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Election ‘Reforms” Are Usually One Party Trying To Rig The System (Washington Examiner) June 22, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Politics.
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The election games have begun. Not just the obvious jockeying that takes place in the primaries and the general election. No, look below the radar at the several so-called reforms and improvements in the rules of voting and how elections are carried out. That sort of political gamesmanship, like June, is bustin’ out all over.

One reason we miss important electoral changes is our failure to understand that even what we call national elections are actually 51 separate state (including the District of Columbia) elections under the Constitution. With federalism the order of the day, there can be large variances in election practices from state to state and many important proposals are in play.

In big blue California, for example, progressive reformers led the charge for a top-two, sometimes called a “jungle,” primary in which the two candidates with the most votes in the primary election, regardless of party, advance to the general election. The “reform” argument was that this would force parties to run more moderate candidates and reduce polarization in the legislatures. In fact, there is little evidence that this has happened since Republicans and Democrats still vote for their own party offerings rather than search for some reformers’ ideal of a centrist candidate.

But an unintended (or was it intended?) consequence is that the general election often offers no real choice at all: two Republicans or, more likely in California, two Democrats in the final vote. This fall’s race for the U.S. Senate, for example, features two Democrats, just as it did in 2016. With apologies to Jim Carrey, I call it “left and lefter.” Many races for the state legislature feature two Republicans or two Democrats with few real differences on issues. Louisiana, Nebraska, and Washington also have some version of the jungle primary system, and Maine has adopted a ranked voting system.

Another progressive brainchild under consideration in D.C. is allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to vote. A handful of cities already permit this in municipal or school board elections but, since DC is considered a state for voting purposes, a change there would allow 16-year-olds to vote for president, a significant change indeed. Since young people tend to vote a more liberal ticket than older voters do, Democrats are especially enthusiastic about this election reform. With 11 Democrats and 2 liberal “independents” on the Council, this could well pass and trigger similar efforts elsewhere.

The big progressive election reform is one you’ve never heard of: the National Popular Vote Bill.  Connecticut recently became the 12th state (including the D.C.) to enact the bill. All the states are on the blue side of the political color wheel, having voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. When signed by enough states to total 270 electoral votes, a compact comes into force requiring each member state to cast its electoral votes for the winner of the national popular vote. This clever end run around the Electoral College established by the Constitution is high on the Democrats’ agenda since they have lost the presidency twice in this century, despite winning the popular vote.

Republicans have their own election games in play. They are accused of trying to limit voter eligibility and turnout, since larger vote totals often favor Democrats. This week a federal judge ruled a Kansas statute requiring proof of U.S. citizenship for voter registration was both unconstitutional and a violation of the National Voter Registration Act. Other states have similar voter ID laws that may now come under closer scrutiny. Recently the U.S. Supreme Court upheld purging voters from the registration rolls if they had not voted in several elections in the important political battleground state of Ohio. “Use it or lose it,” Ohio says, and the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, said we will not interfere.

Beware so-called election reforms — they are more often than not attempts by one party or the other to rig the game in their favor.

David Davenport is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway dential blog. He is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

To read the column at the Washington Examiner:

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/election-reforms-are-usually-one-party-trying-to-rig-the-system

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This University’s Problems are a Microcosm of Washington, DC’s (Washington Examiner) May 31, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Politics.
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One of the nation’s most successful university presidents, C.L. Max Nikias of the University of Southern California, recently shocked the Trojan community with his abrupt resignation. Although Nikias had been highly successful in raising money and, with it, USC’s profile and reputation, he had also presided over the university’s mishandling of scandals and crises.

USC faculty member William G. Tierney, who is also an expert on higher education, describedthe president’s leadership failure as one of speed and action over deliberation and reason. “Instead of reflection and reasoned debate,” Tierney has written, “the university sprinted toward growth.” There were few “checks and balances” on the president, Tierney said, as he raced headlong toward financial and reputational goals.

