What's interesting about all this isn't that this is a new idea by Warren – it's that the Government had an office like this but it was closed down by Republican leadership in the mid 90s.
I have a (truly genuine) question for Republican techies here (really, really not trying to point fingers or start a political argument) – when you see that Newt Gingrich closed the OTA office, what do you feel? Maybe he did the right thing, you'd like to learn more why? Or Newt Gingrich was wrong? Or what?
I don't trust a government entity to be "independent" or "non-partisan." The rule of thumb I use is "would I trust this government entity if my respective political party is only in control ~50% of the time?"
Some other folks in the threads already mentioned this, but as one example: the Obama campaign was pretty close to the Facebooks / Googles of the world - meaning that there could be a scenario that this OTA office was staffed fully with ex-Googlers or the like, almost like a lobbying firm would do. On one hand, they're fully qualified and (probably) very knowledgeable; on the other hand, I wouldn't trust that the office would provide a fair assessment into regulating those tech companies.
EDIT: grammar / more precise vocabulary
They remind me of Journalists. Most journalists I've met are not centrists in their personal lives. But in their professional lives, they try (they're not perfect, they are human) to stay impartial, but some of your bias will definitely leak into things.
But most federal agencies are simply too large and bureaucratic for individuals to push their own political agendas. (Not talking about the leadership that's appointed by each administration, but career employees). And it's been my informal experience that their hands are too often (rightly) tied by the laws and regulations of the day, in exactly what they can do. So this idea of non-partisan people truly being partisan is often true at an individual level, but generally false at an agency level.
And they do take the non-partisan side of their jobs very seriously.
I'd say the same thing about journalists. 90%+ of journalists are democrats. (Overwhelmingly, white and male democrats.) They try to chart a course of "objectivity" within an overall left-leaning Overton window. For example, 32% of Democrats are "extremely proud to be an American" versus 74% of Republicans: https://news.gallup.com/poll/236420/record-low-extremely-pro.... It is impossible for such differences in world view not to affect your article selection and tone when it comes to areas like foreign policy, terrorism, national security, etc.
I should point out that I'm not talking about blatant partisanship. Judges, for example, seek to be objective. That doesn't mean that their world views don't affect their decisions. Justice Kagan has said that American judges--across the spectrum--are textualists most of the time. How would they approach deciding a Constitutional case in the U.K., which doesn't have a written constitution? Policymaking and reporting are no different. Everything you write that has any substance at all must have an internal logic. It will makes assumptions, and inferences about cause and effect. It is impossible to be "objective" with respect to that reasoning process or those assumptions.
For example, what is an "objective" article on AOC's new proposal for nationwide rent control? Do you think someone who believes deeply in markets would write the same article on that proposal as someone who believes that governments can legislate outcomes? I think a market-oriented person struggling to write an objective article about that proposal would either come across as partisan, or would have to write something utterly vacuous. It's one thing not to expressly take sides. It's entirely another to divorce yourself from your own modes of reasoning and assumptions about how the world works.
I can't believe in all the responses nobody has challenged this statement. What is your source for this? Based on exit polls, in aggregate white men are heavily republican, and college educated white men are still republican by over 20 points. This seems like an extraordinary claim.
And for one tangible data point, in 2012, wikipedia shows 158 newspaper endorsing the democratic candidate, and 112 newspaper endorsing the republican candidate . Obviously not a perfect metric, but that is ~58% of newspaper endorsing the democratic candidate.
Even in 2016, when the Republican candidate was specifically anti-journalists, only 69% of newspapers endorsed the democratic candidate .
7% of journalists identify as republican, versus 28% identifying as democrat. The majority identify as independent: https://www.politico.com/blogs/media/2014/05/survey-7-percen....
So 80% of journalists who disclose a political affiliation identify as Democrat, and 20% identify as republican.
To put that into perspective: nationally, 27% of people identify as republican, versus 29% as democrat: https://news.gallup.com/poll/15370/party-affiliation.aspx. Among the general population self-identified republicans and democrats are roughly evenly represented, but among journalists democrats outnumber republicans 4:1. I would expect the independents to break along the same proportions when it comes to voting.
Another way to look at it is to compare journalists to various demographic groups: https://www.people-press.org/2018/03/20/1-trends-in-party-af.... Journalists are less likely to self-identify as republicans than: urban voters, jewish voters, millenials, asian voters, and hispanic voters.
That is particularly interesting because journalists are more likely to be white and male than the general population, or democrats as a group. Therefore, their party identification is particularly unusual when compared to other white men.
On other metrics: a Texas A&M poll of finance journalists found that 58% described themselves as very or somewhat liberal, versus 4.4% saying they were very or somewhat conservative: https://www.dailywire.com/news/462-financial-journalists-wer....
Nationally, however, 37% of people say they are very or somewhat conservative, versus 24% who say they are very or somewhat liberal: https://news.gallup.com/poll/188129/conservatives-hang-ideol.... That makes the polled financial journalists 2.3x more likely to self-identify as liberal, and 1/8 as likely to self identify as conservative as the general population. That means the ratio of conservatives to liberals is 20x higher in that pool of journalists than in the general population.
From what I can tell journalists at major US papers have about a 60:40 male to female ratio: https://www.statista.com/statistics/625800/newspaper-journal.... I also found this interesting source which seem to say that most newsrooms are about 80% white: https://googletrends.github.io/asne/.
My quick conclusion is that if we thus assume that male, white, and Democrat are independently distributed, we find that 60% * 80% * 30% = 15% of journalists are white males that identify as Democrats. While this is probably the most common combination of these particular characteristics, it doesn't feel particularly overwhelming.
> So 80% of journalists who disclose a political affiliation identify as Democrat, and 20% identify as republican.
That is an exceptionally misleading way of presenting/interpreting that data. 50% if journalists identify as independent. That is a political affiliation. You can't just ignore that group.
I find it encouraging that over half of journalists don't identify with the two main, polarized, often extremist political parties.
>> What is your source for this?
On an individual level, more than 90% of journalists' personal donations went to Clinton. $382,000 to $14,000. https://www.cjr.org/covering_the_election/campaign_donations...
According to Wikipedia, in 2004 the democratic candidate got 52% of the newspaper endorsements. In 2008 the democratic candidate got 62%. These are far from perfect measures but again, if 90% of journalists were in fact democrats then my guess is the number of newspapers that endorsed democratic candidates would be much closer to 90%, and it clearly isn't.
The total donations really aren't really convincing because clearly the vast majority of journalists donate to nobody, so you really don't know exactly what the preference is for the median journalist. I'd also be interested in the stats for 2012, 2008 and previous elections before making any conclusions.
> As of November 4, 2008, Barack Obama had received more than twice as many publication endorsements as John McCain; in terms of circulation, the ratio was more than 3 to 1, according to the detailed tables below.
By circulation, it was like > 75% Obama versus McCain. Assuming journalist employment is roughly proportional to circulation, that suggests that a similar percentage of journalists are Democrats.
This is spot-on. They also tend to think that their high level of visibility into their highly focused sector of government bureaucracy (wherever it is they happen to work) has granted them broad and trenchant insight into the right answers for domestic and foreign policy. This attitude tends to come with a healthy side portion of disdain for the ability of non-DC people to comprehend any degree of political nuance.
