Do you think the bureaucracy is most efficient (not necessarily most powerful) when it is “the arm of the president”? Why? How we can see the efficiency of inefficiency of a bureaucracy with...

Do you think the bureaucracy is most efficient (not necessarily most powerful) when it is “the arm of the president”? Why? How we can see the efficiency of inefficiency of a bureaucracy with respect to the Department of Veterans Affairs under presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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A bureaucracy can be defined as a government with a system of hierarchy, and each tier within the hierarchy has its own functions and must follow certain rules. In a bureaucracy, the top bureaucrat has the most control, which is the exact opposite of how the writers of the Constitution set up the US government. The Constitution establishes a system of checks and balances that puts limits on a president's power, thereby preventing the government from becoming a bureaucracy. However, many presidents have been known for overstepping their bounds of power and creating a bureaucracy with disastrous results.

President George W. Bush is particularly noted for allowing himself far more presidential power than allowed for by the Constitution. Tara McKinley, senior editor of the Prospect, quotes Rick Perlstein, author of Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America, to assert that the Bush administration overturned our system of checks and balances ("How Bush Broke the Government"). Among Bush's power corruptions, Bush has been accused of hiring contractors to fight in Iraq, interfering with scientific research on global warming to cater to the whims of oil lobbyists, and many others. Individual departments within the Bush administration are also guilty of corrupt, power-bending decisions. One clear example can be seen with respect to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Secretary Jim Nicholson set out in 2005 to "reduce the number of claims made by veterans for post-traumatic stress disorder" by looking for what he felt could be assessed as fraudulent claims, which was clearly a means of trying to manipulate budget cuts. What followed this corrupt usage of power to manipulate the budget was the suicide of a veteran in New Mexico whose case was being reviewed for a post-traumatic stress disorder claim. Hence, as we can see from this example, when the presidency is governed like a bureaucracy, it can lead to power corruptions that can lead to corrupt decisions.

In contrast, President Obama's Subcommittee on Health has just initiated the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 that was signed into effect by the Senators at a vote of 91 to 3 and sent to Obama to be signed on July 31st, 2014. The bill provided the Department of Veterans Affairs with $5 billion to hire more doctors and nurses, $10 billion to pay for private health care coverage when a veteran cannot be seen as a patient with 30 days or lives 40 miles from the nearest VA building ("Bill to Upgrade Veterans' Care"). This is an excellent example of the government not being handled bureaucratically and instead maintaining the system of checks and balances to ensure that each department and committee is playing its part.

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