Nikias’ leadership style and problems are, unfortunately, a microcosm of our political leadership in Washington, D.C. Rather than engaging the Congress in meaningful deliberation, presidents increasingly seek what President Franklin D. Roosevelt offered the nation during the crisis of the Great Depression: “action and action now.”

Everything has become a crisis or emergency in Washington, mandating action over reasoned reflection. President Lyndon B. Johnson launched a “War on Poverty,” soon followed by later presidents with a “War on Crime,” a “War on Drugs,” and a never-ending “War on Terror.” All of these domestic wars result in heightened presidential power and a diminished oversight role by the Congress. At the same time, we live under 28 official “national emergencies” declared by presidents, some as old as Jimmy Carter’s presidency in the 1970s.

If the president cannot get Congress to support his agenda, he goes it alone by means of executive orders and agency actions. President Barack Obama was sufficiently frustrated by Congress that he famously said he had a “pen and a phone” and he would start taking unilateral action rather than deliberate with Congress. He undertook unilateral changes to the Affordable Care Act, while also initiating new gun control and immigration policies, stretching the application of executive orders.

Congress has also moved to action over deliberation. Instead of putting major legislation through committee hearings, with their debates and amendments, legislative leaders now hold a bill in secret until they have the necessary votes and then spring them on the Senate for a quick, usually party-line vote. The most important legislation of the Obama era, healthcare reform, was passed on a straight party-line vote of Democrats. Tax reform, the biggest legislative accomplishment of the Trump era, similarly passed on a party-line vote of Republicans.

One problem with choosing “action and action now” over deliberation and debate is that those actions lack deep bipartisan support and are easily overturned. President Trump signed several executive orders in his first hundred days that directly overturned executive orders of the Obama era. Congress came very close to repealing Obamacare on a party-line vote, just as it had originally passed with limited party-line support. Rather than deliberating over long-term policy, the sailboat of federal governance tacks first one way and then the opposite direction when new presidents and congresses take office.

Just as checks and balances had been weakened at USC, there are attempts to do so in Washington. The National Popular Vote Bill, for example, seeks to overturn one such check by replacing our current electoral system with a national popular vote, and without going through the constitutional amendment process. Progressives constantly attack various checks and balances and separations of power as attempts to thwart the democratic voice of the people. However, what they really do is allow for, indeed require, careful and reasoned deliberation.

The USC experience should be a cautionary tale for leadership broadly, including our political leaders in Washington. Especially in large public institutions, the goal is not simply to take action, but to engage a broad representation of the community in its processes, to foster a culture of reasoned deliberation. A failure to do so invites the crashing and burning of both the institution and its leaders.

David Davenport is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. He is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

 

To read the column at the Washington Examiner:https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/university-of-southern-california-problems-microcosm-washington-d-c-s

Connecticut Joins the Quiet Campaign to Undermine Constitutional Presidential Elections (Washington Examiner) May 21, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Politics.
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Both houses of the Connecticut legislature recently passed the National Popular Vote Bill, which now sits on the desk of Gov. Dannel Malloy, who is expected to sign it. With his approval, Connecticut will join a quiet campaign to undo the Electoral College by means of a clever end run rather than a proper constitutional amendment.

Four times in our history (fewer than 10 percent of presidential elections), the winner of the popular vote lost the presidency in the Electoral College. The issue is on many minds these days, since two of the four were in this century: George W. Bush’s win over Al Gore in 2000 and Donald Trump’s election in 2016.

Rather than take the straightforward and transparent approach of changing the electoral process by constitutional amendment, proponents of change want to travel an easier incremental path: asking state legislatures to approve the National Popular Vote Bill. The bill, when adopted by enough states to constitute 270 electoral votes, triggers a requirement that each state signing onto the compact cast its electoral votes for the winner of the national popular vote. Very clever, indeed.

