The failure of federal rent relief is a great demonstration of what happens when the law and policy is written without consideration for bureaucratic capacity. If we want government to be effective, we need to ask government, “What are you most capable of doing today to solve this problem?” If we don’t like that answer, we need to simultaneously fund government do what they can and fund government to build future capacity more in line with what is needed.

Reform often comes after failure, but disconnected from the funding and immediate policy objective. Imagine if while we funded expanded unemployment, we also funded states to have better systems for direct deposit access, Postal Service banking to have universal access to consumer banking needs, and dramatically changed the complexity of qualifying for unemployment.

I’m not sure what the equivalent is for rent, but there are clearly systems, capacities, and relationships government simply does not have that makes rent assistance virtually impossible. If we don’t like that, we need to fix it for the next crisis.

The failure of so much leftist, activist politics is a complete disinterest in making government better at its job and caring about the details of governing. We’re so busy worrying about ideological purity that fights over actual policy become purely symbolic– even when you win, it turns out our government cannot do what you want well.

And so the cycle begins as the right points out ineptitude as though that’s an inevitable, permanent feature of any government action.

We need to make government work well while we can ask government to do more. It can’t be either/or.