PAT MEEHAN OFFERS SOME ADVICE TO @POTUS: “Take a break from Tweeting.”
April 2017 Volume 51, No. 2
How Congress can restore its rightful role in government by Mickey Edwards Plus: Five ideas for government and congressional reform. With essays by Johnny Isakson, Darin LaHood, Philip K. Howard, Kevin Kosar & Lou Zickar www.riponsociety.org
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“Ideas that matter, since 1965.“ Volume 51, Number 2 Cover Story (cont’d)
The Case For Term Limits By Ron DeSantis
5 The Case Against Terms Limits By Burdett Loomis Cover Story
An Uncomfortable Reality…Congress Needs More Staff By Kevin R. Kosar At a time when political dysfunction is paralyzing Capitol Hill, it is time to help Members of Congress do their jobs better by letting them hire more staff.
Coequal or Co-opted? How Congress can Restore its Rightful Role in Government By Mickey Edwards The balance of power has shifted over the years in favor of the Executive Branch. According to this former lawmaker and political observer, it is time for Congress to claim this power back.
A Smart Government Plan with Bipartisan Roots By Lou Zickar As the President looks for ways to reform government so it is “ahead of schedule and under budget,” he should look at an idea that Congress almost passed 40 years ago.
Fixing the Civil Service By Philip K. Howard Once a cure for good government, the U.S. civil service system is now a cancer on the federal bureaucracy that is choking out efficiency and needs to be reformed.
Politics & Perspective
Biennial Budgeting: A Positive Idea for America’s Bottom Line By Johnny Isakson It is time to convert the broken appropriations process to a two-year cycle, with one year focused on spending, and the other year focused on overseeing the funds that are being spent.
Creating a Congress of Tomorrow By Darin LaHood When the governing process fails to function, reform is necessary. And this second term lawmaker from the State of Illinois has introduced a bipartisan plan that would do just that. Publisher The Ripon Society
Editor Lou Zickar
President Jim Conzelman
Editorial Assistant Stephen Jackson
Editorial Board Thomas Tauke Michael Castle Billy Pitts Pamela Sederholm Judy Van Rest Jim Murtha John Feehery
Advertising Coordinator Janessa Lopez
© Copyright 2017 By The Ripon Society All Rights Reserved
To Strengthen our Infrastructure, Invest in Rural Broadband By Doug Brake If new infrastructure spending is to be effective, it must move beyond simple concrete and rebar and focus on digital networks that virtually connect all areas of America.
Trade & the Trump Administration By Jacqueline Varas The best trade policy the President can pursue to improve the lives of the American people is to eliminate trade barriers at home and abroad.
Sections 3 29 32
In this Edition News & Events Ripon Profile - U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan
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RIPON FORUM April 2017
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THE RIPON SOCIETY HONORARY CONGRESSIONAL ADVISORY BOARD U.S. Senators: Shelley Moore Capito - Senate Co-Chair Cory Gardner - Senate Co-Chair Roy Blunt Richard Burr Bill Cassidy, M.D. Susan M. Collins Steve Daines Joni Ernst Deb Fischer Orrin G. Hatch John Hoeven Pat Roberts Mike Rounds Thom Tillis Roger Wicker Todd Young U.S. Representatives: Pat Tiberi - House Co-Chair Susan Brooks - House Co-Chair Martha Roby - Vice Chair, South Erik Paulsen - Vice Chair, Midwest Bill Shuster - Vice Chair, Northeast Greg Walden - Vice Chair, West Mark Amodei Andy Barr Mike Bishop Diane Black Marsha Blackburn Vern Buchanan Larry Bucshon, M.D. Michael C. Burgess, M.D. Ken Calvert Jason Chaffetz Tom Cole Barbara Comstock Ryan Costello Carlos Curbelo Rodney Davis Jeff Denham Charlie Dent Dan Donovan Sean Duffy Tom Emmer Bill Flores Rodney Frelinghuysen Kay Granger Sam Graves Joe Heck French Hill Bill Huizenga Randy Hultgren Darrell Issa Evan Jenkins Lynn Jenkins Dave Joyce John Katko Mike Kelly Adam Kinzinger Leonard Lance Darin LaHood Billy Long Frank Lucas Tom MacArthur Tom Marino Kevin McCarthy Michael McCaul Cathy McMorris Rodgers Patrick Meehan John Moolenaar Tim Murphy Kristi Noem Bruce Poliquin John Ratcliffe Tom Reed Jim Renacci Tom Rice Tom Rooney Peter Roskam Steve Scalise John Shimkus Lamar Smith Steve Stivers Glenn Thompson Mac Thornberry Mike Turner Fred Upton Jackie Walorski Mimi Walters Brad Wenstrup Steve Womack
In this Edition
One hundred and seventeen years ago this month, Theodore Roosevelt delivered a speech at the Sorbonne in Paris that included one of the most widely quoted lines in political history. “It is not the critic who counts,” the Rough Rider famously declared, “not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.” If TR were around today, he would no doubt continue to view politics and public service as noble and heroic pursuits. And yet he would also no doubt notice that the environment where these pursuits are carried out has dramatically changed. Politics in America in 2017 no longer takes place in a noble arena. Rather, it takes place in the political equivalent of a cage. In the cage are two combatants – one Republican and one Democrat – who are more intent on destroying each other than perhaps at any other time in our nation’s history. In the stands are the screaming onlookers – from concerned citizens to special interests – who not only cheer the fighters on, but also egg them on through social media, advertising and other methods designed to increase the brutality and make the fight as bloody as possible. And finally, taking it all in is the press corps – the all-knowing, all-seeing press corps – who cover every blow and look for every angle and want nothing more than for the fighting to continue. For if the fighting ends, they know their ratings will fall and their jobs may come to an end, as well. It is a brutal cycle that feeds on conflict. And it is all part of cagematch politics. It is also something that Theodore Roosevelt would barely recognize if he were alive and active on the American political scene today. In this edition of The Ripon Forum, we look not at the cause of cagematch politics – we’ll save that for a future edition. Rather, we look at one of the byproducts, and that is dysfunction in our nation’s capital. From a Congress that is so riven with politics that it has lost sight of its constitutional obligations to a federal bureaucracy that has become so inefficient and unaccountable that it is spinning out of control, this edition looks at how governance has broken down in Washington and how things can be turned around. Leading our coverage is former Congressman Mickey Edwards, who laments the failure of Congress to stand up to Presidents in recent years, and puts forward a series of recommendations as to how it can begin doing just that. Along similar lines, author and good government expert Philip K. Howard laments the poor performance of today’s federal workforce, and offers up a unique suggestion for the President to follow to start achieving results. Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson pens an op-ed about the bill he has introduced to reform the way Congress passes a budget, while Illinois Representative Darin LaHood writes about his legislation to reform the way Congress organizes itself. To those who believe that members of Congress could use more help, Kevin Kosar agrees with you and has written a piece arguing that, given the size and scope of the federal government, members need more staff, not less. At a time when the President is saying he supports term limits for members of Congress, Florida Congressman Ron DeSantis and University of Kansas Professor Burdett Loomis square off in a debate about whether terms limits are needed, or whether they would do more harm than good. In other op-eds, Doug Brake of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation makes the case for investing in rural broadband as part of an infrastructure bill that may be considered later this year, and Jacqueline Varas of the American Action Forum provides an update on the issue of trade. And in our latest Ripon Profile, Pennsylvania Congressman Pat Meehan talks about the lessons he learned in his first job and his priorities in the House of Representatives this year. As with every Ripon Forum, we hope you find this edition informative and interesting, and encourage you to contact us with any comments or questions you may have. Lou Zickar Editor of The Ripon Forum firstname.lastname@example.org RIPON FORUM April 2017
“TERM LIMITS: A NEEDED REFORM, OR AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS PASSED?”