Connecticut will become the 12th state (including the District of Columbia) to sign on, with a cumulative total of 172 electoral votes, only 98 shy of the goal. Of course, politics are always at play in voting bills, and not coincidentally all of the states approving so far are liberal — for example, all were states carried by Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016. The bill has been introduced in 11 other state legislatures, and with the Trump win still stinging Democrats, it may gain further momentum from Connecticut’s recent approval.

There is both an historic case and a current argument for the elector system established in Article II and the 12th Amendment of the Constitution. The Founders sought all manner of checks and balances along with separations of power in what they clearly understood to be a federal republic, not a direct democracy. So there would be two chambers of Congress, one for the people (the House of Representatives) and one for the states (the Senate). Likewise, both the people, through the popular vote, and the states, with the electoral vote, would play a role in choosing a president. Tinkering with federalism in favor of more direct democracy has become trendy, but if you are going to do it, at least be big enough to follow the Constitution’s own process for change and pass an amendment.

But even today, there is a practical role for the elector system.

Have you noticed what the candidates do in the last couple of weeks of a campaign? They crisscross the country, stopping in key battleground states, arguing the issues of special importance there in order to win the requisite electoral votes. And how would they campaign if there were only a national popular vote? They would go to the big cities and states and appear on popular media. It is hard to say that this is a preferable campaign. In addition, votes must be counted at some level and, under the present elector system, if there are recounts, these are only in one or two states. Imagine the specter of a national recount with the popular vote and even the possibility of not being able to seat a president by inauguration day.

If you want to change the electoral system, there would be an easier and more fair way to do it by eliminating winner-take-all electoral rules in the states. These are not constitutionally mandated, and each state controls that decision. In fact, Nebraska and Maine already allocate electoral votes by congressional district, rather than winner-take-all. This would eliminate some of the unfairness the pro-democracy people see while not beginning to undo the constitutional system of the republic.

Connecticut’s vote should be a wake-up call, not a call to a clever end run around the Constitution.

David Davenport is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. He is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

To view the column at the Washington Examiner:

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/connecticut-joins-the-quiet-campaign-to-undermine-constitutional-presidential-elections

I have left Forbes.com for the Washington Examiner: “Don’t Let 16-Year Olds Rock the Vote” (Washington Examiner) May 3, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Politics.
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Since the “March for Our Lives” student demonstrations over gun violence on school campuses, the question of lowering the voting age to 16 has come to the fore. The Washington city council is now considering a proposal to do just that, and similar bills have recently been introduced in Georgia and Minnesota. The city of Tacoma, Md., was the first to allow 16-year old voting in 2013, and since then a few other cities (most notably Berkeley, Calif.) have followed suit.

It is not clear why student willingness to demonstrate now qualifies them for new adult-level responsibilities of citizenship. The last time the voting age was changed, it was lowered from 21 to 18 by the 26th Amendment to the Constitution during the Vietnam War. The argument was that if 18-year-olds could fight and die in a war, they should be able to vote for their national leaders.

But it is difficult to find a comparably compelling reason for further change now. Would we also want 16-year-olds serving on juries or signing up for the military? I think not. And if 16, why not 13, when they enter the teen years and those hormones start up?

The more we learn about the human brain and how it develops, society has increased the age of responsibility in other areas, not lowered it. Researchers generally agree that the brain is still developing until the mid-20s, with moral reasoning and abstract thought coming later than we once thought. So the drinking age has gone up to 21, and the age when kids may drive a car without any conditions has now increased to 17 or 18 under most state laws, not 16.  Simply put, the law has been moving toward greater maturity before responsibility, not less.

Advocates argue that we need greater civic engagement, and younger voting would help. Younger voters, however, have been notoriously weak about showing up at the polls. In the 2016 election, for example, only half of younger voters turned out to vote, compared with two-thirds of older voters. Growing the pool of younger voters hardly seems like a solution to the civic engagement problem. Besides, if you look at students’ civic knowledge, you would hardly deem them highly qualified to start running the republic. In the last round of national civics tests (unfortunately now only administered to eighth graders), a mere 23 percent scored as “proficient” or above. What we should be promoting among the young is better civic education before greater civic engagement.

