Government Reform

Can Trump Fix Government by Running It Like a Business?

Clare Foran: “Donald Trump is taking steps to make the government more like the private sector. Past administrations have tried similar exercises in reform with mixed results, however, and it might be harder for a White House with relatively little governing experience to make improvements to the sprawling federal bureaucracy.”

“There’s a long history of presidential administrations looking to the private sector for advice on how to fix government—as well as examples of those efforts amounting to little more than unrealized recommendations… Other administrations have attempted to improve government by modernizing it, a goal the Trump administration is also promising to achieve.”

“It’s too early to judge how this latest effort  might turn out. But unless the administration makes a substantial effort to tap existing governmental expertise, it’s hard to see how this latest attempt at reform could succeed.”

Republicans Have Their Plot for an Indestructible House Majority to Blame for Trump’s Healthcare Defeat

“Unfortunately for House speaker Paul Ryan and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell—the top two Republican officials who are in the tough position of whipping votes from these ultra-conservatives on a weekly basis—the system of gerrymandering that has dominated how congressional districts are drawn virtually assures that this inter-party war won’t end anytime soon. A tool that Republicans have used to shift the electoral map to their advantage has come back to bite the Republican leadership in the rear,” Daniel DePetris argues on Quartz.

“Gerrymandering has in effect been one of the greatest levers for the House Freedom Caucus, the same group of lawmakers who shut the government down in 2013, almost shut the Department of Homeland Security down in 2015, and torpedoed a top legislative priority of a Republican White House last week. Republican leadership and the dwindling share of moderates in the GOP caucus are left scratching their heads about how to deal with these people, or whether they will take ‘yes’ or an answer. As long as gerrymandering continues to be in the hands of partisan state lawmakers who look out for their colleagues at the national level, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and even President Donald Trump will scratch their heads until they don’t have any hair left.”

Who Pays for Rolling Back Regulations?

“The new Congress and administration seem to understand—as Oscar Wilde once quipped—the price of everything and the value of nothing,” Joe Valenti and Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza write for the Center for American Progress.

“The House of Representatives is quickly advancing bills that would cripple federal agencies’ abilities to issue and implement regulations. The 2017 version of the Regulatory Accountability Act, or RAA, for example, now under consideration in the Senate, combines the provisions of six separate bills aimed at gutting government. The bill would add more than 80 steps to rulemaking, including gratuitous analyses, and impose a six-month delay on the implementation of all new rules. It would also require agencies to adopt the rules that are the least costly to big business… Not to be outdone, President Donald Trump has issued three executive orders on regulations.”

“Proponents of this anti-regulatory push claim that regulations are pricey for businesses and suppress economic growth. But all too often they ignore the value of these regulations to everyday Americans—a value that can sometimes be measured in dollars or even human lives.”

How the Presidency Changes the President

Washington Post: “A new paper out in the journal Presidential Studies Quarterly takes a rigorous, quantitative approach to the question behind all the current pivot talk: Does the presidency moderate the president? That is, does becoming president cause a leader to shift toward the center in an effort to govern everyone? Or does a president gravitate toward the extremes, becoming more entrenched in party and ideology?”

“Barry Edwards, a political scientist at the University of Central Florida, found that while there was a time when ‘the presidency effectively moderated presidents’ policy preferences,’ that’s no longer the case. Instead, in the modern era, Edwards writes, the presidency ‘appears to amplify the partisan leanings of the president.'”

“Edwards suspects these findings reflect the evolving nature of the presidency. The modern president, other recent political science research suggests, is no longer simply an executor of laws passed by Congress. Rather, ‘he uses executive authority to shift public opinion in support of his policies.'”

Why the Trump Agenda Is Moving Slowly: The Republicans’ Wonk Gap

Neil Irwin: “When Republicans won in November, it looked as if 2017 would reflect a major legislative shift to the right. But two months into the 115th Congress and six weeks into the Trump administration, progress on fulfilling Republicans’ major domestic policy goals is looking further away, not closer.”

“But there’s another element in the sluggish or nonexistent progress on major elements of the Republican agenda. Large portions of the Republican caucus embrace a kind of policy nihilism. They criticize any piece of legislation that doesn’t completely accomplish conservative goals, but don’t build coalitions to devise complex legislation themselves.”

“The roster of congressional Republicans includes lots of passionate ideological voices. It is lighter on the kind of wonkish, compromise-oriented technocrats who move bills.”

How States Can Fight Climate Change Without Washington

The Boston Globe: “Massachusetts was already planning for a Trump presidency way back in 2008. It just didn’t know it yet.”

