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October 28, 2022

Hannah Story Brown

Newsletter

Ethics in GovernmentGovernment CapacityIndependent AgenciesRight-Wing Media

Hack Watch: Debunking the Big Budget Bogeyman

It seems pretty incontestable that a big part of the media’s job is “informing the public of things they need to know.” Accordingly, the media’s coverage of how the government spends money is a spectacular example of how it fails. Congress has enabled a vacuum of sensible, accessible information about the appropriations bills it’s supposed to pass each year to fund government activity, and the media has not stepped in to fill the void.

October 14, 2022

Hannah Story Brown Timi Iwayemi Fatou Ndiaye

Blog Post

Executive BranchGovernment CapacityIndependent Agencies

Omnibus Awareness Month in Review

If Congress regularly met its own deadlines, then October—the first month of the fiscal year—would also be the first month when federal agencies could implement their new and improved budgets. Unfortunately, the modern Congress regularly fails to pass an omnibus spending package for the next fiscal year, which bundles several appropriations bills for different parts of the federal government into one whole-of-government budget, by the end of the previous fiscal year. This autumn is no different.

July 20, 2022 | The American Prospect

Eleanor Eagan

Op-Ed

Government Capacity

Democrats Need to Fight for a Government That Works

Despite months of increasingly desperate horse trading and frantic whittling, Joe Manchin has narrowed the reconciliation package formerly known as Build Back Better to just a health care bill. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, meanwhile, appears set to torpedo popular, bipartisan antitrust bills on Big Tech’s behalf simply by refusing to bring them for a vote. And a once-sprawling bill on competitiveness and advanced manufacturing is now mostly an economic development subsidy to semiconductor manufacturers.

June 23, 2022 | The American Prospect

Glenna Li

Op-Ed

Government CapacityIndependent AgenciesLaborNLRB

President Biden’s Best Agency Is Starved for Cash

Two months after Ithaca, New York, became the first city to unionize all of its Starbucks locations, Starbucks announced a dramatic alteration to its business plan for the city: It was closing a shop with one week’s notice. The coffee leviathan stated the store was closing due to “efficiency” concerns and would not guarantee new jobs for the location’s workers.

June 13, 2022

Toni Aguilar Rosenthal Mekedas Belayneh

Blog Post

FDAGovernment CapacityIndependent Agencies

The Decades-Long Food Failure at the FDA

In 2008, a deadly salmonella outbreak from contaminated peanut products killed nine and sickened over 700 people. In the aftermath, the peanut executives who poisoned people with food they knew was contaminated received decades-long prison sentences, an all-too-rare case of a corporate criminal being held responsible for the harm they caused. Contemporary public outrage also helped to fuel a push for more structural reform to the food safety regulatory system as a whole. Shortly after the outbreak, the Obama administration began whipping bipartisan congressional support for the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which sought to prevent future food safety crises by expanding and strengthening the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) authority over food. FSMA ultimately passed both the Senate and the House by wide margins and enjoyed broad public support when finally enacted in 2011. 

May 10, 2022

Toni Aguilar Rosenthal

Blog Post

Government CapacityIndependent AgenciesIRS

The IRS Has Finally Been Given The Power to Rebuild. It’s Not Enough.

In March, six months after the start of Fiscal Year 2022, Congress finally passed an omnibus funding agreement that brought agencies out from under the shadow of Trump-era austerity (although still fell far short of enacting the funding levels that most agencies require to meet their responsibilities to the public). Critically, in the case of at least one agency, the omnibus did not just grant the money to hire new staff, but the means to do so much more quickly. At the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Congress greenlit the use of direct hiring authorities to empower the agency to temporarily forgo some of the more onerous aspects of the federal hiring process as well as to facilitate a quick rebuilding of the IRS’ notoriously depleted ranks. With this designation, Congress acknowledged that staff shortages at the IRS had reached a state of emergency and thus acted accordingly. 

