Kevin Kosar

The military and whiskey’s 250-year-old relationship

Whiskey, as any enlistee will tell you, is popular among America’s fighting forces. Military installations’ drinks shops (“Class 6” stores) are stocked with a galaxy of intoxicating drinks …

Unusual drinks, part 2

Sour beer, white lightning from South America, smoked rum and liqueur made from the sap of a tree in Greece — those were featured in my first installment …

Unusual drinks, part 1

There is something very satisfying about having a go-to drink. After a long day of work and kid care, a glass of whiskey is very welcome. The Kosar …

The Russia investigation: Why the overseers need oversight

What’s going on with the Russia investigation? For most of us, the answer likely is, “Beats me.” It seems every week or two there’s a media report about Congress …

Benchmarks for ongoing congressional investigations into Russian interference in U.S. elections and related matters

The Honorable Mitch McConnell The Honorable Chuck Schumer The Honorable Paul Ryan The Honorable Nancy Pelosi The Honorable Chuck Grassley The Honorable Dianne Feinstein The Honorable Richard Burr The Honorable Mark Warner The Honorable John Conyers The …

Coalition Letter: Support for the final report of the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking

Dear Leader McConnell, Leader Schumer, Speaker Ryan, Leader Pelosi, and Director Mulvaney, We are writing to express our strong support for the final report of the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking …

Pennsylvania’s stealth tax on drinks

Oh, Pennsylvania. You are wonderful in so many ways. Philadelphia has architectural marvels. Pittsburgh has the endlessly victorious Steelers and Penguins. The Allegheny and Poconos offer gorgeous vistas, …

Over Twenty Leading Conservative Organizations Urge Congress to Pass Pro-Growth Tax Reform in Open Letter

September 6, 2017 The Honorable Kevin Brady 1011 Longworth House Office Building Washington, DC 20515 Dear Congressman Brady, The outdated U.S. tax code, last overhauled more than three decades ago, has rendered American …

Refreshing drinks to beat the August heat

Everyone who knows me knows I love whiskey. Bourbon, Irish, Scotch, Rye…it's all so welcome to me. This summer, I enjoyed a great deal of Kentucky classics, especially Knob Creek …

Will Trump be a one-termer?

Not long ago, an outsider came to Washington to be president of the United States. He ran as an anti-politician, a man who was not going to play …

Moonshine is not just an American thing

Growing up in this great country of ours, I got the impression that moonshine was a peculiarly American phenomenon. The Dukes of Hazzard television show (1979-1985) and films like Gator served …

Letter to House on CBO amendments

Dear Representative: We strongly oppose proposed legislation that would weaken the Congressional Budget Office (“CBO”). Congress created CBO in 1974 to bolster its ability to check an overreaching executive …

A business case for federal operational improvements enabled by quality data

The attached policy study was published originally by Aplin Labs and co-authored with David Paschane, Aplin's CEO and lead scientist; Eric Hannel, a strategic consultant at Aplin; and Christian …

Book Signing With Kevin Kosar

The strange war on alcohol advertising

Earlier this year, a drumbeat began to ban drinks advertising. There was the Washington Post, which ran an article titled: “For women, heavy drinking has been normalized. That’s dangerous.” To ensure …

Today’s whiskey is not yesterday’s — thank goodness

Some years ago, I attended a tasting where the representative of a well-known Scotch company claimed the whisky his firm makes today tastes the same as it did …

Who is to blame for the Seven and Seven?

R Street Vice President of Policy Kevin Kosar badgers the Toronto writer Adam McDowell. Kevin Kosar: Congrats on the publication of Drinks: A User’s Guide (Tarcher, 2016). It’s a smart-looking book, and I …

The lost genius of the Post Office

In 1897, a year when mail was still largely delivered by horse and wagon, construction began on an innovative scheme beneath the streets of Philadelphia. Using an intricate …

Voters hold officials accountable for deficits in many countries. Just not here.

