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Paul L. Posner  |  Contributor


Paul L. Posner, who died July 5, 2017, was director of the public-administration program at George Mason University. He also was a former president of the American Society for Public Administration.

Posner served for many years with the U.S. Government Accountability Office, where he was managing director for federal budget and intergovernmental relations, leading GAO's work on the long-term federal budget outlook and emerging challenges for public-sector finances at all levels of government.

Posner was the author of "The Politics of Unfunded Mandates,", published in 1998, and was the winner of the 2008 Martha Derthick Best Book Award given by the Section on Federalism and Intergovernmental Management of the American Political Science Association. He received his Ph.D. in political science from Columbia University.

Smart Management

Why We Need to Grade Our Governments (Again)

An exceptional project from the past illustrates how beneficial measuring public-sector performance can be.

September 9, 2015
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Smart Management

Government’s Management Failures to Come

They're inevitable for a host of reasons, and the blame will fall on top elected officials. Can they fix problems before they become full-blown crises?

March 4, 2015
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Smart Management

European-Style Federalism’s Lessons for America

An emerging system of "variable speed federalism" is allowing federal policy to adapt to the states' political and policy diversity. But at what cost?

November 12, 2014
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Smart Management

The Debate We’re Not Having over Fiscal Disparities

Our state and local governments vary greatly in their capacity to address urgent public needs. Shouldn't we be talking about this issue?

August 13, 2014
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Smart Management

The Future of Federalism in a Polarized Country

The states' widening ideological gulfs have begun to spill over into the implementation of federal programs. Are we headed for an age of 'variable-speed' federalism?

February 4, 2014
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Management Insights

The Bleak Outlook for Our Intergovernmental Fiscal Future

We need a forum for our state, local and federal governments to collaborate on the fiscal challenges they all face. But in today's fiscal climate, it's hard to see that happening.

October 23, 2013
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Management Insights

The Flexibility We Need to Budget for the Unknowable

Analysis of long-term government commitments such as pensions is important, but overly rigid funding rules are a formula for intergenerational conflict.

July 31, 2013
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Management Insights

Can Performance Help in Reducing Deficits?

Making spending decisions based on evidence and analysis can be hardest to do in times of austerity, but that's precisely when these tools are most useful.

May 8, 2013
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Management Insights

The Political Reality of the Stimulus

Given the decentralization of our modern governmental system, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the nation isn't showering President Obama with the gratitude it felt for FDR.

February 20, 2013
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Management Insights

The Folly of Praying for a Crisis

The fiscal and environmental disasters that we know are going to happen need to be dealt with now.

December 5, 2012
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Management Insights

The Daunting Challenge of Following the Federal Money

As funding from Washington makes its way to the service-delivery level, it follows a complex path. We need a better understanding of where it goes and how it's used.

September 19, 2012
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Management Insights

The Supreme Court and the Remaking of Federalism

In its health-care ruling, the court limited Washington’s coercive powers over the states in ways that could have profound consequences — and perhaps unintended ones.

July 18, 2012
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Management Insights

When Is a Federal Mandate Coercion?

The Supreme Court’s consideration of the health law highlights the need for a new look at the boundaries of our federal system.

May 2, 2012
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Management Insights

The Political Ironies of the Health-Reform Case

A Supreme Court ruling that strikes down the health-reform mandates would have a profound impact on our federal system — one that ultimately might backfire on the law’s opponents.

April 4, 2012
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Management Insights

What the Federal Budget Doesn’t Tell Us

As usual, the White House’s spending plan is getting all the attention. What we should be looking at is how we spend across the public sector.

February 22, 2012
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Management Insights

Should Washington Budget Like the States?

Balanced-budget mandates and biennial budgeting are popular ideas for fixing the federal budgeting process. But what works in state capitols isn’t the right approach for Capitol Hill.

November 30, 2011
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Management Insights

The Continuing Conflict over Standards

Business has had a lot of success setting voluntary standards that prevent regulation from Washington. States are having a harder time finding the cohesion to do the same.