Everything I've read about rising home prices has to do with supply/demand and the disruptive nature of AirBNB etc.
But if you as a journalist are talking about AOC's proposal, your main job is to communicate her proposal to the masses, your secondary job is to talk about why it may or may not work.
It's similar to any Republican counter proposal, if there were one that wasn't just based on dogmas like supply-side economics or "market will fix everything". You communicate the proposal and then talk about potentially how parts of it wouldn't work.
Tribalism is shit and really ruins a lot of these interesting debates. But I don't see true tribalism in places like the NYT. My bigger complaint with institutions like the NYT is that they're made of the same elites they're reporting on, so they aren't able to be truly objective.
Organizations like the Intercept do a much better job of "fuck you everyone, I'm going to expose you" than someone like the NYT. But that's not a republican/democrat thing. That's a lack of diversity (diversity of background, not skin color) problem in their staff.
Journalists don't believe it's their job to talk about why something may or may not work, but they really want to. They have a couple of ways to do that.
One is to select "experts" to comment on a story who agrees with the journalist. For any topic of enough importance you can usually find people who will present things your way, even if others would disagree.
Another is to use a library of common phrases that create an impression in the mind of the reader without actually committing to anything concrete. For instance:
• Mr Smith was under fire last night after proposing <X>
• A new idea from Mr Smith has been creating excitement after he launched <X> last night
• According to experts, <Y>
• <Z>, according to analysts
It'd be more honest if journalists wrote "X said Y and I think he's a douchebag because Z" but that'd make them, in their eyes, mere bloggers, so they rely on more subtle manipulations instead.
But it is subtle manipulation. How many articles have you read about failing schools or school funding challenges, and how often have they mentioned that the U.S. spends among the most in the world per student for K-12 education? As you say, presenting news without context or analysis isn't journalism. But the minute you start picking facts for context, or analyzing the facts, you're inherently incorporating your personal views.
That's not "subtle manipulation", that's bias. Calling it "subtle manipulation" disingenuously implies that journalists unscrupulously distort or change the news. Context & analysis is inherently biased, no surprises there, but you're approaching substance-free cynicism when you say stuff like "Journalists don't believe it's their job to talk about why something may or may not work, but they really want to."
> For example, 32% of Democrats are "extremely proud to be an American" versus 74% of Republicans
Disregarding for a moment that this is a super weird question to use as a barometer, this is not sound statistical reasoning. Journalists make up a very small, and very biased (in the statistical sense), cross section of the democratic party. Therefore, their answers to a given question won't move the overall answers very much.
It is like observing that 99%+ of iPhones are sometimes used to browse the web, and that a majority of web-browsing devices run Google Chrome. You can't infer from this that a majority of iPhones run Chrome (or, at least, not very strongly).
> When asked to choose among big government, big labor and big business, Americans overwhelmingly name big government as the biggest threat to the country in the future. The 69% choosing big government is down slightly from a high of 72% in 2013, the last time Gallup asked the question, but is still one of the highest percentages choosing big government in Gallup's 50-year trend.
As of 2015, 70% of Americans viewed big government as the "biggest threat" versus just 25% listing big businesses.
Wherever the government tries to "regulate" - unprecedented wealth transfer from ordinary people to special interests follows: the health-care(?) mafia, the higher education mafia, etc. Always sold as "think of the elderly/children".
Big Government -> Lobbyists (corruption) -> Corporatism
(In the US, Europe is a bit different, because lobbying is not as predatory)
Surely hearing a perspective from someone striving (at the very least) to be objective rather than ONLY hearing from someone who has clear bias on the issue (the corporation to be regulated) is more likely to be a good thing than a bad thing.
Many local governments are like this, with explicitly non-partisan elections (although partisanship may be implicit). More likely, the powers and resources of the local government are limited such that there's no "slack" for partisanship, and they are literally just trying to keep the lights on.
Using Google's people is like using the lawyer of the guy you're suing.
That isn't to say the lower class has no say in their government - it is why "democracy is the worst form of government, besides all the others". But having an intellectual, technical team of "trying-not-to-be-partisans" helping elected officials make decisions is a good thing, and you make it sound like a bad thing.
There's also the simple incentives argument: Why don't people trust lobbyists? Because they're paid by people/companies/organizations/etc who have (at the very least arguably) a vested interest in a given outcome, so it's hard to trust their motives. Wouldn't the same be true of a government office of "experts"? Wouldn't they have the same incentives to advance the agenda of those who keep them employed?
That's not what the comment was referring to in the slightest. You're disagreeing that water is wet because fire is hot. They aren't completely different things.
What do you think is an actual, meaningful consequence of something like “90% of journalists being Democrats.” In all the domains you cite, I see a general consensus around a right-wing perspective about America‘s place in the world.
On the economic front, U.S. Democrats are to the left of the European (and Canadian and Australian) center in many respects. Macron is a "socialist" that is trying to privatize SNCF. Sweden is extremely market oriented, has school vouchers, etc. The EU keeps pressing forward on privatization efforts in various sectors like rail and utilities. Trump was late to the game compared to France, Germany, Sweden, etc., in terms of cutting corporate taxes.
That’s because Europe has a different historical and political context than the US though? Many of those policies would be correctly described as white supremacist if advocated for within the US context because the US is historically a white supremacist country and has organized much of its politics along those lines. In Europe, they would probably be understood as “fascistic” because, as you’ve correctly identified, many of their advocates descend from this ideology and its history on the continent.
> On the economic front, U.S. Democrats are to the left of the European
Historically, Democrats have supported charter schools, privatization, and kept in place corporate tax cuts passed by Republicans, so I’m not sure this bears scrutiny. While there is an emergent left flank of the Democratic party, it is deeply at odds with the party elite, their institutions, apparatuses, and is stymied by them at most turns.
That’s a weird bit of bootstrapping. France colonized Muslim countries in North Africa, and then when people came to France from those countries the French insisted they learn French, banned religious symbols like hijab, etc. French language and cultural purity absolutely is a sort of at least cultural supremacy.
Likewise the success of right wing parties in Europe. They’re putatively nationalistic, but the strong anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiments make clear they rest heavily on cultural and ethnic supremacy.
> Historically, Democrats have supported charter schools, privatization, and kept in place corporate tax cuts passed by Republicans, so I’m not sure this bears scrutiny. While there is an emergent left flank of the Democratic party, it is deeply at odds with the party elite, their institutions, apparatuses, and is stymied by them at most turns.
Democrats have a strong “party of FDR” trend, which is an anti-market, pro-regulation viewpoint. I’d characterize Clinton and Obama as exceptions, with the “Green New Deal” being a return to the norm. Meanwhile, Canada, Australia, and the EU have pushed ahead with deregulation and privatization under both liberal and conservative governments.
Canada, for example, is basically an example of Clinton/Gingrich’s government trimming and “welfare to work” being applied for 30 years: https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn%3AANd9GcTNKL...
Trudeau, a liberal, continues to promise corporate tax cuts and deregulation. Public transit in many european cities is opened up to competitive bidding. Stockholm’s subway is privately operated. I’m not aware of any privately operated subways in the US. France has extensive privatized water utilities. Europe continues to embrace markets and deregulation at a level Democrats have not done since Clinton.
