OVER AT HEW the other day, Secretary Califano announced that he was moving the bureaucratic furniture around and getting rid of a few white elephants. Health, welfare and education programs will all be affected. Mainly these are structural and procedural rearrangements whose details do not comprise the kind of reading matter that grips the mind or makes the heart skip a beat.
For the general reader and normally busy person it is enough to know his: Medicare and Medicaid control will be put under one administrator in a new office intended to pursue fraud, abuse and mispayment with unaccustomed vigor; the controversial Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) welfare program will be transferred to the Social Security Administration, thus putting all HEW directed cash assistance programs under one management; a lot of grant and service programs will be put together in an expanded "Office of Human Development" (we will get around to that grandiose name in a moment), and student financial assistance programs will also be put under a single management; there will be some additional shifting and rederfining of jobs at the top, and one whole agency, the Social and Rehabilitation Service will go out of business, its business - AFDC, Mediciad, social service programs and so forth - having been parceled out elsewhere.
All this seems perfectly reasonable to us, on both managerial and political grounds. Mr. Califano has taken administrative actions that 1) move to fulfill Mr. Carter's campaign pledges of improved efficiency in government and 2) are well-grounded in support from Capitol Hill.They could end up making life simpler and betterfor those around the country who are administering HEW programs or receiving their benefits. They could also lead to very considerable saving of money: Mr. Califano estimated that the saving (primarily from a reduction in the payment error rate of medical and welfare programs) could amount to $2 billion over the next four years, and some people say that is a conservative estimate - provided the new efficiencies work. In any event, we think it is a good and useful thing that the department has gone out on a speculative limb and committed itself to both the saving and the increased efficiency.
Now for a word about that Office of Human Development. We hope the present management of HEW will in time address itself to the vague, blowsy and pretentious social welfare argot it has inberited along with the bureaucratic mess. HEW - never mind its illusions to the contrary - is not in charge of human development. God is in charge of human development. Or, if you won't buy that, you will probably at least acknowledge the historical and natural forces are at work that are beyond the dominion of an office on Independence Avenue SW in the year 1977. We think a lot of the trouble the federal bureaucracy has got itself into proceeds from its thinking about itself in these exalted terms. A few homely, workaday names for the chores it performs would be a blessing at HEW. That is another reform worth Mr. Califano's attention.