The question is whether 16-year-old voting is likely to become a new political bandwagon. So far, only cities have moved on this and they can only make decisions about voting in their own municipal elections. States, however, including the District of Columbia, control both state and federal voting, so D.C. could decide to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote for president in the next election and beyond. The likelihood of another constitutional amendment changing the voting age nationally is not high, since it would require a two-thirds vote of both chambers of Congress and three-fourths of state legislatures to approve it. However, the possibility of the District of Columbia, or a liberal state, making the change is much higher.

If 16-year-olds voting is the answer to some problem we have, I guess I do not understand the question.

David Davenport is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. He is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

To read the column at the Washington Examiner:

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/dont-let-16-year-olds-rock-the-vote

Democrats Finally Discover Federalism (Washington Examiner) April 19, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Politics.
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After decades of neglect, a federalism bandwagon is rolling across the country, carrying not only conservatives who have long believed in states’ rights, but also gathering up progressives who are out of power in Washington and have rediscovered the appeal of localism. In fact, many of today’s big political battles are, at their base, a federalism tug of war pitting the federal government against state and local governments.

Take immigration, for example. As the Trump administration has tightened up immigration enforcement at the federal level, a number of states, counties, and cities have decided not to share citizenship information with the feds, with some declaring themselves sanctuary areas for immigrants. President Trump pushed back, signing an executive order pulling most federal grants from states and cities that will not divulge information about citizenship as required by federal law. Last month Attorney General Jeff Sessions turned up the heat by suing deep-blue California over its sanctuary laws. An interesting federalism nuance now sees certain conservative California counties and cities joining the federal suit against the state’s liberal sanctuary laws. A federalism fight is on.

Federalism may have found a truce on another key issue: legalized marijuana. Federal law continues to make the use of marijuana illegal, whereas 30 states and the District of Columbia have legalized its use in some way. The Obama-era solution to the conflict was to ease up on federal enforcement in states that legalized marijuana, but Sessions announced early on that the federal government would resume enforcement everywhere. When Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican from marijuana-friendly Colorado, began blocking Trump’s judicial nominees, the president called and said the feds would back off enforcement in Colorado if Gardner would approve his nominees. Gardner reported this federalism victory, saying, “President Trump has assured me he would support a federalism-based legislative solution to fix this states’ issue once and for all.” For now, a federalism truce is found.

The federalism tug of war has encompassed a number of issues in Trump’s first year. California famously announced its own climate change and environmental policies when Trump pulled out of the Paris accords. State attorneys general challenged Trump’s travel ban. States are now suing over the tax reform limitation on the deductibility of state and local taxes, based on the theory that it violates the equal protection rights of more expensive blue state residents. In fact, by the end of Trump’s first year, Democratic states had brought 35 lawsuits against his administration, compared with 46 lawsuits by Republican states in President Barack Obama’s 8-year term. The federalism tug of war is spreading.

With federalism busting out all over, where might this lead? Republicans have long championed the 10th Amendment (power not delegated to the federal government is reserved to states and individuals) and states’ rights. In the era of gridlocked government and President Trump in Washington, Democrats have discovered “progressive federalism,” especially located in cities, which tend to be governed more by their party than states where Republican governors predominate. Is it possible that federalism might actually unite liberals and conservatives in a drive for greater localism? Perhaps, but it seems even more likely that federalism may simply become the latest tool in the political battle.

Just as President Richard Nixon reportedly said of economic policy, “We’re all Keynesians now,” it seems we are all becoming federalists now. After decades of power moving to Washington, it would be healthy and refreshing to see the pendulum swing back toward state and local governments. But it would be even more promising if federalism became a way of making policy more deliberative and less contentious. It remains to be seen whether this new federalism might accomplish that.