Why? Well, I don't think English is in any danger. People are learning English all over the world, and I've never in my entire time in the US had someone try to speak any language other the English to me. On the other hand, French, while still a very important language, is clearly on the decline compared to where it was a couple hundred years ago. Lots of French musicians these days write songs mostly in English. I'd be sad if the French language lost its central position in French society, and I think it actually is important for the government to try to stop that from happening.
Also, I don't think that even the "we want to shut down mosques" right-wing of Europe wants to eg. get rid of socialized healthcare.
Le Pen actually tried to join the resistance as a teenager. It is a strongly nationalist and protectionist party which used to be/is xenophobic but it has nothing to do with the Nazi. Trump idea are more radical in a lot of way. Let's not forget he suggested actually building a wall at the border. Also Macron is rightfully seen as center right in France and certainly not as a socialist.
French has been the official language of France since 1539. Having French as the official language is hardly a rightwing position. The question of having an official language is only seen as rightwing in the USA because it's done to spit the large part of the population speaking Spanish. This is purely cultural. It's a bit like supporting gun regulation which is seen as left wing in the USA while not supporting it is seen as being a lunatic in the rest of the world.
That doesn't in any way make his party a offshoot of the Nazi party especially in its modern form. You might be a mere American and therefore throwing the word Nazi casually like a low grade insult. That doesn't justify implying that a third of France is voting for the Nazi party.
> The National Front party leader warned over the Easter weekend that French “civilisation” was under threat as she pledged to suspend all legal immigration and protect the French way of life, toning down her plan to take France out of the euro.
> “Give us France back, damn it!” the far-right candidate demanded at a rally in Paris on Monday night as her supporters chanted: “This is our home!”
> In comments clearly aimed at France’s Muslim population, she said: “In France, we drink wine whenever we want. In France we do not force women to wear the veil because they are impure . . . In France, we get to decide who deserves to become French.”
Who are the people whose home France is?)
If I were to paint democrats in a similar manner they would all be bike lock wielding liberal arts professors and that would be unfair.
"The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a political mechanism, not an unbiased scientific
institution. Its unreliability is reflected in its intolerance toward scientists and others who dissent from its orthodoxy."
The scientists like Spencer and Legates who "dissent from its orthodoxy" that the GOP trots out for its voters actually dissent due to their religious beliefs. https://www.cornwallalliance.org/2009/05/01/signers-of-an-ev...
That's not directed to science. It's directed to the separate issue of public education being a vehicle for eliminating religion from childrens' education, and replacing religious social values with government values developed by education boards. It's a legitimate concern when the government is deciding how you socialize your kids, and leaves you few avenues for opting out. (Also, it's a model that's by and large uncontroversial in most of Europe.)
As to your second quote, it appears 10 pages later. Is there some sort of connection you're trying to draw between the two?
Both are examples of pushing faith above science, which is the whole point of my argument.
> public education being a vehicle for eliminating religion
Public education does not do anything to eliminate religion except where they disagree, as in evolution vs. Biblical creationism.
The particular example of creationism comes from the Texas GOP's platform. https://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2012/06/28/the-texas-repu...
You can certainly see echoes of it in the national platform. That is no mistake.
Surely the nomination of Donald Trump in 2016 should call into question how large of a subset of the Republican party this represents.
If the alternative is a Democrat? You bet.
The Democrat you're referring to never owned any Uranium to sell.
> whose husband is a womanizer and of a very good friend of Epistein no less.
A fault of association with a womanizing friend of Epstein vs. a fault of actually being a womanizing friend of Epstein's does not seem like a very strong reason. The real reason they voted for Trump is the R next to his name.
Yet millions flowed to her foundation upon the completion of that sale, getting paid for something you don't own is worse.
I think I agree with you, both in principle and from similar anecdotes I have from friends & colleagues in the area.
The leadership piece to which you allude worries me, but also the idea that to have a successful non-partisan government office you need to invest a lot of tax dollars to make it SO big & bureaucratic that any individual can't have significant impact makes me a tad nervous from a perspective of favoring smaller government.
Therefore, if the trade-off is between massive, expensive government office that can have some non-zero probability of corruption OR relying on the responsibility of States & Representatives from those States to hire consultants / experts / research the issues, I'd opt for the latter.
I also saw my university’s tuition revenue taken from it and given to a smaller university in the state capital. All because the surrounding population hated the city hosting the university.
You also end up with more policy diversity, so that if you really hate living under the rules in one place, you at least have the option of going somewhere else. Consider whether you would rather have gay marriage legal in California and illegal in Mississippi than to have it uniformly either legal or illegal in all places, but the uniform policy is chosen by a coin flip and if it doesn't go your way then you can't override it with local policy.
The result is that some places will be more corrupt or have rules you can't stand. But some places will be less corrupt and have rules you love that you wouldn't have been able to make into national policy. And if you live somewhere with a policy you can't stand, it's much more feasible for you as an individual to actually affect the local policy. And if that's still hopeless then you have the option to move somewhere else with a different policy, which isn't possible when you impose a federal uniformity that makes 45% of people unhappy.
> State and local governments are much smaller than the fed - meaning corruption and influence are bought at much lower prices than the federal.
That's not really true, because the influence you get is in proportion to the size of the government. If you capture 1% of the federal budget, that's ~50 times larger than 1% of a state budget, so it's worth spending ~50 times more to capture it. Worse, then the regulatory capture gets greater economies of scale and becomes proportionally more available to large players than smaller ones, allowing huge corporations to more easily steamroll over small businesses and individuals. And then the rules entrenching huge incumbents are uniform so you can't avoid them by moving your small/medium business to the next town over.
That's the theory, but in practice I think states have less competitive pressure. VA for example shifts massive amounts of funding from the northern part of the state. This has worked due to continuous gerrymandering that allows one party to maintain control despite statewide elections being far more competitive. In practice VA almost can't mess things up, simply by because it's so close to DC.
National elections on the other hand regularly shift power around. That provides constant pressure to adapt and improve. People may not like the FBI, but few feel it’s ineffective.
You're talking about competition between parties rather than between states. And gerrymandering is a problem exacerbated by strong national parties, because the opposition party is then laden with positions from their party's national platform that may be locally unfavorable. Otherwise they could tailor their platform and message to something which is locally competitive in light of how the district lines are drawn, and respond accordingly if they change, reducing the incentive to redraw the lines by making it less effective.
Even then, it only moves the debate to within that party and effectively makes the primary the election. You can still get individual representatives to change their position for fear of losing their seat, with much more ease than doing the same thing at the national level.
> In practice VA almost can't mess things up, simply by because it's so close to DC.
That's kind of the point. DC is a huge outlier created by federal activity.
And it's all relative. Nothing the government of Topeka does is ever going to turn it into New York City, but they can make it better or worse than it is, which is a thing that the local people who elect them or choose to live or do business there will certainly care about.
Whereas if a change in federal policy makes things worse for the people of a given state when all of that state's federal representatives were already from the opposing party, all they can really do is whinge about it and suffer from the negative impact.
> National elections on the other hand regularly shift power around.
