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I am having trouble explaining the magnitude for my excitement about the federal government’s massive entres into data transparency. In no time at all, Vivek Kundra has helped Obama and Co. rewrite the rules around the way the public sector looks at information and accountability.

Take www.usaspending.gov. For years, we consultants have worked with organizations public and private to address spending. “Strategic Sourcing,” as the phrase was coined by A.T. Kearney veterans, runs into the same barrier 9 times out of 10. Someone in purchasing has a bad contract, and the client is paying 50% more than they should be for staples or laptops or asphault for roads, but for one reason or another, they don’t want to shake that contract. In the public sector, the problem is 10x because public sector employees are not as directly incentivized by the bottom line. They are, however, motivated by public opinion.

So by posting all these contracts online, we get a chance to see that the “Cheyenne Mountain Complex/Integrated Tactical Warning /Attack Assessment,” a defense contract out to Lockheed Martin for $26.1M in 2009 spending (and it would be great to know the total contract value) has a contract variance of 167.84% and an average of 120 days late per milestone. I am not saying we don’t need this project, but I am pleased that it’s variance to plan is online and that as more citizens clue into these variances, those responsible for their delivery will no doubt tighten the reigns, when before they could proceed business-as-usual, the public none the wiser.

Add to this excitement my boundless energy for data.gov, a perhaps more ambitious project over which plenty of blog ink has been spilt. And better bloggers than I at that. The core of the concept, is taking what information is available and public…and making it available and public and accessible. What really matters to me is that there are massive implications for management consultants, data analysts, and the quantitative community at large who are paying attention. Entire business can and will be built around taking this now-accessible information, digesting it, and making it useful for businesses. Our President and our Federal CIO have taken the first step, and now it is our task to take the next.

What an exciting time it becomes as a result.

As I walked home yesterday, I enjoyed a gorgeous autumn evening, cool breeze and all.  People were in good spirits all around, and I thought, what a fantastic country we live in.  What a fantastic place Manhattan is in the autumn.

Before buying some flowers for my lady, I saw a construction van with a vicious-looking bald eagle painted on the side (skillfully), as if it were ripping through the side of the van, and perhaps terrorism itself by implication.  On the back, it said clearly that if you don’t like America, get the @$%# out.  And if you don’t like his driving, dial 1-800-EAT-#*@&.  We’ve seen this sort of van before–it wasn’t the first of its kind.

I hate to contribute to a culture war, and so if this is how my post reads, please feel free to say so.  Perhaps we can find a way to frame the dialectic in a more constructive way.  But I really feel like this is not what America is about at all.  It is about opportunity, sure, the American Dream.  But I think it is also about doing the right thing.  I am not going to draw out the Bush v. Obama story.  We’ve heard it.  What I want to talk about is healthcare.

One of the best opinion articles I have read this year was a Roger Cohen piece in the Times a couple weeks ago.  Find it here.  I agree with Roger that the debate isn’t really about health.  It is much more about the fear that “Hey, somebody’s freeloading on my hard work.”  Or, as Roger puts it, “There is endless worry that one’s neighbor may be getting more than his or her ‘fair’ share.”

Personally, I have trouble understanding this.  I am all for the rugged individualist.  I am all for free trade.  I am all for opportunity.  But health care is a morel imperative.  If we are greatest country in the world, we should be able to educate everyone and heal everyone.  If anyone tells me that someone is freeloading on me by taking too many classes, I would say that’s ridiculous.  And anyone who tells me that freeloaders are going to run rampant on universal healthcare, taking an ambulance to the hospital every time they have a cough…well, that person has probably never been in an ambulance.

The freedom that comes from not having to stay at a job because they cover your healthcare…now that sounds like freedom in a truly American way.  The freedom from worry about how your medical bills are getting paid this month…that sounds like America.

So enough preaching to the choir.  For people who are terrified, what would help this thing along?  Let’s keep the dialog going.  I am interested in any creative ways forward, creative ways to keep a lid on costs, but I think universal healthcare is a moral imperative.  Don’t you?

October 30, 2009

The Honorable Paul G. Kirk, Jr.
188 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington DC, 20510

Dear Senator Kirk:

I am a New Yorker currently (I must admit) but I attended Boston College and spent nearly10 years in Boston as a passionate Pats fan and Boston Marathon runner.  Though my wife and I are currently renting our home in Southie, it will only be a matter of time before we are back up to raise a family where we still consider home.

I write to you today to express my passionate enthusiasm for aggressive health care reform, and to urge you to escalate efforts in the final hours of this historic debate.  As you know, our best efforts for meaningful health care reform have been hampered in large part by a successful campaign by the opposition to brand the public option as a socialist and ultimately scary proposition.  Characterizations of Canadian and European systems have worked people into a fear-frenzy, and I know very reasonable Americans who are outright terrified.

To my surprise, I have not found nearly as much in the news about your opinion on this matter as I have with senators Schumer, Gillibrand, and Kerry.  Given how vocal a proponent of universal healthcare we had in the late Senator Kennedy, I would have loved to see you pick up the standard in his absence, and really speak out on this issue.  With your background in the healthcare industry, I cannot imagine you would have no perspective on this matter.

This is an issue about which I am quite passionate, and I know I am not alone.  I feel there is a moral imperative to ensuring every American has health care, and I think we should start with that as a hard constraint and then begin to fill in the details from there.  If you feel the same way, I urge you to please get out in front of this, and let the country know where you stand.  I urge you to honor the late Senator Kennedy’s legacy by picking up the standard and rushing forward into the fray.  If this is not achieved now, then when?

Thank you again for your support.

Sincerely,

Adam Neary

adam neary

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

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