Analysis Essay on The Next Government of the United States: Why Our Institutions Fail Us and How to Fix Them Critique

Published: 2021-07-12
1762 words
7 pages
15 min to read
Middlebury College
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Critical thinking
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The publication was authored by Donald F. Kettl in 2008 (Kettl, 2009). In the book, Kettl argues that the United States government and its solutions for various national problems in the 20th century are overmatched by the problems encountered by the nation in the 21st century. To validate his argument, Kettl cites past crises such as the FEMAs failure in managing the Hurricane Katrina. Kettl also demonstrates the progressively complex nature of the issues that the United States government must address as well as the failings of the current strategies used to solve such issues. Ultimately, Kettl recommends and envisions a government that is run by complex and intelligent beings, such as the rocket scientists, who possess a focused leadership and strong objectives. This is a critical review of Kettls publication that discusses Mildred and Katrina, networking problems, irresponsible government, tectonic nation, and the political future of the nation.

Mildred and Katrina

In this section, Kettl accounts his personal experience in watching the Medicaid-Medicare system of medical professionals and institutions take care of his 91-year-old mother-in-law who was known as Mildred. This occurrence took place without Mildred ever encountering a government representative during her treatment period. This phenomenon shows that there is a high level of unaccountability in the way government resources in response to natural disasters are dispensed to the public. In addition, this can also be supported by Kettls stated that even though the national taxpayers picked up tabs valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars, no specific individual was really in charge (Kettl, 2009). In this case, it is plausible to say that a significant proportion of such collected funds due to medical services provision could have been squandered by a few unaccountable public-private groupings and agencies assigned to their positions by the government.

Additionally, from the publication, Kettl and his wife made their mothers decisions with a mix of doctors, nursing home staff, and hospitals. At that time, no one from the government cared about the costs of such decisions. In addition, no budget on all the expenses that Kettls mother in law incurred in terms of the hospitalization costs when she was under cover of the Medicaid program. Nonetheless, the Medicaid funds were just issued for her treatment by the government without ascertaining if such expenses had actually been incurred. Moreover, it is not clear whether such funds were administered correctly to all beneficiaries who needed help after the Katrina occurrence. From this experience, it is evident that the government had failed significantly in promoting a high level of accountability among the appointed officials, public programs, and agencies on public resource allocation.

Arguably, Kettls conclusion that such issues were contributed by the problems of modern governance is valid. This is in that most of the nations governance has morphed into a system of interlocking programs made up of public-private groups as well as agencies, which lack a central controlling body (Kettl, 2009). Such groupings also lack a clear vision of the American governments role to the public through service provision. Additionally, according to Kettl, from that experience, it was evident that the American government needed to coordinate their actions through its public-private agencies under a strong leadership. Moreover, such a leadership should have been focused on problem-solving rather than following a group of preset rules and regulations.


The networking of government systems is another problem discussed by Kettls publication. This is because according to Kettl, as a result of the rise in Mildred and Katrina style legislations, it has become an immensely difficult for the public to access the government. Additionally, such public members do not know where and how to connect with their government. Kettl argues that this is primarily in the parts where the government spends money from the public in terms of taxes and in turn, provides public social services. In addition, Kettle argues that it has also become immensely difficult for the public members through its appointed officials to structure a machine that dependably offers high-quality services to the public. Moreover, the appointed policy makers responsible for such machines have also failed to make the whole system accountable.

This argument by Kettl portrays that arguably, the public members have lost control of their government. In this case, the opinion of the public members has become virtually insignificant on the decisions being implemented through the structures of the networked government. This is also through the departments of the government such as the legislature and judiciary departments among others. In addition, Kettl feels that most government programs meant for the public welfare rely on multiple distributed networks instead of the past traditionally hierarchies in its delivery of services. As a result, most people feel that such programs are complex for the common citizens to comprehend fully. Instead, the public members are forced to rely on their preset system of delivery of services even though not efficient or if they are of a poor standard. Moreover, Kettl argues that the policy makers in the United States normally structure programs and then assigns their management to public and private agencies. Consequently, in order to effectively run those programs, the government has become progressively reliant on such intricate networks it has created between itself and local or international organizations.

