Washington has long been enthralled by automatic budget mechanisms, from sequesters to spending caps to various "triggers." These clever gimmicks offer the promise of fiscal discipline in the future without political pain in the present, thus answering the lawmaker's prayer: "Lord, make our budget sustainable — but not yet." The problem, however, is that these mechanisms usually fail, and a history of their shortcomings offers some sobering lessons for today's budget battles.
When critics complain of over-regulation, the Obama administration insists that its rule-making has been a model of empiricism and restraint, pointing in particular to its commitment to cost-benefit analysis. In truth, however, the government's regulatory-review process is grossly inadequate, excluding some of the most significant regulatory agencies and most costly rules. With a barrage of new rules likely in Obama's second term, now is the time to reconsider how our government reviews its proposed regulations.
According to many on the left, rising inequality is stifling economic growth, crushing the prospects of the poor and middle class, and even undermining American democracy. But the evidence behind these common claims is remarkably thin. How much do we really know about the costs of inequality?
Medicaid — the joint federal-state program of health coverage for the poor — is deeply flawed and immensely expensive. And thanks to Obamacare, its costs and its troubles are about to increase. Still, there are reasons for optimism. The experience of a few states suggests that, if policymakers enact caps on federal spending tied to consumer-oriented reforms, it may be possible to save state and federal budgets — and, more important, to provide better coverage and health care to Americans in need.
In recent years, conservatives have struggled to communicate their basic economic message to the public. Their unwillingness to confront the causes of the 2007-08 financial crisis has allowed the left to blame the economic downturn on the right. Meanwhile, conservatives' lack of clarity about their own agenda for both near- and long-term growth has left them ill-equipped to respond to the left's critiques. It is time to set the historical record straight and to help the public see what pro-growth conservatism has to offer.
The Romney campaign was the first to operate under a new federal law that provides funding and support for presidential transitions several months before Election Day. The history of presidential transitions demonstrates why such lengthy preparation is necessary, and the untold story of Romney's pre-election transition effort offers lessons for all future campaigns.
Conservatives want a smaller, leaner government in line with our Constitution. But not all government functions are created equal. What standards could help us distinguish between appropriate and illegitimate state interventions? And what would the application of such standards mean for today's era of bloated, intrusive government?
Many well-meaning advisors to today's Republican Party suggest "putting aside the social issues" and instead focusing exclusively on fiscal policy and foreign affairs. But the problems we face in those arenas cannot be separated from the threats to our cultural traditions, as all manifest a deep desire to deny reality. Responsible, democratic self-governance must begin from recognizing the world as it is.