864 calls for help, fewer than 300 right answers | Bleader

864 calls for help, fewer than 300 right answers


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Last Monday the Government Accountability Office reported on 864 phone calls (PDF) to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which runs the new Medicare prescription drug program. GAO researchers received accurate and complete answers about one-third of the time. That's not even halfway to a passing grade.

Alan Wolfe wouldn't be surprised. As he recently argued in the Washington Monthly:

"Conservatives cannot govern well for the same reason that vegetarians cannot prepare a world-class boeuf bourguignon: If you believe that what you are called upon to do is wrong, you are not likely to do it very well."

More specifically, conservatives get elected by promising to shrink government, but they can't get re-elected without responding to constituents who want government to improve their lives. So, as Wolfe puts it, "contemporary conservatism is a walking contradiction. Unable to shrink government but unwilling to improve it, conservatives attempt to split the difference, expanding government for political gain, but always in ways that validate their disregard for the very thing they are expanding."

This argument would have struck me as extreme and implausible five years ago. Today it makes sense. Is it just me? Or is our best hope for sanity someone like Bill Clinton, who talked liberal but often governed from the right?