In USA Today, Glenn Reynolds points out that even Obama detractors can’t say he didn’t do a good job in his last election campaign, but that the size and structure of government prevent him from being as successful with Obamacare:
Unlike Norris Dam, [opened within three years of the TVA Act passing congress] the Olmsted Dam and Locks on the Ohio River were authorized by Congress in 1988, but a quarter-century later the project is only half-done. It has also overrun its budget by a factor of four.
Meanwhile, most of the interesting stuff being done in outer space are being done by private companies. (In fact, President Obama’s space policy approach, which emphasizes private enterprise, is one of his greatest policy successes.)
As it’s gotten bigger the federal government appears to have gotten less competent. Apollo was a success on its own terms, but the big government policies that followed — the War On Poverty, the War On Drugs, the War On Cancer — have all been pretty much failures, sometimes disastrous ones.
Even Obama himself is evidence of this problem. His 2012 presidential campaign was famous for its mastery of technology, building up an electronic campaign infrastructure in just a few months that helped him win the election. But, of course, it wasn’t a government operation. Obama without the government — a technological success. Obama within the government — a technological embarrassment. The difference between success and failure here, as even Obama-haters will have to admit, wasn’t Obama. It’s more likely that a political campaign has clear goals, and lots of freedom to improvise, while a federal program is much more encumbered by law and bureaucracy.
Whatever the cause, it remains indisputable that the federal government isn’t very good at delivering on big projects. The obvious response is to not entrust the federal government with big projects on which it can’t deliver. Instead, they should be left to those who can.