Today the White House held a conference with some tech big-wigs on how federal IT systems could be improved. I hope the food was good, because that might have been the most important outcome of the conference. The big-wigs may have batted around some great ideas, but these ideas will be ground to dust by the wheels of the federal procurement system.
Joanne Butler | All Articles
Ms. Reality Winner’s leak was not the stupidest thing (in my experience) done by a person with a security clearance. That trophy goes to the man (a civilian Navy employee) who sent a threatening letter to the President and included his return address. But Ms. Winner comes close. NSA discovered only six people had downloaded her leaked material, making sifting the suspects easy. But why did she do it? One reason is obvious, the others, less so.
I have a confession to make: being vaporized by a North Korean bomb doesn’t scare me as much as trying to catch a train in New York’s Penn Station. With track repairs on top of the usual delays, the station is very crowded. And once the track for a train departure is announced, there’s a stampede to the gate (I’ve visited cattle stockyards, I know what a stampede looks like). Plus one has to be mindful of the many homeless people who are either wandering about or sprawled out in the concourse.
Trump, Russians, and North Korea: no matter what, Americans keep shopping. According to MarketWatch.com, sales figures for April 2017 were 4.5 percent higher than a year ago. However, online retailers have gobbled up much of this growth; their sales were 10.7 percent higher in the first quarter of 2017, when compared to Q1 2016. The trickle-down effects are coming to your neighborhood.
While ‘the wall’ on the Mexican border grabs headlines, attention needs to be paid to Homeland Security’s E-Verify program. Part of preventing illegal immigration involves making it harder for this population to get a job. E-Verify has been around for over ten years, is robust, and works fast. Why don’t all employers use it?
Treasury Secretary Mnuchin has discussed accomplishing comprehensive tax reform this year. I wish him and President Trump well in this endeavor, but most people won’t pay attention, let alone understand what’s involved. If the President wants an easy-to-understand win, he should consider zapping that $1 ‘Universal Connectivity Charge’ on phone bills. This was an Al Gore legacy, to get everyone connected to the Internet (which he invented, remember?).
President Trump is absolutely right to use his bully pulpit to encourage American manufacturing. But I believe an important factor in success in manufacturing in the country is where the firm sites its facilities. Some states are much more business-friendly than others, resulting in competitive price points for a firm’s final product.
Today marks the 100th anniversary of America’s entry into World War I – the war known in Europe as ‘the Great War’. Most Americans know little about our participation in that war, possibly because for us our ‘Great War’ was World War II. And although our involvement was short (April 6, 1917 – November 11, 1918), there are lessons to be learned from it. Here are two:
Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, is heading up a government reform team made up of top-level business sector people. Meanwhile, inside the Beltway and across the nation, millions of bureaucrats shrug. They’ve seen it before – e.g., former Vice President Al Gore’s ‘Silver Hammer’ awards for government innovation. The federal government is large, unionized (in many places), with varying corporate cultures among agencies. But Kusher could succeed if he aims at the right targets. Here are a few of my suggestions.
Are you considering refinancing your mortgage or buying a home or car this year? Shopping for a sweet deal on a credit card with a low interest rate? Taking out a loan to remodel your home? If so, you may need move fast before interest rates are expected to go up next week and rise again later this year.
A common argument for hiving off part of one’s Social Security taxes into a private account is the federal employee Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) – a 401(k) type savings plan. Now that the TSP is 30 years old, the savings data is troubling, and, frankly, makes a poor argument for private accounts.
Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) has it right: Speaker Paul Ryan’s ‘Border Tax Adjustment’ is a bad idea. One clue: Ryan’s put a fancy name on a simple idea. His ‘Border Tax Adjustment’ in simple language means ‘import taxes on everything.’ It will result in price increases on almost everything, while workers’ pay remains flat. This is gross indifference to middle and working class Americans – Trump voters.
Recently, liberals on news shows were talking about how ‘infrastructure improvements’ must include school reform. School reform? President Reagan commissioned a comprehensive schools report in 1983. After 34 years, have we learned nothing? In fact, we have. And we’re fortunate to have an Education Secretary in Betsy DeVos who has the right ideas about fixing our education system.
Feelings are running low in farm country – those states where Trump won in the election. In truth, feelings generally run low there – farmers never seem to have a ‘good’ year. Either the harvest is damaged and small, or booming and driving down prices. It’s latter right now. Further, farmers were looking forward to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as the gateway to exporting more agricultural products and commodities. But TPP is dead. What will President Trump do?
Although President-Elect Trump wants to lower drug prices, he may not know about a tool he can use to not only push prices down, but also lower medical costs. The answer: change the FDA’s regulations to make more commonly prescribed drugs ‘Over the Counter’ (OTC).
Sixty-four years ago this Sunday, Harry S. Truman delivered his farewell address to the nation. It was windy, and in my opinion rather dull. However, the undelivered version in Truman’s autobiography has nuggets of truth for President Obama, President-Elect Trump, and all Americans. Most importantly, Truman tells us the President is not a king or potentate but a human being who occupies the Office for four or eight years, and then returns to being a private citizen.
President-elect Trump did a good thing when he got angry and talked to the CEO of Boeing over the high cost of building a new fleet of Air Force One planes. While this was a good start, it was just the tiny tip of the federal fiscal iceberg. If Trump really wants to roll up his sleeves and conquer federal waste, he should invite two men to Trump Tower: former Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) and Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ).
Ancient maps had a warning about unknown territory: Here Be Dragons. That’s how I feel about how some conservatives are calling for a constitutional convention. Article Five of the U.S. Constitution is silent on how a convention would work. That silence troubles me as it indicates a high degree of risk. Here Be Dragons indeed.
There are two paths to healthcare reform for President-Elect Trump: the huge legislation way (e.g., the method that brought us Obamacare), or what I call the Ted Kennedy way – incremental but constant changes. Teddy’s way was stealthy – inserting a clause into one piece of legislation, deleting a clause in another. For Trump, I think Teddy’s way has a better chance of success than a blockbuster bill stuffed with goodies to get enough votes for passage. If Trump decides on an incremental approach, catastrophic health insurance would be a good first step.