That's half the problem. Instead of having many localities with many different policies that are largely locally stable, allowing each person a choice in which rules they prefer to live under, you have national policy that flip flops back and forth based on who is currently in power so that at any given time some 40+% of the people are unhappy with the latest national rules, and the uncertainty makes it difficult to plan for the future.
> People may not like the FBI, but few feel it’s ineffective.
The percentage of US citizens who ever have any interaction with the FBI rounds to zero, and their role is enforcement rather than policy-making.
There are a lot of people who think the current EPA is ineffective. And the FCC, and the FAA, and the FDA, and so on. What's the approval rating of the US Congress? Still somewhere between Comcast and dog poop?
What is the mechanism for this acceptance passing? If the VA mistreats its veterans, or has a black mold problem in a facility housing elderly patients and then covers it up how does the public vote on that. A considered response should outline both 1) how that selection might work in principle, and 2) and how it might work in light of the fact that voters care about competing interests, e.g. whether or not candidate X has a position commensurate with voters line on abortion, global warming, if the candidate has a familiar last name, if they would like to have a beer with the candidate, etc.
It’s still a cost benefit analysis, but a technology equivalent to the GAO or arguably the FDA could provide significant value.
I'm surprised that you'd use 50% as the threshold. I would use 0%.
There are plenty of government agencies and functions that I trust even though my affiliated party is never in control.
Does the US not have some kind of similar element?
Not on such a widespread basis, no (exceptions exist). For example, Wikipedia lists the Crown Prosecution Service as one such UK government department, but in the US the Attorney General directly governs the Department of Justice. This led to the then-chronic debate about just who had the authority to oversee/direct the Mueller investigation.
Even when an organization is set up outside the traditional Cabinet hierarchy, its leadership is still typically appointed by the President (often with Senate confirmation), such that a new administration should quickly expect to appoint a working majority of directors.
This can also directly cause problems of governance. The Federal Election Commission (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_Election_Commission) is an independent agency that is responsible for administering elections law, but because of Presidental/Senate deadlock the board no longer has a quorum required to take official actions.
Despite their many failings, I actually think this system works pretty well, and I'm always impressed at the reasoning behind supreme court rulings --even those I don't agree with.
This is unfortunate perspective, but I can understand why many would have this view.
As others have stated, for the overwhelming majority of the career Civilian and Military workforce, partisanship is a third rail topic at best.
I've been in government service as a military officer or civilian for about half of my working life and being vocally partisan is just not something that is institutionally tolerated, is actively frowned upon and in certain cases unlawful.
I wonder how we could change that perception.
Maybe we should judge people for their own actions rather than who they once worked for?
so do you worry about the post office not delivering your mail if it's of a political nature, the fire department not showing up to put out a fire at your political parties' headquarters, cops not showing up if you're known to be of "that party" ? do these people all act in a partisan fashion throughout their day jobs ?
As somebody who grew up in the german language area (Central Europe) and dealt with Nazi history and extremism for half his life, I am quite sure that a too strong government without proper division of forces is equally dangerous to a weak government that can be taken over too easily by political movements like Germany was in the late 20s.
The whole history of how the Nazis came into power is really something people should study, because I am convinced similar things could easily happen today in multiple democratic nations.
Power is after all fluid and if you weaken your elected government just enough it will flow somewhere else. And if you are unlucky that somewhere else is even more out of the control of the citizen than a government would be.
1) The three branches of the federal government & the checks / balances system, each with their own sub-divisions (e.g. legislative having the Senate + House)
2) States Rights - whatever powers not dictated by the Constitution to the federal government are guaranteed to the States.
If we had a German civil service system instead of the orcs we're actually afflicted with, that would seem like a reasonable thing to do. When an American with historical sense looks at government regulation, we see Tammany Hall, defense contractors, the Clinton family's net worth (a considerable fortune made entirely from political graft) and guys like former SF Mayor Willie Brown wearing $40,000 suits when his job as Mayor pays him $35k a year: overt graft at the highest levels is as part of the fabric of society as Mom and Apple Pie. Usually reducing regulation is wanted by people who are not plugged into the power structure but would like to get their way.
FWIIW I think the OTA was a pretty good government agency, and though I am pretty right wing, Newt Gingrich was an evil jackass and almost everything he did was horrible for the country. I'm guessing they got the axe because they made the mistake of dabbling in policy rather than sticking with their mission, but it's just a guess. Bob Park would know. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_L._Park
Your comment above is quite rare and I agree we must find a middle ground where we can distrust government but still empower it enough to resolve what is best for the nation. The status quo is not what is best for the nation and we should empower conservatives to think bigger than they have been. Maybe conservatives don’t need to dismantle government like an anarchist. Perhaps they could be augmenting it so it can be conserved and saved from revolution.
An argument can be made that a biased OTA is better than no OTA.
Government is inherently political.
Is this feeling or sentiment, or can you give reason why private enterprise providing the same service would be less partisan?
>The Office of Technology Assessment's (1972-1995) purpose was to provide Congressional members and committees with objective and authoritative analysis of complex scientific and technical issues. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Office_of_Technology_Assessmen...
> Federally funded research and development centers (FFRDCs) are public-private partnerships which conduct research for the United States Government. They are administered in accordance with U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, Title 48, Part 35, Section 35.017 by universities and corporations. There are currently 42 recognized FFRDCs that are sponsored by the U.S. government.
FFRDCs have a special legal ability to provide “neutral” input on technical matters. In theory Congress could hire Mitre or other FFRDCs to perform this service for them. That might take some tweaks to the law because FFRDC contracts seem to be aligned to specific executive agencies.
Personally, I’m a big believer in Federal in-sourcing combined with civil service reform. Using contractors for public interest positions, even contractors with special designations like FFRDCs, clouds the issue with contract management.
Of course, it’d be very difficult to design Civil Service reform properly and politically impossible to implement it, so creative contracting is probably the way to go for now.
Government 'independent' offices are not immune from political spin. Congressional committees are ultimately the ones tasked with making policy and they have authlrity to call whomever they want to testify. If the OTA wouldn't say what they wanted to hear, they'd just call someone else.
The United states does not suffer from a dearth of scientists. We should be able to get everything we need from the OTA via private commissions and private subpoenas.
While it may be in the congressional authority to do their own research having a shared resource helps all do so and acts as a well of institutional knowledge which makes the system less dependent upon incumbent's assembled teams.
Plus one upside of bueracracies is that they are an anti-spoils system by being harder to sway in a "he who pays the piper sets the tune". If they are wrong then their own private researchers should be able to make a case refuting it.
Willfull ignorance is still unfortunately always possible but having one removes the cover and excuses from bad actors.
You do not need a government office to provide expertise. There is a large private market economy to provide skeptical research regarding all sorts of topics. Banks and financiers regularly pay outside companies to conduct critical research regarding investments, etc. There is no reason the government cannot pay outside, private scientific research firms to provide expert advice on particular topics. Congress in particular has absolute authority over the federal checkbook, so they have no excuse that they are unable to come up with the funds.
> Plus one upside of bueracracies is that they are an anti-spoils system by being harder to sway in a "he who pays the piper sets the tune". If they are wrong then their own private researchers should be able to make a case refuting it.