“That year, the Commonwealth and neighboring states began readying a new plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks, which form a growing share of the state’s overall contribution to global climate change.”

“Now it’s time to dust off that study. The ascension of Donald Trump to the presidency probably spells an end to all federal leadership on climate change for the next four years. States have to pick up the slack, and reviving the program — known by the jargony term ‘low-carbon fuel standard’ — would be a good way to start.”

How Mike Pence Used Obamacare to Halt Indiana’s HIV Outbreak

“When then-Gov. Mike Pence faced the worst public health crisis to hit Indiana in decades, he turned to Obamacare — a program he vilified and voted against,” Brianna Ehley writes for Politico.

“In 2015, as a rash of HIV infections spread through rural southern Indiana, state health officials parachuted into Scott County and enrolled scores of people into Obamacare’s expanded Medicaid program so they could get medical care and substance abuse treatment. Many were addicted to opioids and had contracted HIV by sharing dirty needles.”

“Two years later, Pence is helping to lead the Republican effort to dismantle the program that helped him halt the deadly outbreak in an impoverished swathe of Indiana.”

The Case Against the American Constitution

Ryan Cooper: “Everyone agrees that the American Constitution is perfect, an exceptional document akin to holy writ. It is the absolute essence of freedom distilled, committed to parchment for the eternal benefit of all mankind… right?”

“Wrong. The Constitution is janky. It’s antiquated. It’s poorly designed. And it’s falling apart before our very eyes.”

“1. The Constitution is anti-democratic.”

“2. The Constitution’s separation of powers is a boondoggle.”

“3. The Constitution is basically impossible to fix.”

A Republican Plan for Medicare Gets a Revival

New York Times: “A number of Republican health care policy proposals that seemed out of favor in the Obama era are now being given new life. One of these involves Medicare, the government health insurance program primarily for older Americans, and is known as premium support.”

“Right now, the federal government subsidizes Medicare premiums — those of the traditional program, as well as private plan alternatives that participate in Medicare Advantage. The subsidies are established so that they grow at the rate of overall per enrollee Medicare spending. No matter what Medicare costs, older Americans can be sure that the government will cover a certain percentage of it. That’s the main thing that panics fiscal conservatives, because that costs the government more each year.”

“Premium support could quiet that fear. Subsidies would be calculated so they don’t grow as quickly, thus protecting the federal government (that is, taxpayers) from runaway spending.”


The Case for Replacing Obamacare Incrementally

Stuart Butler: “Former President Obama’s impulse to conduct an intensive intervention to major fix parts of the U.S. health system was understandable, but unwise. Seeking to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with another intensive intervention would also be very unwise.”

“To appreciate why, consider the scale of such undertakings. In 2015, total U.S. health spending reached $3.2 trillion. That is larger than the economy of Britain or France. Indeed, if the U.S. health system were a separate country, according to World Bank data it would be the fifth-largest economy in the world… It’s not only the scale involved. Health care is also highly complex and ever changing; a law altering one part triggers unanticipated changes elsewhere.”

“This means legislation in a complex sector like health care must always be crafted to permit continuous adaptation, and never a truly finished product. Health care legislation must incorporate a process of evolution, not seek to achieve a lasting form of ‘intelligent design.’ Tearing up one huge and rigid statute and replacing it with another is doomed to fail.”

Do Regulations Really Kill Jobs?

Alana Semuels: “In some cases, the politicians do have a point: Regulations that seek to make air and water cleaner can also cause concentrated job losses in certain industries and locations. These losses are painful for the people they affect, who often have a hard time finding new employment, especially in regions where a newly-regulated industry is concentrated.”

“But the idea that regulations stunt job growth more broadly is not supported by research. Many of the academic studies that have explored the question find that regulations don’t decrease jobs in the overall economy. They sometimes reduce jobs in certain sectors, but they create new jobs in others. A factory that makes lead additives for gasoline might be shut down because regulations have banned lead additives. But new jobs will then be created at a factory that makes catalytic converters, which are emissions-control devices for cars. Some workers, then, benefit from regulation, while others lose. That doesn’t mean that the losses aren’t real and painful for the people who held those jobs, but the overall picture is not one that can be accurately characterized by the phrase ‘job-killing.'”

Federal Policy Will Shift. Not All States Will Shift With It. 

Robert H. Frank: “Bitter divisions about the proper role of government in the United States have always been with us. Within broad limits, our Constitution’s response to this reality has been to empower states to adopt policies tailored to their own constituents’ beliefs and values.”

“So in the wake of an unusually divisive presidential election, vigorous state-level actions to offset specific changes in federal policy are already underway.”