Potomac Chronicle

Is Federalism Breaking Down?

What’s the most important issue that the 2016 presidential candidates won’t be talking about? A very good bet is the train wreck facing federal-state-local finances. There are lots of mega-issues on the table -- international crises, immigration and health reform battles, and economic growth -- but whoever wins won’t be able to duck the big intergovernmental issues lurking down the tracks.

The good news is that state and local governments have recovered remarkably well from the gruesome economic collapse in 2008. Tax revenues in most states have recovered to pre-recession levels. READ MORE

Washington’s Media Myopia

More than two years ago, I wrote what was admittedly a very grumpy column bemoaning what had happened to the Washington press corps. Specifically, I railed on about how the White House Correspondents’ annual dinner had changed, and what that said about both the capital and the media that supposedly covered it.

“The dinner has evolved (or devolved) into a self-important, narcissistic gathering of corporate chieftains, big-name lobbyists, Hollywood celebrities, reality TV stars and a different breed of journalists -- more from TV, especially cable TV, and glamour magazines like Vanity Fair than The New York Times,” I wrote. “A few old-time journalists grouse about the change, but for the most part, the coverage, replete with photos of women in fancy dress and men in tuxedos, is all breathless and gushy.” READ MORE

The Police Problem Hiding behind the Humvee

In the days after the tragic shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., news programs ran video after video showing local police around the country armed with machine guns and driving heavily armored vehicles. The New York Times described a desert-khaki-painted MRAP -- for mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle -- sitting next to a snowplow in the municipal garage of Neenah, Wis. And a report from The Chronicle of Higher Education revealed that the University of Central Florida in Orlando owns a grenade launcher, retooled to fire tear-gas canisters.

MORE: Read the rest of the December issue. READ MORE

Crazy Quilt Federalism

We launched Governing magazine 27 years ago in the belief that most of the innovation and energy in American government, both in policymaking and management, was occurring at the state and local levels, not in Washington. 

Just four months before our first issue rolled off the press, John Herbers, a reporter for The New York Times and one of Governing’s first columnists, wrote a long analysis in the Times about how the structure of governance was changing. READ MORE

Paul Ryan Declares War on the War on Poverty

In a truly stunning speech this summer, former Republican vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin declared war on the “War on Poverty.” The strategy he offered up is fascinating and thoughtful, and it captures just how much the nation has changed since Lyndon B. Johnson first declared that war 50 years ago. 

The plan Ryan proposed gives states the option of combining up to 11 federal grant programs, including food stamps, welfare and housing aid, into a single block grant. States would be given a lot of flexibility in figuring out how best to spend the money; their only objective would be getting clients from welfare to work. The feds, in return, would pledge not to cut funding. READ MORE