« WSAU Opinion Blog

OPINION - Too big?

by Chris Conley

NEWS BLOG (WSAU) Consider a business that’s expanding. The company started as one factory. The owner had his office on the second floor, the shop floor was below. The boss would reasonably know most of the people who worked for him by name. He’d know everything of importance that happened in his company.

Now imagine the same company grows, and sets up a second factory on the west coast. The boss flies out there once a week – maybe less. He knows the manager there, but not all the workers. If the company grows to five or six facilities, some might be visited by the owner only once a year. The managers who report to the boss are the critical cogs. The owner is only vaguely aware of the day-to-day doings. He might only become directly involved if there’s a problem.

Individual accountability at the top diminishes as the operation expands. That isn’t bad; it’s a success story – assuming there’s strong leadership in the mid-level ranks.

But what happens when an enterprise becomes so big that top management is disconnected? That is what’s happening with the White House in the wake of multiple scandals.

There’s a problem at the IRS. The President probably isn’t even aware that non-profit tax-exempt applications are handled out of the Cincinnati office. There’s an investigation, and (if we are to believe the White House accounts) the President isn’t aware. The Treasury Department inspector general completes a report. It finds wrongdoing. The President still doesn’t know. The findings of the report are shared with the White House council. A plan is decided on to make the information public. A woman is planted at a Bar Association event; she’s told to ask a question to an IRS official who will spill the beans about the scandal. Yet the President’s inner circle still didn’t know? No one ever briefed Barack Obama?  Maybe, maybe not. That’s still being investigated.

The same plausible deniability is being applied to the AP scandal, and the death of our ambassador in Benghazi. The weakest part of the link is Benghazi. It’s harder to believe the President knew nothing when U.S. diplomats were under hostile fire.

But the theme is the same: The President can’t possibly know about every IRS case, every Justice Department leak investigation, or every request for security from a far-flung government outpost.

A liberal administration is unknowingly making a strong argument against big government. If the executive branch is insulated from everything bad that happens, isn’t it too big? Smaller government is more accountable. When substantial wrongdoing is uncovered, will we be satisfied with ‘no one high up knew about it.’?

Chris Conley