Cato’s Tanner notes the president’s disinterest in public-sector accountability

Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute devotes his latest National Review Online column to President Obama’s apparent disinterest in holding government actors accountable for their mistakes and misdeeds.

… [A]ccountability is a good thing. Especially when criminality or willful negligence is involved, there may well be a role for the government in holding business accountable. More important, when businesses screw up, the market itself extracts a price: Share prices drop. Market share shrinks. People lose their jobs. Just ask former Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel.

But when it comes to the government itself, there is precious little accountability.

Take the ongoing scandal in the VA health system. In Phoenix, where news of secret waiting lists first broke, up to 40 veterans reportedly died while awaiting care. There is now evidence of wrongdoing at 26 facilities in seven states. One can only imagine how outraged President Obama would be if some private company acted half so irresponsibly. Democrats would be lined up at the microphone to demand action; Harry Reid would probably blame the Koch brothers.

Yet, the VA scandal has generated no such response. No one has been fired. General Eric Shinseki, who has run the department for the last six years, but who — like the president himself — apparently learned about the scandal from the newspapers, is still in charge. When the House voted last week 330–33 for legislation that would make it easier for the VA secretary to fire people, Shinseki opposed it. Exactly one person, an undersecretary, has resigned so far, and he had already announced that he was leaving. Not only do the administrators in the Phoenix hospital where the whole thing began still have their jobs, they actually got bonuses this year — a move that was only reversed after the media raised an outcry.

This is hardly an isolated case. Who can forget the debacle that was — and continues to be — The chief information officer at the bureaucracy that produced it, Tony Trenkle, resigned, but the administration repeatedly refused to say if he was asked to step down. Trenkle may or may not have served as a fall guy, but HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who oversaw the entire disastrous project, was kept on.

If the IRS targeting of tea-party groups wasn’t outright criminal, it was at least massively incompetent. But so far, the only IRS official to lose their job over the scandal has been Lois Lerner — and she had to plead the Fifth before she did. The woman who headed the tax-exempt groups office from 2009 to 2012, Sarah Hall Ingram, is still at the IRS. She now directs the part of the IRS that oversees compliance with Mr. Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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