David Davenport is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

To read the column at the Washington Examiner:

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/democrats-finally-discover-federalism

‘It sucks.’ The Senate, the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body, No Longer Deliberates” (Washington Examiner) April 2, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Politics.
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Former President James Buchanan called the Senate “the greatest deliberative body in the world,” a moniker that has stuck for 150 years. But as he left Washington for the Senate’s two-week Easter recess, Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., reflecting on his inability to get a vote on even one legislative amendment in his first 15 months on the job, said something quite different: “I think it sucks.”

In that “emperor has no clothes” moment, Kennedy exposed a key reality in Washington: The greatest deliberative body in the world no longer deliberates.

Kennedy’s proposed amendments are not the only ones failing to receive Senate votes these days. The Senate has voted on only six nonbudgetary amendments so far in 2018, an average of two per month. All right, so they have been busy trying to approve spending bills to keep the government open (itself an embarrassing and contentious process) and approving President Trump’s nominees, which has moved at a snail’s pace. However, according to a Politico report, the Senate has only taken 25 roll call votes on binding amendments in this two-year Congress, compared with 154 at this point in the last one.

When he took over as majority leader of the Senate in 2015, Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., vowed to do much better. After Republicans won a Senate majority in the elections of November 2014, McConnell promised “a more free-wheeling approach to problem solving” than the prior leader, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., had allowed. McConnell spoke of restoring the Senate’s “traditional role as a place where good ideas are generated, debated, and voted upon.” In particular, McConnell committed to “an open amendment process — ensuring senators on both sides a chance to weigh in on legislation.”

Oops.

Instead, what we have is little debate and even less voting in the Senate. Bills are crafted behind closed doors, held until they have the requisite 51 (or 60) votes, and then rushed to the floor for a quick vote, sometimes with handwritten notes still in the margins. If there is deliberation, it is only by members of the party in power, not in open committee hearings or debates on the Senate floor. Important pieces of legislation, from Obamacare to tax reform, are passed on straight party-line votes, with no support from the other party. Indeed, as one study has shown, party unity voting has grown from around 60 percent in the 1970s to closer to 90 percent today.

Kennedy is not the first to call out the Senate’s lack of bipartisan deliberation. When Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., famously flew back to Washington from his cancer treatments to cast a decisive repeal vote on Obamacare, he disappointed his fellow Republicans by voting “no.” But his comments afterward made an even stronger statement. McCain decried the Senate process of drafting proposed legislation “behind closed doors … then springing it on skeptical members, trying to convince them it’s better than nothing, asking us to swallow our doubts and force it past a unified opposition.” McCain urged the Senate to “return to the correct way of legislating,” sending bills to committee, holding hearings, and ultimately crafting laws that could be passed with bipartisan support.

There is a growing sentiment that the Senate needs to return to “regular order,” to the kind of process McCain described, but it will not be easy. Legislating in Washington has become about winning, not finding the best policy solutions. Votes are taken to best position legislators for re-election, not to enact the best bills. At a time when America has an impulsive president, it seems especially important that the Senate play its full deliberative role.

David Davenport is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

To read the piece at the Washington Examiner:

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/it-sucks-the-senate-the-worlds-greatest-deliberative-body-no-longer-deliberates

Something There Is That Doesn’t Love A Tariff Wall (Forbes.com) March 8, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Politics.
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Donald Trump is enamored of walls.  First he wants to build a physical wall on the border between the U.S. and Mexico.  Now he wants to erect tariff walls, imposing a 25% tax on steel and 10% on aluminum coming into the country from abroad in order to protect higher priced American products and jobs.

But as Robert Frost wrote in his poem Mending Wall:  “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.”  Frost added this further word of caution:  “Before I built a wall I’d ask to know what I was walling in or walling out, and to whom I was likely to give offence.”  These are important questions that President Trump would do well to consider.

