A Game Plan to Break the Gridlock

By Jim Nussle and Peter Orszag

A new Congress has been sworn in and our government is divided. It is now time to focus on what works for both parties and for the American people.

A goal that both parties should share is to do a much better job of ensuring that scarce taxpayer dollars are being invested in programs that work.  That is why we have joined together with current and former government leaders and advisors from across the political spectrum to call on our government to play Moneyball.

By using data, evidence, and evaluation, we can improve government performance in the same way that Billy Beane famously revolutionized baseball by focusing on statistics. By playing Moneyball, government can provide better services to millions more Americans while saving billions of dollars.

It is a simple, even obvious idea, that the government, which collects more than $2.4 trillion in taxes each year (and spends more than $3 trillion), would want to spend that money effectively. Astonishingly, we often just don’t know. Based on our estimate, less than $1 out of every $100 the federal government spends is backed by even the most basic evidence of its effectiveness. We might know a program is popular. We might even see data that suggest the program is performing efficiently, in the sense that administrative costs are low and fraud is minimal. But it is the relatively rare case when we actually have the evidence to tell us a program is working as intended and that it’s the most effective way to achieve the outcome we desire.

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