The Case For Term Limits by RON DESANTIS In an age of increasing political polarization, it is If a member only has a fixed number of terms to serve, that remarkable that proposals to impose term limits on members member will be less likely to be consumed by the desire to of Congress continue to command overwhelming support get reelected and more interested in accumulating tangible from the American people. accomplishments during his or her short time in office. This is likely because Americans understand that our It is sometimes said that term limits would reduce political system is dominated by a permanent political class the level of expertise among members. But longevity in composed in part by long-tenured members of Congress with Congress can produce inside-the-Beltway tunnel vision that an insatiable desire to be reelected. When members do retire limits a member’s ability to produce effective legislation. from Congress, many of them stay in Washington to work What is more, there are millions of Americans who possess on K Street as lobbyists or “consultants” to high-powered substantial expertise in key areas of policy who might be interests. The net result is a Congress willing to serve in Congress if they that habitually fails to address the knew they could make their mark major issues facing the nation. without having to be in Congress Term limits for members of for 20 years. Congress will change the incentives Another argument against term for members and pave the way for limits is that they serve to empower more effective government. unelected congressional staff and Accordingly, I have introduced K Street lobbyists and therefore a constitutional amendment to limit reduce the power of Congress. But the terms of members of Congress the staff and lobbyists already wield to three terms in the House and two substantial authority, and there is terms in the Senate. This is the same a strong symbiotic relationship proposal that has been endorsed by between the two (often times President Donald Trump as part of interchanging) groups. In addition, his “drain the swamp agenda.” It the rise of congressional careerism has been supported by term limits has coincided almost perfectly with grassroots advocacy groups, as well. the decline of Congress and the rise This endorsement and support is of the administrative state. It is hard based on three main factors. to see how term limits could make First, term limits will make it Term limits for members this any worse. easier for reformers to push new Of course, the most common of Congress will change ideas, as members will be less bogged argument against term limits is that the incentives for down by the inertia of doing things the American people can choose “the way we’ve always done them.” to remove officials come election members and pave the Fresh thinking will have a fighting time. While the idea that “every way for more effective chance when presented to members election is a term limit” makes who are not entrenched in the ways of government. sense in theory, in reality it ignores Washington. the undeniable fact that politicians Second, term limits will likely increase the role of merit design the electoral system to benefit themselves, conferring in determining key spots such as committee chairmanships. built-in advantages upon the incumbent class and limiting the As it stands, these posts are typically doled out based on a ability of challengers to mount viable campaigns. combination of seniority and a member’s fundraising totals Term limits are not a cure-all for the American political on behalf of the party’s congressional campaign committee. system’s current ills, but they will help reorient the political Does anyone know or care whether James Madison, a incentives faced by lawmakers in a positive direction, which member of the first Congress who authored the Bill of Rights, is sorely needed. RF was a good fundraiser? Third, term limits will make it more likely that members Ron DeSantis represents the Sixth District of Florida in the will take the political risks necessary to enact needed reforms. U.S. House of Representatives. 4
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“TERM LIMITS: A NEEDED REFORM, OR AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS PASSED?”
The Case Against Terms Limits by B U R D E T T L O O M I S First off, most Americans dislike, distrust, and do 90 percent of members of Congress run for reelection not understand “the Congress,” and state legislatures with a 90 percent success rate. Still, with two-year fare little better. Lawmakers apparently do little save terms, congressional turnover is substantial; the average bicker, even as they win re-election after re-election. House member has served a bit less than ten years, and Legislatures are contentious places, where debates the average senator a bit more than a decade, figures frequently turn nasty and lawmakers appear obligated that have been consistent over time. to interest groups that help fund their campaigns. To be fair, term limits can infuse legislatures Increasingly, the Congress cannot address major with “new blood,” and more citizens could serve in societal problems as gridlock continually prevails. office under term-limit restrictions. Perhaps more According to many critics, the “problem” with importantly, veteran committee chairs and party leaders an apparently unresponsive are less likely to dominate the and dysfunctional Congress process, and lawmakers would was simple: too many career not develop cozy, long-term politicians aligned with too many relationships with lobbyists. To powerful interests. The answer? be fair, perhaps there are some Limit the terms of lawmakers, virtues. so new blood would flow into So, what’s wrong with term the legislative body. Nationally, limits? the U. S. Supreme Court has First, term limits take ruled unconstitutional attempts the power to choose one’s by the states to limit the terms representative out of the hands of members of Congress. Thus, of the voters. If we want to vote a constitutional amendment an incumbent out of office -would be required to impose this in either a primary or general policy. Given that already elected election -- we can. representatives and senators Second, term limits weaken would have to provide two-thirds the legislative branch, at the majorities in each chamber, this expense of further empowering seems a most unlikely prospect. the executive and interest groups. Burdett Loomis Still, 15 states currently limit Although most governors and their state lawmakers to service Term limits weaken the the president are term-limited, of between six and 12 years, the concentration of power legislative branch, at while two state legislatures within the executive allows the expense of have reversed such policies and them tremendous leverage in courts have rejected term limits relations with the legislature. At further empowering in another four. No state has the same time, lobbyists have the executive and adopted term limits since 2000, no restrictions on their length so there appears no rush to adopt interest groups. of service and can exploit their this policy. expertise and contacts. In short, Nevertheless, most citizens favor term limits, with term limits offer advantages to the executive branch the most recent national survey (Rasmussen, October and to outside interests. 2016) finding that 74 percent of Americans support This is in part because, third, term limits weaken them. During the 2016 campaign, 48 sitting members of legislators within their own institution. In the states, Congress pledged to back a constitutional amendment inexperienced legislators must chair committees and to impose national term limits. serve as party leaders, almost before they learn where The question remains of what problem is addressed the capitol’s restrooms are located. To whom would by limiting legislative terms. Historically, the Members of Congress turn, if not to outsiders like Congressional Research Service reports that more than lobbyists? Historically, they have relied on professional RIPON FORUM April 2017
staff members, but over the past 20 years, congressional understand best how to work within a complex process. staffing has fallen -- in numbers, compensation, and Perhaps more profoundly, however, term limits may well expertise -- as many senior staffers have joined the not even accomplish their primary goal: to encourage growing corps of lobbyists. talented newcomers to serve in the legislature. Although Fourth, term limits do not discourage political there are more opportunities to win legislative office careers, as legislators focus under term limits, the value on their next job, not their of the office may decline to a Term limits do not discourage point that qualified candidates present one. In California, state representatives can serve political careers, as legislators simply avoid the rigors of for just three two-year terms, campaigns that focus on their next job, not their contemporary state senators for two fourrequire intensive fund-raising present one. year terms. They can see the and expose their families to a end of their legislative careers host of attacks. almost before they are sworn In short, term limits in. By definition, they cannot build a career in the address a modest “problem” (relatively low turnover) legislature, but this does not prevent them from making with a radical solution that weakens the legislative plans for a career that will move them from one job institution just when we should encourage thoughtful to another. What incentives do they have to serve their deliberation by veteran lawmakers who understand how current constituents or their legislative institution? representative democracy works. RF Finally, term limits deplete the legislative talent pool. This occurs in at least two ways. Most obviously, Burdett Loomis is a political science professor at the experienced legislators must leave, just when they University of Kansas.
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How Congress can restore its rightful role in government by Mickey Edwards There’s nothing new about American Presidents chafing at constitutional restrictions on their authority. George Washington argued that provisions in a treaty that his administration had negotiated superseded the Constitution’s requirement that no money be spent by the federal government unless it had first been appropriated by Congress. The Supreme Court ruled that Andrew Jackson’s plan to forcibly resettle American Indian tribes was unconstitutional; he went ahead with it anyway. In the civil war, Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus and only turned to Congress after the fact. Woodrow Wilson railed against constitutional constraints on the presidency. Franklin Roosevelt attempted to enlarge 8
the Supreme Court in order to pack it with justices who would support his efforts to take actions outside the scope of his constitutional authority. Harry Truman attempted to seize control of the steel industry. Truman also sent American troops to war in Korea without congressional authorization; nearly 37,000 Americans were killed and more than 100,000 wounded. Bill Clinton relied on “authorization” from NATO and the UN Security Council to launch attacks in Bosnia. To Donald Trump, America’s armed forces are “my military.” Did George Washington harbor secret monarchical ambitions? Was Wilson, who had been president of Princeton, uneducated about the American system of
