U.S. Government & governance 2021

Written by  //  February 22, 2021  //  Government & Governance, U.S.  //  No comments

Catherine Rampell: Republicans fearmonger about regulation, but deregulation is what left Texas in the dark
(WaPo Opinion) In the throes of the current crisis, as people were dying of hypothermia, Republican former governor Rick Perry a past U.S. energy secretary declared that Texans are willing to suffer extended blackouts for the paramount objective of keeping the feds out of their grid. Apparently the warm, fuzzy feeling some Texans get from bucking regulators must substitute for actual heat.
I suppose Texas’s widespread power failures will create some new employment opportunities for plumbers and electricians, given the many buildings and homes with burst pipes and other structural damage. But for everyone else, the state’s failure to ensure minimum quality standards has been a humanitarian and economic disaster. Amid pandemic-driven unemployment, even more workers were displaced because regulators failed to ensure the basic infrastructure necessary for businesses to function.

Jelani Cobb: Why Impeachment Doesn’t Work
(The New Yorker) ..as with all the provisions of the Constitution, impeachment was designed before American political parties had become a force in electoral politics. There was no way to consider the ultimately dominant effect that partisanship would have on the process, since the partisans had not yet officially emerged.
Partisanship…has been a crucial factor in each Presidential impeachment that preceded it. No President has been impeached while his party held a majority in the House, and only a very small number of representatives have ever crossed over and voted to impeach a President from their own party. Impeachment is, at best, a tool that can deliver justice when a President’s party is a congressional minority, and, at its worst, a mechanism whose bar for success is so high as to nullify its own utility.

15 February
Elizabeth Drew: Impeachment’s Partisan Doom
(Project Syndicate) The US Senate has failed to convict former President Donald Trump for inciting insurrection on January 6. This outcome raises the question as to whether Congress has any effective means of holding a president to account for acts against the Constitution.
One reason to doubt the efficacy of impeachment and conviction as an instrument for removing (at least a Republican) president is that since each state has two senators, small states, whose populations tend to be rural and conservative, have excessive power for their relative size. But the great difference between the impeachment processes pertaining to Nixon, on which there was a bipartisan consensus, and those pertaining to Trump stems mainly from profound changes in the Republican party.

14 February
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy Plans to Roll Out Slower Mail, Higher Prices
While the plan has yet to be finalized, new details of the proposal — first reported by the Washington Post — intensified pressure on President Joe Biden to take decisive action before DeJoy inflicts any more damage on the most popular government institution in the country.
The new details of DeJoy’s plan came as a growing number of Democratic lawmakers and outside progressives are urging Biden  to take the forceful step of terminating every sitting member of the postal board and filling it with officials committed to preserving and strengthening the USPS as a public service. Postal governors, who can remove the postmaster general by a majority vote, must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, which Democrats narrowly control.

8 February
Why Biden Can’t Fire Postmaster General Louis DeJoy
Trying to force DeJoy out could lead to constitutional chaos.
(Slate) During his first weeks in office, President Joe Biden has ousted a number of powerful officials appointed by Donald Trump. One controversial figure from Trump’s presidency, however, remains in office: Louis DeJoy, the notorious postmaster general who almost sabotaged mail voting in the fall and continues to gut the agency, creating catastrophic delays throughout the country. Progressives are furious that DeJoy has kept his post, but Biden’s hands are tied: While the president can fire other high-ranking executive officials at will, federal law bars the president from terminating the postmaster general under any circumstances. Biden can attempt to oust DeJoy indirectly, but that option is fraught with legal uncertainties, and certain to trigger Republican complaints of norm busting. Unless the president is willing to take a significant legal risk, DeJoy will remain in control for months or years to come. (see Biden inherited a USPS crisis. Here’s how Democrats want to fix it.)

27 January
Biden Team Rushes to Take Over Government, and Oust Trump Loyalists
President Biden named nearly all of his cabinet secretaries and their immediate deputies before he took office, but his real grasp on the levers of power has come several layers down.
(NYT) When President Biden swore in a batch of recruits for his new administration in a teleconferenced ceremony late last week, it looked like the country’s biggest Zoom call. In fact, Mr. Biden was installing roughly 1,000 high-level officials in about a quarter of all of the available political appointee jobs in the federal government.
At the same time, a far less visible transition was taking place: the quiet dismissal of holdovers from the Trump administration, who have been asked to clean out their offices immediately, whatever the eventual legal consequences.
If there has been a single defining feature of the first week of the Biden administration, it has been the blistering pace at which the new president has put his mark on what President Donald J. Trump dismissed as the hostile “Deep State” and tried so hard to dismantle.

