Don Kettl is a columnist for GOVERNING. He is the Sid Richardson Professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. Prior to that, Kettl served as the dean of the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, a nonresident senior fellow at the Volcker Alliance and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. He has authored several books, including The Next Government of the United States: Why Our Institutions Fail Us and How to Fix Them and System Under Stress.

Donald F. Kettl
September 1, 2019

Reality TV Politics

Soundbites and slogans might work in Washington, but closer to home voters expect results.
August 26, 2019

Little Boxes Everywhere

5G technology will bring challenges for local government all the way down to the neighborhood level.
August 6, 2019

Red America, Blue America: Why Political Polarization Will Only Worsen

Liberal and conservative states are both stirring things up. Very different things.
June 4, 2019

Natural Disasters and Distrust

In an emergency, government must convince people it knows best for them. That's easier said than done.
April 1, 2019

Why Talking About Health Care Is Hard for 2020 Candidates

The biggest issue is difficult to debate, and it's not "Medicare for all."
February 13, 2019

Why Rebuilding 'Bigger and Better' After Disasters Is a Mistake

Communities destroyed by natural disaster all want to start over. Somebody has to pay for it.
December 5, 2018

'Jenga Federalism': Trump's Method for Undoing Obama's Policies

The White House has learned that there’s more than one way to attack a liberal-leaning federal government.
October 4, 2018

Trump's Failed Infrastructure Plan Is a Wasted Opportunity

The president's trillion-dollar proposal could have been a signature achievement.
August 10, 2018

How Do We Regulate Bitcoin and Other Cryptocurrencies?

The digital currency market is changing so fast that any misstep could be huge.
June 14, 2018

Programs Like D.A.R.E. and Scared Straight Don't Work. Why Do States Keep Funding Them?

There's a better way for governments to focus on effective initiatives.
April 12, 2018

For Future Federal Drug Policy, Look to California

The problems associated with legalizing marijuana are seen on a much bigger scale in the state.
February 9, 2018

The Truth About Rising Health Premiums

Obamacare isn’t the reason they’re going up. It’s state policies.
December 4, 2017

Whose Disaster Is It?

No one wants to pay for natural disasters. But even small-government proponents may have to accept increased federal involvement.
October 12, 2017

3 Events That Shaped Modern Federalism

Over a generation, there’s been a sea change in the way cities, states and the feds deal with each other.
August 18, 2017

Infrastructure Lessons From One of the Nation’s First P3s

A 75-year-old highway project offers clues to solving a critical present-day problem.
June 1, 2017

Mission Compromised: Trump’s Nasty Dilemma

If his current proposals succeed, his supporters are in for a rude awakening.
April 6, 2017

The New Nullifiers: Democrats

Suddenly it’s the left that’s talking about defying federal law. The reversal raises a host of questions.
February 1, 2017

Trump Era May Become the 'Once-Great Society'

Much of what the new administration wants to change was built by Lyndon B. Johnson.
December 1, 2016

Trump’s Health-Care Dilemma

The president-elect and his Republican Congress will surely change health care -- but first, they have to decide how.
October 3, 2016

What Kaine or Pence Will Bring to the Vice Presidency

As the first governor on the job in almost half a century, either one of them will present new opportunities for the White House.
August 22, 2016

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

The cereal’s new look shows how and why one small state could change the rules nationwide.
June 2, 2016

Lobbyists Leave Capitol Hill for the States

Money that lobbyists once spent in Washington is being redeployed to fight battles in state capitals.
April 6, 2016

College Debt and the People Presidential Candidates Have to Win Over Most

Presidential contenders have plans for making college more affordable. But it's an issue not easily solved from the Oval Office.
February 3, 2016

Private-Market Misfires and Misconceptions

When government lets the market fix policy problems, it often fails.
November 24, 2015

The Gap Between What Voters Want and Who They Support

The governors running for president possess what voters are looking for -- yet all of them are struggling in the polls.
October 1, 2015

When It Comes to Wildfires, Collaboration Causes Confusion

The strategy that's improved the management of fires has, paradoxically, made it harder to know who’s really in charge of putting them out.
August 1, 2015

How Hurricane Katrina Made the Feds More Powerful

In the decade since the storm, the federal government's involvement in disaster relief has risen -- and so have tensions with localities.
June 1, 2015

Are Schools Overregulating What Students Eat?