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government? Of course not. Presidents are human beings, water-bearers for the executive. Although the President’s and all of us -- if we believe we see something as necessary main duty -- other than serving as commander in chief of to do for the good of all, and for a President that means the armed forces and keeping a veto pen close at hand quite specifically for the good of the country -- that’s -- is to see to it that the laws (which Congress writes) what we’ll do if we think we can. One can oppose such are faithfully executed, members of Congress today see actions and attempt to prevent them (the Courts blocked themselves as either the President’s minions (if he is of Truman’s attempt to take over an industry, a Congress their party) or his enemy (if he is of the other party). controlled by his fellow Democrats stopped FDR from Worse, there is precious little evidence that members of packing the court), but we should begin with the clear- Congress in recent decades even understand what the eyed understanding that any President -- a Washington, a Constitution requires of them. Lincoln, an Obama, a Bush -- will push the envelope and Two illustrations stand out. In 1973, frustrated try to do whatever can be gotten away with. by long-running U.S. involvement in war (Korea and James Madison’s brilliance was his ability to think Vietnam) without congressional authorization, Congress systemically. He agreed with Hobbes that governments enacted the War Powers Act, even overriding a presidential were needed (he veto in a purported attempt strengthened the federal to erect a fence around government, he didn’t presidential military weaken it), but he knew adventurism. The Act that the people in charge restated the constitutional of running the place – requirement that going to presidents and members war required Congress’s of Congress -- would prior approval unless have to be kept in check the U.S., its territories, by specific constraints. or its armed forces had One of those constraints been attacked. So far, came in the form of clear so good. But the act also delegations of authority, inexplicably undermined the assumption being its own relevance by that if no such authority granting presidents had been delegated, that authority to send American authority did not exist. troops into combat for up The later addenda to the to 60 days (90 if one counts Madison appears to have been original Constitution, the the battles that would unable to imagine a Congress Bill of Rights, gave more inevitably occur during full of men and women who specificity to some of those a 30-day “withdrawal” non-grants of authority. But period), even without would increasingly act as though the other check on abuse of Congress’s authorization. they were water-bearers for the power came from the same A great many American understanding of human servicemen could be executive. nature. Not just presidents killed in a 90-day war, but anybody in possession of power would have a natural but members of Congress -- constitutionally charged inclination to take it as far as possible, even if the intent in with ensuring that no Americans would be sent to war doing so was honorable and admirable. Ergo, ensure that without their representatives’ approval -- had given the ambitions of those occupying coequal power centers presidents carte blanche pre-approval for future wars would suffice to maintain a balance: presidents would be with no preconditions. No limits on numbers of troops, checked not only by the Constitution, but by Congress, no insistence on necessary conditions of provocation or whose members would fight to maintain their own rightful threat. Even a simple presidential desire to show off powers and challenge any attempts to undermine them. American greatness would be acceptable under the terms of the Act. It’s impossible to imagine a more cavalier disregard for the trust the Founders had placed in the The Path to Capitulation… Clearly, Madison was no Nostradamus: he imagined Congress’s ability to check presidential ambitions. The second illustration is far less momentous but a Congress of men who would cloak themselves in the legitimacy of their powerful institution. He appears to equally telling. I’m on the board of an organization have been unable to imagine a Congress full of men and called the Project on Government Oversight, which has women who would increasingly act as though they were as its goal providing an outside supplement to Congress’s RIPON FORUM April 2017
duty to ensure that the executive branch is ‘faithfully leaders and returning power to congressional committees, executing’ the laws Congress enacted. At one of the which would be more likely to jealously guard their organization’s briefings, a senior Senate staff member constitutional prerogatives by demanding information expressed frustration that executive branch agencies were and using existing authority to punish those who withhold not responsive to his office’s requests for information it. under the Freedom of Information Act. FOIA requests - Understand the scope and range of congressional are what reporters use to pry data from government. authority. The Supreme Court has a superb track record in It’s the means private citizens, including academics, blocking attempts at presidential overreach, including in use to get government information that is not publicly the realm of foreign policy, repeatedly striking down the available. Congress has other tools: hearings, public notion that legislative power is limited when international and private, which can be used to grill agency heads; affairs are considered. Take no guff from the White limitations and contingencies in appropriations bills House: Congress has the authority and a constitutional (the power of the purse should not be underestimated); mandate to keep a check on the executive, and yet both in the Senate, holding up confirmation of presidential the House and Senate inexplicably allow the executive appointments (when it comes down to it, president’s branch to tell Congress, including members of the House don’t actually appoint, they nominate). Implicit in the and Senate intelligence committees, what information staffer’s question and not untypical of congressional they may see (thousands of federal bureaucrats, and even attitudes is that the Senate was the supplicant and the non-governmental contractors, often know the contents Executive was the power. Is it any wonder that during the of classified material that is kept secret from members of recent battle over federal Congress). Congressional health care legislation, the leaders and chairs of Speaker of the House felt it the two intelligence Is it any wonder that during the necessary to adhere to the committees meekly go recent battle over federal health President’s orders both as along with White House care legislation, the Speaker of to scheduling debate and commands that they not pulling legislation from the share information with key the House felt it necessary to floor? members of their staffs adhere to the President’s orders Partisan tribalism, lack (even those with security of institutional pride, and both as to scheduling debate and clearances) or with other either ignorance or lack of members of Congress, pulling legislation from interest in constitutional all of whom have taken the floor? obligation have combined an oath to uphold the to essentially reframe Constitution, the result American government being to deny the Congress from a Constitution-centered system intended to force the information it needs to keep a check on the Pentagon, deliberation and compromise to a presidentially-driven the CIA, the NSA, and the rest of the web of taxpayermini-monarchy increasingly subject to magisterial funded agencies. whim. Perhaps Madison did not understand human - Use both the authorization and appropriations nature as well as he thought. Perhaps an unforeseen authorities seriously. Congress writes the laws and democratization of the American political process determines what can be spent and on what. Challenge made today’s pyramid-shaped governmental structure attempts by the executive to go around the legislature inevitable. Regardless, it’s important to understand with executive orders or agency directives that do not that the current state of affairs is as much a failure of comport with congressional intent. If the White House is Congress as presidential power grabs. not forthcoming with the information the Congress needs, withhold funding or make it contingent. Besides the war power, the greatest piece of the legislative arsenal is the …and the Road to Reform So what can be done to re-establish the Congress as power of the purse. Congress should be prepared to use the co-equal (and in most respects, principal) branch of it aggressively to ensure that the peoples’ representatives are able to exercise the authority the Constitution the federal government? Well, several things, actually. - First, re-establish the habit of vigorous oversight. assigned to them. - Act collectively and in a bipartisan way to ensure a Congress has subpoena power and the power to hold witnesses and potential witnesses in contempt. Return hearing by the Supreme Court when members of Congress to the fundamentals of “regular order,” allowing serious make a claim that a presidential action has undermined debate and amendments that challenge legislative their ability to perform their constitutional duties. In proposals, reducing the party-centric control of partisan 1978, I filed a lawsuit on behalf of myself and a total 10
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of 60 House members (Edwards v Carter) arguing that House about the shape and scope of the agenda for the a treaty submitted to the Senate contained provisions remainder of the year.” On taxes, the Post article note, that required House approval. By disallowing a separate “it is not even clear who in the Trump administration House consideration of that provision, we were denied . . . is taking the lead, or whether House Ways and the ability to perform our constitutionally mandated Means Committee chairman Kevin Brady (R-Tex) will legislative duty. Because 60 of us acted absent a formal eventually be called upon to craft a compromise.” But House resolution, the appellate federal Court dismissed the legislative agenda is the Congress’s to formulate. the case on a split decision solely on the grounds that And the determination of tax policy is the responsibility we lacked standing. Even if the House Speaker or of the legislative branch of government. As New Majority Leader of the Senate disagree with the position England Patriots coach Bill Belichick is prone to say to of members who make a strong case that the Congress’s his players, “just do your job”. voice has been silenced, a formal declaration for court - Finally, empower the Congressional Research consideration would enhance the ability to stand on Service to provide mini-courses on the Congress’s equal footing with the constitutional powers White House. and duties, and require - Similarly, refuse every new member of to allow treaties and the House and Senate trade agreements to be to take the course upon considered under “fast election and periodically track” rules that deny thereafter, in order to legislators the ability to gain a committee seat or amend the White House’s a leadership position. agreements. Perhaps The problem is longif some recent trade standing and difficult: it agreements had received often appears that many a more thorough vetting members of Congress by legislators and more have no clue as to what opportunity to watch the Constitution requires out for the interests of them. Perhaps some of of American workers, these approaches might Mickey Edwards the result of last year’s over time help redress presidential election the balance between the might have been different. branches and return us It often appears that many - Presidents submit to something closer to budgets not because the constitutional model members of Congress have no they are entitled to the Founders envisioned. clue as to what the Constitution determine how the The Constitution did not government spends make the Congress the requires of them. its money but because principal repository of Congress has required federal authority because presidents to compile the spending wish lists from the its authors thought the Congress would be infallible. executive branch. White House budget submissions Rather, in a hybrid governmental system, a republic in were intended to help inform legislators as they made form but a democracy in the selection of leaders, the their own actual decisions. Today, driven by hyperFounders believed that by giving Congress the power to partisanship, if the White House and congressional tax, spend, and go to war, the ultimate authority would majorities are drawn from the same political party, rest with the people themselves. When members of political budget submissions are taken not as data but as Congress surrender this authority, it is not themselves a guide. Determining a federal budget, what and how they are betraying. It is the American people. That is much to spend, what taxes will be required and where why the balance of powers must be restored. RF they will come from, are prime duties of the legislative branch and the Congress should reassert a leading role Mickey Edwards, a former member of the Republican in making those determinations. A front-page article in leadership in Congress, is a vice president of the Aspen the April 16 Washington Post summed up the situation Institute and the author, most recently, of “The Parties rather neatly: “For congressional Republicans, the Versus the People: How to Turn Republicans and challenges are . . . getting clear direction from the White Democrats into Americans.” RIPON FORUM April 2017
