Sunday, August 19, 2007

Bush's High Standards Lowered Yet Again

President Bush claims to expect much but continues to backslide on delivery. The latest example is the State Department's rule change relaxing delivery time on expedited passports from one to three weeks. Oh, the price for "fast tracking" remains the same, $60. Did they change the name to "two times slower than previous fast tracking"? Of course not. This is the same administration that dropped key measures of public service for the citizens of Baghdad. When you can't look good, lower the bar or drop the statistic all together.

The problem is management and system capability. If the current process is incapable of meeting stated promises, then change it. Didn't the old passport system deliver within 3-4 weeks? This looks more like a price increase of $60 for the same old service. Some might call that a new tax, but the Bushies hate the word, preferring service fee instead. What did the State Department say about the change?

Spokesman Sean McCormack said the agency changed its rules "to ensure that the department can continue to offer this expedited service consistent with its regulations despite increases in demand for expedited passport processing."

So they lowered the bar to be right. The State Department only has to deliver the service they promise. Who cares about the people needing passports? Welcome to customer service in America today. The current administration derides process, believing that barking orders or bribing people via incentives is sufficient for major and lasting change. Both strategies further distort the system that already needs work. As a result, many people lie or fudge to avoid the heavy hand of punishment or to garner the transitory sweet nectar of rewards.

Without knowledgeable leadership or the tools to change the system, cheating is a predictable response. Yet, leaders act surprised every time. Some thirty percent of publicly traded companies manipulated stock options to maximize their executive incentive compensation. Dell Computer is restating earnings over four years because people lied to achieve their performance targets.

Schools remain under suspicion for cheating on their No Child Left Behind tests. Teachers surely are as smart as American corporate CEO's. Yet the teachers union agreed to help spread the poison.

While the words "merit pay" drew hisses and boos at a recent teachers' union convention, educators are endorsing contracts that pay bonuses for boosting students' test scores.

How soon will it be before they lower the performance bar like Sean McCormack? Oh, and Medicare/Medicaid will soon pay doctors more based on certain measures and patient outcomes. With doctors in short supply, you better hope your condition is a gravy one and not a practice albatross. More distortions are coming courtesy of the Bush administration. Between education and health care they should impact just about everyone in some manner.