Also, in the publication, Kettl characterized this phenomenon as government by network or the government by proxy (Kettl, 2009). In addition, such a government by network had created two primary issues. First, networking of government systems has structured some powerful insights into critical emerging issues associated with collaborative governance. Secondly, such networks have created the Mildred Paradox as well as its corollary. In this case, there has been a substantial increase in the role of non-governmental organizations in providing public services. In addition, there are no organizations in such networks that have been able to hold the whole system accountable for inappropriate conducts such as corruptions. Consequently, this has immensely hampered the economic development rate of the nation. Ultimately, Kettl argues that such a networking of government systems has posed a challenge in identifying the boundaries of the public programs, and in making the programs accountable to citizens and appointed national officials.

Irresponsible Government

Kettls publication also discusses the manifestations that have made the United States government seem irresponsible. This has been through the public offices failure to handle emergency situations affecting the nation in the past. One of the cited examples is FEMAs inability to address the problem of the Katrina natural disaster based on the national boundaries. According to Kettl, the Katrina disaster occurred on both sides of the boundary, in Georgia and Texas. However, FEMAs assistance to the disaster victims was dependent on which side of the boundary the victim was situated. According to a report published by the Department of Homeland Security, the FEMA Atlanta region office coordinated its services in more effectively to the Katrina occurrence (PBS, 2005). This is in comparison to the services offered by the FEMA department in the Detroit regional office, situated a few miles outside Dallas (PBS, 2005). Also, according to Kettl, at the time, the regional director of FEMA at the Atlanta regional office had not even visited Dallas before the Katrina storm disaster struck (Kettl, 2009). As such, it is evident that there was a failure of the federal government in ensuring that all regions covered by FEMA were well resourced. As such, a correction of this problem is warranted so as to cater for the national and international disasters that may occur in the future irrespective of the boundary provisions.

In light of such problems, it was evident that FEMA needs to restructure its regional boundaries in terms of emergency services provisions. This is to prevent future coordination problems between its various offices in helping persons affected by major disasters in the nation. For instance, the next challenge that may face the United States might be a major earthquake, perhaps a biological disaster or a terrorist attack. As such, relying on regional boundaries in solving such problems, may portray the continued government failure in structuring efficient public programs. On the other hand, failure to achieve this phenomenon will portray the American governments failure to learn and adapt to emerging issues that might face the nation. This is because no set of boundaries structured by public programs or agencies can be in a position to contain all emerging issues on its own. Ultimately, eradicating such boundaries will help the government to have effective agencies or programs that can work collaboratively with multiple interstates or international agencies in finding solutions to major disasters in the nation.

Tectonic Nation

In this section, Kettl discusses the occurrence of the September 11 attack on the United States that caused a substantial devastation on the nation. According to Kettl, there was a surprising connection between the reasons that the government offered on the occurrence of the September 11 attack and those of the Katrina disaster. In both cases, Kettl argued that there were indications that the disasters would occur. However, due to poor governance and inefficient coordination of the public programs, effective measures to prevent and respond to the occurrences of the two crisis were not enacted. Additionally, Kettl explained that a wide range of problems that affected the nation at the time occurred due to fundamental forces that required a change in the American governance. Moreover, Kettl argued that such pressures at times went unnoticed until they burst in scenes, sometimes both violently and abruptly like the September 11 attack and the Katrina. On the other hand, such pressures sometimes went quietly like the Mildreds case and her Medicare aid provision by the government.

Ultimately, Kettle believed that such forces occurred due to the progressive negative evolution of the American governance or changes in the political geology of United States politics. Arguably, these explanations by Kettl pertaining the reasons why most problems in the United States have occurred are true. This is because drastic changes in the politics of the United States have occurred in the past few decades transforming the focus of leadership from public service delivery to the power-driven political affair. Consequently, this has greatly impacted on the effectiveness of services provision by the public programs and agencies. Additionally, the rate of handling and researching possible signs of disaster occurrences have gone down, and the readiness in combating the disaster emergencies in the nation has gone down. Nevertheless, Kettls recommendation for this problem is plausible. This is because a change in the national governance will aid in attaining leaders who are focused on addressing the needs of the public rather than their own needs of power and influence.


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