Tag Archives: Congress Watch

Trump’s lies corrode democracy

By James Pfiffner – Previous research has demonstrated that most modern presidents have told lies for a variety of reasons, from legitimate lies concerning national security, to trivial misstatements, to shading the truth, to avoiding embarrassment, to serious lies of policy deception. However, when a president continues to insist that his previous false statements are true, the institutions of government become corroded and democracy is undermined.

Of course, many of Trump’s lies are “conventional” lies similar to those that politicians often tell in order to look good or avoid blame. But the number of these types of lies by Trump vastly exceeds the lies of previous presidents. Glen Kessler of the Washington Post compiled a list of more than 2000 misleading or false statements in Trump’s first 355 days in office.

But aside from volume, Trump’s lies differed significantly from those of previous presidents. Some of his most frequent lies are bragging about his achievements in ways that are demonstrably untrue and contrary to well-known and accepted facts.

Trump’s refusal to admit the truth of widely accepted facts corrodes political discourse and is consistent with the practice of many authoritarian leaders. If there are no agreed upon facts, then it becomes impossible for people to make judgments about their government or hold it accountable. more>

This Copyright Dispute Is at the Center of an Education Policy Controversy

By Lindsey Tepe – It’s important to understand how several New York school districts ended up in the center of a copyright infringement lawsuit in the first place. In a way, the conflict between Great Minds and FedEx was set in motion seven years ago, when the state of New York adopted new, more challenging academic standards in English language arts (ELA) and math.

To help educators master the new standards, the state undertook an ambitious new project to build an online library of educational resources aligned with those standards. Using a piece of the state’s $700 million federal Race to the Top grant, state leaders requested proposals from curriculum writers across the country interested in developing these resources for every grade level.

States and school districts are rapidly adopting these curricula because of their quality, but need to more fully understand what they can and can’t do with materials.

As more open curriculum options are published across the country, states, districts, and publishers need to make sure that they fully understand copyright, and the terms of the content licenses. It’s good for students when adults share. That’s beyond question. But it’s bad if the adults can’t agree on, or don’t know, the terms of that sharing. more>

Rethinking the Social Network

By Susan Milligan – Is Facebook losing its base? The social media giant is already facing a credibility crisis.

Facebook began in the early 2000s at Harvard, where then-student Mark Zuckerberg started “Facemash” (often described as a Harvard “hot-or-not” site) and turned it into a multibillion-dollar site where “friends” could share news and photos, as well as personal profile information.

The site came to play an important role in campaigns and elections. Barack Obama’s campaign, for example, found that getting endorsed and mentioned in Facebook messages was often more effective than paying for TV campaign ads, since voters were more likely to trust information from someone they knew than from a professionally produced campaign commercial.

Other institutions fared poorly with young people as well, though trust was higher as the entities became more local. Just 22 percent trust the president to do the right thing all or most of the time, with the federal government, at 21 percent, and Congress, at 18 percent, coming in even lower. However, 34 percent say they have faith in their state governments all or most of the time, and 38 percent say the same about their local governments. more>

The Work Ahead

By Edward Alden and Laura Taylor-Kale – The world is in the midst of a profound transformation in the nature of work, as smart machines and other new technologies remake how people do their jobs and pursue their careers. The pace of change will almost certainly accelerate, and the disruptions will grow larger. In the United States, where work is the basis for most of the income and benefits that make a secure life possible for Americans and their families, the transformation has been especially wrenching.

The most important challenge facing the United States— given the seismic forces of innovation, automation, and globalization that are changing the nature of work—is to create better pathways for all Americans to adapt and thrive. The country’s future as a stable, strong nation willing and able to devote the necessary resources and attention to meeting international challenges depends on rebuilding the links among work, opportunity, and economic security.

Failure to do so will increase the pressures for retrenchment that are already causing the United States to back away from global leadership. A United States that cannot provide better job and career options and greater economic security for its citizens will be less competitive and less of an example to the world.

It will have fewer resources available for national security. Domestic struggles over the sharing of economic gains will further distract and divide the country, and make it less willing and less able to act effectively in the world.

As technology disrupts industry after industry, the United States needs better ways to help Americans access the many new opportunities technology is also creating, in particular by strengthening the link between education and employment prospects. The country needs stronger support for job creation, especially for better-paying jobs.

It needs to make the skill demands of jobs much more transparent, so job seekers know the credentials required to move ahead on their own career paths. It needs to ensure that all Americans can gain the skills and knowledge that they—and the economy—depend on for success. And the United States needs to improve the benefits and returns from work for all Americans. more (pdf)>

How to Serve a President You Don’t Like

By Dannielle Blumenthal – It is no secret that the vast majority of Washingtonians dislike our current president.

But you do not have to like the president to serve well, to make your agency more functional, and to deliver great service to the American public. Because whatever program I was working on, it had little or nothing to do with the president and everything to do with the citizen. The more effectively and efficiently I contributed, and helped others to contribute, the better we served the taxpayers, who too often are forgotten in all the discord.

Many conflicts in government really are about ideological differences and beliefs that are fervently held. Others are about personality differences. Still others have to do with money, status, and power. Many are a mixture of all of these.

But most federal employees aren’t having these power struggles.