When someone tells me something like this with a straight face, I am forced to conclude that they must have so far lived their life without having ever met someone who may not think like them. Government bureaucracies are literally the epitomy of spoils-based systems. They rarely ever are eradicated. Once government agencies fulfill their initial mission, they are forced to come up with yet more fake problems to justify their continued existence, and government bureaucrats typically enjoy better pay and benefits and job stability than their private sector counterparts. Aside from extreme lobbying by the government employees, there is no way to explain this discrepancy. It is ridiculous. I suggest reading a bit of Thomas Sowell. You may end up hating the man, but at least you will be exposed to someone who may not think like you, and you won't make these kinds of absolute statements without sufficient justification.
> Willfull ignorance is still unfortunately always possible but having one removes the cover and excuses from bad actors.
Oh right, I forgot that having a Congressional budget office means that Congress always passes a reasonable budget that reduces the public deficit of the United States!
The issue is that those who listen to the arguments and make the decision may not know enough to counter the arguments.
Any tech company can come up with some argument to explain why a given change is necessary.
Sure. Congresspeople are neither scientists nor technologists. I get that. Congresspeople do have the power to spend government funds though, and they are more than capable of commissioning an outside research agency with expertise in the given area to provide commentary. In fact, this is better than a government agency with only 140 employees.
First of all, not all 140 of those employees are researchers. Assume -- generously -- that 120 are. That is still only 120 researchers. The idea that 120 people can be enough to exhaustively provide expertise on all possible ranges of technology and science, etc, is ridiculous. 120 people would barely be able to offer expertise on all the various computer science topics, much less physics, climate science, etc.
Instead of pretending that this limited office could actually be an expert in everything, it's much better to be realistic, and just pay someone else to prepare a study, and testify, like an expert witness would. If you are worried about bias, make it so that commissions have to hire two agencies -- it's probably still cheaper than funding a government bureaucracy and giving them all pensions anyway.
One person's claim is not that whole story.
Edit: See link in response for an explanation. IMO I'm still uncomfortable with how they got data of friends, but that's about it. However, this does not refute the above point that Obama didn't heavily benefit from Facebook.
Only in the sense that a car and a bus are the same thing because they both have four wheels.
As with all things technical though, it's the details that matter:
>> The people signing up [for the Obama campaign's app] knew the data they were handing over would be used to support a political campaign.
>> The people who downloaded the app used by Cambridge Analytica did not know their data would be used to aid any political campaigns. The app was billed as a personality quiz that would be used by Cambridge University researchers.
There were also substantial differences with regards to how the collected data was used.
"Facebook friends lists, tags and photos allowed Obama operatives to identify a person’s close friends, which they then matched with offline public records. (Was this person likely to vote for Obama, but unlikely to get out to vote?) They then told the app users which of their friends they should send campaign messages to.
Cambridge Analytica dialed up what Karpf called the creepiness factor. They combined the survey results with the Facebook data to create psychological profiles they then sold to campaigns. The idea was, if the firm could discover how these people thought, they could target ads toward them.
Cambridge Analytica then sent targeted ads to the users on their database as well as users with similar profiles, identified by Facebook’s Lookalike tool. The friends of the app users weren’t being targeted by their friends, but by the campaign itself. In other words, the consenting middle man was gone."
We must really have gone off the deep end here, because I can no longer tell who is trolling and who is posting for real.
I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and answer your question in good faith: whether you willingly give your information, or are tricked into giving it, makes a world of difference.
The only thing in common between the way the Obama campaign utilized Facebook data and the way Cambridge utilized the data is that, in both cases, the users sharing the data (whether willingly, or without realizing) also unwittingly provided access to their friend's data.
That's where the similarities end.
But no, the real reason most people were angry at Cambridge Analytica is that it (quite possibly illegally) obtained the data from Aleksandr Kogan, one of the researchers in Cambridge University who developed the original app. Furthermore, when Facebook noticed this and told them to delete the data, they did not.
THAT is the real scandal.
The comment you're replying to is positing that question in the context of other people giving up your information, not you yourself giving that information up.
In both cases, the users giving the data knew they were giving that data to someone on the Internet. Their friends, however, didn't. The friends of the (either willing or tricked) participants had their data given up, too. Those friends did not consent in either case.
In that case, I don't think it matters whether your data was given away willingly by your friends or whether your friends were tricked into giving it away. It's just splitting hairs over who is at fault when it's wrong in both cases.
No, not your information, their information. The post you're replying to is about the friends of the person using the app. In one case, the app user is tricked, in the other case the app user consents, but in both cases the vast majority of the data is from friends of the user, who had no say either way.
But the Obama administration also created the US Digital Service and 18F (after the healthcare.gov debacle), which are doing stellar work and continue to do so in the federal gov under the Trump Administration.
Obama also did create the Office of Science and Technology Policy, so maybe this was the successor of what this office would've been. But they were more science focused.
But that doesn't address my question about this particular office.
Suffice to say, he wasn't going to introduce a way to give the government objective understanding of issues around Google's monopoly.
Then I had to chuckle when several of my coworkers took leaves (fully supported by the leadership) to help out running the Obama infrastructure under Eric Schmidt. At times they got to fly between Chicago and SF on Eric's personal plane. Eventually several of those people ended up working for him (it's always weird when your ex-manager ends up leading a government department).
All the same, not crazy about politicians and corporations being so cozy, regardless of affiliation.
While the hope is those private contractors will just follow the contract and not let any bias seep in, it's inevitable. For the time, and to his agenda, closing the OTA seems like the correct move (for him and the party). Not sure if it was the best move overall, but, it did follow the mood and spirit of the Republicans at that time.
I'm no Warren fan (center/right so there is no one I actually support in 2020 right now - and I don't expect there will be) but it seems to me to ensure the people regain control of our government we (the American populace) must place less reliance on the private sector for such specialized tasks. The private sector use should be more towards the mundane tasks of government. Such specialized areas like tech have to separated from the firms who would benefit from whatever actions and effects they make upon our government.
As far as how I feel about it, my political views are closer to Ron Swanson than Leslie Knope, so I'm not too unhappy about it.
I'm not saying that's the case here but it seems like an interesting challenge to somehow leave an agency intact but be able to spin up and down like that. People in general prefer a lot more consistency in their careers.
So like the NAS has a lot of Nobel Prize winners, etc... this new "Academy" would have IEEE/ACM recipients, others that have a much longer view, pretty much what a lot of "distinguished engineers" or "fellows" do at private companies.
From my short stint in Government service (the Executive Branch), most employees are a bit too busy trying to do what they can with what they've got to really play the partisanship game. There is also a heavy inertia constituted by the fact that making the decision isn't your responsibility. Collating information is to make the decision well informed is.
When I learned the OTA existed and was dismantled a few years ago, I was extremely upset. I'd sign up to act as a fact finder/researcher for policy makers in an instant. Lobbyists cannot be trusted to have the safeguarding of the public's liberty at heart, whereas a Legislative Research Division has one goal. Collect and parse information to impartially feed the policy making process.
When I heard the justification for getting rid of it (I.e. always being at odds with lobbyists) I had to unplug for a couple days to try to figure out how my model of the world could be so inaccurate.
Does anyone know what agencies are being alluded to?
