If you watched the Department of Education confirmation debate between Elizabeth Warren and Betsy DeVos, and your first thought was, “Man, this DeVos lady has no clue! Elizabeth Warren is taking her to school. This is utterly frightening …” then you have completely missed what is happening right now. In fact, as I watched Ms Warren run circles around Ms DeVos, with numbers and figures and quote regs chapter and verse, I realized that she, herself, has no idea what is happening right now.
She still thinks this is about qualifications and resumes. But what’s happening right now is not about any of that. Elizabeth Warren, in her well-prepared, intelligently laid out, sound-byte-savvy banter, showed herself to be obsolete in a world that has just changed. She just doesn’t realize it yet. Let me explain …
I was cautiously optimistic eight yeas ago, when Mr Obama took office. I didn’t know exactly what to expect. I was a little afraid of his socialist leanings (by his own admissions, in BOTH of his books). But sometimes, on the campaign trail, he sounded downright Reaganesque. So I watched and waited …without judgement.
Then, in March of ’09, he made a speech that solidified who and what he was. In that speech he said, “some things only government can fix.” And he went on to tell us how much we needed government and how much it needed to be a part of our lives. Then, he went on to appoint 45 “czars” (all ivy leaguers and political philosophy folk) above and beyond department heads and cabinet positions.
At that point I knew what Mr Obama was …a political theorist and a “statist.” And in fact, a lot of his presidency was as much political theory as anything: If you put the smartest people (with the right mind sets) in the right positions, things work better. And “average” people’s lives will benefit. Because we’re all really smart and we will take care of all of you who aren’t all that smart.
But the truth is it didn’t really work out that way. Because there’s theory …and there’s reality.
I’ve been watching Mr Trump’s actions closely …again, without judgement. I’ve been very intrigued by the steady stream of disparate mind sets being ushered in and out of that golden tower in New York. Everyone from Leo DiCaprio to Mitt Romney; Henry Kissinger to Kanye West. I’ve been asking myself, what is happening here? And then I remembered …
There’s something called the “8-year-old” pitch. When you’re pitching a product or a business idea or just a concept to someone, many times the potential investor will say, “explain this to me like I’m an 8-year-old.” If you can’t explain it to an 8-year-old, it’s probably too complicated or unwieldy. This axiom almost always holds true. And if it’s too complicated or complex …it has to go.
What you’re witnessing with the Trump administration is managed attrition.
He is putting warriors in charge of the military. On the surface, that looks like war mongering. But it’s actually the opposite. People who have been in battle are the least eager to go to war. They know what it really means. So, you’re less likely to speak to them in terms of “battle theory” and more likely to speak to them in terms of “battle reality.” Ironically, more warriors in charge of the military probably means less war. That’s military attrition.
Conversely, he is putting people in charge of domestic government agencies who have NO experience whatsoever in those fields. Believe it or not …that’s actually what I would do. So, instead of someone having a whole bunch of plans on how to expand this or that agency or big new ideas on what this or that agency can do, you have people literally getting the “8-year-old” pitch on the agency itself. When Ms DeVos replied to Ms Warren’s question about a certain rule within the dept of Education, “We’ll be looking at all the rules,” I instantly knew what was happening. Ms Warren still doesn’t.
Someone with fresh eyes, who is not steeped in the inner workings of a government agency, is now going to examine it from top to bottom. They’re basically on a fact-finding mission to determine if that agency should even exist in the first place. These people are smiling and taking the verbal hits from the professional politicians and looking naive on camera. But they’re there to actually audit the government ITSELF.
How many times have I had to explain to an IRS agent, who has NO CLUE how a creative person lives, what I do? How many times have I had to quantify the numbers? We the people have to constantly justify our existence and our livelihoods to our government. Now, it appears as if the government is going to have to justify its existence to us.
I’m not saying this is going to be a good thing or a bad thing. What I AM saying is this government (and all its agencies) is now having to make the “8-year-old” pitch to its citizens. I’ve never seen that happen in my lifetime.
That “fundamental change” you thought you were voting for in 2008? Well, THIS is actually what it looks like.
There’s a movie called “Dave” starring Kevin Kline. A guy who is a perfect doppleganger for a sitting president steps in and “plays” the president, after that president has a debilitating stroke. This regular guy brings one of his business-owner friends to the White House one night. And they sit up and balance the budget over sandwiches and soda …in about 12 hours. They can do this because they have no ties to any of those agencies. They can look at it objectively and say, “why are we doing this? Give me the 8-year-old pitch on this.”
Well guess what? “Dave” is now the president …for real.
There are two kinds of people: those who believe everything should be managed by a government agency …and those who don’t. I fall (more often than not) into the later category. When I watched the Elizabeth Warren/Betsy DeVos exchange, my reaction was, “why on earth does the government have an education agency that filters a trillion dollars a year? What are we getting for that?” Everything else was just noise to me.
Now, I understand there are implications with children with special needs, etc. And I am sensitive to that as a parent of a special needs child.
But I wonder if some of these agency rules and actual federal laws don’t overlap? We shall see. All I know is if ONE person at ONE government agency holds the power over my daughter’s education rights, then that person and that agency both have too much power. And I personally believe that’s what Betsy DeVos is being sent there to find out.
In the meantime, if you don’t like Ms DeVos you are free to write your representative or senator. And you should.
Me? I’m wondering what an average person would find out if they ran one of these agencies for a while. Would it pass the 8-year-old test? I wonder.
As you watch the hearings, if you think you’re watching stupidity in action …think again. You’re watching YOU get the government pitch for its own existence.
My hunch is Betsy DeVos doesn’t get confirmed. The optics are too bad for her. But watch whoever takes her place. I’d be willing to bet they don’t know the numbers and regs and tedious minutia either. And maybe they shouldn’t.