A recent incident involving Double Stuf Oreos highlights the debate about how much supervision of children is too much.
April 1, 2015

Are States Still 'Labs of Democracy'?

The growing role of federal waivers suggest the answer isn't simple.
February 1, 2015

Is Federalism Breaking Down?

Bad intergovernmental relations have the United States headed for fiscal disaster.
December 1, 2014

The Police Problem Hiding behind the Humvee

The militarization of police has come under fire, but it’s just a distraction from the real civil rights issues.
October 1, 2014

Paul Ryan Declares War on the War on Poverty

The Wisconsin Congressman's bold anti-poverty plan picks battles with conservatives and liberals, reducing its chances of passage.
August 1, 2014

Why a VA Scandal Is Unlikely to Happen at the Local Level

Measuring performance is hard to do. But it's even harder to do when you're measuring it from hundreds of miles away -- as is the case for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
June 1, 2014

How Much Can (and Should) Government Protect People from Natural Disaster?

By letting citizens live in vulnerable places even after disaster strikes, governments plant the seeds for future disasters.
April 1, 2014

Is a Constitutional Convention in the Works?

More than 225 years after the first one, states are considering whether to call a second as a way to rein in the feds. But no one really knows what a convention can and can’t do and how it would work.
February 1, 2014

How the Feds Finally Reduced Crime on Indian Reservations

The feds set a goal of reducing crime on tribal reservations by 5 percent. Here’s how they brought it down by more than 700 percent.
October 1, 2013

Leaving ‘No Child’ Far Behind

In the decade since the parties put politics aside to pass the No Child Left Behind Act, education policy has gone from pragmatic consensus to ideological division.
August 1, 2013

Governments Embrace More and More Revenue Schemes

The combination of a limping economy and tight federal budgets has led many state and local governments to ever more imaginative -- and risky -- revenue sources like violence and buzzkill taxes.
May 31, 2013

Boston Marathon Bombing Highlights Homeland Security Done Right

In the immediate aftermath of the blasts, several fundamental lessons were relearned.
March 29, 2013

GOP Governors Ask ‘What Would Reagan Do?’

Furious at Washington gridlock and seeking to get their party back on top, Republican governors -- like President Ronald Reagan before them -- are waging an anti-tax campaign aimed at the income tax.
January 31, 2013

Local Pot Laws Conflict with National Policies Worldwide

The United States isn't the only place where local marijuana policies clash with national laws. Even Amsterdam and the Dutch government have struggled with this tension. Read the rest of Governing's first-ever International Issue here.
November 30, 2012

The Top 5 State-Local Issues Facing the Feds

In the next four years, state and local governments are going to be at the very front of domestic policy -- especially on issues like health care where the feds have gotten most of the headlines.
September 28, 2012

Global Libor Scandal Cost States and Localities Millions

State and local governments have sued banks, claiming that they cheated them out of enormous investment returns at a time when their budgets were already badly damaged from the recession.
July 31, 2012

Whooping Cough’s Comeback Raises Questions

How states’ decisions to not require vaccinations and general budget cuts to public health have impacted the nation’s ability to prevent, track and treat disease outbreaks.
May 31, 2012

States Have 20th-Century Revenue Systems

States can no longer rely on federal bailouts or taxes. For the latest on state revenues, click here.
March 30, 2012

Insourcing Jobs Can Only Happen with States’ Help

Much of President Barack Obama's federal effort to bring jobs back home depends on states' ability to educate and train workers.
January 31, 2012

The Plastic Bag Ban: A Battle of Socio-Economic Policy

This latest skirmish shows how localities, not the feds, are driving eco-policy.
November 30, 2011