20 January
3 Actions CEOs Must Take to Uphold U.S. Democracy
by Paul Polman
(Harvard Business Review) Summary.
It’s time to reset the private sector’s relationship with politics and move forward in a way that ensures governments run on the will of the people not the power of the dollar. Reactive and piecemeal solutions won’t cut it. We need to fundamentally rethink the way businesses operate in Washington. That means dissolving corporate PACs, ending trade association and corporate lobbying, and advocating for legislative reform that will reverse Citizens United.
It’s time to reset the private sector’s relationship with U.S. politics and move forward in a way that ensures the government runs on the will of the people not the power of the dollar.
After a tumultuous summer of protests against racial injustice, the American public was already calling for shifts in corporate behavior. Now, they seem even more keen for business leaders to take a stand where elected officials fall short. According to a recent survey from Just Capital, 54% of people (both Republican and Democrat) now trust CEOs over politicians to take action to protect and uphold democracy.
But for leaders to earn the right to this trust, they must first recalibrate their own moral compasses. During the Trump administration, many CEOs chose to look the other way as the president stoked the flames of white supremacy and racism, spewed misinformation that cost hundreds of thousands of lives in a deadly pandemic, and continued to deny the existence of our climate crisis. They chose tax breaks and a booming stock market over ethical leadership. Make no mistake: This silence — in the face of repeated assaults on common decency, respect and rule of law — helped to create an atmosphere that allowed the recent insurrection to occur.
Dissolve corporate PACs. Companies need to take the lead on separating policy from politics. One way to do so is by not just pausing political giving (and then resuming it when people stop paying attention) but committing now to end campaign contributions and dissolve corporate PACs, which can be used to obscure the extent of influence peddling.
End trade association and corporate lobbying.  Another way that corporations use their cash to take politics out of the hands of the people is through corporate lobbyists and trade associations.
Citizens United and legislative reform. Finally, CEOs need to push for a reversal of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which held that unlimited spending by corporations and other outside groups on elections was protected as free speech.
The ruling has, frankly, brought the U.S. political system to the point of legalized corruption. In other countries, some businesses offer bribes to escape persecution from already enacted laws. In the United States, bribery happens before the laws themselves are passed — legally. Citizens United reinforced the notion that America’s democracy serves the interests of those who can afford to buy authority. Political spending in the 2020 election cycle alone was $14 billion, making it the most expensive in U.S. history.
Without a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, this could remain the status quo. The private sector must recognize that its long-term license to operate in a stable democracy depends on supporting lawmakers who stand ready to challenge the status quo, not just reduce tax and regulation.

16 January
Reimagining the presidency: 3 constitutional revisions that might bring America back from the brink | Opinion
Conservative, libertarian and liberal scholars reimagine executive power and other aspects of American government in a project for the Constitution Center.
(Philadelphia Inquirer) Does the Constitution need updating? How can its guardrails be strengthened to protect the thoughtful deliberation that Madison considered crucial to the survival of the new republic?
…the National Constitution Center launched the Constitution Drafting Project, which gathered some of America’s leading progressive, conservative, and libertarian scholars into teams to write their own ideal constitutions. Although all three teams disagreed about many details, they converged around the vibrancy of the Constitution itself, and all decided to reform the Constitution rather than start from scratch. In addition, the teams unexpectedly agreed on certain reforms, including limiting executive power.

Two critical and historically connected domestic reforms are the abolition of the Electoral College, which is already in (slow) motion, and reduction of the long lame-duck period which not only has allowed Trump supporters months to plan a violent uprising, but weakens any administration in the eyes of its partners around the world. A hold-over from horse-and-buggy days, it no longer makes sense.
It’s time to abolish the Electoral College
(Brookings) In this paper, I explain the history of the Electoral College, why it no longer is a constructive force in American politics, and why it is time to move to the direct popular election of presidents. Several developments have led me to alter my opinion on this institution: income inequality, geographic disparities, and how discrepancies between the popular vote and Electoral College are likely to become more commonplace given economic and geographic inequities. The remainder of this essay outlines why it is crucial to abolish the Electoral College.
As Joe Biden becomes president, here’s an easy proposal for Electoral College reform
(The Conversation) …why not eliminate winner-takes-all completely, and simply allocate each state’s electors proportionally to the popular vote in that state? If this were nationwide practice, Biden would still have won in 2020, Barack Obama would still have won in 2008 and 2012, and George W. Bush would still have won in 2004. But things get more interesting in the two recent presidential elections in which the Electoral College victor did not win the popular vote.
Of the 700 attempts to fix or abolish the electoral college, this one nearly succeeded
(WaPo) In 1969, Congress almost approved a constitutional amendment to get rid of the electoral college, which meets Dec. 14 to ratify Joe Biden’s election, despite President Trump’s refusal to concede.

Abolish the lame-duck period
(Vox) America’s long lame-duck period gave Trump supporters months to plan a violent uprising. It needs to end. Modern democracies can and do transfer power very rapidly — and much faster than the two and a half months that separate President-elect Joe Biden’s election on November 3, 2020, and his inauguration on January 20, 2021, the official transition date established by the 20th Amendment.
American history is replete with examples of outgoing presidents who actively sabotaged their successor during the lame-duck period — sometimes in the middle of a historic crisis.
The United States, in other words, pays an enormous price for its long lame-duck period. There’s no good reason the US cannot join Canada, Britain, France, India, Japan, and other nations in transitioning swiftly to a new administration after a presidential election.

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