Climate Change and the Oil Barons

The Senate spent last night—all night—focusing attention on climate change and the need for new legislation. As The Hill reports, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid used the opportunity to attack the Koch brothers: “It's time to stop acting like those who ignore this crisis — the oil baron Koch brothers and their allies in Congress … Continue reading Climate Change and the Oil Barons

Evidence Shutdowns Increase Government Spending

A few days ago, I gave the theoretical logic for why the availability of the government shutdown results in growing government spending. Advocates of smaller government should advocate a default budget rule that is far milder than shutdown. Now, I have come across academic research by David Primo finding just this at the state level. … Continue reading Evidence Shutdowns Increase Government Spending

How Government Shutdowns Grow Government

Following Marc's great post on congressional dysfunction, I'd like to point how political science tells us that the availability of government shutdowns actually causes the growth of government spending. The analysis follows the 1979 spatial analysis of zero-based budgeting by Thomas Romer and Howard Rosenthal. Suppose that there is one dimension of politics: the size … Continue reading How Government Shutdowns Grow Government

Government by Continuing Resolution

The federal government has been running by continuing resolutions for some time—a product of the inability of Congress to execute one of its prime constitutional functions: authorizing and appropriating funds. The textbook version of the budget process is quite simple. It is also largely irrelevant given that Congress rarely passes the twelve appropriations bills by … Continue reading Government by Continuing Resolution

Defunding Obamacare: In Search of a Strategy

As we all know, if a continuing resolution (or CR) is not passed by the end of the day on September 30, the government will shut down. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) has threatened to filibuster the House CR because if debate is suspended, the provisions defunding Obamacare will be eliminated via majority vote. If Senator … Continue reading Defunding Obamacare: In Search of a Strategy

Collective Action Problems and the GOP

Ezra Klein has an interesting piece (Wonkblog) on the collective-action problem facing the GOP with respect to Obamacare. Stated concisely: Here's the Republican Party's problem, in two sentences: It would be a disaster for the party to shut down the government over Obamacare. But it's good for every individual Republican politician to support shutting down … Continue reading Collective Action Problems and the GOP

Would President Paul Ever Stand Up to His Party?

Following the defeat of his amendment that would give Congress the right to vote to verify border security as a condition of permitting the path to citizenship for illegal immigrants to go forward, Senator Rand Paul has decided to oppose the immigration reform bill. While the immigration bill has many flaws, it is certainly a … Continue reading Would President Paul Ever Stand Up to His Party?

Senate MIA on NSA

Last week I noted, with some frustration, that the revelations about the NSA were not attracting the attention of much of the public (only 33 percent of Americans over 50 and only 12 percent of those between the ages of  18 and 29 were following the coverage of the NSA actions closely).   Apparently, the Senate … Continue reading Senate MIA on NSA

Congress and the Affordable Care Act: File under Revealed Preferences

John Bresnahan and Jake Sherman (Politico) report (unsurprisingly) that those who brought us the Affordable Care Act are scurrying to create exemptions for Capitol Hill. The big concern: the costs of insurance on the exchanges will lead to the rapid exodus of legislative aides—a policy-induced brain drain. The talks — which involve Senate Majority Leader … Continue reading Congress and the Affordable Care Act: File under Revealed Preferences

The Political Costs of Reform

President Obama’s budget proposal supports entitlement reform, in part, through the introduction of the chained CPI (rather than the current CPI-W) for calculating cost-of-living adjustments. This change has been part of various reform proposals over the years, although it has often been discussed as part of progressive indexing (i.e., maintaining the CPI-W for low wage … Continue reading The Political Costs of Reform

Rand Paul Changes Americans’ Minds

As I argued, this is what he set out to do with his filibuster: A year ago, as the presidential race was taking shape, The Washington Post's pollster asked voters whether they favored the use of drones to kill terrorists or terror suspects if they were "American citizens living in other countries." The net rating … Continue reading Rand Paul Changes Americans’ Minds

Building Good Will and the Financial Crisis

There is an interesting piece by John Bresnahan (Politico) on Countrywide Financial’s VIP Program, which provided loans to members of Congress, staffers, and executive branch officials who were responsible for shaping regulatory legislation. More than a half a dozen current and former lawmakers, including Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and House Armed Services … Continue reading Building Good Will and the Financial Crisis

The Limits of Congressional Gridlock…and Reform?

It seems that all we have heard of late is about the sharp partisan battles in Congress that have placed it in a gridlock and prevented it from working in a bipartisan fashion to “do the nation’s business.” Yes, the “do nothing Congress.” But there are exceptions to this description.  Given the depth and severity … Continue reading The Limits of Congressional Gridlock…and Reform?

Do We Want Everyone Represented Equally?

Political scientist John Sides has contributed an interesting guest post to FiveThirtyEight, in which he reviews the evidence that social class influences the way Congresspeople vote. In particular, Congresspeople are unlikely to come from working-class backgrounds, and class seems to affect voting at the individual level. If Congress had the same mix of class backgrounds … Continue reading Do We Want Everyone Represented Equally?

Interposition: Part Nine: The Hartford Convention

Few in power find it convenient to notice inconsistencies in their own conduct. Alas, but President Madison was no exception. Federalism and decentralization exist precisely because free constitutions should not depend on the good graces of those in office, but on the checks necessary to harry them back under the law. Seeking the financial means … Continue reading Interposition: Part Nine: The Hartford Convention

The Debt Ceiling Raise Aftermath: Confusion Reigns

As Pileus readers know, the spending cuts Congress and the President agreed to in future budgets are a drop in the bucket of future deficits. Nevertheless, the cacophony of protest among partisan hacks is deafening. Jacob Weisberg has a particularly incoherent piece at Slate today. Two selections: But for the federal government to spur growth … Continue reading The Debt Ceiling Raise Aftermath: Confusion Reigns

Welcome Summer (Recovery Again Deferred)

How quickly one year has passed. It was only one year ago this June  that the White House blogproclaimed: “This summer is sure to be a Summer of Economic Recovery.” As reported at the time, Vice President Joe Biden marked “the Obama administration’s ‘Recovery Summer,’” with “a six-week-long push designed to highlight the jobs accompanying … Continue reading Welcome Summer (Recovery Again Deferred)

Are Americans Underrepresented?

One overlooked electoral reform to decrease the power of special interests in the U.S. political process would be to expand the size of the U.S. House quite significantly, so that legislators cater to much smaller electorates. (More radically, state partition could also be promoted to expand the size of the Senate.) Accordingly, I thought today's … Continue reading Are Americans Underrepresented?

This Time is Different?

Many pundits interpreted the 2010 midterms as an indictment of business-as-usual. Driven by the populist sentiments of the tea party, the expansion of government, and the bourgeoning national debt, the incoming congressional class was poised to be the agents of change. At least that was one interpretation So imagine my shock and horror when I … Continue reading This Time is Different?

Reading the Constitution

As you know, the new GOP majority in the House decided to kick things off with a reading of the Constitution. This has raised a number of hackles and interesting comments from pundits and scholars. A few interesting off-the-cuff remarks can be found on Politico today (The Arena). A few select gems: John Michael Gonzalez … Continue reading Reading the Constitution

The Politics and Policy of Health Care in the Age of PPACA

Avik Roy has an interesting piece in National Review on how conservatives (really, free-marketeers) should approach the policy and politics of health care in the age of PPACA. I largely agree with his policy prescriptions, somewhat vaguely stated as they are: First, Republicans must foster a truly free market for health insurance by eliminating the … Continue reading The Politics and Policy of Health Care in the Age of PPACA