 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Office_of_Technology_Assessmen...
The government is not "us" as former president Obama and many HN readers believe. It is a entity separate and apart from the people it claims to represent and therefore its size and role should be extremely limited. Any representation it claims to provide can be easily proven wrong under scrutiny, if only the educated elite would bother to do so.
I think there are a lot of parallels to banking & financing and the regulation and oversight of those industries.
Definitely it’s good to do something rather than nothing, and many good things happen because of oversight etc.
But just like in banking, don’t expect this to be a panacea and things are going to happen very slowly.
For me, I look at analogous examples where we have tried to build technical expertise in the government. One such reference point is the US Patent Office. Although they don't have a "small" workforce in absolute terms, they are overwhelmed with the number and kind of filings they get. You basically need to remain an expert in the field in order to do that job well, but it is very hard to remain an expert in the field if you are working at the USPTO instead of the field. It is also difficult to keep people in this position where if they are particularly creative or knowledgable they could alternatively be doing exciting meaningful work in the field. The result is ultimately what many of us complain about: nonsense patents getting through, patent trolls pushing people around, and a new vested interest in exploiting the patent office. Importantly, this is not to say that an ideal patent office wouldn't be a meaningful job: I think many of us here wish that we had "the best" working there to prevent these sorts of lapses (and potentially allow "good patents" -- not meaning to get into a discussion as to the validity of software patents in general, just saying that the hypothetical version of the patent office diverges significantly from the one we actually have).
I have a hard time believing this organization wouldn't work similarly. Would they coincidentally have a an expert on lattice encryption when quantum computers become a realistic threat to current schemes? Would the general leanings of career-members of the OTA (who thus have a somewhat "frozen" view of technology from whenever they started) create the opportunity to form some sort of regulatory capture? I don't know. Ultimately the solution is "if we had a group that really cared about the public good, then...".
My point is that I'd like for something like the OTA to be good, but I think practically speaking it won't have the effects we think it will. I am much more in favor of trying to create an adversarial counter-balance (or ideally multiple adversarial counter-balances). If I could somehow snap my fingers and grant the equivalent budget that this OTA would have to the EFF for example, I'd take that immediately. This is because things like this become issues maybe in one election, but ultimately get drowned out for a much more popular issue later. The forming of some government agency to "fix this" makes people feel like it is thus "fixed", instead of realizing that it is a constant battle we need to be actively engaged in -- that's what makes me feel like supporting groups like the EFF is more important and potentially more effective than creating some organization that could easily just be disbanded just like it was in the 90s and completely undone.
I'd probably be more OK with the idea if there were mandatory term limits, like the USDS, and the vetting process had oversight from a committee of congress.
How did I feel? Step out of the box, and imagine for a second that business and profit are not inherently evil. This is what we are told, every day by people like Warren. I believe profit is a reward for providing something people want for a lower price - and absolutely necessary to be in business. Profit is a function of efficiency.
The question rests in the in the notion that Government, (not motivated by the ability to make something people want for a lower price) will be able to do a better job than the free market in making tech policy decisions. It seems silly that a small team of government hired employees would know better than tens of thousands of Google, Amazon or Facebook experts.
Libertarians could view this small group of government employees as corrupt. Using their personal politics and authoritarian power to pick winners and losers - rather than let the free people pick real winners and losers.
So it depends on your perspective. Do you personally believe the Government can do a better job than the people?
For example, private enterprise can certainly make a lot of money providing health care but I'd be very disappointed if my country switched to privatized health care. I personally believe that the Government can do, and does, a better job than "the people" in providing me with health care.
Well, what you said is entirely true...from the perspective of someone using their imagination to form their world view.
In the world I can observe, business is neither inherently good or inherently evil. It tends to take on the morality or immorality of its owners and directors. I'll leave it to the reader to decide what kind of people tend to rise into those positions, and thus what kind of morality their businesses assume. Business is motivated by all kinds of incentives not necessarily related to "lower prices". Left unchecked, without guidance from the general public, those incentives will always converge on "profiting and growing" to the exclusion of everything else. I don't think this view requires imagination, but happy to be shown otherwise.
I would posit that business is virtually never motivated by "lower prices" and always motivated by "profiting and growing". Not that profiting and growing is inherently evil, but I think the idea that businesses strive to lower prices for consumers is truly fantasy.
This is the same for government. The worst is when both work purely for power together - the pharmaceutical industry being one, the military industrial complex being another. I frequently see people who advocate for smaller government be fine with absolutely abusive industry, thinking that with less government (IE regulation) the industry will fix itself. I don't think this is the case, since you're not really addressing the power disparity. The same can be true with industry - making industry smaller (anti-trust) won't fix the government.
How do monopolies work with this? If I am a car manufacturer and I buy up all the steel and steel mills, and then jack my prices up, I get more profit, and also am protected from competitors. If there are no power or resource disparities, I could see this working, but at the very least government is (to a much larger extent than the private sector) accountable to people.
Those tens of thousands of Google/Amazon/Facebook experts are not going to provide the government with objective recommendations, they're going to provide the government with recommendations that favor them. The idea of the government office of experts is to help make decisions that are objectively in the best interests of the people, not the corporations that are going to be affected by those decisions.
I work for a government office that, fortunately, is not hated by Republicans because it supports the military. But in this office our job is to ensure that private companies are giving the government good value and not feeding us a bunch of crap. I see the kind of shoddy workmanship they try to sneak past us all the time.
Is the libertarian perspective really that the government should just de facto trust all private companies and not try to provide oversight?
> Do you personally believe the Government can do a better job than the people?
The government is made up of people too.
Do you have a factual basis for this claim? To me it seems like a form of projection that is common among right-of-center people. It's no wonder they want smaller government.
My concern, is the massive amounts of failed promises Warren has made in efforts to shut down things like Robocalls, and for her to be auditioning for her next job before she's completed her current one bothers me.
Unless the government radically raises salaries and benefits for these positions to attract top talent, I’d be concerned with it being stacked with a bunch of people who don’t have much developer or engineering experience.
I say this as various friends at times worked for government agencies and sought promotion. They could have filled extant positions due to their experience, but they were denied before becoming a public servant due to lack of public service and then denied after for lack of seniority (even when asking to be considered as an external hire).
Coming from them, jobs often seemed to open up after a person had retired and were catered towards an individual.
Must be certified in (X) where certification courses are only available to government employees of a single government office.
Must hold clearances is by far the most common though and the only reason/way to get clearance is to already be working for the government.
I'd say by far the number one thing that keeps the cycle of nepotism going in government though is access to information.
Sure, an agency might be required to publicly post an RFP, but there are like 50 undisclosed qualifications considered and timing and whether you have a personal relationship with a particular individual within the agency plays a huge role. Often the only way around this is to bid so ridiculously low on your proposal that the agency head would be called out for not going with your proposal. This leads to a race to the bottom where people are climbing over each other to provide the lowest quality service to the government often overpromising and under delivering just to get a foot in the door.
My impression is that government tech = All the problems of Enterprise + Academia, all the recognition and support of a non profit, the culture of Uber, and the ethics of Facebook.
It’s just a maelstrom of most developers idea of hell.
And if you were born in hell and they hand you a pitchfork, hey, why not have a go?
