Government Reform

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.”

Ethics Rules Are National Security Rules

Susan Hennessey: “Readers may be wondering what federal ethics law and policy has to do with national security. The answer is a whole lot. Fundamentally, ethics policies governing the Executive and his cabinet are national security protections. As such, it is important that we recognize the national security implications of the incoming Administration’s positions on ethics.”

“The demand for adequate ethics disclosure and vetting reflects the national security strategy of—as Reagan put it—’Trust, but verify.’ We ask for verification that our government officials are free from undue influence because it goes to the core of basic democratic legitimacy. There should be no questions regarding the purity of the motives of individuals we authorize to place our soldiers, foreign service officers, or intelligence agents in harm’s way. Because of the necessary secrecy that surrounds a great many of these decisions, full vetting and transparency at the outset are critical to ensuring the Executive branch is, in fact, placing country first and also to maintaining basic integrity and legitimacy in the eyes of the people.”

Proposals for a New U.S. Electoral System

“There are several remedies. Perhaps in order of increasing chance of adoption, they are: (1) to elect the president by the national popular vote instead of the Electoral College; (2) to choose the winner in the general election according to the preferences of a majority of voters rather than a mere plurality, either nationally or by state; and, easiest of all, (3) to substitute majority for plurality rule in state primaries,” Harvard professors Eric Maskin and Amartya Sen write for The New York Review of Books.

An ObamaCare Compromise That Republicans and Democrats Can Both Love

James Pethokoukis: “The most obvious compromise is to fix and stabilize ObamaCare — such as deregulating the insurance exchanges — not repeal and replace it with something brand new.”

“But that’s just a start. Republicans should go even farther than reforming ObamaCare. They should expand it.”

“Imagine an America where ObamaCare was so robust, where the exchanges were such a crackling hotbed of free-market activity and competition, that everyone purchased insurance this way, and no longer counted on their employers (or the government) for health coverage.”

Why Republicans Shouldn’t Weaken the Filibuster 

Richard Arenberg: “Democratic opposition could, in turn, prompt the Trump administration and its allies to eviscerate the filibuster. The first effort to do that may come in the next month, after Mr. Trump nominates someone to succeed Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. If Democrats attempt to block the nomination, Republicans may move to weaken or eliminate the filibuster.”

“Republicans have bitterly criticized Democrats’ use of the nuclear option. So they should not use it themselves now. And indeed, they don’t need to. They can beat back a filibuster by traditional methods. They can use public opinion to force votes. They can require debate around the clock, adding drama. They can use President Trump’s bully pulpit to focus attention on endangered Democratic senators who must run for re-election in 2018 in states that Mr. Trump won. This will make it difficult for Democrats to sustain the 41 votes necessary to keep a filibuster alive.”

“If the Senate is to end gridlock, reduce partisanship and begin to address the nation’s pressing issues, both parties must renew their respect for Senate rules — and the views of the people.”

The U.S. Might Be Better Off Without Congress — and a President

Washington Post: “If we could start from scratch, how would we design the U.S. government? Would we preserve the electoral college, the 18th-century creation that is so controversial today? Would we keep the Senate or the Supreme Court?”

“According to Parag Khanna, an author known for pushing boundaries, the answer is no. In a new book, ‘Technocracy in America: Rise of the Info-State,’ Khanna takes on the task of radically redesigning the U.S. government for the 21st century.”

“Khanna considers systems from around the world, from Switzerland to China, to suggest an ideal form of government that would reflect the will of the people, as well as the wisdom of experts and data. Khanna argues that the United States needs to evolve into what he calls an ‘info state,’ in which experts use data to guide the country toward long-term goals — otherwise the country will be surpassed by countries that do.”

Healthcare in America Is Grossly Inefficient

“Certain large sectors of the economy are suffering from something like reverse-innovation: Costs are increasing much faster than any incremental improvement in quality. In Gallup’s new report with the U.S. Council on Competitiveness, I argue this is happening in healthcare, housing and education,” Jonathan Rothwell writes for Gallup.

“Take healthcare. From 1980 to 2015, healthcare expanded from 9% of the national GDP to 18%. Some of this is natural and good. The aging population requires more healthcare, and even modest economic growth has freed up spending power for healthcare. The problem is that the per-unit costs of healthcare — actual procedures, visits with doctors, pharmaceuticals — have all soared. So the question must be asked: Has it been worth it? I conclude not.”

“One reason for the decline in Americans’ self-reported health status is the extraordinary inefficiency of the U.S. healthcare system.”