September 21, 2011
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Management Insights

Volunteering for Fiscal Sacrifice

Federal deficit reduction in the trillions is on the way. Rather than being served up for dinner, it would be far better if state and local governments were helping the feds prepare the meal.

July 13, 2011
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Better, Faster, Cheaper

Can't We All Get Along? Collaboration in Crisis

When all governments in our federal system suffer from common maladies, joint solutions are preferable.

May 10, 2011
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Management Insights

State Resistance

What are the forces behind the contentious current fight to redefine federalism?

February 16, 2011
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Management Insights

Negotiating Federal Aid Post-Recovery Act

It is not a question of whether the federal government will become more demanding and less generous, but when and how.

November 17, 2010
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Management Insights

Government Remains Unpopular

Even as the American public demands more, it remains ambivalent about government. The only 'solution' is enlightened leadership.

October 20, 2010
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Better, Faster, Cheaper

The Best of Times, the Worst of Times

The public turns to government to solve all manner of private troubles, yet is perennially disenchanted with government.

October 20, 2010
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Management Insights

The Missing Commissioners

State and local government officials should also sit on the president's new deficit reduction commission.

August 4, 2010
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Better, Faster, Cheaper

Wanted: A State and Local Voice

One could argue that state and local governments are the proverbial canary in the coal mine, the first to deal with a flood of fiscal sacrifices that eventually wash across the beltway.

August 4, 2010
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Better, Faster, Cheaper

The 5 Stages Before Deficit Reduction

For governments facing fiscal gaps, these stages outline one's journey to action.

June 9, 2010
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Management Insights

The Deficit Inferno

For governments facing fiscal gaps, these five stages outline an official's journey to acceptance and finally, action.

Management Insights

Braving Twin Deficits

State and local leaders face a severe challenge in dealing with the short-term recession while at the same time planning for future fiscal burdens.

Management Insights

State Laboratories and National Policy Reforms

More often than not, the federal government punishes rather than rewards states for innovative solutions to national problems.

Management Insights

The Next Federal Grant System

The stimulus law's transparency requirements won't shed much light on the achievement of objectives.

Management Insights

The Stimulus Next Time

The assistance from Washington is full of compromises that undercut its effectiveness. There is a better way.

Management Insights

The Stimulus Hot Seat

As the money flows from Washington, state and local government managers need to be proactive about accountability.

Management Insights

The Crisis Next Time

We pay a high price when we depend upon a crisis to catalyze action to solve major problems.

Management Insights

The Silent Revolution

Governing through a diverse array of third parties can provide important advantages to public managers at all levels. It also poses daunting management and accountability challenges.

Management Insights

Taking Stock of Public Programs and Priorities

Political leaders have ample incentives to propose new ideas, but do they have equal incentives to revisit and review existing claims and programs?

Management Insights

The Agenda Explosion and Public Management

Leaders at all levels of government should think twice before assuming government can solve a particular problem, writes Paul L. Posner.

Management Insights

You Say You Want a Revolution

State and local leaders are realizing how reliant they are on other sectors to meet public goals and expectations. This column discusses the implications of that reality for public managers.

Management Insights

Seductive Reforms

Why management initiatives need to be saved from their own excessive promises.

Management Insights

Legislatures and Good Management: an Oxymoron Revisited

Management reforms often seem to flounder on the shoals of legislative indifference and hostility.

Management Insights

New Intergovernmental Forums Needed to Address 21st-Century Challenges

In spite of the importance of intergovernmental collaboration, at present an effective, institutional framework does not exist to promote the necessary dialogue and partnerships across governments.

Management Insights

A Politics of Foresight?

A quick scan at the policy agenda facing federal and state officials shows a number of problems that threaten to balloon in future decades. For each of these problems, policy changes are inevitable -- the question is not whether, but when and how.

Management Insights

Can't Ideology and Policy Expertise Just Get Along?

Policymakers are more polarized and driven by ideology than ever before, writes Paul L. Posner.

Management Insights

Coming to Grips with Fiscal Realities

Financial pressures demand transformation but transformative government demands broad authority -- something federal policies make difficult.