But don’t go down there thinking you’re gonna install air conditioning and escalators.
Anyone competent enough to retrain and retool could've done so, obviating their need for your training.
It's true that there are many programmers in government who were promoted from within, learned on the job, and are limited on technical knowledge we would expect from a CS grad or a seasoned "software engineer" from industry. In many cases the code is written by contractors under the watch of a government employee who is responsible for delivering the system.
But I have found some aspects very rewarding: guiding new programmers who are eager to learn modern languages and techniques; introducing industry tools and practices to leadership who are excited to modernize/replace legacy systems.
Of course, for every ColdFusion developer who is humble and motivated update their toolbelt, there is one who resents all new technology and technologists. Not talking about the groans about going "agile", I mean people who say "react is silly, I can do all this with jquery! New devs don't know how to do it the 'real' way".
Overall, there is a powerful current within these organizations that is pushing toward new tech and better talent. But I don't know how leadership will manage to bring in new grads and private sector talent while still honoring its promise to promote those in non-technical jobs after years of service.
Whilst companies should have a say, the general feeling of myself and again, I'm sure others - is that they monopolise the perspective of some officials. Then you have, `donations` and for want of another way of expressing that - it is just bribery and corruption with legal window-dressing.
This only leads to angst in the populus, who end up rising up and acting in ways that get heard, but equally demonised. For example - Anonymous raised many fair issues in their days, valid points. Albeit in a way that was to some extent - extreme, but when you drive people to the edge and the fall off, you can't blame them all the time.
Again, this is an excellent initiative and whilst Google may
not be the worst offender, they are no angel.
[EDIT - that grammar and spelling error you just spot after you hit send, even though you read it thru before hitting send]
If i felt the need to do civic duty, I think I'd rather join the Army than take that job. At least there's the chance of shooting someone who deserves it there.
(Perhaps I'm still a little PTSD from my time supporting users)
* Edit: Calmer now; I have to say it's a great idea that Congress (and whoever else in government) could have a resource to tap for specialized knowledge in technical fields they currently lack coverage of. I can't imagine they can make the job attractive enough for me
Of course, I also have 14 years of dealing with the DOD in technical capacities, so that didn't help.
This would be a fragile suture over the gushing wound that is corporate lobbying. It's literally allowing wolves in the hen house.
If we're going to keep doing this whole Democratic Republic thing, along with the Constitution, we need to adhere to the spirit of the framework and not just the letter of it.
The federal government was set (what was at the time) far away from everyday life so that our representatives would not be swayed by salesmen and their snake oil.
So, if you want to make a difference Liz, do something about the root problem and help us defeat corporate lobbying.
The business of lobbying has grown to over $3 billion per year according to OpenSecrets.org . That doesn't include campaign contributions. It's impossible for so much money to make its way through individuals with their own self interests and result in a sustainable government beneficial to the people. Money will always win whenever it makes an appearance. We can't combat lobbying with tools, we have to prevent it.
So, it's a non-starter until she lays out actual actions to consider or commits to ending the practice.
Almost every facet of our country could use re-evaluation. Health care should be a right for the people. Basic living conditions should be provided for all. The country has the money, the space and the food.
We could be so much better than we are now - and we're pretty good now.
RFPs work in every industry. Depending on the bill, Congress should request proposals or maintain a list of credentialed experts overseen by a watchdog agency outside of their control. Or they could be nominated by professional organizations and guilds.
Either way, no, Google, Shell, et al should not be allowed to spend X dollars sending former members of Congress or others to advocate for them, especially when experts in those fields, or scientists, contradict them.
Regardless, throwing our hands up and shrugging it off is absolutely the wrong course of action.
I think that if you really care about this issue, it's most effective if you donate to a special interest group like the EFF, and stay informed.
However, if the top-level politicians, who remain technically inept, are the ones giving the orders, confusion will remain.
The converse would also be true though; a technologically adept leadership that didn't understand society's principles would also lead to confusion, likely worse confusion.
Deeper still, a militarily adept leadership, or any other narrowly adept leadership, that didn't understand society's principles would also lead to confusion.
Politicians have to deal with society as a whole, and as long as no one can master every area of expertise, they need to have someone doing analyses on their behalf.
In theory, anyway, I'd push for appointing people to such roles by sortition, although that would never work in practice. Politics as a duty rather than as a career.
Sortition from what pool? I'd favor educating congresspeople (and citizens) but where's the incentive to make that happen?
At the event in SF they had stale sugar cookies & bottles of water for refreshments. Several people (myself included) got up half way during their pitch and left.
Not sure I’d ever want to work for the federal government after that experience.
Most of the engineers there looked around at the country and felt there was simple things that would make life so much better for their neighbors and friends, and they knew they were wasting their time trying to make people click on advertisements. For my part my father is a veteran who had to deal with the VA for his doctors appointments and benefits and his experience was beyond bad ( which is something you can hear from lots of veterans ). When I got the opportunity to join the USDS and work at the VA with the Secretary of the VA and the Senior Executives I also felt it was a fools errand, but I figured if I didn't at least try how could I expect anything to get better for my dad. I joined a agency that was struggling to get even basic IT systems working, and with the help of world class engineers and dedicated public servants we helped millions of veterans and literally saved lives. I have had veterans break down crying telling us how much better their life is now that they can actually engage with a agency who was trying to provide them services.
Quite frankly the people who staff the USDS are not only the most technically competent, but their dedication to service is so strong, and their ability to succeed in impossible situations though sheer force of will and dedication so overwhelming they have radically changed how this country operates, and there is still individuals there who are continuing on the mission.
What did you do with your life? If your concerned about the pay cut and poor working conditions then stay at your job and see if you can manipulate people into clicking on ads better, but just know those people who you just looked down on are making a difference.
* Also for the record my tour of duty ended two years ago, and I am no longer associated with the USDS, I am just a huge fan who's life was changed by what I saw while I was there.
Unrelated to the original topic, but I want to point out that this question and it’s cousins are a massive red flag for me.
Being content with life is hard. For many people who are still in the early stages of figuring it out, this question is poison.
It attacks a specific insecurity and is always only used to recruit young people into a workforce that is otherwise hard to staff (militaries, rebel causes, government services etc)
When “what have you done with your life?” is replaced with “Do x, and your life will be more meaningful”, the advertising tactic becomes more visible. But the people who want to find such answers must seek therapy, not enroll for whatever job opportunity is being nefariously advertised.
So it is a loaded question, but I feel its one people in the tech industry need to ask themselves.
> * Also for the record my tour of duty ended two years ago
Is there some official marketing for the USDS that uses this term "tour of duty" to refer to a civilian government job? This comment uses that exact phrase twice, and I've seen other people use it with reference to the USDS as well.
It's honestly a huge turnoff, more than anything else GP mentioned. There are some situations under which I'd be willing to work for below-market rates. But the last thing i would ever want is for my work to be associated with the culture and goals of the military, or for my coworkers to view our job in that light.
There are lots of jobs, both in the government and in the private sector, which have fixed terms. Very few refer to this using the militaristic language "tour of duty".
Thanks for answering the question. So it is, in fact, a conscious decision by the USDS, which doesn't reflect well on their work culture IMO.
