FILE – In this Jan. 6, 2015, file photo, dignitaries and VIP’s line up to sign a portion of the rail at the California High Speed Rail Authority ground breaking event in Fresno, Calif. (AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian, File)
FILE – In this Jan. 6, 2015, file photo, dignitaries and VIP’s line up to sign a portion of the rail at the California High Speed Rail Authority ground breaking event in Fresno, Calif. (AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian, File)

“Are California programs having intended effect?” CalMatters wondered this week.

No it wasn’t a joke — why do you ask?

But seriously though, we hear so often how Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Democratic-led Legislature spend billions of dollars of our money on new programs, but look around — the results are underwhelming.

Calmatters looked at a government-run program to administer hearing aids to 2,300 kids in need. That’s certainly a worthy goal and a manageable number. It should be a snap!

But a snap it was not.

Apparently after one year the state had handed out just 39 devices. That’s not even one per week. For one person to serve all 2,300 children in one year, they would only need to process 44 per week or just eight per day.

You get the point. A private business delivering those kinds of results would probably not stay in business very long.

But this is no business we’re talking about — this is the government and it will never die.

Like food rotting in Venezuelan government warehouses, the hearing aids are bogged down in bureaucracy and waiting on the central planners to come up with a plan that works.

According to CalMatters, department spokespeople refused to explain what went wrong, but parents and advocates complained of a labyrinthine application process, complications with insurance and low and slow reimbursements for healthcare providers.

And people still think government-run healthcare is a good idea.

Remember how the state’s Employment Development Department was having such a hard time processing unemployment claims during the pandemic? The number of unemployment claims exploded as businesses were ordered closed. EDD had a backlog of a million claims for what seemed like an eternity. People seeking help rarely got a real person on the phone and when they did, calls ended prematurely or the person answering was unable to answer questions.

That was bad enough, but a recent report exposed new levels of incompetence. It turns out that the inability to process claims in a timely manner was a feature and not a bug of the system as the departmental priority was minimizing costs and fraud — customer service was secondary.

Of course, spending money efficiently and fighting fraud are vital, but for all the bureaucratic focus on fraud, the state didn’t do a very good job – the state paid out an estimated $20 billion in fraudulent claims. And while the state was paying out billions in fraudulent claims, it wrongly denied valid claims for more than one million people.

On top of that, EDD lied (or committed something short of a lie) by reporting 705,000 disqualified or denied claims to the Legislature when the number was actually around 3.4 million.

“People should get fired for this,” Fresno Republican Assemblyman Jim Patterson told CalMatters.

He’s right, but no one will actually get fired.

If the state can’t handle dishing out 2,300 hearing aids to kids in need or process unemployment claims in a timely manner (especially when the state is what ordered the businesses closed), it’s no surprise it’s falling on the bigger issues.

Public education, crime, cost of living, housing, homelessness, energy and wildfires, for example, are all floundering issue areas despite record state spending (of our money).

We hear lots of grandiose talk about nonsense like “reimagining.” And then we get expensive new programs with worse results.

In May of 2021, Newsom announced a $100-billion plan that “will end family homelessness within five years.” The good news is that he has less than four years to go; the bad news is that homelessness seems as bad as ever.

Will this plan fare any better than his proclamation as San Francisco mayor in 2004 that his then-plan would solve homelessness in the city in 10 years? Or what about the plan he campaigned on in 2018 to build 3.5 million new housing units by 2025 (also known as  two years from now)?

Progressives, socialists, communists, statists, whatever you want to call them, suffer from the faulty belief that if you just put some smart people in charge, they can solve society’s problems.

Unfortunately, there’s no evidence to support this belief.

Let’s keep going. High-speed rail is billions of dollars over budget, years behind schedule, and doesn’t appear that it will ever be complete. Fi$cal was supposed to be a game-changing technological advancement that would modernize the state’s accounting systems. But, like high-speed rail, it’s years behind schedule and grossly over budget and its inefficiency threatens the state’s credit rating and ability to borrow money. Whenever the state announces some new massive undertaking, I don’t see how anyone can be anything but skeptical. The state will solve climate change. Or transform the economy. Or end homelessness. Or fix the housing crisis.

None of these things are likely to happen. What is more likely is that taxes will go up, the state will spend more money, the government will grow and become more unwieldy and politicians will continue to make promises upon which they can’t deliver.

Instead of all that, I urge the state to try a new approach. If you want to try to solve everything, start by solving at least one thing.

Before even considering taking over healthcare for 39 million Californians, first try distributing hearing aids for 2,300 kids in a timely and competent fashion.

Follow Matt Fleming on Twitter @FlemingWords

Republished from the Orange County Register: https://www.ocregister.com/2022/08/14/can-government-get-a-single-thing-right/

The same editorial appeared in the print edition of the LA Times (picture below):