Fixing the Civil Service
Once a cure for good government, it is now a cancer that needs to be reformed
by PHILIP K. HOWARD Americans think Washington is broken. That’s why sense solutions. Environmental review is a sensible idea, they elected a tough-talking outsider as president. But but spending years writing 5,000 page tomes actually harms fixing Washington requires more than one person; it the environment by prolonging polluting bottlenecks. requires a new operating system that allows people to Special education is needed, but should it consume more make sensible choices. The parties can disagree about the than 25 percent of the total K-12 budget? size of government, but we should all agree that, whatever What’s missing is pretty basic: No official has the its scope, government should be responsive and give ability to draw the line, or to balance different needs, or taxpayers their money’s worth. to honor timing constraints. Sensible What drives Americans crazy, decisions are usually pretty obvious. I believe, are the nonstop idiotic “Oh, you’re just raising the roadway dictates. Doctors spend half the of the Bayonne Bridge using the day filling out forms no one reads. same foundations? Just give me 50 Factories and nursing homes get pages on construction impacts.” (That fined for inadequate paperwork, not environmental review was 20,000 unsafe conditions. It takes a decade pages). to fix a broken bridge. Common Americans are angry not just sense is nowhere. Each choice must because Washington is too fat, but fit a preset mold. There’s little room because it’s so stupid. The failure is for balance, or practical exceptions. imbedded in the idea that government Recently the University of can be a machine. Indeed, the California, Berkeley was compelled operating philosophy of government to remove 20,000 lectures from a is that regulation should be mindless free, online archive because it didn’t compliance. That’s why rulebooks provide captions for the deaf. are a thousand pages, when the Philip K. Howard Washington is an obsolete Constitution is only 15 pages. Of machine which churns out rigid, course Washington drives Americans Washington is an one-size-fits-all regulatory dictates. -- it not only tells people what obsolete machine which nuts Day to day, no one in Washington to do, but dictates exactly how to do is allowed to make sensible churns out rigid, oneit. Red tape is endless. What is the decisions. Fairness is irrelevant. bureaucrat’s explanation for every size-fits-all regulatory Even relevance is irrelevant. idiocy? The rule made me do it. dictates. Traffic studies were required for the replacement of the Tappan Zee What replaces red tape? People. Bridge even though the traffic flow Human responsibility is the only is not changing. alternative to mindless bureaucracy. Law can set goals and provide guiding principles, but Regulatory reform is desperately needed. But common sense is impossible unless people -- both officials what does that look like? and citizens -- have the freedom to use their judgment at Amputating stupid programs is not sufficient. All the point of implementation. This is our choice: Either programs, even the most worthwhile, are broken. All regulate by central planning, with dense dictates, or statutes, most written decades ago, have unintended regulate by letting people take responsibility to achieve consequences. The more specific the statutory and results, with clear lines of authority and accountability to administrative dictates, the more they shackle common deal with disputes. 12
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Terminating a civil servant is so difficult that almost no one tries. The absence of individual responsibility is why Washington’s public culture is dispiriting. The accountability vacuum has removed the oxygen of purpose and replaced it with stale resignation. The 1989 Volcker Commission report found that seven of 10 public employees who witnessed fraud, abuse or waste did not even bother to report what they saw. It’s organizational psychology 101: “When a single individual free rides,” as one study found, there is a “precipitous decline in teammate contributions.” The second Volcker Commission, in its 2003 report, found deep resentment Civil servants must be accountable. at “the protections provided to those poor performers Responsibility, however, requires a critical among them who impede their own work and drag down element essential to all functioning organizations -the reputation of all government workers.” accountability. No one will give officials flexibility to Democracy itself can’t work when the chain of use common sense unless they are accountable when accountability is broken. Why don’t problems get fixed they fail or are mean-spirited. Now we get to the link with new leaders? One reason is that civil servants just between regulatory reform and civil service reform keep doing things the same way. They have an acronym Accountability is basically nonexistent for federal for how they deal with incoming administrations: civil servants. Job performance is irrelevant. Indeed, Webehwyg (pronounced more people die on the We-be-wig) -- “We’ll be job than are terminated or here when you’re gone.” demoted. Periodic stories Accountability is basically Nothing works as it emerge of employees nonexistent for federal civil should when, instead of who cannot be terminated taking responsibility to despite outrageous servants. Job performance is get things done, public behavior -- such as the EPA irrelevant. Indeed, more people employees are trained employee who spent the die on the job than are terminated just to trudge through the day surfing porn sites. compliance manuals. The What replaced or demoted. one certainty is that it accountability was red doesn’t matter what they tape. Everyone, including civil servants themselves, are suffocated by endless do. Civil service, once the cure for good government, has rules which dictate how to do everything. That’s why become a cancer killing good government. Two Volcker top college graduates avoid government careers like the Commissions and others have called for overhaul. In plague. 2014, the Partnership for Public Service issued a report A historical halo hovers over civil service because describing civil service as “a relic of a bygone era,” and it replaced the spoils system, in which public jobs were called for “a new civil service framework,” including handed out to political hacks. As originally designed, ending the presumption of lifetime careers. in the Pendleton Act of 1883, civil service was a system Past efforts at reform in Congress, however, of neutral hiring. As reform leader George William have withered in the face of union power and public Curtis said, “if the front door [is] properly tended, the indifference. Democracy seems to be in a death spiral back door [will] take care of itself.” Civil service did of paralytic regulatory mandates – but no one will give not diminish the president’s power to manage or fire officials the freedom to exercise common sense because federal employees (other than barring demands for civil servants are unaccountable. How do we pull out campaign contributions), because that was considered of the spiral? unconstitutional by the Attorney General. But the “merit system” was turned upside down in the 1960s, when collective bargaining and a new theory The Constitutional Lever There’s a more direct path to accountability than of due process put the burden on public managers to wrestling with public unions. The president could prove in a legal trial any adverse personnel decision, repudiate civil service, in its current form, as a violation even a negative comment in a personnel file. It’s no of the Constitution’s mandate that “The executive power coincidence that a 2016 GAO report found over 99% shall be vested in a President…” of civil servants were rated “fully successful” or better. Restoring human responsibility has instant benefits. Daily choices can be practical again. For example, “There’s no need to do a traffic study if the new bridge has the same capacity as the old one.” Dense rulebooks will fall away like dry scales, and be replaced by pamphlets setting goals and guiding principles. Business managers and factory foremen will have room to tell their side of the story. The discussion will focus on what’s sensible, not mindless compliance with thousands of rules that make no sense in context. Disagreements will be resolved with a clear chain of authority.
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Executive power is toothless, as James Madison observed, if the president has no practical authority over personnel: “If any power whatsoever is in its nature executive, it is the power of appointing, overseeing, and controlling those who execute the laws.” Taking away the president’s power over executive employees is synonymous with removing the president’s executive power altogether. The constitutional question is this: Does Congress have the power to tell the president that he cannot terminate inept or insubordinate employees? The answer, I believe, is self-evident. By executive order, the president could scrap the civil service system and replace it with a framework more compatible with reform proposals such as the one proposed by the Partnership for Public Service. The triumph of public unions in securing invincibility from accountability turns out to be their weakness. By disempowering the nation’s chief executive from exercising one of his main constitutional prerogatives, they have opened the door for the president to assert his rights by executive order—not only to remake the civil service system, but also challenge Congress’s legislative mandate (in the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978) imposing collective bargaining on the executive
branch. Public unions, we now know after a half century of experience, do not advance the public good. They have succeeded mainly in destroying any concept of merit in the merit system. An executive order repudiating Congress’s personnel shackles will result in a constitutional challenge, which ultimately will be resolved by the Supreme Court. That’s why it’s preferable for Congress to use the prospect of unilateral executive action as the lever to redesign civil service in a framework consistent with legitimate goals—a new civil service system which honors principles of neutral hiring and is designed to foster a culture of excellence. America needs to remake government for the 21st century. The only path forward is to return to constitutional first principles and create a civil service system that will serve the American people. Restoring accountability will not only transform Washington’s public culture, but will unlock the door to real regulatory reform. RF Philip K. Howard chairs Common Good, which advocates common-sense reforms of law and government. He is the author of several books, including The Rule of Nobody (2014) and The Death of Common Sense (1995).
