Archive

April 27th, 2016

The federal workforce is not too big

    If House Republican leaders push through their 2017 budget, just 1 in 3 federal workers who retire will be replaced. Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Ohio Gov. John Kasich also have touted plans to reduce the federal workforce. On his campaign website, Kasich promises to "shrink and dismantle the Washington bureaucracy to keep spending under control." On the Democratic side, neither Hillary Clinton nor Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, has been outspoken against cutting the federal workforce.

    Because these office-seekers are competing to faithfully execute the nation's laws, this might be a good moment for the media to find out what each of them knows (or doesn't know) about how the federal government actually works. The place to start is with 10 facts about the federal bureaucracy in relation to government spending and government performance.

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The 20 is the perfect bill for Harriet Tubman

    The U.S. Treasury's decision to portray the great anti-slavery warrior Harriet Tubman on the face of the $20 bill is symbolic on many levels. The fact that she'll replace Andrew Jackson -- the country's seventh president, and a man who owned more than 100 slaves -- is especially sweet. What's even more remarkable, though, is how significant the $20 denomination would be for Tubman throughout her life.

    That's the precise amount Harriet's elderly father, Ben Ross, a timber harvester, paid his employer Eliza Brodess in 1855, to buy his wife, Rit, her freedom. Eliza was the widow of Edward Brodess, the owner of a small plantation in Dorchester County, on Maryland's Eastern Shore. The Brodesses used to hire out Harriet to neighboring farms, where she was brutally flogged as a child. After she ran away to Philadelphia in 1849, afraid of being sold like her sisters, Eliza was the one who offered a reward for her return.

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Paul Ryan Can't Escape the Republican Ghetto

    Since his swearing-in as House speaker, Paul Ryan has maintained his sunny, gung-ho disposition, hobnobbing with his party's guerrillas while gently trying to lure them back to the comforts of civilization.

    Wouldn't it be fun to have a comprehensive legislative agenda? Some trinkets for the "accomplishments" page of their campaign web sites? Maybe even a shiny new budget?

    Apparently not.

    On Thursday, Ryan acknowledged what already seemed apparent: He doesn't have the Republican votes to pass a budget. He still intends to roll out something Republicans can run on while they're busy running away from Donald Trump in the fall. But the chances this program will rise above the demands of short-term propaganda seem slim. Ryan's once ballyhooed Path to Prosperity is looking like a rocky road.

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Losing Britain wouldn't be so bad for Europe

    Discussions of a possible British exit from the European Union often center on how the move would affect Britain itself. It's only natural, since British voters are the ones who will make the decision, and they care mainly about their own country. There are two sides to any divorce, however, and the relatively passive partner -- in this case the EU -- must also consider the impact of losing Britain.

    The most obvious and most talked-about consequence for the EU would be the bad precedent: Britain's departure would establish for the first time that the bloc can shrink, not just expand. But that may not be too important. Other EU countries won't necessarily want to leave just because Britain does.

    The London-based Center for European Reform, a think tank with powerful corporate donors, has just published a report identifying more specific effects that a British exit, or Brexit, might have on the EU. It didn't find too many of them. Britain's departure might actually be beneficial to the bloc's cohesion, though it'll lose an important voice on policy matters.

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Kasich's tax plan is as ill-defined as Trump's

    If you're inclined to appreciate John Kasich's kinder, gentler approach to Republicanism, you might want to take a look at his tax plan.

    In a meeting with The Washington Post editorial board on Wednesday, the presidential candidate who sells himself as his party's best bet against Hillary Clinton in a general election responded to challenges on how he would cut taxes and balance the budget at the same time.

    His responses were fantastical, even by the standards of his two GOP rivals.

    When pressed for details on the size of his tax-cut proposals, he couldn't answer. And yet the Ohio governor claims to be the only candidate who believes in fiscal responsibility.

    Kasich has wanted to balance the federal budget since he first arrived in the U.S. House in 1983, and he has long favored a constitutional amendment to make that happen. He claims to have been a chief architect of the balanced federal budget in fiscal years 1998 to 2001, when he was chairman of the House Budget Committee and Bill Clinton was president.

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Disenfranchising Large Segments of Americans

    Several hundred thousand American citizens won’t be voting in presidential primary elections—and it’s not their fault.

    In Pennsylvania, for example, a registered voter who needed an absentee ballot had to submit the request at least one full week before the election, and then return the ballot no less than four days before the election.

      But, what if circumstances changed? What if that person became injured or had to leave the state after April 19, but before the election, Tuesday? If it was April 20, you could not receive an absentee ballot. You could still vote in person, but if you couldn’t get to the polls, you would be disenfranchised. There’s nothing you could do. In one week, you lost the right to vote because bureaucratic rules blocked you from receiving a ballot—even if you could get that ballot to your county registrar of voters by the end of the day of the election.

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Jackson never wanted to be on the $20 bill anyway

    The announcement by Treasury Secretary Jack Lew that Harriet Tubman will take the place of Andrew Jackson on the front of the $20 bill has caused some grumbling. Senator Lamar Alexander, who like Jackson is from Tennessee, expressed grave misgivings about the swap. Donald Trump said the change was "pure political correctness."

    But there's one major political figure who would be thrilled by the news: Jackson himself.

    Jackson's presence on the notes of the Federal Reserve has always been a slap in the face to the seventh president, who unequivocally hated the idea of a central bank that issued paper currency. Jackson will be finally released from a kind of monetary purgatory.

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How Ford captured Reagan's delegates

    Forty years ago, Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford came to a final showdown at the Republican National Convention in Kansas City, Mo. It was the first time since 1948 that no one knew heading into the convention who the nominee would be.

    And it was the last until, most likely, this summer's GOP convention in Cleveland. Unless Donald Trump wins 392 more delegates in the remaining primaries, Republicans supporting Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kasich will come to a bitter brawl over the nomination and attempts to sway uncommitted and wavering delegates. The outcome is unclear, but this is for sure: It will be the most watched, most controversial convention since 1976, a year that brought the death and eventual rebirth of the Republican Party. In the wake of Watergate, the party was decimated, but Reagan's rise would soon have it back in power.

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Tempest in a Toilet

    Out of the potty mouths of billionaires sometimes comes potty sense. This was the case last week with Donald Trump, who weighed in on which bathrooms transgender people should use.

    His answer: the ones they want. He assumed, correctly, that this is what many had been doing all along. He noted, accurately, that it hadn’t ushered in the apocalypse.

    I am saying, to my astonishment, that we could all learn from him, and my surprise owes something to his previously incoherent rules of the commode. He balked at Hillary Clinton’s bathroom break during one of the Democratic debates. He said that it was “too disgusting” to discuss.

    The pee-peeved plutocrat took a gentler tack when asked Thursday morning where Caitlyn Jenner should find relief in Trump Tower. Up to her, he said. No need for a fuss.

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Hillary’s Big Idea

    If nothing else, the astounding presidential election of 2016 has shown that Americans are ready to junk the present system and try something bold, even reckless. Small ball is out. Incremental change is a nonstarter. Big will beat little.

    Almost two-thirds of voters — Democratic and Republican majorities — agreed with the statement that “The old way of doing things no longer works and we need radical change,” when asked in a recent Quinnipiac University poll. This is not a frustrated fringe.

    The largest cluster of voters willing to chuck the status quo, not surprisingly, supports Donald Trump. But he offers nothing for them, no details, no workable solutions, just a buffoon with a gold-plated selfie stick. Getting his clock cleaned by the loathsome Ted Cruz in caucus states where cajoling stray delegates matters is proof that in the one area where Trump is supposed to be so good — deal making — he is incompetent.

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