Stories from this week: Is the decline of unions better for workers?; The Senate IRS investigation appears to be working; PA’s pension battles, more…
“Unions Are Powerless. Workers Aren’t.” (Megan McArdle/BloombergView)
Pull Quote: “If you’re hoping that trade unionism can be resurrected in the U.S. — and along with it the high wage growth and lower inequality that characterized mid-century America — this might seem like a hopeful sign. In fact, it’s the opposite. The very factors that enabled the longshoremen to drive such a high bargain are the same factors that are killing unions and lowering wages for low- and medium-skilled workers in the rest of the economy; the ILWU’s victory just tells you how bad their bargaining position is.”
“There’s an IRS Investigation That’s Bipartisan and Leak-Free” (Fawn Johnson/Government Executive)
PQ: “The goal of the investigation is to reach a common understanding of the facts, which is no small endeavor when it involves one of the highest-profile scandals of the Obama presidency. If IRS officials did actually subject tea-partiers’ tax-exempt applications to questionable scrutiny, that is an intolerable breach of public trust, said Hatch and then-Chairman Max Baucus in a 2013 joint letter to the IRS. Hatch was the committee’s ranking member at the time, and that letter launched the investigation. Wyden took over the project when Baucus stepped down last year to become the U.S. ambassador to China.”
“3 ways to spark innovation in government” (Paul Brubaker/Federal New Radio)
PQ: “Specifically, the government’s financial management, human capital and acquisition systems stifle innovation, slow progress and leave many once- dedicated individuals irritated, frustrated and cynical about the government’s ability to solve longstanding and serious challenges. Meanwhile, the pace of innovation in the commercial and consumer sectors is accelerating, leaving government at risk of becoming even less relevant to new generations of citizens. How long are we going to let outdated practices, inefficient processes and unequipped leadership disarm real innovation?
We can no longer afford to have a system that pushes innovators aside in favor of administrative process owners who matter-of-factly, and with little challenge or rebuttal, hide behind law, regulation, policy and practice to extinguish innovation. Too, many in Congress believe wholesale change is out of the question. Such members regard innovation as too big a challenge.”
“PhillyDeals: Wolf unhappy with who manages PA.’s pensions” (Joseph N. DiStefano/Philadelphia Enquirer)
PQ: “Despite all the creative investing, years of underfunding have left SERS and PSERS with multibillion- dollar gaps between the assets they own and the checks they will owe. The shortfall has been addressed in recent years by increasing taxpayer “contributions,” which Wolf wants to stabilize.
In his budget proposal, Wolf calls for “pension investment reforms to significantly reduce excessive management fees and overreliance on high risk investment strategies,” in favor of “less costly passive investment approaches where appropriate.””
“Feds Claim Obamacare Launch Is Hindering Government Transparency” (Fred Schulte/NPR)
PQ: Justice Department lawyers also said CMS has been “handicapped by a lack of technology.” That’s particularly the case when it comes to providing email communications. CMS said it has about 80 gigabytes of information, mostly emails, stored on software for delivery in other FOIA lawsuits, which it said came to 8 million pages. Looking for more, the agency said, is “already straining labor hours and budget of the FOIA staff.” CMS said it had only recently acquired software which should speed things up.
Liz Hempowicz, a public policy associate at the Project on Government Oversight in Washington, dubbed the status quo “ridiculous.” “I think the excuse that record keeping is not up to date is absurd in 2015,” she said. “These agencies need to get record keeping systems up to date. It shouldn’t take that long.”