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A Positive Idea for America’s Bottom Line by J O H N N Y I S A K S O N This year, a businessman took office as president. Appropriations Act, S.306, because she has seen the President Trump’s promise that Washington would work results firsthand as governor of a state where it has differently on his watch resonated with Americans and operated with great success. was the overarching theme of his entire campaign. Specifically, biennial budgeting would convert Congress’ current broken annual appropriations process As a businessman myself of more than 30 years to a two-year budget cycle, and a taxpayer, I appreciate his with one year for appropriating calls to make Washington run federal dollars and the other more efficiently and effectively. Tackling our mounting and year devoted to oversight of unsustainable national debt is a federal programs. This would major part of that equation, and allow for better oversight I have worked toward this goal before we start spending more. during my career in Congress. Oversight is critical to running Over the last 37 years, since a business or even a household, 1980, Congress has passed all and it should be a priority when 12 annual appropriations bills spending taxpayer dollars. on time only twice. Too often, Businesses and government the current appropriations organizations – including our military and the U.S. process results in a chaotic Department of Veterans Affairs spending spree each fall when – need to know the level of both chambers wind up hastily resources in their budget so passing a temporary funding they can operate and plan for measure up against an end-ofWe need to change the the future. Biennial budgeting the-fiscal-year deadline to avoid system by which Congress would help our leaders to plan a government shutdown. This is no way to run a business, and it appropriates federal dollars ahead better and to become more efficient stewards of their is no way to run the government. because the current process resources. To help achieve a more Every day, our national efficient and effective is clearly not working. debt and deficits are growing. Washington that would also The impacts are felt throughout tackle the core drivers of our our government, with profound effects on our economy, debt, we need to change the system by which Congress our long-term national security, and the legacy that we appropriates federal dollars because the current process will pass on to the next generation. is clearly not working. I have introduced legislation Biennial budgeting would help fix our debt that would move the federal appropriations process to a problem. It would help cut spending by giving Congress system known as biennial budgeting. and federal agencies time to learn what is working, and Biennial budgeting is a commonsense concept that what is not. It allows time for adequate review and has been endorsed by both Republican and Democratic would provide greater guidance for administrators at presidents and by numerous federal budget experts. every level. Its value is proven daily in the 19 states where it is currently in use. Building consensus in Congress is always a lengthy U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., has worked and challenging process, but during the last several with me to advance the Biennial Budgeting and years as our problems have grown, more and more RIPON FORUM April 2017
in separate proposals to reform the federal budget members have seen the wisdom of this this bipartisan process. proposal. Members of Congress have seen biennial Biennial budgeting would increase oversight, reduce budgeting working in their own state governments or in spending and make our federal government more efficient neighboring states and in turn, it has received increasing and more accountable to support in Washington. taxpayers. In 2013, the Biennial budgeting would convert I urge President biennial budgeting Trump, our nation’s new proposal introduced Congress’ current broken annual businessman-in-chief, by Sen. Shaheen and appropriations process to a twoto take a close look at me passed by a 68this legislation. It may 31 vote in the Senate year budget cycle, with one year for very well make its way as an amendment to appropriating federal dollars and the to his desk, and it would that year’s budget other year devoted to oversight of be a wise investment in resolution. While the our nation’s future for budget resolution was a federal programs. him to sign it. non-binding blueprint, Biennial budgeting the strong vote for is an effective, proven, disciplined way to go about our amendment provided additional momentum and making sure the people’s money is spent wisely. It’s demonstrated the appeal of this proposal across party a good idea whose time has come, and that’s good for lines. America’s bottom line. RF It led to a Senate Budget Committee hearing on the legislation in 2015, and in 2016, both the U.S. Senate Johnny Isakson is the senior U.S. Senator from the State Budget Committee and U.S. House Budget Committee of Georgia. chairmen included versions of biennial budgeting
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Creating a Congress of Tomorrow by DARIN LAHOOD Here’s a question for you: What do President Abraham rather than traits of our first branch of government. Lincoln, former House Minority Leader Bob Michel, former As the first branch of government established by Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen, and President Article 1 of our Constitution, Congress is charged with hefty Ronald Reagan all have in common? responsibilities, including funding the government, providing The answer: All aforementioned names have roots in for the military, and legislating. But as the American people Illinois and have called central Illinois home at some point have expressed, as shown by countless polls, Congress is in their lives. failing at doing its job. Abraham Lincoln practiced law throughout central Simply put, the body “of the People,” voted in “by the Illinois and served in the U.S. People,” is not working “for the House of Representatives from People.” 1847-1849, before being elected So what do we do about a President and re-uniting a dysfunctional Congress? When divided nation. Senate Minority the governing process fails to Leader Everett Dirksen, a native function, reform is necessary. It of Pekin, IL, is credited with is time to return to performanceorchestrating the passage of based governing, restore order the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and effectiveness, re-establish a to help bring the end to racial balance of power and re-create an divide across our country. The environment in which Congress late House Minority Leader is trusted by the People. Bob Michel represented the Significant change in the same district I now represent legislative branch will require and was our nation’s longestreal actions and real work serving House Minority Leader, by those currently serving. ensuring compromise while Recognizing this, I have representing the minority for 14 introduced with my democratic years. President Ronald Reagan colleague, Congressman Dan When the governing process graduated from Eureka College, Lipinski, the “Congress of fails to function, reform is based in my district, where it Tomorrow Project.” is said he gave his first public necessary. Our legislation, H. Con. speech when speaking to unite Res. 28, was introduced on the entire student body and call February 16th earlier this year for changes to the college administration. and has garnered 50 co-sponsors, including 29 Republicans More importantly than calling central Illinois home, and 21 Democrats thus far. Our resolution calls for a these leaders are also hailed as champions of bipartisanship, joint committee, composed of 12 Representatives and 12 fueled by civility, compassion, and compromise -- traits I Senators, equally bipartisan, to study Congress. This body believe were acquired from their Midwest upbringing. would be charged with a mandate to review the institution of Central Illinois prides itself on the rich history of our Congress and to propose comprehensive reforms to make the leaders that have served in public office. President Lincoln, institution efficient, effective, and accountable to taxpayers. Leader Dirksen, President Reagan, and Leader Michel were The process would be open to the public and could draw on all local leaders able to rise above partisanship to meet the the expertise and experiences of the private sector. significant demands they faced. We, as Congress, would all This joint committee would first evaluate the legislative do well to follow their example. rules and procedures that control how Congress functions. Unfortunately, when speaking about Congress today, This is a critical first step. The basic work of Congress isn’t civility, compassion, and compromise are just buzzwords getting done and much of it is due to amended rules and RIPON FORUM April 2017
procedures passed over decades of time as the majority has order to be effective and responsive to the American people. Each previous joint committee ultimately led to radical and shifted back and forth. Second, it would seek to change the behavior of the necessary changes in Congress. The reason votes on the legislators themselves, empowering them to participate in the House Floor are recorded so America knows where their legislative process, debate issues, encourage compromise, members stand on issues is a result of one of these endeavors. But the last time Congress introduce amendments and get did this was 23 years ago -laws enacted. The atmosphere Every 25 years over the past coincidentally, the last time we of hostility and antagonism passed all appropriations bills must change. century, Congress has had through regular order. Finally, the joint committee to reevaluate itself to make We have a lot of work would focus on restoring significant changes in order to to do, but I truly believe the three important relationships: Congress of Tomorrow Project the relationship between be effective and responsive to is a step in the right direction Members of Congress and their the American people. towards restoring civility and constituents, the relationship trust in Congress once again. between the House and Senate, As Abraham Lincoln said, and the relationship between the “the best way to predict your future is to create it.” We have Legislative and the Executive branches. For how dysfunctional and toxic Congress has proven to an opportunity to reshape Congress to be the representative be lately, I wouldn’t criticize anyone if they thought our idea body that leads our country to a prosperous future. Now is a pipe dream. However, I would be quick to remind you that the time to act. RF this is not a new idea. Such committees have been effective before. In fact, every 25 years over the past century, Congress Darin LaHood represents the 18th District of Illinois in the has had to reevaluate itself to make significant changes in U.S. House of Representatives.
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Congress Needs More Staff by K E V I N R . K O S A R Mark Twain famously remarked, “Suppose you were an 25 percent the past four decades. The corps of civil servant idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I experts at the Congressional Research Service and the repeat myself.” Government Accountability Office (GAO) also has declined. Although famously crotchety, he did touch upon a And the percentage of congressional staff who work in DC on basic truth: our elected officials are amateurs. They arrive policy has declined, as legislators have tasked more of their in Washington, DC with only an inkling of how government charges to work on constituents’ issues (like gripes about the works. How could it be otherwise? IRS). Few legislators have any previous federal policy Republicans, it must be admitted, are largely responsible experience. Many have made their careers in business or for this sorry state of affairs. The public feels that Congress law. Others worked as is overstaffed, and GOP doctors, teachers, farmers, legislators long ago law-enforcement officers, picked up on that vibe and ministers. Members of and turned their downCongress are we the people, sizing government fire not an aristocratic caste of on themselves. This war policy elites trained since on congressional capacity birth to govern. began during the Gingrich And there is the flip revolution. Republicans side of the coin: our federal cut GAO’s cohort of government is immense. auditors and program There are approximately 180 analysts by a quarter. The agencies through which flow Office of Technology $4 trillion per year of our Assessment, which helped tax dollars for innumerable Congress comprehend programs and objectives emerging technologies, Kevin R. Kosar (the U.S. Code volume of was zeroed out in 1995, laws relating to agriculture Our federal government is immense. just as the Internet policy alone runs 2,000 revolution and attendant There are approximately 180 pages). Nearly 180,000 economic disruption pages of regulations exist arrived. agencies through which flow $4 which inject government This “penny-wise, trillion per year of our tax dollars authority into nearly pound-foolish” mindset every facet of life. The for innumerable programs and lives on today, exemplified government employs almost by the legislators who objectives. four million individuals, try to prove their small along with an untold number government cred by of contractors. (Some 710,000 work for the Department of annually returning a portion of the staffing money they Defense alone.) Tens of thousands of not-for-profits get receive to the U.S. Treasury. federal grants to do things for the government, like combating The GOP desperately needs to revise its mindset on opioid addiction. congressional capacity. Shrinking the legislative branch and Is it any wonder, then, that Congress often seems clueless bad-mouthing it has not worked — the public’s dudgeon for and incapable of decision? Congress has been at historic lows for years. Our national legislature has made governing even more To start, the Republicans should remind the public that difficult by reducing its staff. The number of people who Congress, for all its faults, is the most democratic of the three work for the congressional committees, the founts of public branches. It comprises 535 individuals chosen by voters to policy and government oversight, has gone down more than represent their interests. Congress — not the president or the 20
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Finally, the GOP should tap into the public’s dislike of judiciary — is the branch most connected to the concerns of the average Joe and Jane. As such, the “First Branch” is the lobbyists and insider-influence by pointing out that a weak heart of our system of self-governance. (Admirably, some Congress is an easily corrupted Congress. Today, more Tea Party legislators, like Sen. Mike Lee (UT), already are money is spent annually on lobbyists than Congress spends on its own operations. K Street’s policy shops are stocked doing this.) Second, legislators should tell voters that governance with former members of Congress and Hill staff with deep policy experience. The fewer is a zero-sum game. The policy experts Congress has weaker Congress is, the more The GOP desperately needs on staff, the more lawmakers powerful the executive — must rely upon lobbyists to and judiciary, for that matter to revise its mindset on advise them on legislation. — must be. Not long ago, congressional capacity. Shrinking There are signs of President Barack Obama congressional revival on exclaimed that he had a the legislative branch and badCapitol Hill. Last year the telephone and a pen, and that mouthing it has not worked. House of Representatives he was happy to use them gave its underpaid staff a to unilaterally make policy tiny bit more money, and a regardless of the wishes of few weeks ago it voted to provide a few of its committees Congress or the American people. Third, legislators must quit peddling the appealing with more resources to conduct oversight. But vastly more notion of the earnest, amateur legislator who can appear at needs to be done for Congress to resume its place as the first the Capitol three days a week and govern with pure horse- branch of government. RF sense. The leviathan is too huge, complex, and relentless for that. It takes an immense amount of knowledge to rule Kevin R. Kosar is a senior fellow at the R Street Institute, wisely. And Congress cannot oversee the immense federal a free-market think-tank in Washington, DC. He co-directs government and weed out waste, fraud, and abuse without the Legislative Branch Capacity Working Group and edits LegBranch.com. more manpower.