Wouldn't it be nice if voters punished politicians who increase budget deficits? Well, according to one research paper, they do. Adi Brender (Bank of Israel) and Allan Drazen (University of Maryland) crunched data from …

The Bloody Mary: An unlikely breakfast of champions

Mmmm, breakfast. What appeals to the mouth and stomach at the early hour when the birds are singing and the sun’s rays are spraying over the horizon? Something …

Testimony: Senate Subcommittee on Legislative Branch Appropriations

Chairman Lankford, Ranking Member Murphy, and Members of the Committee: Thank you for considering my written testimony. My name is Kevin Kosar, and I am vice president of policy …

CRS should stop fighting access to its own reports

The Congressional Research Service plays an essential role in policymaking and oversight. It makes Congress smarter about issues and teaches new legislators how to legislate. I would not …

Testimony to House Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee on CRS reports

Dear Chairman Yoder, Ranking Member Ryan and Members of the Committee: On behalf of 25 former employees of the Congressional Research Service (CRS) with a collective 570 years of …

Rep. Ken Buck on the Federal Budget Accountability Act

The Federal Budget Accountability Act—introduced last month by U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., as H.R. 1999—is a short bill, barely two pages long. But it aims to help Congress answer …

American Whiskey Trail tour, Day Five

Don't get me wrong — Jack Daniel's is a very impressive company. Its sales growth over the past 40 years is mind-boggling. During the 1970 and 1980s, most …

American Whiskey Trail tour, Day Four

Thirty years ago, most whiskey distilleries were lonely places — industrial factories in remote rural areas. For the most part, the proprietors of these places saw themselves as …

An uncomfortable reality… Congress needs more staff

Mark Twain famously remarked: “Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself.” Although famously crotchety, he did touch upon a …

Letter: USA Act empowers Congress to better exercise power of the purse

Dear Chair McMorris Rodgers: On behalf of the millions of members and supporters of our organizations, we write in support of the Unauthorized Spending Accountability (USA) Act. Your legislation would …

American Whiskey Trail tour, Day Three

It was difficult to feel anything but awe standing in front of the still at Jim Beam's main distillery. It is six-stories tall and 200 gallons of beer pour into …

American Whiskey Trail tour, Day Two

We all have heard the story: manufacturing is dying in America. All the good blue-collar jobs are moving to Mexico and China. America's middle-class employment has been hollowed …

American Whiskey Trail tour, Day One

Where better to start a tour of the American Whiskey Trail than at Mount Vernon? George Washington often has been called the father of our grand nation — the prototype …

America’s gonzo drinks history

Steven Grasse’s Colonial Spirits is the wackiest drinks book I have ever read. (I state this with admiration, and a bit of jealousy.) And I’ve read more than my share, …

Can the voice of practitioners be further amplified in PAR?

James L. Perry’s "Amplifying the Voices of Practitioners in PAR" (March/April) was a very welcome read. So many academic journals are just that – academic. But not PAR, which …

Why Trump’s government overhaul won’t work

The executive order issued by President Donald Trump yesterday has a goal nearly every citizen and legislator would cheer: to “improve the efficiency, effectiveness and accountability of the executive branch.” What's …

How to put the ‘most complete and effectual weapon’ back in their hands

Indubitably, our nation's finances are a mess. America has run deficits 36 of the past 40 years. The national debt is $18 trillion, and it has tripled as a percentage …

Will Trump sign postal reform legislation?

The House of Representatives took up postal reform legislation this week, a decade after Congress passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, which was supposed to shore up …

Good Alco-News: America’s spirits business is booming

The U.S. drinks business is booming, despite the finger-wagging by neo-prohibitionists. Last year’s liquor volume sales climbed 2.4 percent to 220 million cases, and revenues were up 4.5 …

Coalition opposes H.R. 756, the “Postal Service Reform Act of 2017”

To Members of the U.S. Congress: We, the undersigned organizations, representing millions of taxpayers and consumers nationwide, urge Congress to oppose H.R. 756, the “Postal Service Reform Act of …

Should Congress have to approve every federal regulation? A debate.

