Tag Archives: United States Congress

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>

A Government That Looks Like Trump

By Robert Schlesinger – Trump’s personal pilot and his son-in-law-cum-senior adviser, Jared Kushner which bloomed brightly before being eclipsed; they serve as a reminder of the number, degree and reach of the ethical challenges and possible corruption which has become the background music in front of which the other Trump dramas unfold.

We have to a depressing extent become benumbed to the fact that we are living in an age aptly dubbed one of “American kakistrocracy” (government by the worst of us), in part because of its pervasiveness and almost mind-boggling scope.

So it’s useful to periodically step back and catalogue the extent to which Trumpism is corrupting our governance. The Washington Post reported last month that 9 of 22 of Trump’s initial picks for Cabinet-level jobs, 40 percent, “have found themselves facing scrutiny over their actions.” While the examples below range from unseemly to potentially illegal they bespeak a cavalier attitude towards government ethics and taxpayer dollars that is illustrative of the Trump era in America.

Another aspect of the Trumpian corrosion of our governmental standards is the death of qualifications as a prerequisite for high public service. Trump of course was, on paper, the least-prepared of any president in history. Naturally he views this as a plus.

So reports that Trump is considering nominating John Dunkin, his long-time personal pilot, to head the Federal Aviation Administration, should not surprise at this point. “My pilot, he’s a smart guy, and he knows what’s going on,” Trump told airline executives last year.

Well there you go; he sounds like a perfect fit for the top job in the $16 billion, 47,000-employee agency. Somewhere George W. Bush and Harriet Miers are having a good chuckle. more>

The high cost of budgetary paralysis

By Alice M. Rivlin – It is both frightening and embarrassing that the world’s most experienced democracy is currently unable to carry out even the basic responsibility of funding the services that Americans are expecting from their government in the current fiscal year.

Limping from one short-term continuing resolution to another, combining individual appropriations bills into unwieldy omnibus bills that no one is able to study or even read, and threatening to close the government (or default on the debt) if certain conditions are not met are all symptoms of a deeply broken decision-making process.

The costs of budgetary dysfunction are high and rising, although not easy to quantify. Federal agencies, including the Department of Defense, cannot make plans that enable them to spend money efficiently.

The most worrisome cost of the Congress’s seemingly-endless wrangling over near-term federal funding is that it crowds out serious discussions of the daunting longer-term challenges that face the nation’s economy. more>

The Great Deflation

President Trump vowed to “Make America Great Again,” but experts say the United States’ reputation is falling.
By Susan Milligan – Make America Great Again. America First. President Donald Trump’s professed view of, and vision for, America is unabashedly self-focused, putting the interests of the United States ahead of longtime international leadership roles in trade and democracy-building.

If there’s a schoolyard theme to the approach of a president derided by his critics as a bully, it’s that the United States isn’t going to be pushed around anymore.

But as Trump prepares to speak before world thought leaders in Davos, Switzerland, then deliver his first State of the Union speech next week, foreign policy experts and veterans of previous administrations worry about the impact abroad and at home. The nation’s image has taken a hit among foreign nations who historically have looked to the U.S. for help and leadership, while domestically, Americans are increasingly unhappy with the government many grew up thinking was the model for the world.

“America’s standing in the world has dropped catastrophically,” says Simon Rosenberg, founder of the New Democrat Network, a think tank. “It could be that the golden age [of America] and the conditions that created it are coming to an end. What’s remarkable is that all of this is happening without any debate in Congress about any of this.” more>

A Political, Not Constitutional, Crisis

By Joseph P. Williams – A constitutional crisis is often used [synonymously] with a political crisis. What people see as a confrontation between the branches is often defined as a crisis. The Constitution is designed to have a certain degree of tension between the branches. It is also designed to deal with confrontations between a president and both Congress and the courts.

This is not a constitutional crisis. It’s a political crisis.

The thing is, the FBI director is essentially an at-will employee. He serves at the pleasure of the president. That should come as no surprise to those familiar with our system.

Our Constitution is designed for bad weather, not for good weather. It has survived crises that would have reduced other countries to a fine pumice.

President Trump is allowed to exercise the authority that he used to terminate James Comey.

Congress is allowed to investigate the conditions or reasons of that termination.