The size of Congressional support staff has declined over time
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A Smart Government Plan with Bipartisan Roots by LOU ZICKAR
“Ahead of schedule and under budget.” Trump has clearly faced his share of criticism since taking That was one of President Trump’s stated goals when he office. In fact, the Media Research Center recently reported announced the establishment of a new White House Office on that, “While most new presidents enjoy a media honeymoon, Innovation this past month. the tone of Trump’s coverage was nearly as hostile (88% The purpose of the Office is to make government negative) as we found during last year’s presidential more efficient by applying the lessons of the private sector campaign (91% negative).” Given this volume of criticism, to Washington, DC. The Office will be headed by Senior it is sometimes hard to tell whether these critics are finding Presidential Advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner, and draw fault with a specific policy or simply dislike the President on some of the leading minds in himself. But the observations of business for advice. both Kamarck and Schaefer are Despite the fact that worth noting because they get government dysfunction is one of to the heart of the debate over the top concerns of the American government reform, and illustrate people (just behind the economy, the challenge facing Jared according to Gallup), Trump’s Kushner as he charts a course for effort to end this dysfunction has the Office of Innovation in the left many experts and pundits months ahead. unimpressed. Take Elaine Forty years ago, Congress Kamarck. She headed up Al was on the verge of passing a plan Gore’s Reinventing Government that would have helped Kushner initiative in the mid 1990’s, and meet this challenge. The plan is now a scholar at Brookings. would have created a federal Writing in the Atlantic, Sunset Commission. Under this Kamarck observed that: “The proposal, all federal programs Jared Kushner government can always use fresh would have been given a 10ideas. But the reality is that year expiration date. When the As Jared Kushner looks for government is like the private date was reached, the Sunset ways to make government more sector only in some pieces of its Commission would determine innovative, perhaps it is time to operations -- consulting business whether the program was still executives can be very useful. needed. If the answer was no, consider establishing a Sunset But a real government-reform the program would have been Commission again. effort must be led by people abolished. If the answer was yes, with in-depth knowledge of the program would have been the government itself. Otherwise, it will simply be another continued for another decade, with changes made as needed to initiative that is forgotten almost as soon as it is announced.” ensure the program was still working as originally intended. The Columnist Jack Schaefer struck a similar note writing recommendations of the Commission would then have been in Politico. “The concept of governmental reorganization presented to Congress, and an up-or-down vote would have has become so musty and shopworn that Trump’s statement been held. The intent was to take politics out of the equation heralding his fresh swipe at it…could have been issued by and make the needed hard decisions with regard to reforming any contemporary occupant of the Oval Office,” he sneered. government. But of course, the other more important goal was “Every president boasts that new economies and innovations to make government more effective and efficient. can be harvested. Every president claims that the bureaucratic In 1977, establishing a federal Sunset Commission labyrinths can be made straight as a river after the Army Corps was one of the top three priorities on Capitol Hill. The top of Engineers has its way with it. Every president insists that priority, S.1, was a jobs bill aimed at easing unemployment, government can be made to run with the efficiency of a major which stood at 7.5 percent when Jimmy Carter took office. corporation.” The third priority, S.3, was a bill to reform health care. The 22
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second most pressing priority, S.2, was a bill to get federal As for the concern that any “real government reform spending under control by establishing a Sunset Commission. effort must be led by people with an in-depth knowledge The bill’s main sponsor was Edmund Muskie, the legendary of the government itself,” there is an answer for that, too. Democratic senator from Maine. Its supporters ranged from The answer can be found in Congress – or, rather, among Republicans Barry Goldwater and Jesse Helms to Democrats those who used to serve in Congress. Every other year, George McGovern and Edward Kennedy. “I regard the dozens of Senators and Representatives leave office sunset concept as one of the most imaginative and innovative because of either retirement or defeat. The vast majority approaches to government reform that has been proposed in of these individuals love public service. Over the past two many years,” Kennedy said. decades, an increasing number of these individuals have All told, S.2 had 59 cosponsors in the Senate – 30 also become lobbyists – lured by attractive salaries, and Democrats, 28 Republicans and one independent. In the the opportunity to put the knowledge and expertise they House, the bill had more than 150 cosponsors, including acquired on Capitol Hill to use somewhere else. such conservative Republicans as Mickey Edwards and Here’s a proposal – establish a federal Sunset Bob Walker and such liberal Commission, and give former Democrats as Dick Gephardt Members of Congress the and Shirley Chisholm. President opportunity to serve there Carter also backed the plan, as instead. If anyone knows did interest groups ranging from where the bodies are buried the Chamber of Commerce when it comes to bureaucratic to Common Cause. Perhaps waste, abuse and inefficiency, Muskie summed it up best when it is the individuals who used explaining the reason the idea to oversee the bureaucracy. enjoyed such broad political Appoint them to a six-year support. “Conservatives see term, pay them at least what this as a way of reducing the they made on Capitol Hill, responsibilities of government,” and ask them to put their years he explained, while it is of experience to good use viewed by “liberals as a way not lobbying the government of getting our house in order to for some private interest, but take on new responsibilities.” reforming the government “I regard the sunset concept as The Senate overwhelmingly for the public good. Many one of the most imaginative approved S.2 by a vote of 87-1 would no doubt jump at the and innovative approaches in October 1978. Unfortunately, opportunity, and would no to government reform that the bill was never voted on in the doubt serve their country well has been proposed in many House, and the idea was never in this regard. seriously considered again. One final note -- Sunset years.” As Jared Kushner looks Commissions have been Sen. Edward Kennedy, 1977 proven to work. Colorado for ways to make government more innovative, perhaps it is approved the first Sunset time to consider establishing a law in 1976. Twenty states Sunset Commission again. A poll conducted earlier this year had enacted some form of Sunset law by 2002. Texas by The Ripon Society found broad public support for the has perhaps the nation’s most successful Sunset program. idea. When asked if “Federal government programs should Since its creation in 1977, 79 agencies have been abolished, be subjected to regular performance reviews to ensure they including 37 agencies that were completely abolished and are providing Americans with value for their tax dollars,” 42 that were abolished with certain functions transferred to 94 percent of Americans said that they should. Similarly, existing or newly created agencies. when asked if federal regulations should have a sunset date The bottom line is that Sunset Commissions “where they either end or Congress decides to renew them,” have worked around the country and they can work in 79 percent of Americans agreed with that proposal, as well. A Washington, DC. Congress came very close to establishing Sunset Commission would provide taxpayers with a built-in one 40 years ago. And as Jared Kushner looks for ways to mechanism to reform and pare back the federal bureaucracy. reform the federal government so it is “ahead of schedule Under this proposal, governmental reviews would not be a and under budget,” it is an idea worth taking another look “musty and shopworn” concept that numerous Presidents at today. RF embrace. Rather, they would become a regular and mandatory part of the law. Lou Zickar is the Editor of The Ripon Forum. RIPON FORUM April 2017
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Politics & Perspective
To Strengthen our Infrastructure, Invest in Rural Broadband by DOUG BRAKE As Wilber Ross and Peter Navarro wrote in the Trump Most involve a mix. While it is not possible to say a priori campaign white paper, “[t]oday, much of America’s which functions are best served by public or private actors infrastructure is crumbling. Much more needs to be built for all infrastructure projects, everything else being equal, anew.” The American Society of Civil Engineers agrees — private-sector ownership and operation brings several the organization’s recent Infrastructure Report Card gave advantages, most notably a greater incentive for efficiency, U.S. infrastructure a grade of D+. innovation, and investment. But if new infrastructure spending is to be effective in Public ownership or operation of infrastructure makes growing the economy long term, and not just a Keynesian the most sense for true public goods: resources that are sugar high, it must move beyond both non-excludable (meaning simple concrete and rebar. Any it’s difficult to prevent access to infrastructure package should focus those who have not paid) and nonon smart infrastructure that integrates rivalrous (meaning consumption by both physical and digital aspects, one doesn’t prevent simultaneous and at least some support should go use by another). It is often difficult to pure digital infrastructure. Smart to price public goods based on use, infrastructure and robust broadband so there is little to no incentive for networks can deliver the next wave the private sector to provide these of innovation and economic growth. services, justifying government Some see infrastructure intervention. Broadband does not as having little capacity for fall into this category. innovation. Roads and bridges But there are other circumstances spring to mind, which have changed where the government should little over the years. While there intervene, if not through outright may be innovations in physical operation, at least in financing. One infrastructures, today’s biggest such circumstance is where the opportunities for improvement are overall benefits are great, but it is Doug Brake in embedding digital technologies impossible to turn a profit because in physical infrastructure. Sensors, costs are too high or hard to recoup. smart meters, and remote-control In addition to This is extremely relevant in the rural technology can dramatically improve connecting infrastructure, broadband context, where the coststhe efficiency and performance of per-home passed are much higher broadband use is an everything from sewage pipes and than in more-densely populated waterways to railroads and highways. urban areas, and revenues from engine of economic Upgrading our nation’s dated customers simply are not enough to growth in and physical systems and augmenting recover the initial investment. them with information technology of itself. Broadband sees significant presents a true opportunity, but network externalities, where the all those sensors and meters must benefits of bringing more users onto be connected. An infrastructure package should look to broadband networks benefits the broader economy and expand broadband performance in rural areas. In addition society, not just individual users. That does not mean that to connecting infrastructure, broadband use is an engine of every potential user should obtain subsidized broadband. economic growth in and of itself. In many cases, such as very remote households, the One of the core questions regarding any infrastructure combined private and public benefits of connectivity do project is the appropriate mix of public and private not necessarily exceed the very high costs of connection. involvement. Some projects are designed, built, managed, But the benefits of being able to organize our society under and financed by government, others by the private sector. the assumption that all have access to the Internet (online RIPON FORUM April 2017
