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The Next Step

We now have a whole collection of programs operating on the principles of government by performance, they are all successful, but it is time to ask a key question, "Why are they separate programs?". One of the principles of government by performance was to keep federal prescriptions out of the mix, but with a whole collection of separately funded and managed performance based programs, we now have allowed a federal prescription to creep back. The separate programs each have separate funding, so, in effect, we have the federal government telling cities and states exactly which pile of dollars they are allowed to spend on which programs. This is just another federal prescription that should be done away with.

Some cities will have a bigger problem with schools than with crime, other cities will have a bigger problem with their roads and sewers, other cities might have perfectly modern infrastructure, but be facing a big crime problem. It is fine for the federal government to be setting goals for the whole country (in fact, it is refreshing to actually have some of them written down and regularly measured), but the federal government should not be telling the cities how much to spend on which problems. The cities have a much better feel for their own unique problems, and could do a much better job of deciding how their resources should be allocated.

So the obvious next step is to merge all the performance based programs which now exist into a single performance based program. Instead of allocating funds for each one individually, all the funds are lumped together. Congress would get the additional task of creating a formula each year giving the relative priorities of each of the performance goals and saying how collective progress will be measured. A single fund will now be distributed based on the overall combined performance of each city, and the cities will be free to decide for themselves how best to maximize their overall performance.

If the people of the country don't like the priorities Congress sets, they can always elect new members of Congress in the next election (but it will be a foolish congresscritter who will set priorities against the wishes of constituents). If the people in a city don't like the approach their city government is taking to selecting which goals to give high priority locally, they can express their feelings about that in a city council meeting or in the next election.

With large chunks of money now flowing only to projects which publicly show measurable good performance, taxpayers will start to get used to the idea that they can expect government to work right and to spend their money where it does some good.

At the end of this phase, we will have a few things no government has ever had before:

  1. An actual published list of performance goals for the country, with relative priorities for each goal. No longer will the people say the country is "headed in the wrong direction", because they will finally be able to look at a map and see exactly where it is headed.
  2. An actual published "report card" showing exactly how good a job your city is doing in relation to other cities. No spin doctors need apply. Every city is measured and rated by the same standards against the same goals.
  3. Proof positive that government no longer throws good money after bad (at least in the parts of government that are in the government by performance program). We have the performance measurements and the performance formula for allocation of funds, and the money stops flowing if the performance stops. Taxpayers deserve to have their money spent only where it is doing some good, and at last they will be able to see that happening.
  4. Many more important decisions being made at the local level instead of in Washington. This gives ordinary citizens a much greater opportunity to influence the impact of government on their lives. Most folks can get into a city council meeting and speak their piece, but addressing the Congress is much less likely.
  5. As a larger and larger part of the job of a congresscritter becomes setting goals and priorities, elections will more and more be debates about goals and priorities. This can only be an improvement.

The only thing left to do is drag the rest of government (kicking and screaming if necessary) into the government by performance program.


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