The following written debate between R Street Senior Fellow Kevin Kosar and Andrew Rudalevige, Thomas Brackett Reed Professor of Government at Bowdoin College, was published in the Washington Post's …

Strengthening Congress by shrinking the administrative state

Regulatory reform appears to be gaining traction in Washington, D.C. The White House directed agencies to halt the issuance of new regulations. Congress also got in the act. …

Six ways Congress can curb a runaway president

No bones about it, Donald Trump is a steamroller. He defeated 16 Republican candidates, despite being a political novice. Jeb Bush’s $150 million war chest couldn’t insulate him from Trump’s insults; …

Six quick takes on President Trump’s speech

Thank you for making your speech short. Really, the days when folks enjoyed hearing long orations have passed. I am glad you thanked the Obamas for being "magnificent" to …

Reasserting Congress in regulatory policy

The attached policy study was originally published in "Policy Reforms for an Accountable Administrative State," the second installment in National Affairs' Unleashing Opportunity series. Congress is "the first branch," …

Does Congress want to govern?

The following op-ed was co-authored by Lee Drutman, a senior fellow in the political reform program at New America. Over the past year, leading members of Congress have delivered …

Warming winter whiskeys

I am a seasonal drinker. What tastes best to me in the summer swelter is not what I hoist in the chillier months. Since the cold began its …

How an idyllic Italian village was crippled by family-centrism

More than 60 years ago, an American family arrived in a seemingly idyllic town in Southern Italy. Stone buildings resembled “a white beehive against the top of a …

All the president’s propaganda

The following op-ed was co-authored by John Maxwell Hamilton, a professor in Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communication and a global fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International …

The insidious campaign of ‘soft’ prohibitionists

This week's Repeal Day (Dec. 5) marked 83 years since the dreadful social experiment of Prohibition finally was killed. We think we live in strange times today, but what …

Yesterday we talked about Congress reclaiming the power of the purse — a bit

I co-direct the Legislative Branch Capacity Working Group, a nonpartisan gathering of scholars and congressional staff that aims to “make Congress great again.” We meet each month on …

Testimony to House Oversight and Government Reform on agencies’ expenditures of fees

I thank the subcommittee for inviting me to testify on the subject of federal agencies and their self-funding activities. As the committee may know, I co-direct the Legislative Branch …

Regulators chase cat from bar and are shocked when mice appear

One of New York City’s oldest bars recently was shut down for a few days. McSorley’s Old Ale House has operated in the East Village for 162 years and …

How the coming Republican Congress could cut regulations lickety-split

For the better part of eight years, Republicans have tried to stop the Obama administration from issuing new regulations. They have not had much success. But this may …

Dialing for dollars

I agree with the conventional wisdom that congressmen spend entirely too much of their time raising money. Like many viewers, I cringed at John Oliver’s dialing-for-dollars exposé featuring former Democratic …

Stopping Big Government: Why we need a Congressional Regulation Office

The following op-ed was co-authored by Philip A. Wallach, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution. This year, nearly 3,300 new federal regulations have been issued, and we still …

Does Congress finally get that business as usual should not continue?

Nearly everyone is gobsmacked by last night’s election results. But should we really be so surprised? No, because a significant portion of the public has been down on …

Angling for bass, salmon and drinks in Traverse City, Michigan

Let me state upfront: I caught no fish. This was not surprising, seeing as the weather was lousy for bass—cold (40s) and blustery—and I had no salmon lures. I …

Finding a 21st century system for booze

Traverse City, Michigan (population 15,000), is a gorgeous bay town near the northern end of Lake Michigan. The town, which oozes charm, has very good restaurants and genial …

Government Information and Propaganda: How to draw a line?