April 05, 2022

Dylan Gyauch-Lewis Andrea Beaty

Blog Post

Anti-MonopolyDepartment of JusticeFTCGovernment Capacity

Putting Biden’s Antitrust Budget Increases In Context

The federal government may no longer be operating under the onus of Trump-era austerity, but agencies across the federal government are still far from having the resources they need to quickly and effectively fulfill their responsibilities to the American people. For the most part, President Biden’s proposed FY 2023 budget fails to fill that gap. However, increased funding for antitrust regulation is one of the bright spots in an otherwise uninspired budget. As we have covered in the past, both the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division (ATR) saw staffing levels stagnate and budget allocations that did not keep pace with inflation or GDP growth. 

March 16, 2022

Fatou Ndiaye

Blog Post

ClimateDepartment of JusticeGovernment Capacity

To Take Down Corporate Polluters, the DOJ's Environmental Enforcer Needs More Capacity

Overseen by Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim, the Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD) is one of seven litigating components of the Department of Justice (DOJ). The ENRD is divided into ten sections, each with its own area of expertise. The Division fulfills a wide range of responsibilities. For instance, the ENRD is tasked with protecting the nation’s natural resources and enforcing U.S. civil and criminal environmental laws, including the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and hazardous waste laws. The Division also handles tribal rights and resources cases. Other responsibilities include, but are not limited to, “facilitating cleaner energy and ensuring marketplace integrity; defending and adjudicating water rights for Federal agencies and Indian Tribes, as well as policies and decisions that support the generation of clean energy on Federal lands and the outer continental shelf; and, promoting international climate justice activities and the advancement of legislative and policy matters related to climate change.”

February 22, 2022

Dylan Gyauch-Lewis

Report

Anti-MonopolyDepartment of JusticeGovernment Capacity

Making The Antitrust Division Competitive: A Look At Capacity As Biden Revitalizes Enforcement

The Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division (ATR) is, along with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the primary regulator of antitrust law and is responsible for ensuring markets’ competitiveness. In that capacity, it investigates corporate consolidation and allegations of collusion and anticompetitive practices that undermine the free market. ATR is also responsible for supervising mergers and acquisitions to ensure that companies cannot establish monopolies. While both ATR and the FTC share this objective, the two divide jurisdiction based on industry. ATR also investigates and prosecutes criminal antitrust violations.

February 07, 2022

Fatou Ndiaye

Blog Post

ClimateGovernment Capacity

The Department of Energy Needs More Capacity To Help Prevent A Dim Future

Addressing the climate crisis on a federal level requires, at minimum, that the agencies and departments of the federal government be fully staffed and equipped to implement and enforce regulations. In the Revolving Door Project’s Climate Capacity Crisis Report, we initially found that the Department of Energy (DOE) had relatively higher staffing levels compared to other agencies, though certainly not enough to fulfill its mandate. As of June 2021, Biden’s DOE had hired 79 more STEM employees than were employed by the department in September 2016, whereas the Department of Agriculture, Department of Interior, National Park Service, United States Geological Survey, and the Environmental Protection Agency all lost STEM employees within that same time period. Despite the DOE’s comparably impressive staffing levels, a recent Washington Post article revealed that the department was struggling to stay on top of mounting work, causing unnecessary problems in their fight against the climate crisis.

January 28, 2022

Fatou Ndiaye

Blog Post

Financial RegulationGovernment CapacityHousing

Capacity Shortfalls At The FHFA

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) is an independent federal agency established by the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (HERA) following the 2008-2010 subprime mortgage crisis. Upon its creation, the FHFA replaced the Federal Housing Finance Board (FHFB), the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO), and the GSE mission office at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The FHFA is responsible for ensuring regulated entities “fulfill their mission by operating in a safe and sound manner to serve as a reliable source of liquidity and funding for the housing finance market throughout the economic cycle.” The agency oversees the supervision, regulation, and housing mission oversight of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac (the Enterprises) and the Federal Home Loan Bank System, which includes the 11 Federal Home Loan Banks (FHLBanks) and the Office of Finance.