging to our country. We need to know who the people are that really run the country and if they are competent or not." On the other hand, Ernie and Simon thought I was dreaming and I appreciate their criticism.

Daguy went further with his incredulity reminding us: "If you remember, both the Green & Libertarian Party candidates were detained by authorities and prevented from even attending the Presidential debates."

Certainly, pulling this off would take one hell of an effort.

But, what I say to Daguy and others who claim there isn't enough money or enough of anything to pull this off is that the internet has changed the rules. Rich people no longer rule (the average political contribution to Howard Dean's campaign was around $50). And one doesn't need an existing political party infrastructure to find volunteers to collect signatures to get our candidates on the ballot of every state. Hundreds of thousands of volunteers were organized by both parties in 2004 via the ‘net!

Finally to those of you who thought I was suggesting a change to our election system or constitution let me state clearly that I suggest no such thing. What I am doing is urging us citizens to change the way we decide who will run our government.