The attached policy study was co-authored by John Maxwell Hamilton, the Hopkins P. Breazeale Professor in Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communication. A government cannot be held accountable …

The strongest branch of liberty

The following op-ed was co-authored by R Street Research Assistant Adam Chan. Which branch of government comes to mind when you think of your rights? Many, if not most, …

Bringing Government Secrets to Light

It was late February 1970, and the federal government was concerned that bad things were afoot in New York City. The past decade had been a series of …

The Postal Regulatory Commission’s $50 billion decision

The Postal Regulatory Commission is a small agency, little known in Washington, DC, let alone the rest of America. Its 70 employees toil in rented office space on …

Bipartisan group of governance scholars urges the Senate to use Rule XXVII to strengthen committees

Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Majority Whip Cornyn, Democratic Leader Reid, and Democratic Whip Durbin: The United States Senate is an institution rooted in history and tradition. Its long serving …

Is Congress getting a bum rap?

In short, yes, to a degree. Much of the work it does seldom appears in the news, so legislators get no credit. So, thanks are owed to Michelle Cottle …

Unusual drinks (part 1)

There is something very satisfying about having a go-to drink. After a long day of work and kid care, a glass of whiskey is very welcome. The Kosar …

Congress may lower taxes on drinks

The Beer Institute recently reported some happy news: 51 U.S. senators support a bill to lower federal drink taxes. The Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act of …

ICYMI: A manual for conducting congressional oversight

Mort Rosenberg spent decades at the Congressional Research Service advising staff and members how to conduct oversight. After he retired, he published this guide -- based on previous …

The estranged legislative and executive branches

Hugh Heclo’s "A Government of Strangers," published 40 years ago, described the very different worlds of high-level federal appointees and the civil-servant worker bees they purportedly manage. Today that …

Stanford’s batty booze ban

The mercury is trending downward, the leaves are turning red and orange and fresh faces flood campuses across our nation. Autumn is back. It’s a lovely annual recurrence. At …

The case for a Congressional Regulation Office

The attached policy study was co-authored by Philip Wallach, senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution. It originally appeared in the Fall 2016 edition of National Affairs. To …

Inventing America: The business of drafting a national blueprint

The men who drafted the U.S. Constitution rightly earned our eternal praise. In 1787, they met in Philadelphia, where they pondered, debated and haggled for four months. James …

21 groups oppose Chairman Chaffetz’s Postal Service Reform Act (H.R. 5714)

To Members of the U.S. Congress: We, the undersigned organizations, representing millions of taxpayers and consumers nationwide, urge Congress to oppose H.R. 5714, the “Postal Service Reform Act of …

Carrie Nation, M.D.: The neo-prohibitionists are on the march

To a degree, the British government’s recent freak-out over alcohol is understandable. The nation's tabloids regularly carry stories featuring individuals getting falling-down drunk and doing stupid things. "Drunk …

ICYMI: Members of Congress publish essays on the state of Congress

The July 2016 copy of PS: Political Science and Politics carries essays by four members of Congress (one former and three current). This unusual and happy development was the work of Michael H. …

Ed drama; the Ocean’s Hot Dog and Brookings teacher diversity study; fish porn; Kosar signs off

I am running low on laptop battery and conveniently left my charger in Washington, D.C. So I will keep this quick. Robert J. Bellafiore takes New York City Mayor Bill …

More on school lunches; #PorgyPorn; DC teacher union heads denounce Wal-Mart for helping teachers; Feds expand educational quality through innovation partnerships

On Tuesday, I wrote about the federal school lunch program. What I did not mention was the status of the program’s reform. Legislation has moved this year to amend the program. …

HEA rulemaking; Utah loosens teaching occupational licensure; ICYMI: China and ed reform

Care about which institutions' students can get Higher Education Act grants? You know, ones like Pell grants, the Federal Pell Grant program, the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, …

A case for stronger congressional committees

The attached policy study was co-authored by Adam Chan, a summer 2016 research assistant at the R Street Institute. With congressional partisanship at record highs and congressional approval ratings at …

Holt trolls Johnson on student loans; The Daily Caller trolls Michelle Obama and school lunches; Turtle porn

Maybe it's a sign the Gary Johnson-Bill Weld ticket is serious, or possibly a writer was looking for something to troll. Either way, Johnson gets assailed by Alexander …

Three cheers for school advertising

The recent State Impact piece on advertising by public schools was interesting on a couple of counts, but missed an opportunity: Schools will start soon, but where you live doesn’t necessarily …

Would adding more members to Congress make it function better?