2012 Presidential Candidates Challenge Mandates

Republicans and Democrats call for fewer mandates. Both parties, however, have yet to answer fundamental questions about what government should do and how it should pay for it.
September 30, 2011

2011 May Mark the End of Federal Aid

The modern era of federal aid championed by President Nixon and his “new federalism” program draws to a close.
July 29, 2011

China Looks West for Performance Management

China embraces performance management in an effort to wring out greater productivity and transparency.
May 31, 2011

The Policy Battle Behind Chocolate Milk

As schools opt for healthier lunch options, governments are pitted against the powerful dairy industry.
March 31, 2011

Bankruptcy's Bank Shot

What connects government default, short selling and union bashing?
February 1, 2011

Medicaid, Incentives and the Future of Federalism

States are unhappy with Medicaid costs, but they’re not willing to surrender federal incentives to cut them.
December 1, 2010

Dealing With Deficits in Anti-Big Government Administrations

Governors who campaigned against stimulus spending face hard choices.
October 1, 2010

Why States and Localities Are Watching the Lower Federal Courts

Court cases rarely travel up to the Supreme Court, so lower courts are often the last stop for controversial cases.

Marijuana: To Legalize or Not to Legalize?

Federal, state and local governments can't seem to agree whether to legalize cannabis.
June 1, 2010

What Really Matters in Health-Care Reform

Health-care politics continues to grab headlines, but what's important lies elsewhere.

The Looming Infrastructure Crisis

Financial, policy and political problems are hurting efforts to fix our infrastructure.
February 1, 2010

A Decade To Remember

10 years, 10 highlights for federalism.

Washington's New Stinginess

There's no more cash for state and local governments in the latest round of federal spending to prop up the economy.

The Poisoned Bill

State budget cuts are undermining national health reform.

Imbalance of Powers

The feds aren't just handing out money -- they're redistributing clout.

After the Stimulus Ends

States and localities face problems a rising economy won't solve.

A Time for Strings

We need to stimulate state and local economies. We also need to keep close watch on what we're stimulating.

The Disaster Tripwire

The tough choices on emergency response are gradually migrating to Washington.

College of Chaos

We all know there's something wrong with our rules for electing a president. But fixing it has proved impossible.

Katrina Plus Three

There's a lot to learn from the great storm of 2005. We're a little slow putting it to work.

Hamilton and Jefferson Revisited

The states and feds started fighting about banking law in 1789. They're still at it.

NCLB on the Ropes

The fine print in the federal education law may be its undoing.

Department of Yesterday

Somebody needs to push EPA into the 21st century.

No Political Traction

Federalism isn't irrelevant to the 2008 presidential campaign. It's just that no candidate is framing ways for the feds to deal with the big issues.

Build, Crumble and Build More

Why don't we fix old roads and bridges? Because it's more fun to make new ones.

Homeland Psychiatry

War veterans are coming home in worse mental shape than anybody expected.

Race Revisited

The U.S. Supreme Court is going to rule on racial quotas in the schools. The decision may shape social policy for decades.

PIGs Without Pork

State and local interest groups don't wield the clout they once had in Washington. But there's crucial work for them to do.

Do They Know Darfur?

Governors running for president will have some uncomfortable moments in the year ahead.

Senator Warner's Posse

A new federal law gives the military a domestic function it hasn't had before.

Mission Improbable

By the time you read this, the bipartisan fling may be over.

Unwanted Weapons

Gun violence is a problem that governments at every level wish somebody else would solve.

It's Broke--Fix It

The problem in New Orleans isn't FEMA but federalism.
February 1, 2006

Machine Politics

Technology alone won't fix what's wrong with our voting procedures.

Fight Against Fat

State and local governments are discovering new weapons in the battle to keep citizens in shape.

Vintage Conservatism

The U.S. Supreme Court is about to turn right. Will that help states? Not necessarily.

Border Wars

Immigration used to be considered strictly a federal issue. But it's heating up in legislatures all over the country.

