"Making government cool" is the Obama administration's Poochie

"Can we rasta-fy the government by 10 percent?"

"Can we rasta-fy the government by 10 percent?"

If there’s one phrase I’m tired of hearing over and over from senior White House leaders, it’s their desire to “make government service cool.”

An occasional quip would be one thing. But it’s become a mantra for the Obama administration, included in everything from official bios to speeches to interviews to strategic plans. And what’s worse, it’s a meaningless catch phrase. 

If the government is having a hard time attracting and retaining talented young people, it’s probably because it takes five months to hire somebody and because hard workers don’t feel properly rewarded and think slackers aren’t dealt with — not because of a perceived lack of cool. After all, there’s a good deal of evidence suggesting many young people are already interested in public service.

All the coolness talk reminds me of the Simpsons episode “Itchy and Scratchy and Poochie.” In it, television executives try to boost the ratings of the Itchy and Scratchy cartoon by adding a new, “hip” character called Poochie, who they describe as “extreme!” and “totally in-your-face!” But the transparent and desperate attempt at coolness falls flat with the show’s audience, and Poochie is quickly killed off.

Young people can see right through such superficial talk, and it only turns them off of what you’re saying. Simply repeating “we’re going to make government cool” may be the least cool thing anyone can do.


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  1. Jawaralal Schwartz, Jr. on

    Professor Steven Kelman at the Kennedy School has a lot of thoughts, most outdated and untried or pie-in-sky, about making government cool. He believes he was a hub of cool when he was in the government. And now his wife is in the government, so there is more cool in the family. Government will be cool when people take responsibility and are accountability. As along as many of us civil servants are allowed to graze over work, some of it useless, and do whatever we want, when we want, work my be “cool” but it is not worthy of a career of a great service to taxpayers in some cases. In other cases, it is vital, such as preventing pollution and investigating terrorism or doing vital medical research. I, for one, think the Obama administration is on the right track. They are serious about making it cool. That will be a real shock to the system of those who occupy a chair and do little useful under the radar.

  2. Bravo, Mr. Losey. It’s ridiculous that the administration continues to parrot this line when animosity toward Federal employment and pay is at an all-time high. We need real leadership from the administration on a myriad of issues, but all we ever get is useless rhetoric that no one believes any longer.

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