Potomac Chronicle

Conjectures From the Swamp

Here in the Washington Swamp, January will be a month like no other in recent history. The day after Donald Trump’s inauguration, with its assorted swamp-draining promises, we will play host to the Million Women March for female empowerment. Six days later comes the anti-abortion March for Life. All three events are expected to attract, at the least, hundreds of thousands of people. The swamp isn’t draining; it’s boiling over.

In its post-election coverage, the Washington-obsessed media generally neglected to point out how deeply the Republican victory penetrated. While Trump trailed Hillary Clinton nationally by more than 2 million popular votes, the opposite dynamic was playing out at the state level, where Republicans will control 33 of the 50 governorships. The GOP will hold 56 percent of all state legislative seats, nearly 1,000 more than when the Obama administration took office. The GOP victory may have been slender at the top, but it was broad at the base. READ MORE

Trump’s Health-Care Dilemma

The seeds of Donald Trump’s dramatic surge in the presidential campaign sprouted from fields that Barack Obama had plowed. The October “surprise” -- the announcement that premiums for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would increase 25 percent next year for the mid-level program -- helped ignite his turnaround.

For now at least, the ACA is one of the relatively few areas in which President-elect Trump is in sync with virtually all of the Republican Party. He pledged to repeal every word of it, block grant Medicaid to the states, allow insurance companies to sell any policy anywhere, make health insurance premiums fully tax-deductible and expand the use of health savings accounts.  READ MORE

The Upside of Police Chiefs' Recent Departures

My favorite top cop in the nation has just bowed out. Bill Bratton, arguably America’s most effective big-city police chief, retired in September, ending one of the most successful careers in law enforcement in the nation’s history. Bratton’s record wherever he served, including Boston, Los Angeles and two stints in New York City, was impressive. Crime of all sorts, especially violent crime, fell precipitously in each one on his watch.

About the time Bratton was wrapping up his last day on the job in New York, Washington, D.C.’s police chief, Cathy Lanier, was starting a new job in the private sector, as head of security for the National Football League. Almost a decade ago, she took control of a department that was viewed as largely dysfunctional and remade it, strengthening ties between officers and the community they serve. Crime fell substantially during her tenure. READ MORE

What Kaine or Pence Will Bring to the Vice Presidency

In this wildly unpredictable election campaign, one prediction is certain to come true: The next vice president of the United States will be a former governor. What’s far less certain is what that will mean in the White House.

The vice presidency has attracted more disparaging quotes than any other job in American government. In 2012, writing on CNN.com, comedian Dean Obeidallah said that “being vice president is like being one of the lesser Kardashian sisters.” VPs get “paid great, treated like celebrities and have almost no responsibilities.”  READ MORE

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