Joanne Butler | All Articles

Joanne Butler
Joanne Butler
Former Staffer, House Ways and Means Committee

Welcome To The Actions-Have-Consequences Era

1:24 AM 11/28/2017

The first Nobel Prize winner for literature, John Galsworthy, commented on the difference between "everybody knows" and "somebody tells." Today there’s a tsunami of ‘somebody tells’ incidents about sexual harassment. That’s a good thing. Sexual harassment is more than a physical incident; it’s symptomatic of a poisoned work culture. Although I can’t claim to have been harassed, I’ve seen its deleterious effects.

Messing With 401ks Is A Bad Idea

11:41 PM 10/31/2017

In ancient Rome, legislators would determine policy issues by sacrificing an animal and then employing a priest to interpret the signs based on the animal’s entrails.  While our Capitol Hill legislators don’t engage in animal sacrifices, they’ve retained their priest-interpreters:  the Congressional Budget Office.  The result:  some House Republicans are proposing limiting 401(k) retirement savings to appease the CBO high priests.

Martial Humanity

8:28 PM 10/20/2017

Listening to Thursday’s speech by General John F. Kelly, I had a flashback to a story told to me years ago by a senior Marine.  When this man was a junior Marine, his job was to deliver poinsettias to Marine Gold Star families in the San Diego area.  The families mostly consisted of those who had lost men in the Vietnam War.  He told me it was one of the toughest jobs of his career.

Las Vegas Shooting: ‘Hot Zones’ Result In More Deaths

2:11 PM 10/02/2017

Watching the Vegas panic-stricken spectators running in all directions reminded me of the 9/11 response on Capitol Hill.  Bluntly, the Capitol Hill police and others had never anticipated a mass attack on Washington.  Thus, Hill staffers randomly left their buildings.  Many walked towards the U.S. Capitol – a possible target of the plane that went down in Shanksville, Pennsylvania!  The lesson:  getting people out of a danger zone in an orderly way is an essential part of security procedures.

Tax Reform’s Murky Future

5:46 PM 09/21/2017

In D.C. the tax reform show is going strong.  Republicans want tax cuts for everybody (including Bill Gates) as well as corporations.  Democrats say this is the old Republican game of helping the rich and big businesses at the expense of the less well off.  Plus it seems any tax reform bill won’t go through the usual legislative process.  If a bill comes to fruition, it will have to be passed via the mysterious ‘reconciliation’ process.  Politics, process and a razor-thin Republican majority in the Senate results add up to a murky future for tax reform.

The Winners And The Losers Of DACA

2:01 AM 09/08/2017

The late Ted Kennedy’s spirit must be laughing right now over the Republicans’ struggle with Dreamer legislation.  Kennedy knew well of the political power of benefits for children.  In 1997 he cleverly got federal children’s health insurance legislation passed (with Senator Orrin Hatch’s (R-UT) support).  President Obama followed Kennedy’s example when he gave a waiver to illegal immigrant minor children, generally known as ‘Dreamers’ (an acronym from prior legislation).  This waiver expires in six months.

NAFTA Talks: Who’s In Charge?

11:08 AM 08/24/2017

Last night President Trump said (again) how the North American Free-Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is a lousy deal.  He added that the United States may have to exit NAFTA.  Meanwhile, his U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) is scurrying to renegotiate parts of NAFTA.  Further, some of the U.S. side’s goals seem to drift to towards the left.  Who’s in charge here?

To The Shores Of 1600 Pennsylvania

4:35 PM 08/01/2017

The Marine of Marines, General John Kelly, is now President Trump’s chief of staff.  Poor Reince Priebus spent over six months tap-dancing around the West Wing, living in fear of his boss, Jared, Ivanka, and (no doubt) others.  News Flash:  Marines don’t tap dance.  Period. 

Fear Of ‘Repeal And Replace’

11:11 PM 07/20/2017

The repeal/replace stall on Obamacare reveals two important lessons.  First, Republicans never have had a unified response to Obamacare.  Second, Republicans squandered their chance under President George W. Bush to fix health insurance.  Thanks to certain GOP purists, this chance was tossed while Congressional Republicans knew the issue was a top priority for Democrats when they would take control.

Trade, Merkel, and Meh

3:00 PM 06/30/2017

Some financial sector ‘experts’ say Angela Merkel is the ‘head of the free world’ as she is a globalist and President Trump is not.  They’re appalled at the administration’s sanctions on a small Chinese bank that is claimed to have business dealings with North Korea. Sanctions on larger Chinese banks may follow if they too have had dealings with Pyongyang.  The President’s action is a stark lesson to the globalist believers:  our nation’s interests always come first.

The GOP Needs Honesty In Healthcare Bills

5:44 PM 06/23/2017

Watching HHS Secretary Tom Price on a chat show this morning, I was underwhelmed by his non-answer of: How many people will lose their health care under the Senate bill?  My message to the D.C. GOP echo chamber:  Losing healthcare is the big question for Americans and if you’re not straight with them, you’ll lose the sale.

The Federal Procurement System Can’t Keep Pace With Technology

5:35 PM 06/19/2017

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.

Reality Checkout

12:10 PM 06/08/2017

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.

The Terrors Of New York’s Penn Station

1:54 AM 05/22/2017

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.

To Save Retail, We Need Better Urban Planning

1:17 PM 05/17/2017

Trump, Russians, and North Korea:  no matter what, Americans keep shopping.  According to, 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.

We Need To Expand E-Verify To Fight Illegal Immigration

12:56 AM 05/03/2017

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?

Tiny Tax Reform

5:59 PM 04/21/2017

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?).