July 17, 2014
By David B. Muhlhausen, Ph.D.
A new Brookings Institution report, “A Cascade of Failures,” by Paul C. Light concludes that the failures of the federal government are accelerating. As the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the federal government continually expand the power and responsibilities of the federal government beyond its core constitutional functions, none of the failures pointed out by Light should come as a surprise.
What is surprising are the numerous failures that are omitted by Light’s methodology that relies solely on news stories listed in the Pew Research Center’s News Interest Index. Consequently, Light’s methodology limits government failures to major news events that are driven by shocking events, scandals, and cover-ups, such as the IRS targeting of tea-party groups, the Benghazi attack, Hurricane Katrina, and the Abu Ghraib prison abuses. While these failures are serious, Light’s methodology omits numerous failures of federal social programs.
For decades, large-scale evaluations using the “gold standard” of random assignment have consistently found that federal social programs are ineffective. For example, a scientifically rigorous evaluation of Head Start, a pre-K education program for disadvantaged children, demonstrated that almost all the benefits of the program disappear by kindergarten. Alarmingly, Head Start actually had a harmful effect on 3-year-old participants once they entered kindergarten, with teachers reporting that nonparticipating children were more prepared in math skills than the children who attended Head Start. And, to add insult to injury, since the program’s creation Congress has dumped over $202 billion into this failed program.
These failures extend to numerous other federal social programs. For instance, lLarge-scale experimental evaluations of federal job-training programs intended to help individuals find jobs and increase their earnings have consistently failed. Federal training programs intended to boost entrepreneurship and self-employment of the unemployed haven’t worked either. And federal job-training programs targeting youth and young adults have been found to be extraordinarily ineffective.
The simple fact is that when it comes to federal social programs, there is a dearth of evidence suggesting that these programs work. While Light shines the spotlight on government failure, his report omits the overwhelming scientific evidence that federal social programs are ineffective.
- David B. Muhlhausen is a research fellow in empirical policy analysis in the Center for Data Analysis at the Heritage Foundation.
Originally appeared in NRO's "The Corner"
David B. Muhlhausen, Ph.D.
Research Fellow in Empirical Policy Analysis
Read More >>
Request an interview >>
Please complete the following form to request an interview with a Heritage expert.
Please note that all fields must be completed.
Heritage's daily Morning Bell e-mail keeps you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.
The subscription is free and delivers you the latest conservative policy perspectives on the news each weekday--straight from Heritage experts.
The Morning Bell is your daily wake-up call offering a fresh, conservative analysis of the news.
More than 450,000 Americans rely on Heritage's Morning Bell to stay up to date on the policy battles that affect them.
Rush Limbaugh says "The Heritage Foundation's Morning Bell is just terrific!"
Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) says it's "a great way to start the day for any conservative who wants to get America back on track."
Sign up to start your free subscription today!
The Heritage Foundation is the nation’s most broadly supported public policy research institute,
with hundreds of thousands of individual, foundation and corporate donors. Heritage, founded in
February 1973, has a staff of 275 and an annual expense budget of $82.4 million.
Our mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free
enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national
defense. Read More
© 2014, The Heritage Foundation Conservative policy research since 1973