James Windle


Posts by James Windle

A couple of weeks ago I got caught in a heavy snow storm on a familiar trail in the Washington Cascades. I know every rock, tree, and turn of the trail. With snow falling hard, and ten feet already on the ground, I mistook everything around me as familiar. I was lost.

This is an appropriate allegory for anyone following American politics right now and for government agencies engaging with the public as well. Keep reading →

The federal sector is tightening its budget belt in search of savings. Efficiency is the new modus operandi. But as is often the case, the appearance of potential savings in federal spending aren’t always what they might seem.

In November, the White House issued Executive Order 13589, “Promoting Efficient Spending,” directing agencies to identify efficiencies. Section 5 of the Executive Order specifically directs a reduction in printing costs. The execution of printing efficiencies, however, is not always easy. The decision to get efficiency is only the first step. Keep reading →

Today the public sector operates in an environment of shrinking budgets. That was certainly apparent in the latest federal budget proposal released this week and the new realities for federal spending agency officials now find themselves.

To meet budget caps and reduction targets, Congress, the White House, and federal departments often use across-the-board percentage reductions. This blunt instrument achieves broad goals without prescribing the specific activities to take the reduction. Keep reading →

The federal workforce, 2.1 million strong, has been the subject of growing criticism as of late. Much of the criticism is unfair. There are many dedicated people working in the federal government; though there are certainly some clinging to the status quo. In any case, in a terrible economy, public calls for federal workforce accountability are entirely reasonable.

One reform measure would be to change what has become tantamount to an indefinite tenure system for the federal workforce. Renewable, four-year term appointments for new employees entering government would increase the accountability of federal positions without causing major disruption. This would begin to counter the criticism. Keep reading →

The failure of the Congressional Super Committee last month initiated a new phase in the defense spending debate.

Barring intervention from the Congress and President, the Committee’s failure results in an average reduction of $55 billion per year over nine years, beginning in January 2013, from defense spending that now exceeds $700 billion annually. Both sides of the debate have begun employing wizardry to use a variety of numbers to make their respective arguments on the right level of spending. Keep reading →

Uncertainty continues for anyone involved with the federal budget. Just a few weeks ago, the hope was the Congressional Super Committee would set forth a clear path for deficit reduction. The framework would guide Congress to get the federal government back into a normal cycle of passing annual budgets by the beginning of the fiscal year on October 1.

Now that the Super Committee has failed, the question is “So now what?” on the federal budget? Keep reading →

In the old days, Congress would disagree over the federal budget for a few months before coming together to pass a budget by the start of the new fiscal year on October 1. This changed in the 1990s. The budget has since become a political battleground with Congress rarely passing a budget on time. The current fiscal year is no exception with the Super Committee looking at deficit reductions and elections looming in 2012.

This fiscal year 2012 has started under a Continuing Resolution (CR). CRs are normally a simple pro-rata allocation of the prior fiscal year that funds the government while Congress works toward a solution. For example, the current CR provided 45/365 (Oct. 5 to Nov. 18) of last year’s funding levels, minus 1.5%, to Executive Branch Agencies. Congress passed a “minibus” on Thursday containing three appropriation bills but most of the government is under another CR until December 16. Keep reading →

There is a lot of frustration in America today. Income inequality is on the rise and opportunities to find good paying work are scarce. A Wall Street Journal/NBC poll this week found that over three-quarters of respondents believe the structure of the economy favors the rich. It seems many Americans think politics is rigged. They might be right. The cause, however, might be a surprise.

The cause is not elected officials, corporations, or the political parties. It is the national election system. Keep reading →

The Congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (a.k.a. Super Committee) is struggling to reach agreement on a minimum of $1.2 trillion of deficit reductions over ten years.

Finding an average of $120 billion per year with $3.6 trillion in annual spending might seem easy from the outside. In an election year, however, a vote to increase taxes or reduce a government program can become political quicksand sinking reelection bids. Keep reading →

There are a lot of ideas on how to address the looming crisis of trillion dollar annual deficits and a $14 trillion national debt. Congress has ideas and so does the President. All of the ideas involve choosing winners and losers, who will be taxed or receive tax breaks. Given the deep political and economic divisions in the country right now, a starting point for progress is voluntary measures.

There are people, even in this terrible economy, who would volunteer their income to help solve the fiscal crisis. Warren Buffett and former President Clinton are not alone in wanting to be asked to do more. Under a couple of conditions, many people with far less resources than Buffett or Clinton would invest in the future of the country. Keep reading →

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