Government Reform

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.”

5 Ways of Redrawing the U.S. Electoral Map That Actually Make Sense

Washington Post: “Following the election, an artist and urban planner named Neil Freeman created a fascinating tool he dubbed ‘Random States of America.’ The map randomly generated state boundaries and showed which candidate would win based on the population of those new areas.”

“At the request of Josh Wallaert, senior editor of Places Journal, Freeman then built on the idea to create a new series of five U.S. maps, organized around different systems than our currents states and districts. Part land-use planning and part science fiction, these fascinating maps show how reworkings of U.S. cartography would have resulted in different election outcomes.”

Trump Can Bring Jobs to the Rust Belt by Relocating Federal Agencies

Kyle Sammin: “The exception to this is in the creation of jobs through actually hiring people to work for the federal government. Here a President can actually affect the number and, more importantly, the location of the jobs the federal government provides. The best way for Trump to enact a better federal employment program that is fiscally conservative enough to satisfy a Republican Congress, therefore, is not to create more federal jobs but to move existing ones away from the Washington area and out into the rest of the country, especially in those areas that have been hurt most by long-term unemployment.”

“The move would also save the federal government money in the long term. Federal workers in expensive areas—like Washington—are paid more, to make up for the higher cost of living there. A worker in D.C. makes over 10 percent more than one doing the same job in Youngstown. Move enough workers out of expensive areas, and the savings to the taxpayers start to add up. Government workers and their families would benefit, too: 90 percent of a D.C. salary goes much farther in Youngstown than 100 percent of it goes in Washington.”

Without Obamacare, 52 Million Americans Could Be Denied Insurance

Washington Post: “One in four non-elderly adults has a medical condition, ranging from diabetes to pregnancy to severe obesity to arthritis, that would make them uninsurable under the health coverage rules that prevailed before the Affordable Care Act, according to a new study.”

“The new analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows just how important that provision is to many Americans. The study examined 2015 data to see how prevalent preexisting conditions are and found that 52 million non-elderly Americans could be ineligible for insurance under the old rules. The analysis can’t distinguish what type of insurance those people have now; many are likely covered by an employer-based plan. But if those people were to lose their jobs or have a gap in coverage and found themselves purchasing a health plan on their own, they could run into restrictions, higher premiums or even denials if the pre-Obamacare rules were back in place.”

A Conversation with Two Mayors About Trump and Cities

The Brookings Institution’s Amy Liu spoke with Scott Smith, a Republican from Mesa, Arizona, and Michael Nutter, a Democrat from Philadelphia to discuss “some key policy priorities of the next administration, including immigration, trade, and infrastructure” and “how a federal-local partnership might be improved in the years to come.”

Most interesting: on infrastructure, both decried the reliance on “short-term” stimulus. Mayor Nutter called for the federal government “to adopt, like every other government in the United States of America, a full capital plan that is five or six years in length.”

Don’t Ignore the Lame Duck

Vox: “What happens in Congress in the time President Obama has left — during what’s known as the ‘lame-duck session’ — will have a huge impact on the lives of millions of Americans.”

“At stake is the safety of the drinking water in Flint, Michigan, the pensions of thousands of laid-off coal miners throughout Appalachia, the biggest health reform package since Obamacare, and the paychecks of all US troops — and that’s during what’s considered a relatively uneventful lull in the legislative chambers.”

“Perhaps just as importantly, the next seven weeks are when Democrats will lay the groundwork for the much bigger and more critical struggle against the soon-to-be empowered GOP. Where congressional Democrats decide to fight now — and who emerges as leading advocates of the opposition — will shape how they’ll try to stop the Republican Party in the next session.”