Writing for Aeon, David V. Johnson says a legislature should be "large enough to reflect the interests of an entire people." He notes that James Madison, the architect of …

The federal government’s $500 million subsidy to magazine publishers

Few people love magazines more than I do. At last count, I have a half-dozen subscriptions, down from the baker’s dozen of a few years ago (with four …

Is the 114th Congress getting things done?

Source: PopVox.com Yes, writes Marci Harris and her team at PopVox: The 114th Congress has passed a significant number of major policies into law: from ending a Medicare physician payment …

A Soviet drinks monopoly in Maryland

Maryland’s Montgomery County is a nice place. Its western border runs along the Potomac River and its southern territory abuts Washington. Many folks who work in the district …

Preparing for unforeseen opportunities outside academia

Upon entering graduate school, my plan was simple: land a tenure-track job at a university, and live the life of the mind. An old Volvo would carry me …

A guide to a fishing boat of one’s wishes

Recently, I have been stricken with a terrible affliction. I want a fishing boat. The sickness took hold of me a few months ago, and the longing hounds me …

Will Congress claw back power from the regulatory state?

The following op-ed was co-authored by R Street Associate Fellow Sean Speer, who also serves as a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, a Canadian think tank. One upside …

First among equals

To see it, you need to ascend to the second floor of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and wend your way to the northernmost corner. Here is the …

My Father’s Day drinks wish list

Man does not live by bread alone. And a father, well, he needs even more, what with the middle-of-the-night wake-ups, the tantrums and the exploded filthy diapers. I …

Pennsylvania’s drinks reform changes too little

The Keystone State’s Legislature could have gone big. Instead, it settled for a bill that is about as potent as near beer. Only the politicians are likely to …

Secretary King is wrong: ESEA was not a civil-rights law

As Flypaper readers know all too well, newly arrived Education Secretary John B. King, Jr., is in hot water with Congress, state governors, and various school reformers. The …

Bourbon can be made anywhere — even Ohio

Sitting on my desk is a tumbler of bourbon. Its deep amber color shines out through the dewy glass. Tom’s Foolery is its whimsical name. It is 90 proof (45 …

House spending data show where the staff are

As DemandProgress' Daniel Schuman reports, the U.S. House just began publishing its spending reports online as data. The House's "Statements of Disbursement," which show how much money Congress spends on its …

Dope by mail: Another challenge for the Postal Service

The U.S Postal Service’s financial and other operational challenges regularly are in the news. Less well-known is its illicit drug problem. Thanks to the internet, anyone can now become …

The House takes a small step to make Congress great again

Something remarkable happened a week ago: a committee in Congress voted to spend a little bit more money on congressional staff. Rep. Sam Farr, D-Calif., offered the amendment …

The 21st Amendment continues to choke the drinks trade

Tennessee recently passed a law limiting any company from owning more than two liquor-store licenses. Why? Well, current holders of liquor licenses don’t want out-of-state grocery chains to …

Does America need more political dynamism?

We have all heard the railings of the presidential aspirants about the federal government: that it’s corrupt; that it’s rigged by the malevolent establishment against the common man; …

Nasty politics may kill drinks reform in Colorado

Colorado loves its drinks. It is the home of Stranahan’s whiskey and great microbrews too numerous to list. The Rocky Mountain State also is the home of the …

Let’s end discrimination in the drinks market

Everyone has heard this basic truth many times: the amount of alcohol is the same in a 1.5 ounce shot of liquor, a 4 ounce glass of wine …

Let’s free the antique alcohol market

It seems like every month, I get an email or two from strangers asking me the same question. They read something like this: “Hi. My elderly father died, …

Interpretive rules are missing piece in regulatory-reform debate

The attached policy short was co-authored by Daniel J. Richardson. Regulatory reform has garnered significant attention lately, both in Congress and on the campaign trail. Republican nominees for president …

