Barack Obama, The Great Mismanager

Thomas Schatz Citizens Against Government Waste
Font Size:

There have been several “great” U.S. presidents. For example, Abraham Lincoln was the Great Emancipator; Ronald Reagan was the Great Communicator.

Barack Obama is the Great Mismanager.

As the chief executive of the United States, the president is in charge of the federal government’s day-to-day activities. This task is generally unexciting and not discussed in the media or by ordinary citizens unless something goes wrong.

Some scandals have been festering for years across multiple presidencies, while others are self-inflicted. Some scandals, such as the healthcare.gov website, cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars; others, such as Benghazi, cost lives; and then there is the VA scandal, which cost both money and lives.

These problems have occurred because President Obama has no understanding of how to run a large organization and completely failed to make management a priority. He did not appoint competent individuals to run major government agencies. He has not coordinated management issues inside the White House or communicated on a regular basis with his cabinet, since he seems to only hear about problems in the news.

The president invariably talks about how much he cares, which in and of itself is emblematic of his incompetence. If he was truly empathetic, he would spend more time preventing and solving problems and less time talking about how he feels.

Unlike President Obama, President Reagan was quite clear about how he wanted the government to be run more effectively. He increased the number of inspectors general, set up three White House initiatives on management and efficiency, and established the President’s Private Sector Survey on Cost Control, better known as the Grace Commission. His executive orders implemented dozens of the commission’s recommendations and saved more than $100 billion. He included the commission’s recommendations in every annual budget and tracked their progress. He was the first (and only) president to submit an annual report on “Management of the United States Government” with his budget.

President Reagan believed that taking care of the taxpayers meant providing the government programs they truly needed at a reasonable cost. He recognized that government inefficiency produces “excessive costs, inadequate services, or both.” He described his management style as follows: “Surround yourself with great people; delegate authority; get out of the way.”

President Obama believes that taking care of the taxpayers means talking about how much he cares about their problems and that government programs should be funded regardless of cost, effectiveness, and results. If he submitted a publication similar to President Reagan’s, it would be titled, “Mismanagement of the United States Government.”

For example, when President Obama presented his “new management agenda” on July 8, 2013, he talked about bringing government into the twenty-first century by carrying over the techniques of his campaign to make the government more “user-friendly,” and that “what we were doing to help us get elected could also be used once we were elected.” Since his only “management” success has been his campaigns, it is no wonder he thought those techniques could apply to the entire federal government.

President Obama’s lack of commitment to management is also exemplified by his failure to use “government waste” or “wasteful spending” in his six State of the Union addresses. He used “mismanagement” only once in regard to the banking scandal and said “management” once in reference to technology. In other words, he has never laid out a single management initiative before Congress and the American people at the beginning of any year he has been in office.

President Obama has no conception of how to properly manage an organization, let alone the federal government. Indeed, his belief that the government should be run like a political campaign helps to explain, but does not excuse, his incompetence.

Every president enters the White House seeking a lasting legacy; for some, “great” achievements are associated with their names.

President Obama will forever be known as the Great Mismanager.