Government Gives Itself a 99.9% Score

President Obama has called the Secret Service prostitution scandal a “little distracting” and has emphasized that “99.9 percent” of the time the agency does its job professionally. “A couple of knuckleheads shouldn’t detract from what they do,” he says, although there are perhaps as many as twelve agents implicated in the “knuckleheaded” behavior.

This 99.9% is a pretty good score. Some instructors would round it up and give the Secret Service an A+. And it’s not just Obama who feels this way about America’s armed federal officials.

Senator McCain, who would be president had Obama lost the election in 2008, responded to the scandal of U.S. soldiers disgustingly posing with body parts in Afghanistan: “What bothers me more than anything else is that 99.9 percent of these young Americans who are serving over there have the highest standards.” Presumably, only one out of a thousand U.S. soldiers would misbehave in this manner (or in any way that does not satisfy the “highest standards”).

I think I see a pattern emerging. Our political leaders are admitting government is not perfect, that its officials sometimes make mistakes, that they sometimes behave as “knuckleheads” or fall short of “the highest standards.” What humility! And how flawed are our proudest institutions? They are 0.1% shy of obtaining excellence all the time. Out of a thousand soldiers or federal agents, only 999 perform extraordinarily.

I bet this principle could easily be extrapolated to the rest of government:

Out of 365 days in a year, I bet the government falls short of delivering the best quality service for a solid 8.76 hours—let’s just hope it’s on Black Friday after Thanksgiving, while everyone is busy shopping anyway.

Out of a $3.8 trillion budget, I can only imagine that a whopping $3.8 billion is wasted, or fails to achieve what is promised of it. I suppose that means when Obama recommended cutting $17 billion in “waste” a couple years ago, he was being far too reactionary.

Of the tens of millions of war dead in U.S. wars since the birth of the republic, perhaps tens of thousands were not terrorists, Nazi leaders, or Communist rulers—thank goodness 99.9% of those killed had it coming. Out of more than two million prisoners behind bars, I imagine only two thousand are innocent or otherwise do not belong in prison. And of the millions of pages of federal laws, codes, and regulations, I’m guessing 99.9% of them are sensible and work perfectly. The Government Printing Office estimated there were 163,333 pages of federal regulations back in 2009—I sure hope they decided to trim the sixteen and one-third pages of excess since then!

And surely, of the thousand plans the president has to run the world, the economy, and all of our lives, perhaps one of them is wrongheaded. I sure hope whoever is put in charge of implementing that one flawed plan happens to be the one out of one thousand central planners who is remiss at his job. Maybe he’ll forget to come to work that day and the government’s miniscule margins of error will cancel one another out. Then we will have perfection in government.

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