The Trump Elite. Like the Old Elite, but Worse!

Legislation can be crafted bottom up or top down. In bottom up you ask, What problems do voters have and how can they be addressed. In top down, you ask, What problems do elite politicians have and how can they be addressed?

The House Republican health care bill is a pure top-down document. It was not molded to the actual health care needs of regular voters. It does not have support from actual American voters or much interest in those voters. It was written by elites to serve the needs of elites. Donald Trump vowed to drain the swamp, but this bill is pure swamp.

.. There was no core health care priority that Republicans identified and were trying to solve.

.. There were just some politicians who wanted a press release called Repeal.

.. They could have drafted a bill that addressed the perverse fee-for-service incentives that drive up health costs, or a bill that began to phase out our silly employment-based system, or one that increased health security for the working and middle class.

.. They were more concerned with bending, distorting and folding the bill to meet the Byrd rule, an arbitrary congressional peculiarity of no real purpose to the outside world. They were more concerned with what this internal faction, or that internal faction, might want.

.. It would boost the after-tax income for those making more than $1 million a year by 14 percent

.. this bill the Republican leadership sets an all-time new land speed record for forgetting where you came from.

Does David Brooks Think Barack Obama Is the Answer?

David Brooks returned yesterday to his prediction of a coming political divide between the forces of “open” versus “closed.”

.. Rather than “open” and “closed,” I suggested, perhaps the real divide is between those who want to push ahead with what Brooks calls opening and those who want to slow down and correct course. We might even call the Openers “progressive.”

.. Are such communities best created through individual initiative and enterprise or large government interventions? Here, Brooks has apparently decided that large government interventions are the way to go.

.. To distinguish it, we should replace his “individual” and “social” labels on this community-building axis with “bottom-up” and “top-down.”

.. But government has no track record of accomplishing any of the tasks he would demand of it here. All the risk in this approach gets placed on those falling furthest behind and least equipped to manage it.

.. What Brooks wants to sell as “open/social” he should properly label “progressive/top-down.” Unsurprisingly, then, it happens to align almost precisely with the agenda of Barack Obama over the past eight years.

The Volkswagon Settlement: How Bad Management Leads to Big Punishment

Still, as striking as some of the details of the settlement are, the scandal shouldn’t have been surprising. For decades, Volkswagen has practiced a management style that imposes rigid goals and punishes middle- and lower-level employees who are unable to keep up with the pace. The origins of this approach, known as top-down control, date back more than a century, to the work of the industrial-efficiency guru Frederick Winslow Taylor. In its current iteration, the concept typically sees executives formulate bold strategic objectives and timelines for new products and services, with little input from others in the company. Although these aims are often presented as guidelines, not mandates, management rarely treats them as negotiable. In turn, rank-and-file employees, pressured by the expectations placed on them, try to deliver at all costs.

Although top-down culture is increasingly being discredited in favor of greater organizational coöperation and worker empowerment, it is still prevalent, embraced to varying degrees by big names like Apple, Nissan, General Electric, and Boeing. In some cases, it has been costly: while reporting a feature on Boeing for Portfolio magazine some years ago, I observed that the company’s difficulties in getting its vaunted Dreamliner off the ground were directly related to the “aggressive goals-fearful employee” dynamic.

.. few other companies apply top-down control so unremittingly, and that this was the likeliest explanation for why its engineers were willing to commit crimes and defraud the public to save their jobs. As one person who had worked closely with Volkswagen told me, the company “is fuelled by intimidation at every level, which creates a borderline, or sometimes over the borderline, unethical culture.”

..  “Everyone in that company was adversarial,” the consultant who worked with Volkswagen told me.