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Make the government smarter

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Monday, October 29, 2012
Posted: 4 pm ET

As baby boomers age, demand for public services will increase. By 2025 -- 13 years from now when many of us will be living in retirement on fixed incomes -- consultancy Accenture estimates that government at all levels -- from municipalities on up -- will have to spend an additional $940 billion annually to pay for the services that an aging population will require.

This increase is coming at a time when governments are responding to the demand to control taxes by cutting back on personnel. In my neck of the woods that has already meant shortened hours, longer waits, fewer services and a general grumpiness among our public servants. Apparently I'm not the only one who has experienced this. Accenture surveyed people ages 50 to 64 and found that about 70 percent said they were dissatisfied with government services, with only 27 percent saying that they believed that government is capable of delivering services that meet their needs and expectations.

If you plan to rely soon on Social Security and Medicare, this is a significant retirement planning dilemma. Fortunately, Accenture has an easy fix. It calculates that if the level of public sector productivity rose just 1 percent, the entire problem -- about $1 trillion cumulative -- would go away.

I mentioned this to the guy behind the counter at the post office this morning, and he told me that I didn't know what I was talking about. That he was already being asked to do twice as much as he used to do, and how much could one body actually accomplish?

Using technology and the increased efficiency that it brings, public employees will be able to accomplish a lot more than they do now, says Brian Moran, global director for Accenture's Delivering Public Service for the Future program. "Shift the management model to reward productivity," says Moran. "Integrate good technology and self service into the process."

Moran doesn't see this as revolutionary. He says it simply requires bringing how the public sector operates more in line with what is already happening in the private sector. "It is only 1 percent. It is just getting on track a little bit," he says, "but it offers tremendous financial potential."

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October 30, 2012 at 5:14 pm

One aspect of the discussion that is ignored is the fact that as we age our cognitive abilities lessen. Having had parents and in-laws try to deal with the labyrinth of paperwork for governmental and insurance agencies in the last stage of life, has made it clear that the "self service" strategy is a disservice. I think the "self service" aspect is a way to move the responsibility to the person that paid for service through tax deductions and premiums.

October 30, 2012 at 3:58 pm

It certainly will not be fixed under Obama. He had the power to do it in his first two years when the Democrats controlled the White House and Congress, but instead chose to advance his social agenda. It's time for real change. Yes, Marty, it will be harder when you are held accountable for spending.

Sue Frecska
October 30, 2012 at 3:53 pm

What isn't said is how much investment gov't needs to MAKE in the operation to get the efficiency. It's like all businesses that could make their employees more efficient but that requires cash for new/better hardware/software, buildings, equipment, better training to use those things and a willingness for the public to pay more if the business/gov't invests. NONE of that is true today. That's why China & Far East supply the vast majority of the good that consumers buy.
Everyone is trying to "get by" and asking their employees to do more. Some pay for the "more" others hope loyalty will spur the productivity increase.
Sorry...all consultants say this......but all want you to BUY their advice and recommendations for new stuff!!

October 30, 2012 at 3:50 pm

Private businesses want to take over more Government functions, skim off the middle class wages of some employees and grab profit into the private sector. This would provide inferior services for taxpayers.

Are critics of the U.S. Post Office and Dept. of Health and Human Services lobbying on behalf of FedEx, UPS, Acenture, etc?

October 30, 2012 at 3:38 pm

There are ways to make government work better but nobody wants to talk about this. Does anyone seriously think that Churches are going to fix highways and replace power stations (as someone commented on this site)? Red states receive the most government assistance including FEMA and yet the want to get rid of this organization.
Very wealthy people do not pay into Soc. Security as they are able to shift most of their income to capital gains at 15%. you do not pay SS or Medicare taxes on capital gains. Through the tax system the wealthy have been redistributing wealth from the middle class to the wealthy class. The extremely wealthy do not need government service, so their pet politicians underfund them, cut their budgets and staff and then tell us that they can be better run by the private sector. Our military is slowly being turned over to the private sector mercenaries and it is making the cost go up.

October 30, 2012 at 3:27 pm

If you think it's bad now, it will be ten times worse if Romney/Ryan gets in charge.

Bob Sinclair
October 30, 2012 at 3:20 pm

I love articles like this. All we have to do is improve efficency and we will cut a trillion from the deficit. Who wrote this my twelve year old son.

Norm from GA
October 30, 2012 at 3:15 pm


While the Holy Writ seems to contain a lot of letters, it really doesn't address the Christian role of lettercarriers.

The US Constitution, Article I, Section 8, however, plainly says that it is a Federal function.

But I agree that the Feds have usurped many more functions better done by religous organizations and other non-profits, as I am sure this latest natural disaster will prove once again.

ron waite
October 30, 2012 at 3:12 pm

"technology and the increased efficiency that it brings, public employees will be able to accomplish a lot more than they do now, says Brian Moran, global director for Accenture's Delivering Public Service for the Future" This is the problem and not the solution. Moran et al have no idea concerning the actual workload of federal employees who have been asked to do more with less people--not just the post office. Part of the solution would be to stop funding organizations like this who do not contribute useful ideas and include the standard 4.5% G&A to their contracts.

October 30, 2012 at 3:05 pm

This dicussions are strying from the content of this article that retrees are dissatied with government sevices they recieve. First of this survey was mad on age group of 50-64 with 70% dissatisfaction and 27% satisfaction. Note that in this age group ages 62-64 are the only ones who can claim social security benifits.which comprise21% of the population sample. the conclusion that retirees are dissatified with govt services is totally flawed.