Deflating Bureaucracy

AMERICAN voters who have been around for a few presidential elections probably remember several federal-government reorganizations.

Deflating the bureaucracy is good politics from the standpoint of both Democrats and Republicans. After all, no taxpayer is likely to look askance at a presidential promise to ``reduce waste, eliminate unneeded bureaucracy, improve services to taxpayers, and create a leaner but more productive government,'' to quote a Clinton White House statement.

President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore Jr. have unveiled their version of government downsizing, and preliminary reviews on the project indicate that the vice president's quietly assembled product has received general, largely nonpartisan approval.

Even one of the Clinton administration's most acerbic critics, Senate Republican leader Bob Dole of Kansas, whose unabashed aspiration to replace Mr. Clinton in the White House three years hence is well known, noted that if the Clinton-Gore plan ``really saves money ... it's going to have broad support.''

If that is an endorsement, it can make a major difference when some of the changes begin to affect negatively government workers' jobs and programs virtually taken for granted over many years. Here, Mr. Gore's role and his manner come into play. The vice president's thoroughness in researching the possibilities is evident in the document he has produced. His deliberate, scholarly approach to the reorganization initiative and his determination to have it clearly understood leave no doubt that he knows whereof he speaks.

In fact, so absorbed has Gore been in this task that some people were wondering whether he was going into a vice-presidential fade. Not so. He told the Associated Press on Monday: ``I think that the ground has shifted and many who are traditionally cynical about the prospect for system changes are going to be surprised by the amount of support for rock 'em, sock 'em, sweeping changes of this kind.''

One condition likely to be useful in pushing through the Clinton-Gore plan is that more than half the recommendations can be effected without congressional approval. Still, when cutbacks of federal jobs do begin to occur, the outcry will be sufficient to test the political mettle of the team and its supporters.

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