Welcome to Doug’s Brief Case

Doug BadgerThanks for stum­bling onto this blog. I hope you’ll take the time to read my brief cases and respond with brief cases of your own.

I spent over 30 years in and around gov­ern­ment, work­ing in the White House, the US Sen­ate, and as a lob­by­ist both for a non-profit advo­cacy group and cor­po­rate clients (Check out Doug’s File for more). That doesn’t make me an expert, but it does give me some insight into how Wash­ing­ton works and why it often doesn’t. Like every­one, I have my own point of view, opin­ions and biases.

Here’s what I believe:

Gov­ern­ment is brim­ming with good intentions.

Most every­body I’ve ever worked with came to Wash­ing­ton for all the right rea­sons. They have strong civic spirit, believe in pub­lic ser­vice and hold what they believe to be the country’s best inter­ests at heart. That’s true both of peo­ple with whom I agree and with whom I’ve dis­agreed. The first les­son I learned in Wash­ing­ton is that some of the peo­ple whose views I oppose are gen­uinely good and decent; the sec­ond is that some of the peo­ple I agree with are real assholes.

Gov­ern­ment is overrated.

Because I believe that pretty much every­body is well-intentioned, I’m not a cynic. Because I believe that well-intentioned peo­ple often yield to the con­ceit that they know just how to set things right, I am often a skep­tic. Most peo­ple assume that if gov­ern­ment estab­lishes a pro­gram in response to a prob­lem, the pro­gram is solv­ing that prob­lem – or, at least, con­tribut­ing to its solu­tion. I’ve learned that often ain’t so. Poverty rates, for exam­ple, stub­bornly climb as anti-poverty pro­grams mul­ti­ply. That’s not because the peo­ple who cre­ated these pro­grams are fool­ish or insin­cere or the peo­ple who run them are lazy or incom­pe­tent. It’s because there’s a chasm between what gov­ern­ment intends and what it achieves. The unin­tended con­se­quences of gov­ern­ment action almost always out­run its good intentions.

Gov­ern­ment inter­ven­tion is some­times the only solu­tion but it is rarely a good solution.

I am not a lib­er­tar­ian because I believe there are things gov­ern­ment should and must do. I am not a lib­eral because I do not believe that gov­ern­ment can allo­cate goods and ser­vices more effi­ciently and more fairly than can mar­kets. I am a con­ser­v­a­tive because while I rec­og­nize a larger role for gov­ern­ment than do lib­er­tar­i­ans, I share their view that gov­ern­ment grows at the expense of liberty.

Our pol­i­tics are too small.

But I’m a con­ser­v­a­tive who believes that nei­ther party can explain, much less resolve, our cur­rent eco­nomic predica­ment. Despite unprece­dented efforts by the Fed­eral Reserve (hold­ing inter­est rates paid by banks to zero for nearly five years and count­ing, buy­ing $85 bil­lion in gov­ern­ment and mortgage-backed debt every month) to spur growth and “stim­u­la­tive” fis­cal pol­icy (high­est fed­eral deficits since WWII), the econ­omy con­tin­ues to sput­ter and labor force par­tic­i­pa­tion rates remain near 30-year lows. Nei­ther tax hikes advo­cated by Democ­rats nor spend­ing cuts favored by Repub­li­cans seem likely to spur eco­nomic growth that will cre­ate jobs and raise liv­ing stan­dards. I don’t know what the answer is, but I’m pretty sure that our lead­ers don’t either.



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