Potomac Chronicle

Private-Market Misfires and Misconceptions

It’s no secret that Americans like private markets better than they like government. In a 2014 Pew Research Center poll, 70 percent of Americans said they believed they were better off in a free market system. Only in South Korea and Germany do citizens like markets more.

From environmental policy to health care, this basic finding has framed the critical decisions of government in recent years. If we want to take on a new policy challenge, citizens and policy experts seem to agree, it’s better to trust the states than Washington. And the states should do as much as possible through private markets.   READ MORE

Detroit and New Orleans Have More in Common Than Most Think

It came as a surprise to me, but Detroit and New Orleans are similar in some interesting ways. Both were founded by French settlers in the early 18th century. On the site of modern-day Detroit, explorer Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac in 1701 established Fort Ponchartrain, named for the secretary of the French navy; a decade later, Cadillac decamped south to become governor of Louisiana, where the large lake on New Orleans’ north side was also named for Ponchartrain.

Both are port cities, though the combined ports of New Orleans and South Louisiana form one of the largest port systems in the world, dwarfing Detroit’s. They both identify strongly with their musical history -- jazz and blues in one case, and Motown in the other. And both have experienced catastrophic disasters -- one natural, the other economic. Now they have something else in common: Their prospects for survival can teach us about the resiliency of cities elsewhere. READ MORE

The Gap Between What Voters Want and Who They Support

When the 2016 presidential campaign began, no one expected that the big collection of current and former governors would slide to the back of the pack. Governors once had an inside track to the White House. Is that a thing of the past? It’s hard to say for sure yet -- but the current governor-candidates have all had trouble. The ones with the most experience in governing have had the hardest time exciting citizens, while those with the least experience have created the most buzz.

Among Republicans with experience, Louisiana's Bobby Jindal, Texas' Rick Perry and Wisconsin's Scott Walker have dropped out. George Pataki (New York) hasn't escaped the second-string debate squad, while Chris Christie (New Jersey), Mike Huckabee (Arkansas) and John Kasich (Ohio) have also been mired in the bottom tier. The heir presumptive, Jeb Bush (Florida), found himself hemmed in from his first steps out of the gate. READ MORE

Plan B for Ending the Gun Epidemic

As a young man, I never thought twice about using guns. In my mid-teens, I got rifle training from the National Rifle Association in a highly organized, professional program that stressed safety above all else. In the military, the weaponry saved me from terminal boredom. I fired M-16 assault rifles, an M-60 machine gun, a .45 revolver and even a bazooka. It was fun. Later, on my first-ever day of hunting, I shot a deer as it ran by me in the West Virginia woods. I had to shoot it again as it lay writhing on the forest floor. It was then that I realized that I’m not a gun guy, and I never fired a gun again.

Now we face the perplexing question of what to do about the flood of firearms coursing through our society -- a question made more difficult by last month’s shooting at an Oregon community college. The simple and obvious remedy is to outlaw them, but the Second Amendment -- or its current interpretation -- makes that impossible. We could pass federal laws making it harder for people to get guns if they are not licensed and carefully screened, but that’s not going to happen either. READ MORE

When It Comes to Wildfires, Collaboration Causes Confusion

United States Forest Service fire captain David Ruhl loved tackling big wildfires. So there was little surprise when he volunteered to leave his wife and two children behind in South Dakota’s Black Hills to help California during its monstrous fire season. In late July, while he was strategizing on how to fight a particularly nasty one in the Modoc National Forest, a wall of flames suddenly trapped him. Search teams found his body the next day.

Ruhl’s death was a tragic reminder of the enormous toll that the wildfires raging across the West have taken. But it was also a reminder of the remarkable partnerships that have emerged to fight them. Joining Ruhl were other feds, including expert interagency “hotshot” teams. They worked closely with local firefighters and Air Force C-130 air tankers. Private contractors provided pilots and more aircraft, ranging from small helicopters to giant air tankers. Coordinating everyone was Cal Fire, the state’s premier wildfire agency. It was a genuine mosaic of federalism, with the intricate boundaries lost amid the smoke of the worst fire season on record. READ MORE