Potomac Chronicle

Doubts About Pension Debt

Few subjects perplex me as much as public debt. This is true for all forms of debt currently plaguing the nation’s economy, but especially for state and local pension programs and Social Security. Whenever I think I’ve settled on an informed judgment about what we should be doing in either of these areas, someone better informed than I am convinces me otherwise.

Part of the problem is that so much of the decision-making apparatus in handling public debt is hidden away in a forest of acronyms and indecipherable slogans. The organization known as GASB, the Governmental Accounting Standards Board, is the source of a lot of this stuff. GASB is a private, nongovernmental group; the federal government has no role in it, and the states and localities want to keep it that way.  READ MORE

What a Box of Honey Nut Cheerios Says About Today’s Politics

Honey Nut Cheerios -- America’s bestselling cereal -- won’t be the same anymore. Thanks to an epic battle in Vermont, every box of the friendly oats from General Mills contains a new label confirming the presence of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Outside Vermont, General Mills doesn’t have to include the GMO label. But Jeff Harmening, the company’s chief operating officer for U.S. retail, told a reporter that “having one system for Vermont and one for everywhere else is untenable.” So, as Vermont goes, so goes the nation.  READ MORE

Millennials and Homeownership

Demographics is, in some ways, an exact science, built on hard evidence and solid numbers. But trying to make sense of current statistics can be tricky. Take, for example, the ongoing changes in the U.S. housing market. They will have significant repercussions for states, cities, suburbs and even Congress. But it’s not entirely clear what those repercussions will be.

Members of the millennial generation -- roughly those ages 24 to 35 -- have not been buying many houses lately, for reasons both cultural and economic. A faltering economy has hurt younger people disproportionately. In the past decade their incomes almost stalled, while the older age groups saw a combined increase of 11 percent. Plus, they’re carrying the crushing burden of student debt, at a level of more than $1 trillion nationally, triple what it was only a decade ago. READ MORE

Lobbyists Leave Capitol Hill for the States

Shelly LeGere, a grieving mother from Elmhurst, Ill., is an unlikely symbol of the changing face of lobbying in America. Her 13-year-old daughter, Annie, died from anaphylactic shock, most likely from something she ate. When a police officer arrived, LeGere asked, “Don’t you have anything? What can we do?” 

First responders rushed Annie to the hospital. But they weren’t equipped with an epinephrine injector, most commonly known as an EpiPen, and she didn’t get treatment fast enough. Annie died nine days later. To try to save other victims, LeGere launched a campaign to equip first responders with EpiPens. In doing so, she became part of a national effort spearheaded by the manufacturer of the EpiPen, Mylan Inc.  READ MORE

Washington, D.C.’s Monumental Decay

You don’t need to convince the citizens of the nation’s capital  that we are in an infrastructure crisis. They see it all around them and experience it in their daily lives.

The biggest single reminder is the U.S. Capitol, which can be seen throughout the district. It’s shrouded in scaffolding as construction is underway to repair more than 1,000 cracks and deficiencies in the cast-iron dome, originally built more than 150 years ago. It’s the first time in 56 years the structure has been redone, and the job will cost a projected $60 million. READ MORE