Most civil servants, at least, can serve a president they don’t like. But if doing you job under this president means violating your personal beliefs and principles, then I would argue it’s incumbent upon you to find another place to work outside of government. more>

Trump’s New Solution to Every Problem

By David A. Graham – Three times in the last two weeks, President Trump has turned in frustration from an intractable problem and landed upon an apparently elegant solution: the military.

In each of these cases, the attraction of military action for the president is clear. He has found his agenda largely stalled in Congress, where legislators have no interest in funding the wall or any other number of signature Trump projects, and the president has shown neither the interest nor the patience to lobby them. Even working through executive-branch processes has not produced the results that Trump wants, as courts have blocked some of his most treasured moves, especially his Muslim travel ban.

As commander in chief, he has authority over the military, and the military is, at least in theory, better equipped to respond quickly and efficiently to orders than the rest of the government. What each of these cases has shown, however, is that even the military doesn’t offer a frictionless tool for evading political and practical reality.

Trump is hardly alone among presidents in turning to the Pentagon as a method of acting when other means wear out. Dog-wagging and jingoism make military deployments an alluring option for any president, especially one who is struggling in Congress, opinion polls, or both. President Obama became quickly enamored of drone strikes. President Clinton bombed the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Sudan. President Reagan invaded Grenada. Presidents at the ends of their terms tend to concentrate on foreign affairs, sometimes at the barrel of a gun, once they’ve achieved all they can domestically. more>

Is Constitutional Localism the answer to what ails American democracy?

By Michael Hais, Doug Ross, and Morley Winograd – We have a different idea.

Specifically, we call for a new civic ethos or governing framework which we call Constitutional Localism, that will shift the greatest number of public decisions possible to the community level—albeit within a clear constitutional framework to protect the individual freedoms and rights won over the past 250 years.

We see the pursuit by Americans of varied lifestyles and cultural preferences as a healthy sign of American freedom and choice, not a destructive force. We need to rebuild public confidence in American democracy, not by insisting on a singular national answer to each problem, but by celebrating the ability of America’s varied communities to find solutions that work best for them. As we see it, the challenge confronting the nation is to find a way to permit this range of opinion and action to flourish while restoring a shared faith in the common democratic values and processes that define American self-government.

Our prescription to provide better governance while restoring faith in democratic processes is to encourage more democracy, not less.

We believe empowering local communities promises greater benefits than simply escape from the frustrating deadlock in Washington. more>

The Tax Cut Effect

By Andrew Soergel – The legislation heaped new debt onto a country already saddled with more than $20 trillion in outstanding obligations. But the overhaul was touted as an economic growth engine likely to drive investment and wage growth in America, eventually allowing the cuts to pay for themselves by virtue of a stronger economy.

The benefits of the income tax cut are really only now really beginning to hit and have yet to really show up in any significant way in spending figures or retail sales. It’s been estimated that, probably, the annual impact of all of that is somewhere north of $100 billion. And all of that money needs to go somewhere, so some of that will move into the spending category.

But we’re advocating on behalf of consumers and investors that they need to be thinking about how to maximize their finances so that they’re taking advantage of saving opportunities and to pay down debt.

Right now, we do see the benefits of the tax cut coming into individuals’ and corporations’ coffers. But as one who came from the Midwest, I’d seize upon a corny line and say “You need to make hay while the sun shines.” We’re in the ninth year of the economic expansion, and the bull market is nine years old as well. And these things will not last forever.

And we’re in a rising interest rate environment, where the cost of borrowing is rising and likely to rise. more>

America has a broken political system our leaders need to fix

By Former Rep. Tom Ridge (R-Pa.) and Former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) – According to a recent poll by the American Psychological Association, the future of the country is a significant source of anxiety for nearly two-thirds of Americans.

We elect leaders to place country above party, address the most critical issues plaguing the nation and prevent future crisis from taking root. But Washington needs to face the facts: The political system itself is broken, wearing down too many leaders with endless fundraising demands and turning the job of elected representative into a never-ending campaign whose purpose is to vilify the other party. We used to have to arrange schedules around fundraisers for senators. It was considered the exception, and now it is the rule.

Leadership in Congress focuses more on the capacity of lawmakers to raise money, rather than their policy expertise and merit on legislative issues. The political parties and system supporting them have come to care more about majorities in the legislative branch than governing.

Our experience tells us that if America lacks the will and moral strength to elect leaders who will repair the divisions in the country, then dysfunction in government will continue to be the greatest threat facing the nation. Our leadership on the global stage will diminish. Democracy as a way of life, and the freedoms only it can offer, will suffer. We must strengthen our bonds, not deepen our divisions. more>

Four things that matter more than the Paris Agreement

In a new report, “Undiplomatic Action: A practical guide to the new politics and geopolitics of climate change,” David Victor and Bruce Jones write:

“Without confidence in new technologies and the policy and investment support that follows from that confidence, even the most advanced and elaborated global diplomatic agreements can only produce an ever-wider chasm between stated goals and realistically achievable outcomes.”

They contend that “real world” actions on the ground, not global goals, will drive energy transitions at the local level and in the private sector.

In the paper, they outline four key factors they believe matter even more than the global agreement:

  1. Facilitate leadership through small groups
  2. Focus on near-term emissions reductions
  3. Invest in technological innovation
  4. Demonstrate success and enable better governance

more>

Source: Four things that matter more than the Paris Agreement