US House Rules Committee chairman Richard Bolling (D) of Missouri wants ex-President Gerald Ford to head a new "Hoover Commission" to stem a tide of public alienation with government, which he sees sapping the nations's strength.
Mr. Bolling, one of the most influential men in Congress, has brooded over the subject for three years and has recently introduced a bill (HR 6380) to set up an 18-member, bipartisan commission to work two years and then send its recommendations for sweeping reorganization to the White House for presumed submission to Congress.
Pointing to a series of recent polls reporting public frustration and disillusionment with the present governmental process, Mr. Bolling says the time is ripe for reinstitution of an agency like the two commissions led by former President Herbert Hoover. The first was appointed by President Truman in 1947 and the second by President Eisenhower in 1953. Each commission served two years.
The first Hoover Commission (1947-1949) produced 19 reports, from which 273 recommendations in government reform were implemented. The second (1953-1955) issued 20 reports, from which 146 recommendations were implemented, according to a box score of the time.
Representative Bolling has discussed the matter with former President Ford and found him interested, he says, but the proposal would wait until after the fall election. Mr. Bolling wants the proposed nonpartisan commission to follow past experience with an ex-president at the head. If the Democrats lose this year's election, he notes drily, another ex-president might be available.
Mr. Bolling thinks government is in radical transition -- with the decay of political parties, rise of special interest groups, fragmentation of Congress, and gaps between White House and the Capitol. He sees widespread popular alienation, with only 54 percent of voters going to the polls in the 1976 presidential election.
"I think we've failed to come to grips in any realistic terms with a whole range of problems," Mr. Bolling said recently. Problems are intertwined, he argues -- economic, defense, foreign policy. The Soviets have "done us a favor of scaring us in Afghanistan," he says, but this national unity may not last: "I believe we are in a great deal of trouble across the board."
Mr. Bolling, an energetic 30-year veteran of Congress who has written two books about the House of Representatives and was close to former Speaker Sam Rayburn, articulates a growing sense of anxiety heard here about the institutional adequacy of government: "We simply do not have national policies to live by that are accepted."
He would have his "Commission on More Effective Government" make a detailed study of federal agencies' interrelations in Washington and with states and cities -- an extremely broad mandate.
Mr. Bolling would have the commission "study the organization, operation, and functioning of all aspects of the federal government and determine if current programs and institutions and presently established patterns of actions are adequate to the needs of the situation at hand, or are failing to cope with those needs."