The constitutional system is working just fine. more> https://goo.gl/3wRPHf

Liberals Will Not Like How This Revenge Plot Ends

By Megan McArdle – I thought Republicans should have confirmed Garland, and I’ve written before that the arms race to procedurally hack the U.S. government — via controlling the Supreme Court, or dreaming up ever-more-arcane uses of the parliamentary rules — is bad for the country and needs to stop. That doesn’t mean I think it’s going to.

The escalating tit-for-tat game over the Supreme Court has been going on at least since the 1980s, and arguably long before that, in the post-New-Deal era when courts began tilting noticeably leftwards.

Under Reagan, conservatives sought to reverse that by grooming conservative justices for all levels of the courts. Democrats tried to keep them from doing so, culminating in the disgraceful treatment of Robert Bork. Ever since, we’ve been locked in a spiraling cycle of payback.

Everyone understands that this is destructive; everyone wishes it to stop. The catch is, they also believe that it needs to stop after they themselves get last licks in. And so it continues. more> https://goo.gl/ZY6FYW

Updates from GE

Is Health Care Too Big To Fail? Or Is Failure Exactly What We Need?
By Sam Glick – There is a looming challenge facing U.S. hospitals, which are being forced either to reduce costs at the expense of creating potentially devastating impacts on their local communities, or take less aggressive cost-cutting measures and risk going broke.

The backdrop to this veritable Sophie’s Choice has developed through a series of public policy and market moves to shift financial risk onto local health systems that have little experience in such areas. When the hospital is the largest employer in many towns, with financing coming from insurance companies and mutual funds, we have the makings of 2008-financial-crisis-style systemic risk.

This year, nearly one in five dollars in the U.S. will be spent on health care. As a percentage of GDP, this is nearly twice the global average, yet we receive no clear benefit from a significant portion of this spending. The U.S. ranks first in per capita health care spending, but last in the Commonwealth Fund’s assessment of health system performance in 11 major developed countries. As a society, we have a health care return-on-investment problem. more> https://goo.gl/oedfxf

Seven Trump foreign policy assumptions

By Daniel L. Byman – Let’s consider some of the assumptions Trump and his team appear to bring to the table as they enter office. Some are about how the world works, while others concern the best way to design and implement U.S. foreign policy.

  • Assumption #1: Calling it “Radical Islam” Makes a Difference
  • Assumption #2: Foreign Public Opinion Doesn’t Matter
  • Assumption #3: Allies are Overrated
  • Assumption #4: Russia Is America’s Natural Partner
  • Assumption #5: Israel Can Do What it Wants
  • Assumption #6: The Rough Stuff Works
  • Assumption #7: Tough Policymakers Make for Tough Policy

In short: Trump’s foreign policy assumptions fly in the face of many traditional U.S. policy approaches and the preferences of powerful bureaucracies. We should expect international realities and bureaucratic obstacles to obstruct, or at least water down, some initiatives, while those that get through might not just fail but may leave the United States worse off for pursuing them.

As a candidate, Trump excelled at destroying truisms about how politics works; over the coming years, we will find out if this holds true for foreign policy as well. more> https://goo.gl/PVWnOe

Related>

Think Big. Accelerate. Transform.

(blueplanet.com)
Ciena – Blue Planet is purpose-built for network operators, automating
service delivery and reducing operational complexity to enable Scalable, =
transformation to more open and programmable networks.

Blue Planet serves these main use cases:
• Multi-Domain Service Orchestration
• NFV Orchestration Functions
• SDN Management and Control
• Open Network Operating System

It does this on top of a disruptive, next-generation software architecture that leverages open source elements, model-driven the definition and templates, and container-based micro-services. more> blueplanet.com/resources

THOMAS Top Ten – compiled on June 1, 2014

Library of Congress –

  1. S. 1982 [113th]
    Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014
  2. S. 223 [112th]
    FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act
  3. H.R. 4660 [113th]
    Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2015
  4. H.R. 4435 [113th]
    Howard P. “Buck” McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015
  5. H.R. 2847 [111th]
    Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act
  6. H.R. 933 [113th]
    Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013
  7. H.R. 2847 [113th]
    Wounded Warrior Service Dog Act of 2013
  8. H.R. 4031 [113th]
    Department of Veterans Affairs Management Accountability Act of 2014
  9. H.R. 2807 [113th]
    Conservation Easement Incentive Act of 2013
  10. H.R. 3080 [113th]
    Water Resources Development Act of 2013