Monday, March 24, 2014

The Push and Pull of the Bureaucracy

"Items discussed with DAFO include the need for more Key PT’s. One state was able to hire more than the national notice allowed. I encourage each state to get with your SED and figure out a plan to request more."
The budget proposal to cut positions and close county offices is the big issue.  I've already noticed Sen. Gillibrand voicing opposition to closing offices in NY, and I assume that's happening elsewhere.  Since I'm retired, I shouldn't really comment, but the two sentences I quote struck me.  It's an example of how the field can out-maneuver the DC bureaucrats.  For a political scientist, it might be an instance of "rational choice", the idea that people in the bureaucracies look out for the interests of the bureaucracy, not the public.  But applying the idea of the free market to such issues, you could say the "interests of the public" are the result of the interplay of the struggle of various interests.  I think Madison's Federalist #10 might be an example of that.

There's been a long but sporadic effort in USDA to rationalize the county office structure, going back to 1976, an effort having two thrusts: establishing service centers, with multiple agencies in one location, and closing offices which no longer serve a lot of farmers.   There's been a lot of resistance to the effort, so the result has been less consolidation and fewer offices closed than the DC planners hoped to achieve but more than county employees and farmers wanted.

In the broader view, a similar process has been going on for over a century.  The rural population has dwindled in parts of the country ever since 1900 or so.  Reformers, possibly including my grandfather, thought the rural church needed to consolidate--rather than Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, etc. small churches in small towns, why not get together into one which could afford better ministers, support more Sunday schools and other amenities.  Don't think it worked out.

Just recently I saw a blog post on the closing of rural hospitals in Georgia--similar idea I'd think. (Greene, NY, which was our market town, used to have a hospital but it closed in the early 60's, I believe.) 

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