Trump’s philosophy seems to be that globalization is the problem and building walls is the solution.  If globalization has robbed Americans of jobs—and his strong showing in key rust belt and industrial states helped elect Trump—then we will prevent products from coming into America at a lesser cost and competing with American manufacturing.  His answer to Frost’s first question is that cheap products are what we want to keep out.  But to whom will he give offense?  Key allies and world powers that manufacture these products, but also American consumers who like to buy them and save money.  Building walls can be complicated.

History is not on the side of walls.  In one of the great speeches of the 20th century, President Ronald Reagan stood near the Berlin Wall, a key part of the Iron Curtain surrounding communist Eastern Europe, and famously said, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”  Gorbachev did and the result was the beginning of the end of the Cold War and the reign of communism.  Other walls around the world, including the Great Wall of China or Hadrian’s Wall in England, are relics of history.  They no longer function to keep people in or out.

Nor has history judged economic walls kindly.  In fact, you would think Republicans might remember their own troubled history building trade walls during the Great Depression.  Senator Reed Smoot and Congressman Willis C. Hawley decided that adopting protectionist trade policies—placing tariffs on over 20,000 imported goods—would help protect the vulnerable American economy, and President Herbert Hoover agreed.  The net result:  other nations retaliated, more banks closed, and both the U.S. and global economies suffered further losses, exacerbating the Great Depression.

Today the global economy is highly interdependent, making trade walls even less likely to succeed.  People used to say that when the U.S. sneezes, the world economy catches a cold, but now with the hyperspeed of technology and communication, an economic event almost anywhere may trigger waves around the globe.  Already China and the European Union have said they will respond in kind to any trade war Mr. Trump chooses to launch.  The days of building an economic wall around any country are long past.

Not only are history and economics not on the side of Trump’s protectionist tariffs, but the U.S. Constitution is not either.  Article I of the Constitution gives Congress the “Power to lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises,” which includes the power to establish tariffs.  In this case, President Trump is relying on a highly suspect delegation to the president from a 1962 Cold War law in cases of “national security.”  Clearly, President Trump’s assertion of this power is over something less than national security, as he wheels and deals with countries over tariffs and trade agreements.  This is yet one more case of the president overreaching through executive orders and powers to assert his will over Congress, several of whose leaders (even from his own party) have spoken out against the tariffs.

From time to time over its history, the U.S. has shown tendencies toward isolationism and Trump’s tariff wall is one more example of this.  As a commercial republic in a complex world economy, however, such tariffs no longer make sense, if they ever did.

 

To read the column at Forbes.com:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddavenport/2018/03/08/something-there-is-that-doesnt-love-a-tariff-wall/#78872e3dc684

 

Five Reasons Why You Should Worry About The Federal Debt (Forbes.com) February 28, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Politics.
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Let’s face it:  For most of us, the federal debt is somewhere between a snoozer and an abstraction.  There are plenty more tangible and immediate problems to worry about.  Even if we did get stirred up about it, what can we do?  Isn’t the problem at one end or the other of Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC—in Congress or the White House or both?

Rather than seeking to alarm you about how large the national debt is growing—which is an easy case to make—let me instead propose five reasons why you should be worried about the national debt, and why you should insist that our political leaders do something about it or face the worst catastrophe they can imagine—failing to be reelected.

First, your Social Security and Medicare entitlements are at risk if the federal debt continues to grow.  People argue that increased defense spending is to blame for the rise in the national debt, or the recent tax cut.  While both of those are factors, Hoover Institution economist John Cogan, author of a new book about federal entitlements (The High Cost of Good Intentions), notes that essentially all the rise in the federal debt since World War 2 can be laid at the feet of entitlement programs.  Entitlement spending, Cogan argues, has risen from 4% of GDP to 14% and now accounts for nearly two-thirds of all federal spending.  Since it will be almost impossible to cut federal spending and the national debt without touching expensive entitlements, your entitlements—especially if you are younger than the Baby Boomers—are very much at risk.

