What Bush-Era Bureaucratic Incompetence Looks Like

| Wed Mar. 25, 2009 11:49 AM EDT

This is pretty fantastic. And by "fantastic," I mean awful but very useful.

Rarely do you find an example of the Bush Administration's philosophical approach to the bureaucracy (government doesn't work and we're going to prove it!) illustrated as starkly as it is in this New York Times article on the Labor Department's Wage and Hour Division.

In a report scheduled to be released Wednesday, the Government Accountability Office found that the agency, the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division, had mishandled 9 of the 10 cases brought by a team of undercover agents posing as aggrieved workers.

In one case, the division failed to investigate a complaint that under-age children in Modesto, Calif., were working during school hours at a meatpacking plant with dangerous machinery, the G.A.O., the nonpartisan auditing arm of Congress, found.

When an undercover agent posing as a dishwasher called four times to complain about not being paid overtime for 19 weeks, the division’s office in Miami failed to return his calls for four months, and when it did, the report said, an official told him it would take 8 to 10 months to begin investigating his case.

Other examples abound. The whole article (via TNR) is worth reading. Keep in mind, though, that while the mismanagement at Labor may be comical, it is not borne out of incompetence. This is malicious. The government was intentionally allowed to atrophy under the Bush Administration because it suited that crowd's ideological ends. The perversion of the FDA, the EPA, and the SEC all speak to that. And if the mandated inaction desiccated the parts of the government that are designed to protect or help the poor -- like in this instance -- all the better.

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