Now you can see what reports have been published by the Congressional Research Service

Did you know the Congressional Research Service has published reports on the federal defense budget, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamp) benefits, changes to hemp-growing restrictions and porcine …

The Washington Post’s ‘Reefer Madness’ campaign against booze

I enjoy Christopher Ingraham’s writing for The Washington Post. His WonkBlog posts are data-heavy, which makes them interesting. Like Ingraham, I have serious concerns about America’s long war on …

A maddening whiskey shortage

Tennessee is known for many things: country music, Elvis’s Graceland estate, beautiful mountains, and fine liquor. The state produces both moonshine (some of which is now being made …

What’s in your mail? Even more unwanted ads

As you probably have heard, the U.S. Postal Service is in a bad way. The Senate has not bothered to vote on appointees to the USPS board. Thus, …

Why are farmers telling kids what to eat?

The attached policy short was published in the March 17, 2016 edition of Politico.   The law governing America’s school lunches is up for renewal this year, and the 210-page …

Saloon Series: Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day right with Irish drinks old and new

Some years ago, I lived in New York and had two friends recently arrived from Ireland. Neither of them thought well of America’s St. Patrick’s Day festivities. Considering …

Dear America, please remember Skokie

In recent weeks, America’s presidential campaign politics have gotten uglier. Much uglier. The protests have gotten out of hand. Showing up at political events to call candidates’ supporters names …

Saloon Series: Exploring the whiskey world at Whisky Live USA

Whisky Live USA, the fabulous salute to a marvelous drink, rolled into Washington this past week. A month previous, Whisky Live USA was in New York and come …

Congress must invest in its own capacity again

Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader Reid, Speaker Ryan and Democratic Leader Pelosi: We the undersigned, as close observers of Congress deeply invested in the health of the institution, …

Coalition supports Equal Access to Congressional Research Service Reports Act

As organizations committed to the availability of information about our government and its transparency, we write to express our support for the Equal Access to Congressional Research Service …

New bill would open CRS reports to the public

According to one assessment, some 27,000 copies of Congressional Research Service reports are scattered about the Internet. However, there is no one website where the public can find …

Could this year’s election revive the First Branch?

Donald J. Trump had a pretty super Super Tuesday. He won more delegates than any other Republican contender and his lead has expanded considerably. Final results are still …

Free-market groups argue to make CRS reports public

Dear Chairman Miller, Chairman Blunt and Vice Chairman Harper, As a coalition of 12 conservative, free-market organizations we urge you to expand public access to Congressional Research Service (CRS) …

Inappropriate Appropriations: How Congress spends without authorization

Congress spent $310 billion last year on some 250 agencies and programs that were no longer — as required under the law and Congress's own rules — authorized …

Saloon Series: The government is crushing the wine industry, literally

On Dec. 10, 2015 in Creedmoor, Texas, the U.S. government destroyed more than 500 bottles of wine. The image of a massive sledge falling upon bottles of wine, …

Saloon Series: The resurgence of Irish whiskey

Midway through 2015, something remarkable happened in Dublin—a whiskey distillery opened. The city, which is world renowned for its bibacity, had been without an operating distillery since the …

A revived Congress?

Since arriving in the U.S. Senate in 2011, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, has made many of his colleagues crazy. Unwilling to go along to get along, Lee has …

The U.S. Postal Service’s ghost ship board

The attached policy study was co-authored by Daniel J. Richardson.    To appreciate democratic dysfunction, one need look no further than the U.S. Postal Service. That single agency is home …

Seven years ago today, WikiLeaks published 6,700 CRS reports…and nobody was hurt

Feb. 8, 2009 began like any other Sunday for me. I was up early taking care of a young child, gulping coffee and scanning the news. The New …

How Manhattan made a mockery of Prohibition

"It should not be forgotten," writes historian Ellen NicKenzie Lawson, "that one possible derivation of the word Manhattan is the Native-American word manahachtanienk, which translates as 'place of …

Lefties who moved right

I very much enjoyed reading the "Exit Right: The People Who Left the Left and Reshaped the American Century" (Simon & Schuster, 2016), which details the movement of …

Will the needless secrecy surrounding CRS reports end this year?

