This story in the Dallas Morning News is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, I think there is a small but non-zero chance that Mark Cuban will run for president in 2020. The fact that he’s talking about issues like modernizing the bureaucracy would be pretty odd if he weren’t at least considering it. Plus, he clearly dislikes Trump and he recognizes, probably correctly, that he has the same sort of national profile that resulted in lots of free air time for Trump. The second reason this is interesting is the topic itself. Cuban thinks it’s time to bring government into the 21st century by making it more streamlined.
Cuban, who studies the latest in technology trends like entrepreneurs study his investment advice, thinks a bigger problem in America is how wildly inefficient and outdated government happens to be. (To be fair, he had this same problem with the last administration, too.)
Via his Dust app, Cuban told me his solution is simple: Turn to technology. He uses one of the most well-operated and well-known businesses as an example. “The government can and should change into a service like Amazon. We just need new people who have a tech-clue. Government is people-driven; it shouldn’t be. All those people should be gone and their work should be online.”
He added: “Amazon does more than most governments. Our government is capable of functioning this way at one-tenth its size.”
Cuban said if the government embraced technology, it might pave the way for a faster operation and downsizing. “I’m for small government and tech will make it much smaller and better. No more 10 layers of paper pushers,” he said.
During tax season, OpenSecrets.org published a story saying H&R Block had spent a large sum lobbying a bill that would bar the government from offering taxpayers prefilled filings. Cuban expressed dismay tweeting, “This is just wrong. We can’t make government more efficient if we stay in the stone ages.”
As a former government bureaucrat myself, there’s a lot of this that I like. Reducing the bureaucracy would save money, but more importantly, it would remove a massive institution (unionized government workers) which serve as a power base for the left.
As we all saw with the rollout of Obamacare, making government more efficient sounds good on paper but often results in a complete disaster in reality. I think President Cuban would have his hands full trying to do the same for Social Security or other big government agencies.
But it’s really the other part of the equation which would doom this effort to failure. Bureaucrats have political power and the one issue they care about above all others is this: protecting the jobs of bureaucrats. If you want to get them job re-training or shuffle the deck, they might go along with it, especially if raises are involved. But if you want to fire 10% of their members (much less 90%) you can expect them to fight tooth and nail against you at every turn.
Mark Cuban is used to working with go-getters, the kind of people who create businesses and risk everything to create something new. He’s used to professional athletes who train hard to be their best for a chance at glory. What he’s not used to, I suspect, is government bureaucrats who spend hours reading the newspaper every morning on the clock. He’s not used to employees who fall asleep at their desks every afternoon after lunch. There are entire buildings in Washington, DC full of decently-paid people that Mark Cuban would fire within a day if he were their boss. This is not a group of people who are eager for a Silicon Valley pep talk and a massive change in their duties.
So as much as I like the idea, I’m not getting my hopes up. This is not a battle anyone can win anytime soon, certainly not in one term as president. The real “deep state” isn’t progressives networking to oppose President Trump. The real deep state is an overweight bureaucrat in ill-fitting clothes who takes a two-hour lunch and then spends the afternoon looking busy without getting much of anything done.