The problem is, I'm not willing to work below market rate -- for anyone. The government has a lot of resources, they are just used inappropriately. I'm not willing to work for beans for the government, and billing it as a "service to your country" is just a way to get people to feel like they aren't being taken advantage of. Pay people what they are worth. Be honest. Provide a good working environment. Treat people with respect. Put a little effort into the recruitment events like you actually care about people.
If the government wants to attract good technical talent, they need to offer the same or similar benefits that tech companies do, and they need to pay people what they are worth. Who would have thought?
And from the sound of it, the USDS is attracting good talent. What you're saying is that they need to put in more effort if they want to attract you. But you may exist at that nexus of talent that is good, but also wants to be wooed a bit. There's a problem with that though: It wouldn't be selling the reality of working with the USDS. As a group they may be great, but you're dropped into areas, like the VA, that may be dysfunctional. They can't try recruiting people like you who want the slick office spaces and amenities and fancy recruiting events, because you're not a good fit for the environment you'll be working in. Your work would be part of the effort to improve that situation, but it takes people willing to put up with it.
Pay people what they are worth! You don't have to pay Netflix salary but it at least needs to be in the range of market rate.
It disturbs me that there are those here on HN that seem to fetishize suffering when there are so many resources. People don't need to suffer needlessly to do good work and get things done and "change the world". In fact, when you allow people to live a decent life you'll find they are happier and more productive employees.
People who are driven by personal gain, and comfort will never make it at the USDS. The work is hard and thankless, its exhausting and there are never enough people for the amount of work that needs to be done. The hours are long. You have no tools, and really odd and limiting restrictions you have to deal with. If you are concerned about any of those things stay away, you are not good enough to join. You need to have unquestionable technical credentials and the mental fortitude to deal with whatever gets thrown at you. You have to be able to stand up to Secretaries, Generals, Members of Congress, and Presidents and tell them what should be done. Its ok if you can't do it there aren't many who can, but if you can you will change the world.
Who is your target audience with this little speech? 14 year old boys? I'm asking, because I stopped responding to "Prove you're not yellow, you coward" nonsense about that age, and I was pretty slow...
Hahaha ... what? You reduced the cost by moving into one of the most overpriced hosting options? Or are you telling me that the government is getting massive discounts?
Its expensive, but in this case the savings were massive ( saved almost 20m per year )
Veterans could get appointments to see their doctors. The number one kind of appointment was mental health. That is how it was changing the world. What we did with that one application can now be done thousands of times over for their other projects. We wrote the playbook.
So your argument is that the USDS is bad because you personally don't want to work there?
Sometimes, I gotta be honest, I don't think I can get a break with you. I just don't see you taking this tact with anyone else. The forum is filled with single-line responses like this.
And I... well, I gotta be honest, I don't see you making this kind of correction to other posters. There really does seem to be something about me specifically that's setting you off. How can I fix that?
For us most moderation interactions are stateless, because we do thousands of them, which sandblasts the brain  and scrubs it of previous state. That creates an asymmetry: because individual users interact with moderators only rarely, they're more likely to remember the interactions. Plus there's the authority thing: it sucks to be reprimanded by authority, no matter how mildly, even on a trivial playground like an internet forum, so inevitably that impresses itself on the memory, usually with a lot of extra torque. None of us is immune from that psychology. We try to mitigate it but we're not perfect, plus we can't mitigate what we're not conscious of.
Then there's the quantity issue: even if we never slept, we could never moderate every violation of the site guidelines or even read all the comments to find them all. So every regular reader of HN is going to run across comments that should have been moderated but weren't. It's irresistible to give that an interpretation—nobody looks at it and says to themselves, "Ah, randomness". Instead they see confirmation of whatever bias they fear the moderators are secretly governed by—usually a political or ideological bias, sometimes a personal one, occasionally something on the long tail of beyond-weird.
In reality, all we see is a random sample of comments plus the ones that readers bring to our attention by flagging and/or emailing. That leaves a large corpus of unmoderated material that provides way more than enough sourdough-starter for every perception that is out there to feed on. The natural human response is to construct a story about what happened: what the moderators did, why we did it, what we were thinking and feeling when we did it. These stories are basically all made up, because making up stories is what we all do all day; the brain is a compulsive curve-fitter, and there is almost never more than a handful of beans for data.
I can tell you that, to the extent that I recognize your username, I associate it with someone who has improved their HN commenting style over the years—which FWIW is a high-praise bucket in my mental hashtable. But if you really want to be relieved of the issue that "I don't see you making this kind of correction to other posters", the surest way would be to read backward through https://news.ycombinator.com/threads?id=dang until you can stomach no more of it.
If your entire operational model relies on taking advantage of others, asking people to make huge personal sacrifices because you don't want to properly fund a program, there's something wrong.
It's the classic "ends justify the means" argument.
You're making this kind of absolutist argument that to my eyes is just ridiculous on its face. Different people want different things, and are willing to accept different raw salary numbers for them. The whole point of having an employment market is precisely to allow different people to make these choices and come to an appropriate equilibrium.
If you personally don't want to work for the government for lower pay than you could get in the private sector, that's fine. But that's not a principled argument about wage structures, it's just your choice. And empirically, it's not everyone's.
Not sure how you can argue against the simple fact that people need to be paid a decent, fair wage. At all levels of your career, including your first job. A startup doesn't get a pass just as the government shouldn't get a pass for "mission based" worked. Everything and everyone has a mission, but that is separate from the fact people need to be paid (& treated) fairly.
> stale sugar cookies & bottles of water for refreshments
Well, that's what the government runs on. Old tech, low pay, and minimal perks. But there is impactful work to be done and some people are motivated by that.
I feel like time and time again I read how private sector can do better than the public sector, in all sectors.
By the time we're talking about non-military discretionary spending it's 15% of the total.
> I feel like time and time again I read how private sector can do better than the public sector, in all sectors.
The private sector has its own problems. Do we want the government to be more like PG&E and Comcast? Consider the difference in outcomes between for-profit universities and state schools. The topic is too in depth for a random internet comment, but things really need to be taken on a case by case basis. It's all about incentives.
While there's a lot of truth to this, I think it's overused as an explanation because blaming the institution is less painful when there's a failed outcome.
Talent, on the other hand, is less used as an explanation because when there's a bad outcome, it hurts more to blame those, even partially, who were executing towards the goal.
However in some endeavors talent matters a lot, and software is one of them. The Mythical Man-Month is a great book that examines software project failure, whose conclusions are that "institutional" solutions to software problems, such as more staff or more budget, aren't as good as "talent" solutions, such as hiring the best person in the world for an absurdly high salary and having them do most of the work.
That's a long-winded answer to why the private sector is better than the public sector at some things: it does a better job at rewarding, and thus attracting, talent. The public sector, by contrast, is more likely to promote based on seniority and base political values, which in a democracy include equality and solidarity.
"Money, power, respect. It's the key to life."
Which has also been described as the three main rewards that people value (sometimes in combination).
(I often equate respect with fame in the examples below)
- low money
- medium power
- high respect
- high money
- low power
- low respect/fame
Mid level government bureaucrat that manages the budget of an important project:
- high power
- low respect
Not everyone is driven by money (or at least, by money alone).