banking, e-filing taxes, and digital education tools) justify technologies. There is a clear and large diminishing targeted government investment. marginal utility to additional network speed, and often Thankfully, the existing private-investment framework upgrades to speed can be far more cost effective compared for broadband has seen tremendous achievement, attracting to deploying an entirely new network. extraordinary capital expenditures (about $1.5 trillion over A wide variety of prior programs have attempted to the last 20 years). This investment has made U.S. broadband improve rural broadband with varying success. The Federal a remarkable international success story, especially Communication Commission’s Connect America Fund considering the high cost of laying wires through this (CAF) is the most well thought out and successful of these nation’s suburban sprawl. But in some parts of the country, programs. An infrastructure bill could simultaneously put particularly rural, high-cost areas, the economics simply CAF funding on surer footing and define cost-effective do not support much in the way of private investment, goals for rural broadband improvements. resulting in a real gap between rural and urban broadband On the other end of the spectrum, various grant and performance. loan programs under the Department of Agriculture’s According to FCC data, as of December 2014 there were Rural Utilities Service (RUS) provide an example of approximately 34 million how not to advance rural U.S. residents (or 10 percent) broadband. RUS has without home access to a faced some accountability fixed terrestrial service of at challenges, and many of least 25 megabits per second the networks benefiting (Mbps). Note, existing from its guaranteed loans broadband buildout efforts have creeped into low— largely thanks to private cost areas, cherry-picking investment — see continual high-return multi-dwelling improvement: This number units that are already of Americans without access served competitively. It to high-speed broadband is would be a mistake to down 38 percent from just a expand this program as year prior. part of an infrastructure But when you look bill without significant only at rural areas, the reform. picture isn’t quite as rosy. Federal financial Thirty nine percent of rural support could also Thirty nine percent of rural Americans lack access to be used to encourage Americans lack access to highhigh-speed broadband, and local jurisdictions to even at modest speeds, 25 take additional steps speed broadband. Compare that to percent of rural residents to remove barriers to 4 percent of urban residents who lack 10 Mbps. Compare deployment. Local and that to 4 percent of urban state governments should lack access to high-speed. residents who lack access streamline access to public to highspeed. rights of way and utility The case for including support for accelerating poles, adopt “dig-once” policies, and ensure fees to access broadband deployment as part of an infrastructure package city infrastructure are based on cost and are competitively is strong, but that support should be carefully designed to see neutral. it used most effectively. Tax incentives can be a useful tool, Most of all, it is important for broadband infrastructure incenting additional investment at the margin. But for truly spending to focus first on areas that are legitimately high-cost areas, geographically targeted subsidies designed unserved rather than propping up duplicative, smaller to achieve specific goals are necessary to move the dial. networks or increasing available speeds beyond what Support should first supply a single network for is reasonably needed. If policymakers want to have the truly unserved populations before attempting to upgrade largest impact when subsidizing broadband infrastructure performance of existing slower networks. There is a investment, they should prioritize bringing online those misperception that the economic benefits of broadband populations without any available connection at all. RF require significantly higher speed networks. Study after study shows that the economic benefits of broadband Doug Brake is a senior telecommunications policy analyst are greatest when adding additional users at any speed, at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, not upgrading networks to supposedly “future-proofed” the top-ranked U.S. science- and tech-policy think tank. 26
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Trade & the Trump Administration
A powerful – and politically divisive – engine of growth by JACQUELINE VARAS International trade is a powerful driver of economic benefits producers: over half of all imports are used by growth. It introduces competition, inspires innovation, and American manufacturers in the production of final goods. results in productivity gains which improve our standard of These imports lower the cost of production, which also living. However, it has become a particularly contentious enables U.S. businesses to sell goods at lower prices. issue in the United States. Increasing trade barriers, on the other hand, In 2009, 57 percent of Republicans believed that trade disproportionately hurts the poor. A study released earlier agreements were good for the nation. That number has since this year found that current U.S. tariffs raise the tax burden plummeted to 24 percent, with 68 for lower-income households percent of Republicans opposing substantially more than for middleU.S. trade agreements. This shift and high-income households. was undoubtedly propelled by the This is because poorer households 2016 presidential election. tend to spend a larger share of President Donald Trump has their income on traded goods, been especially vocal about his and increasing tariffs increases disdain for U.S. trade policy. During the costs of these goods. The tax his campaign, he vehemently burden is highest on single parents condemned the North American and families with children. Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The President has been He also asserted that “globalization particularly outspoken about using has wiped out our middle class.” trade barriers to encourage domestic He has since taken significant steps manufacturing, protect domestic toward fulfilling his campaign industries like steel, and prevent pledges. job losses due to trade. However, First, he immediately withdrew the vast majority of the decline in Jacqueline Varas the United States from the TransU.S. manufacturing employment Pacific Partnership (TPP), a U.S. has been triggered by advances It is evident that the trade agreement with 11 nations in in automation and productivity. the Asia Pacific. He also plans to This explains why manufacturing President is committed begin renegotiating NAFTA later output in the United States has to making trade policy this year. Furthermore, President continued to rise even while the a priority. However, his Trump met with President Xi number of manufacturing workers of China this month to discuss has decreased. actions and rhetoric thus bilateral trade. The impact of trade on jobs far have been largely It is evident that the President is similarly misunderstood. When is committed to making trade policy a country opens itself to trade, misguided. a priority. However, his actions and international competition leads rhetoric thus far have been largely to specialization. This means that misguided. To ensure a prosperous American economy, we American firms start producing the best products they can must embrace the comprehensive, widespread benefits of for the lowest costs. The natural result of specialization open trade. is labor market shifts; some jobs will be displaced while International trade spurs international competition, new jobs are created in emerging sectors of the economy. which results in the creation of higher-quality, lower-priced But specialization also increases U.S. productivity, which goods and services. This benefits consumers by increasing generates economic growth. This growth is estimated to the availability of valuable products at low prices. It also boost U.S. household income by $13,600 per year. RIPON FORUM April 2017
There is no denying that labor market shifts can be painful. bilateral trade agreements. However, there is no evidence However, less than one percent of all job separations in the that bilateral trade agreements produce better economic United States are due to import competition. Alternatively, results than multilateral agreements. To the contrary, regional more than one in every five jobs is supported by international negotiations have resulted in greater market access for U.S. trade and nearly five million jobs were created as a direct exporters than bilateral deals. Furthermore, TPP countries are result of NAFTA. Exports generate jobs by increasing determined to move forward without the United States. The United States will continue demand for U.S. products, to miss out on opportunities while imports generate jobs by increasing the purchasing More than one in every five jobs for multilateral cooperation as long as it is confined to power of consumers, reducing is supported by international bilateral trade negotiations. input costs for businesses, and trade and nearly five million Trade is a powerful generating additional economic engine of growth. It expands activity. jobs were created as a direct market access for producers, Engaging in international result of NAFTA. lowers costs for consumers, trade is also in the strategic and produces invaluable interest of the United States. productivity and efficiency Trade agreements encourage gains which stimulate international cooperation, strengthen relationships with our allies, and bolster U.S. economic growth. While it is not surprising that public leadership and economic influence around the globe. This opinion has taken a turn, the best trade policy President is why numerous secretaries of state and defense, foreign Trump can pursue to improve the lives of the American ambassadors, and other political leaders have fought for the people is to eliminate trade barriers at home and abroad. RF implementation of trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Jacqueline Varas serves as a Director of Immigration and Partnership. President Trump is committed to negotiating only Trade Policy at the American Action Forum.