  Not quite a year back, Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., sought to do a little good for the American public. He offered an amendment to an appropriations bill that …

Restoring Congress as the first branch

In late 2014, the R Street Institute launched the Governance Project. Its task is large: to assess and improve the state of America’s system of national self-governance, with …

Testimony to Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on postal reform

My name is Kevin R. Kosar, and I am director of the Governance Project at the R Street Institute, a think tank here in Washington. Some of you …

Obama’s disappointing regulatory reform record

In his final State of the Union, President Obama declared his belief that "a thriving private sector is the lifeblood of our economy," which he paired with the …

Does the USPS even need a board of governors?

The U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors is supposed to have 11 members. It currently has three: one governor, the postmaster-general and the deputy postmaster-general. By law, the board …

Mr. Smith takes on the regulatory state

By a 245 to 174 margin, the U.S. House this week passed the Searching for and Cutting Regulations that are Unnecessarily Burdensome Act of 2015, also known as …

Letter to President Obama on OMB open-government plan

Dear Mr. President: We, the undersigned organizations, are concerned about the failure of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to comply fully with a presidential memorandum on transparency …

The EPA’s illegal propaganda

The Environmental Protection Agency misused tax dollars in the service of public propaganda, according to a legal opinion just handed down by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The …

Outsourcing oversight through open government data

Congress has a big problem when it comes to oversight. The federal government has grown vastly larger over the past century, but Congress has done little to empower …

Liberated women and contraband cocktails: Thanks, Prohibition!

In case you missed it, the 82nd anniversary of Prohibition’s repeal (1920-1933) was Dec. 5. I myself celebrated with a glass of bourbon and a few microbrews at …

Should we be worried about the big beer merger?

Last month, AB InBev and SABMiller announced they had agreed to join forces. The proposed $106 billion deal would unite the makers of two of the best-known American …

Facing up to government sprawl

Reducing the size of the federal workforce has become a hot political issue this year. When the House and Senate drew up their budget plans this spring, both chambers …

As Congress remains gridlocked, the USPS loses

The U.S. Postal Service lost nearly $5 billion this past year, according to its just-released year-end financial results. As in recent years, the agency did not make the …

A new gin for a new century

Gin has had a weird and wild ride over the past 500 years. The Dutch were producing the piney drink in the 1500s, but adding herbs to liquor …

Where taxpayers pay ($100 million a year) but interest groups benefit

It seemed like a silly question, but as the new guy, I was obliged to ask: “Can I e-mail a copy of my report to my mother?” Mom had …

Gin and regulation: a lesson in a bottle

There is a bottle that sits on my desk which serves as irrefutable proof that less regulation is better than more. Pull the stopper top and a remarkable aroma …

The federal government’s information machine

The following piece was co-authored by John Maxwell Hamilton is a senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars and on the faculty of the Manship School …

15 reasons CRS reports should be public

I worked at the Congressional Research Service for 11 years as an analyst and manager. I greatly enjoyed supplying congressional staff, committees, and members of Congress with nonpartisan …

GAO opens up about secret reports

Most of the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s reports are freely available to the public via GAO.gov. For decades, however, the agency has kept a minority of these reports …

So… this is Nixon’s fault?

