#Obamacare: Sebelius’ history of IT failures in Kansas

October 24, 2013
"A track record of epic failure"

“A track record of epic failure”

Naturally, this is the person you want leading the biggest, most complicated information technology project in US government history, involving a full takeover of 16% of the nation’s economy. For that, my friends, only the best will do:

Obama administration Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ failure at designing websites to provide government services began during her term as governor of Kansas, long before the Obamacare website debacle, Kansas political insiders told The Daily Caller.

Sebelius oversaw numerous costly and disastrous government website projects during her six-year governorship (2003-2009), including a failed update of the Department of Labor’s program to provide unemployment pay and other services and similar updates pertaining to the Department of Administration and the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) services.

The Department of Labor’s overhaul of its computer programs was a notable boondoggle, according to 14-year former Kansas state senator and former state Labor Secretary Karin Brownlee.

“In the Kansas Senate, I chaired the Commerce committee. We had oversight over the Department of Labor. For years, we watched as the Department of Labor under Sebelius worked on that computer program. After seven years and $50 million, something should work,” Brownlee told TheDC.

“In Kansas if you have a 40 or 50 million dollar project, that’s a lot of money,” Brownlee said, noting that the Labor Department project was funded by federal money while other Sebelius website projects sucked up state taxpayer dollars. “They started and stopped that project with at least 3 different major contractors.”

When Brownlee was appointed to head the state’s Department of Labor under new Republican governor Sam Brownback in 2011, she was tasked with cleaning up Sebelius’ technical mess.

Read the article for several example of Sebelius’s managerial incompetence. This line, though, poses a very good question:

We pretty much expected HealthCare.gov to fail, because she has a pattern of failing on these big initiatives. We thought that was why she was not nominated originally,” Schwab said.

In other words, why did the administration hire someone with such a miserable performance record in just these kinds of projects?

Perhaps we shouldn’t wonder, though. Obama’s first nominee for HHS Secretary, former Senator Tom Daschle (D-SD), had to withdraw from consideration under pressure of ethics and tax questions. And who can forget “Turbo-Tax” Timothy Geithner, whose nomination for Treasury Secretary was almost derailed by questions of tax evasion… until he convinced people he was just too dumb to work a simple tax program right.

Vetting is obviously not the President’s strong suit. After all, no one ever asked any tough questions about his background and qualifications (in either election), so why should he do the same for his own nominees? In fact, this excerpt from The New York Times via The Federalist makes one wonder if he was ever really interested in doing the job at all:

Even as the debate about arming the rebels took on a new urgency, Mr. Obama rarely voiced strong opinions during senior staff meetings. But current and former officials said his body language was telling: he often appeared impatient or disengaged while listening to the debate, sometimes scrolling through messages on his BlackBerry or slouching and chewing gum. In private conversations with aides, Mr. Obama described Syria as one of those hellish problems every president faces, where the risks are endless and all the options are bad.

That was in reference to Syria this last summer, which had turned into a genuine crisis for the administration. But we know Obama isn’t really interested in foreign affairs, except for the occasional apology tour. But Obamacare is his baby, the thing he’s most likely to be remembered for in the history books. It’s his New Deal, his Great Society, the great liberal project. Wouldn’t he want to be danged sure the person he put in charge was qualified to carry it out?

In real life, I manage a small staff. I hire, train, evaluate, and, if needed, get rid of each of them. We have a job to do, and seeing that they do their job right is part my job. And I am judged in part on how well my staff does their jobs. The same can be said of any boss, any manager, any…. Chief Executive.

Shouldn’t President Obama be held to that same standard?

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


The progressive war on the middle class: Kansas vs. California

February 12, 2013

A few days ago, reactionary liberal E.J. Dionne wrote a piece in The Washington Post, part of which he devoted to bashing states that implement conservative fiscal and governance policies. And he singled out Kansas, the state with perhaps the most “Tea Party” government, for a ritual “two minutes hate:”

In some states where Republicans control all the levers of power, they are rushing ahead with astonishingly right-wing programs to eviscerate government while shifting the tax burden toward the middle class and the poor and away from the wealthy. In trying to build the Koch brothers’ dystopias, they are turning states in laboratories of reaction.

As Neil King Jr. and Mark Peters reported in a Wall Street Journal article on the “Red State model,” Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has slashed both income taxes and spending. This drew fire from moderate and moderately conservative Republican legislators, whom he then helped purge in primaries.

Note the requisite invocation of the demon Koch brothers, lest any of the progressive faithful miss the clue that these conservative reforms are EVIL!!!

Anyway, Washington Examiner columnist Conn Carroll read Dionne’s screed and did something increasingly unusual for journalists these days: he looked for facts before turning on his word-processing program. Imagine that.

So, first looked at how things are going in Mordor Kansas:

If Dionne were to bother to visit Kansas, he would find a state with an unemployment rate of 5.4 percent, a full 2.5 points below the nation’s 7.9 percent average. Despite “eviscerated” state government spending, Kansas’ fourth- and eighth-graders beat the national average in both math and reading scores. The state’s 11.2 percent poverty rate is also well below the national 15.8 percent national average. And despite all those evil tax cuts for the rich, the gap between Kansas’ wealthiest and poorest citizens is also much smaller than the national average.

The most recent Jayhawk Poll showed Brownback enjoying a 55 percent to 37 percent approval rating. But I’m sure the backlash Dionne predicted is just around the corner.

Then he compared it to the progressive Paradise, my beloved California, where Democrats control the governor’s office and have super-majorities in the legislature:

At 9.8 percent, unemployment is a bit higher in the Golden State then in Kansas — or the rest of the country, for that matter. Despite California spending far more per student than most states, its fourth- and eighth-graders perform far worse on reading and math proficiency scores than the average American students. A third of all the welfare recipients in the United States live in California, and the Census Bureau reports that the state also has the nation’s highest poverty rate. Almost one-quarter (23.5 percent) of Californians live below the poverty line.

And there is plenty of wealth to go around in California, but it also has one of the nation’s highest levels of income inequality. According to the Census Bureau, it is getting more and not less unequal.

Oh, and Governor Brown’s claims that our budget is at last balanced turned out to be a total lie, too. No word about Kansas’ budget, but I’m willing to bet they’re in better far fiscal shape than we are. Even Albania is.

Anyway, based on just this brief comparison of two states that most embody, respectively, what Walter Mead has called the Red and Blue models of government, if anyone is waging a war on the middle class, it’s the liberal/progressive/statist Democrats. Instead of looking at conservative states and shrieking “My God, what are you people doing,” Dionne should look to places where “his way” rules and ask “My God, what have we done?”

PS: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. That California isn’t yet in flaming ruins after decades of progressive misrule is evidence of just how powerful this state’s natural economy was and could be, again, if only the oligarchs in Sacramento would pull their heads out of their collective backsides — and their hands out of our wallets.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)