Second, an economic reckoning will come from the explosive growth in federal spending and debt.  No one really knows how much federal debt is too much.  Unfortunately some kind of major economic correction will be the signal that we have gone too far.  Other countries will quit buying our debt, or will discount it heavily.  The stock and bond markets will lose confidence in our reckless fiscal policy and send prices plunging.  We are creating our own bed of instability when the government spends a lot more than it takes in (nearly $1 trillion this year), and one day the bed will begin to collapse.

Third, spending today and putting it on the tab of the next generation is immoral.   Baby Boomers have already made a huge generational transfer of the costs of college, weighing their children down with decades of student debt.  Now we are also asking them to pay for our Social Security and Medicare benefits, along with the cost of our collapsing infrastructure and our national defense.  Presidents Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover of the 1920s understood that public debt was a moral question, but today it’s just a tool of economic policy.  It’s a way to open the faucet and try to get more bounce in the economy.  But the tab goes forward to our children in a way that is simply wrong.

Fourth, the growing debt increases the risk to our national defense.  Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats recently scolded senators in a hearing, sharing his concern that our federal spending “is threatening our ability to properly defend our nation, both in the short term and especially in the long term.”  Our present situation, Coats said, is “unsustainable” and represents a threat to both economic and national security.

Fifth, you should be concerned because the politicians are not.  Donald Trump promised to balance the federal budget in his campaign, and “relatively soon,” but he just keeps proposing more spending and tax cuts.  The Republicans haven’t met a defense budget they couldn’t increase and the Democrats insist on comparable increases in domestic spending.  Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin gave us the understatement of the year when he said government spending is “not an issue we’re focused on right now.”

If you think you’re too young to worry about the federal debt, you’re precisely the one who should be worried.  As President Herbert Hoover wisely said, “Blessed are the young for they shall inherit the national debt.”

To view the column at Forbes.com:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddavenport/2018/02/28/five-reasons-why-you-should-worry-about-the-federal-debt/#46f48b224932

Millennials Could Change the Political Landscape–If they Vote, SF Chronicle February 23, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Politics.
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In 2016, a political tsunami crashed on our shores with the outburst of populism and the election of Donald Trump. Now, less than two years later, we should prepare for two more big waves of change: the rise of Millennial voters and the passing from the scene of a generation of political leaders. Together they could produce a major transformation of our political landscape.

What we do know is that the political views of Millennials are very different from those of their Boomer parents. A Pew survey found that older voters are growing more conservative as younger voters become more liberal. According to a World Values Survey, for example, only 30 percent of voters born after 1980 believe it is absolutely essential to live in a democratic country, while 72 percent of Americans born before World War II find it essential. Millennials are broadly insecure and concerned about the future, with a recent poll by the Institute of Politics at Harvard’s Kennedy School showing 67 percent are fearful about America’s future, while 54 percent believe America is on the wrong track.

What we don’t know is whether Millennials are prepared to step up, vote and play an active role in political life. Voter turnout in the 2016 election is a cautionary tale: only half of eligible younger voters voted, compared with about two-thirds of older voters. Millennials are strongly negative about President Trump’s job performance, along with that of Congress, the Republican Party and, to some extent, the Democratic Party as well. An NBC News/Gen Forward poll showed that 71 percent of Millennials feel the political parties do such a bad job that they favor the creation of a third party. Herein lies the concern: Are Millennials so disillusioned about politics that they will not actively engage? “Will they continue to value community service over politics as they do now?”

With this generation’s deep concerns about their own job prospects, student debt, unaffordable housing and expensive health care, their liberalism aims in those directions. While society’s safety nets have been largely constructed with the aged in mind, Millennials will be interested in exploring greater stability for young people and families with children who, as Jacob Hacker, director of the Yale Institute for Social and Policy Studies, points out, “face the greatest risks.” Ironically, this leads them to resonate with two politicians in their 70s: Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

In some yet uncertain ways, Millennials may also want to rethink government itself. Technology is their natural domain, and they will want government to be far more responsive. It seems likely that they will ultimately want to see government do more with less, as has been the case with businesses and nonprofits. Professor Dave Andersen, a political scientist at Iowa State University, sums it up this way: “The repeal and replacement of government writ large, I think, is a Millennial value right now.” My own students over the years have even wondered why we have state governments, seeing them increasingly as an unnecessary layer of middle management between the local and federal governments.