Looking For a Real Crisis: Try Medicaid

Social Security may be running out of money, but at least it's a single coherent program. Medicaid is a monster with countless heads.

Special Dilemma

The feds are promising to help with special education costs. They've been making that promise for the past 30 years.
December 1, 2004

More than the Flu

This fall's vaccine shortage was an early warning of more serious trouble in the nation's public health systems.
October 1, 2004

Domestic Duel

If you look behind the headlines, the presidential campaign is very much a clash of domestic ideology.
August 1, 2004

Radical Federalist

When it comes to relations between the states and Washington, the Reagan era is still going on.
June 1, 2004

Polar Campaigning

Centrism is smart presidential politics. But it's ideological zeal that dominates the state electoral scene these days.
April 1, 2004

Unconnected Dots

State and local governments aren't being let in on the national homeland security strategy. That may be because there isn't one.
February 1, 2004

Federalism, Anyone?

No Child Left Behind represents a major change in state-federal relations. But it may not be a good campaign issue for the president.
December 1, 2003

Tribes And War Chests

Once political outcasts, Native Americans are now big players in state campaigns.
October 1, 2003

Innovation Freeze

We've come to depend on states as the source of new policy ideas. They aren't producing many right now.
August 1, 2003

Madates Forever

Congress promised to stop imposing mandates on states and localities without paying for them. But the temptation is irresistible.
June 1, 2003

Unreliable Source

Thirty years ago, we wanted to control 'new source' air pollution in the worst way. That's about what we did.
April 1, 2003

A Long Way From Austin

You'd think presidents who used to be governors would cut the states a break. It never seems to happen.
February 1, 2003

Bush and The 50 Beggars

States are beseeching the White House for some dollars to tide them over while they get back on their feet. The White House isn't going for it.
December 1, 2002

Sacramento Rules

While Congress and the EPA fight political wars, states are making the crucial environmental decisions.
October 1, 2002

Connecting the Dots

The feds can create a new security agency. But they can't make us secure. That has to happen at the grassroots.
August 1, 2002

Dusting Off 'Dignity'

How much further can the U.S. Supreme Court go on states' rights?
June 1, 2002

'West Wing' Fallout

When a TV show deals with the risks of nuclear storage, it can tip an already unstable political balance.
April 1, 2002

Government by Traffic Light

The Bush administration's performance-measurement plans may mean a new challenge to state and local control.
February 1, 2002

Grappling Over Power

Worried about a repeat of California's rolling blackouts, the feds have pushed the states to create new super-grids.
December 1, 2001

Devolve and Protect

Governmental power has been decentralizing for 20 years now. Some think that's over. They should think again.
October 1, 2001

Election-Reform Quagmire

No one disputes that voting procedures need some serious reform. But whose job is it to fix them?
August 1, 2001

Real-Life Federalism

The key to sensible government reform is refocusing the system around results.
June 1, 2001

The Next Welfare Debate

We've learned a lot about cutting caseloads. The next step is to focus on keeping people out of poverty.
April 1, 2001

Having Faith in Faith

The way to evaluate the president's initiative is by what it achieves, not how it's organized.
February 1, 2001

Putting Bush to the Test

The next four years may alter the state-federal relationship for decades to come.
December 1, 2000

Is the Past Prologue?

This year's election could have the same profound impact on American politics as the 1896 presidential contest.
October 1, 2000

The Battle of Compassion

Suddenly, the GOP is the party of grassroots social action.
August 1, 2000

Which One is Your Pal?

The presidential candidates' speeches provide few clues about their views on federal-state relations.
June 1, 2000

Reform, American Style

Reinventing government from the bottom up is excruciatingly hard. But in the long run, it may be the best way.
April 1, 2000

The States and the Senate

Last month's `summit' meeting started on the subject of taxes. But it ended with a much broader challenge.
February 1, 2000

Litigation-Based Federalism

The tobacco and gun lawsuits stand the traditional checks-and-balances system on its ear and marginalize Congress.