Michael Lipsky-01

What is an important thing that we Americans can do together that we can’t do alone?Americans can come together to provide a decent life for people who can’t provide for themselves.

What about your country, state, or community makes you proud? How do you think government interacts with that?
I’m pleased that Fairfax County has an excellent school system, police force, fire response capability, and is surprisingly active in providing for low income housing for people who have to work here and can’t afford to live here. Of course, voting and elections govern this, but I’m impressed with the conscientious citizen engagement the county employs.

What do you think it means to be a good citizen?
There are two answers. Good citizens pay attention to public affairs and are involved in outcomes that are relevant to the society as a whole. Also, in the current age, they exhibit understanding of how our tax system provides the revenues for what needs to be done.

What one word describes our government as it is?
Government as it is is trying hard to do the right thing in a period of real conflict over the role of Government.

What one word do you wish described our government?

If you could run a government program or agency what would it be? What would you want to accomplish there?
When I take over the Food and Drug Administration, I would improve our regulatory mechanisms, particularly as they affect genetically modified organisms.

What thing that government does do you think would surprise most Americans?
Administers the Social Security System with extremely low administrative costs.

What is your first memory of an interaction with government?
Being observed by FBI agents when I was a civil rights worker in Mississippi in 1964. They just sat there and did nothing as people risked a lot to try to register to vote. We were trying to help people assert their rights in the face of a lot of tension. Some of my early years were spent trying to get government to live up to my expectations and its ideals–and that is part of that story.

What was your most recent government interaction?
Renewing my driver’s license. It’s a pretty efficient process in Virginia and I’ve admired the reforms and improvements in the motor vehicle departments even though people say that DMVs are the epitomes of inefficiency. They’re really not. The departments of motor vehicles have improved over the last 20 years, but you still hear those who oppose government using the DMV as its poster child for bad government.

What is your favorite thing that government does?
I love the U.S. Postal Service. The idea that for 50 cents I can send a letter to someone in Alaska or California or remote parts of Vermont with tremendous confidence that it will get there is awe inspiring. I also like the stamps.

Who is your government hero who is not an elected official?
My hero is my ex-son-in-law, who teaches science in a Fairfax middle school. He, like other teachers, goes to work each day and manages a host of issues during the day while trying to wrestle young people into some sort of intellectual shape. The work teachers do is not as well-appreciated as it should be.

ImagineGov: If government could be anything, what would it be?
The government we aspire to would be the place where we went to solve problems. We would count on and rely on government to be effective and work through the differences that we have. We can’t just wish that people who disagree with us would agree. In a democracy, people will have different viewpoints. But, we would be more willing to accept the problems and priorities and find solutions.

Why is the work of Indivisible so important?
Indivisible is helping Americans having a better appreciation of government as an instrument of problem solving, separating the politics and from the instrument to solve problems. No program is perfect, and periodically, government should review what it is doing, make changes, do more in some areas and less in other areas. But if we have a willingness to see our problems as our problems, where people own the issues confronting us, we’ll be in a better spot. I’m hoping that Indivisible will help people understand that government is the instrument for solving the issues that we confront.

Name someone whose answers to these questions you would like to see.
Bernie Sanders and Jim Webb.

An Interview with Indivisible.







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