I recall a 97-year old man being interviewed, with the questioner reminding him he had seen a lot of change. “Yes,” he answered, “and I was opposed to every one of them.” Change is difficult, but it is likely to be the order of the day as our political landscape opens up to new voters and leaders.

Congress and the Lost Art of Compromise (Forbes.com) January 24, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Politics.
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It is not difficult to identify “lost arts”—things we used to do but do not do any longer—in Washington, DC:  civility, bipartisanship, courage, just to name a few.  But one lost art underlies the others and has led to the inability of Congress to carry out its most basic responsibilities–pass a budget or keep the government open.  The most fundamental lost art of all is the lost art of compromise.

It is ironic that at the same time Congress was conferring its highest civilian honor on former Senator Bob Dole, a principled conservative who nevertheless practiced the art of compromise, we were preparing to shut down the federal government again (the 5th time since 1990) because we do not know how to compromise.  Even the author of “The Art of the Deal,” Donald Trump, apparently does not do deals any more.

But first let’s go back—to the dictionary and American history—before we come back to today.  Compromise includes the root “com” which means together and “promise.”  The idea is that we learn to make promises based upon agreement, or coming together.   Starting at the Constitutional Convention in the summer of 1787, our entire government is based on compromise.  We had the Connecticut compromise, for example, which was based on the novel idea that the government could be partly federal and partly state-based.  James Madison, recognized as the author of the Constitution, introduced several ideas that he could not get through the Convention, but which he compromised into something else.

Otto van Bismarck famously said, “Politics is the art of the possible.”  And so compromise seeks the “best possible” solution.  Not a perfect union but, as the preamble to the Constitution states, “a more perfect union.”  It is sometimes said that the enemy of the good is the best, but that is not our problem with compromise today.  No, we are unable to find the “best possible” solution because members of Congress have become almost entirely focused on positioning themselves and their party for the next election.  That has become the enemy of compromise.

So the Democrats would shut down the entire federal government over the Republicans’ failure to properly address DACA and dreamer immigrants.  And Trump would see the government shut down because he is not getting funding for his wall.  And so it goes—politicians stand firm on one relatively small principle, which they believe will get them reelected, and let the whole of the federal government be held hostage to that.  Senators who wanted to find a way out of the impasse had to gather in one tiny office because the whole apparatus of the Senate was lined up against the very idea of compromise.

Like most arts, it will not be easy to find compromise again.  At the most fundamental level, both voters and politicians alike will have to recover a commitment to governing, not just making statements.  Any so-called debate these days could be reduced to one-word positions:  The “Wall,” says Trump; yes but “DACA’ say Democrats.  But who is saying, “keep the government open,” “settle some issues,” “solve some problems?”  Just a few senators hidden away in an office.  We have to stop making statements and digging in on single issues and be committed to running a proper government.

Then we need leaders who will say, as President Ronald Reagan said to House Speaker Tip O’Neill of the other political party:  “I will take half a loaf today but, I will come back for the other half tomorrow.”  Everyone wants the whole loaf or nothing—if I can’t get my way, shut it down.  It seems like something leaders should have learned in kindergarten—you don’t get everything you want.  Yes, a very short-term compromise was finally struck, but it should have been long-term and done by leaders or in committees, not by a small group of self-selected senators crammed into a private office.

I, for one, plan to stop voting for candidates who are more committed to their reelection, their party, and their one-word litmus tests than they are to making the government work.  Does anyone care to join me?

To view the column at Forbes.com:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddavenport/2018/01/24/congress-and-the-lost-art-of-compromise/#782422f9d597