When in doubt, reorganize

Sometime in the early 20th century, an English military historian did a white paper on the numerous reorganizations the British military had undergone since the Napoleonic Wars. Among his conclusions: That the British army had been reorganized so many times over the years that by the 1900s, just before the start of World War I, “it (the British army) was prepared for every eventuality — except war.”

Sound familiar? It should if you are a fed who’s been through at least one change in administration. Odds are you’ve been reorganized, retrofitted, seen your stove-pipes removed and urged to “lean in” (but not too much) by different management teams. And now you’re bracing for another round that, if it succeeds, could cut your staff in half, or eliminate it. In any case, make it more “transparent” than it is now. Or less so if its current state of transparency puts it at odds with the thinking and goals of your new political leadership team.

At places like the  Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Education and State Department, some/many are reportedly anxious over their jobs. EPA last week was told to cut attendance to a climate change conference in Alaska to save money on travel, even though some who were slated to attend work just down the street from the conference site.

Like nearly all first-time administrations, many movers and shakers on President Donald Trump’s team are coming into government with the firm belief Uncle Sam needs to shape up. And that a number of his employees need to ship out. The hiring freeze is usually one of the first steps. Orders to eliminate outdated, unhelpful or downright dangerous regulations are almost always on the menu of the new team. Over time, some, maybe even many, of the political appointees brought into government — they thought to take names and kick assets — learn how things work in government. And more importantly, why feds do what they do, the way they do it. Often what is billed as bureaucratic red tape is a direct result of orders from Congress. Example:

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The fans of the U.S. Tax Code could probably fit easily in a telephone booth. If there are any left. Our tax code is a mess. Way too complicated. Not so long ago, a then-Secretary of the Treasury — a Wall Street whiz kid — did his own taxes using one of those computer programs. Except he made a number of embarrassing mistakes. The kind that, if somebody like you made them, you’d be in big trouble. And if the problem is with taxes, or lack of the same, the politicians immediately blame folks at the Internal Revenue Service.

But workers at the Internal Revenue Service didn’t and don’t make the tax laws, or decide what’s exempt and what isn’t. That’s the job of Congress. Yet when there is any problem with it, politicians dump on the bureaucrats at the IRS, (or EPA or TSA or the agency du jour) get slammed. Example: Congress is yet again planning to farm out certain tax collection activities (now done in-house by IRS’ shrinking workforce ) to private debt collectors. As in past efforts, the IRS will be required to give them all the data on folks owing back taxes. Then the non-feds will go to them, maybe lean on them a little more than the feds can, and get a cut of the take, uh, back taxes. The fact that similar programs have crashed and burned at least twice before apparently means nothing to politicians who, when it comes to mulling over past mistakes, have very, very short attention spans.

So if you’re an old-timer, prepare to be reorganized. Again. If you are a newcomer and manage to hang on to your job the worst is probably yet to come. But chances are you will survive and live to be reorganized again and again.

Nearly Useless Factoid

By David Thornton

Today, five major types of harmonicas are produced: diatonic, diatonic tremolo-tuned, diatonic octave-tuned, chromatic, and orchestral accompaniment. The single-reed diatonic harmonic is the most popular and can be heard in rock, country, blues, and folk music.

Source: Encyclopedia.com

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