The Ripon Society
Ideas that matter since 1962. â€œThe work that Ripon does is incredibly importamt.â€? Tom Price - Remarks to Ripon Society Members, May 13, 2016
RIPON FORUM April 2017
News & Events
Straight Talk from the Tuesday Group:
DENT, MACARTHUR & KATKO SHARE THEIR THOUGHTS ON THE COURSE OF THE HEALTH CARE DEBATE WASHINGTON, DC -- With Congress trying to reach agreement on a plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, The Ripon Society held a breakfast discussion on April 5th with three Representatives from the House Tuesday Group, a bloc of more than 50 centerright Republicans who are growing in influence and playing an active role in shaping the health care debate. The Representatives included John Katko (NY-24), Tom MacArthur (NJ3), and Charlie Dent (PA-15). Dent – who serves as Co-Chair of the Tuesday Group along with MacArthur -- kicked off the discussion by recalling the governing coalitions of Republicans and Democrats that have helped shape policy in Washington in recent years, and why those bipartisan coalitions are now needed to overcome the political dysfunction that is paralyzing our nation’s capital today. “When we took the majority in 2011,” Dent stated, “we had a governing paradigm where we had a lot of mustpass bills. The Violence Against Women Act, Hurricane Sandy, CR’s, appropriation bills, debt ceilings, budget agreements, fiscal cliffs, omnibus… Whatever it was, there always seemed to be some kind of a coalition. What I always refer to as the governing wing of the party was largely the Tuesday Group, mainstream members, and some other members -- Tom Cole, people like that, who weren’t part of our groups. “But we had a lot of folks. On a good day, I’d say it was probably 85
to 90 members. So we often had these coalitions where we and the Democrats had to pass these bills. And of course, those of us who voted for these bills were often sniped at from our flank, accused of being capitulators, compromisers or something like that. We took a lot of flak for it. Now that we’ve moved onto a Republican administration with Donald Trump, I think you move back to a more traditional paradigm.” Dent is serving his seventh term in
Congress and has served as Co-Chair of the Tuesday Group since 2006. In this position, he has become a leading voice for centrist Republicans on Capitol Hill, and has established a reputation as a pragmatic lawmaker who is focused not on ideology, but on achieving results. To that end, he expressed hope that Republicans this year will focus on legislation that can be approved by both chambers of Congress, and readily supported by those in the center of the political spectrum, not just those on the extremes. “I think there will be a lot of hesitation to advance bills that have no chance of going anywhere in the RIPON FORUM April 2017
Senate,” Dent observed. “The thinking has been that if you passed the bill as conservatively as you can, then it will go to the Senate and come back less conservative. But what we saw over the last six or seven years is that when we do that, we found that those of us in the center-right were giving power to the people on the far right who weren’t going vote for the bill on the rebound. That was always a big problem. And I don’t think that business model is going to work going forward. Because we’re now talking about an energized Democratic Party, and these votes are now very real for a lot of our members.” “If I were advising the Administration on health care and some other issues, we’re going to have to start working from the center out, rather than what we’ve seen so far. Infrastructure is the next issue we ought to tackle. I realize tax reform is probably on the agenda, and we’re probably going to have to marry tax reform and infrastructure together at some point. Infrastructure lends itself easier to a bipartisan resolution than tax reform. “We know it’s hard. I think to a certain extent we may have set ourselves up this year to unrealistically high expectations. I heard a lot of people talking earlier in the year about when we were going to get health care, tax reform, and infrastructure done. I just said, ‘Wow.’ If you have any of those this year, that would be a major achievement. To say we’ll get all three, I think is a bit unrealistic.” 29
MacArthur agreed, and opened you stay focused on the big picture. make sure that everyone on Medicaid his remarks by talking about his I never got everything I wanted in a expansion would be able to stay there background in business, his approach negotiation, so I would try to identify permanently, so that we didn’t either to negotiating, and why he believes what were the most important things do a bait-and-switch with the states the health care debate at this point is I cannot move forward without. I was or pull the rug out from under those not just about substance, but saving willing to let go of nearly everything individuals. We got that done. And face. else if it helped the other person save then we added successively in three “I grew up in the insurance field face or accomplish their goals. And buckets $160 billion -- $60 billion and started on the service side,” the that’s the third thing -- face. We’re for disabled and elderly in Medicaid, New Jersey Republican stated. “I actually at a place in these health care $85 billion for the 50-64 age band in investigated insurance claims in the negotiations that may be more about the marketplace, and $15 billion for housing projects. That’s how I started saving face than about the substance maternity care, mental health care, and my career. I remember the very first of the health care bill. I’m not saying addiction recovery. All of those things accident that I ever investigated was an the substance doesn’t matter. But it’s brought me to a ‘yes’ because I was a part of negotiating that. And I feel that auto accident. Two cars hit each other about saving face.” in the intersection -- pretty simple. MacArthur -- who is serving his if you negotiate in good faith and get most of what you need, And I had to interview it’s time to say ‘yes.’” two witnesses. They Katko echoed his could have been from colleagues’ remarks, and different planets based recalled his own decision on what they described to run for Congress in to me. Two disinterested 2014 and his belief that witnesses saw and partisan divisions in heard the exact same Washington have become thing and described it too entrenched. to me in completely “I was sick and tired different terms. I went of the partisan gridlock,” on to spend my whole he stated. “I wanted to do career negotiating. I something about it. It’s negotiated insurance my nature to want to attack claims and then I got problems. So I come to into management, Congress, and it was not negotiating contracts “We’re going to have to start working shocking, but eye-opening with customers. Then from the center out, rather than what to see just how entrenched I acquired a company both sides were against and we grew from 100 we’ve seen so far.” each other, and how there people to about 6,000 Charlie Dent were entrenched factions people today. We grew within our own party. all over the country, And I wanted to do something about and I acquired companies. It was a second term in Congress and first term that. One of the reasons I got involved constant negotiation. And there were as Co-Chair of the Tuesday Group -with the Tuesday Group was I firmly three things that really settled in my spent nearly three decades in business believe you cannot solve the long-term mind about negotiation. before his election in 2014. In his problems of this country unilaterally. “One is perspective – the two remarks yesterday, he spoke not just You cannot do it without working with witnesses who see it differently. about his approach to negotiating, but the other side or at least making some So when I deal, for example, with what the negotiations have achieved attempts to work with the other side. the Freedom Caucus, I start with thus far. an understanding that they have a “There was going to be a tax The Tuesday Group is a very important different perspective. And I’m talking on employer-sponsored health care component of that. Not because we about the ones that are in good faith. plans in the top 10% which would meet with Democrats on a regular Look, there are people in Congress have created a race to the bottom for basis, but because we try to look at that may not be acting in good faith. companies to get out of being in the the bigger picture and understand that But there are loads of people who are top 10%,” he stated. “I thought that passing a partisan bill that we know is acting in good faith who just have a was a terrible mistake. We got that going to die in the Senate is not really RF different perspective. The second is out of the bill. Then we also wanted to helping anyone.” 30
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Proudly supports the Ripon Society
Name: Pat Meehan Occupation: Congressman (PA-07) Attorney, Prosecutor, Lawmaker First job & lesson(s) you learned from it: I started caddying at age 13. Some of the lessons you learn quickly: What they say on the course, stays on the course. Don’t talk to the golfer unless he talks to you first. Stay clear of the golfers that throw clubs. They exist, but there are fewer of them than you’d might expect. More broadly, it taught me at a young age how to talk to adults. And the importance of a hard day’s work. Book you read that you’re recommending to friends: Any historic biography. History is my outlet. I’m currently enjoying Nathaniel Philbrick’s “Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold and the Fate of the American Revolution.” It gives terrific insight into how tenuous our nation’s fate truly was, and how vulnerable yet remarkable Washington was in his persistence and accomplishment. Challenge facing your District that you’re working to address: The opioid crisis nationwide and in Pennsylvania in particular is staggering. It’s a challenge that even now we continue to struggle to address, and there’s no “silver bullet” solution. But by working on a bipartisan basis to advance prudent, responsible policies, we can make a real dent in this crisis and ultimately save lives as a result. Priorities in the House of Representatives that you hope to achieve this year: As a member of the Ways and Means Committee, I’m focused in particular on reforming our broken tax code and making it work better for American families and job creators. We continue to work to repeal and replace Obamacare with measures that will make quality care more affordable and more accessible for Pennsylvanians. And we’re looking at ways we can make better, stronger trade deals that promote job growth here at home, protect our workers and make it easier to sell our products around the world. Finally, finish this sentence: “If I could give the President one bit of advice, it would be to…:” Take a break from Tweeting. 32
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