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A Moneyball Approach to Government

Authors: Peter R. Orszag, Adjunct Senior Fellow, and John Bridgeland
October 18, 2013


Millions of Americans have felt the direct effects of the ongoing government shutdown, just the latest in a series of fiscal standoffs that have threatened our economic recovery and distracted leaders from the country's real challenges. Welcome to the new normal of our polarized political system.

With a last-minute deal to avert an unprecedented and potentially catastrophic default on U.S. debt, we have gotten beyond the latest stalemate – for now. But with leaders from both sides of the aisle perpetually miles apart on overall spending levels, and with no agreed-upon method for carving up the federal pie, failure seems forever on the horizon. The next budget drama has been merely delayed, not resolved.

Yet, just as Americans are increasingly tuning out the political squabbling in Washington, millions are tuning in to a battle of a different kind: the Major League Baseball playoffs. They watched as the Oakland As, the team that transformed baseball by focusing on data and statistics in a way never before seen in professional sports, once again marched their way into the postseason. In 2002, Billy Beane, general manager of the As and creator of the "Moneyball" approach to baseball, found a way to get better results with fewer resources, building a team that successfully took on its big-budget competitors despite a substantial financial disadvantage.

Could Washington do the same? By applying the Moneyball approach to government funding, Congress and the administration could help government work better despite constrained spending levels. By taking a cue from Billy Beane and implementing a series of three key Moneyball tactics, policymakers can make better decisions, get better results and create more areas of bipartisan agreement – and even help avert future crises.

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