Anyone watching Congress trying to negotiate the U.S. budget might wonder who could possibly have designed such a process. Thanks to an endlessly complicated scheme of resolutions and …

The estranged legislative and executive branches

Hugh Heclo’s A Government of Strangers, published 40 years ago, described the very different worlds of high-level federal appointees and the civil-servant worker bees they purportedly manage. Today …

How the American government is trying to control what you think

NASA tweeting that Congress should give it more money so our astronauts won’t have to ride on Russian rockets. Recovery.gov reporting overly optimistic statistics on jobs saved and …

Kill the Department of Ed? It’s been done

When Washington’s education bureaucracy comes under political attack, it’s common to pin responsibility for its existence on Jimmy Carter. He signed legislation to establish the Department of Education …

How to strengthen Congress

After last November's elections left Republicans with control of the Senate and an expanded advantage in the House, triumphant party leaders announced their intention to do the hard …

The legislative branch’s big oversight problem

The federal government has seen a century of growth. In 1915, the government had only a handful of departments, 400,000 employees (half of whom worked for the U.S. …

Contemporary thinkers featured in new online resource

Isaiah Berlin. John Maynard Keynes. Leo Strauss. Michel Foucault. James Q. Wilson. These are some of the influential intellectuals whose life and work are featured at the newly …

The EPA’s propaganda machine

A little over a century ago, U.S. Rep. Frederick Gillett, R-Mass., read something in The New York Times that vexed him. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Bureau of …

Call for public access to Congressional Research Service reports

We write in support of expanded public access to Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports. Longstanding congressional policy allows members and committees to use their websites to disseminate CRS …

Bridging the separation of powers

The separation of powers is a hallmark of democratic systems. Power is divided among different branches or units of government. The legislature legislates, the executive executes and the …

Four charts explain the Postal Service’s financial struggles

The U.S Postal Service reported a third-quarter loss of more than $500 million. If you are wondering whether this is news you're already heard, it is. The USPS …

Republican presidential candidates: Show us you can #FixGov

Presidential debates inevitably send the Beltway a-dither. Who will win? Which aspirant will deliver the best zinger? Who will look like a lost puppy or have an ugly …

Federal agencies missed 1,400 regulatory deadlines

In the waning days of 2006, Congress passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act. The statute made myriad changes to postal law and tasked the Postal Regulatory Commission …

5 reasons to support the REINS Act

The House is likely to vote this week on H.R. 427, the Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny Act, also known as the REINS Act. Introduced …

Making oversight win-win

Mere mention of the word “oversight” can make a public administrator queasy. It’s not because bureaucracies inevitably have something tawdry or corrupt to hide. Indeed, government agencies often …

Why does Congress diminish itself?

The Founding Fathers set up Congress as the most powerful of the three branches. Per the U.S. Constitution, Congress possesses "all legislative power." This includes the most fundamental …

Postal banking is an idea whose time has come—and gone

From 1911 through 1967, the old U.S. Post Office offered savings accounts. The enterprise started because private banks seldom insured deposits. The establishment of the Federal Deposit Insurance …

USPS should sell its real estate

The U.S. Postal Service's latest financial results have been released. They are not good. The agency booked a loss of $2.1 billion in the first half of the fiscal year, which …

Yes, healthy congressional politics are transactional…and more

Jonathan Rauch has written both an impish and important report for the Brookings Institution, Political Realism: How Hacks, Machines, Big Money and Back-room Deals Can Strengthen American Democracy …

More laws should have sunsets

The past weekend's Senate debate over the PATRIOT Act reminds us of the value of placing sunsets in legislation. For years, the National Security Agency had operated far …

Is regulatory reform a hopeless cause?

In short, no, although the reader of Charles Murray’s new book might come away with that conclusion. In By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission (Crown Forum, 2015), …

Free America’s beverage markets!

It is difficult to understate just how politicized America’s alcoholic beverage markets are. And I say “markets” because the country does not have a single nationwide market. Rather, …

Congress looks to reduce the regulatory behemoth

The Code of Federal Regulations is more than 170,000 pages long. How did it become such a behemoth? Simple: every year, about 4,000 new regulations are proposed, and …

Remembering a victim of the War on Drugs

President Barack Obama has wielded his executive authority to reduce the amount of military equipment flowing to local cops. His action comes in response to demonstrations of force …

It really is nearly impossible to fire a federal employee

Some credulous Beltway media sure took the bait last week. Consider: “A lot of people still think it’s close to impossible to fire a federal employee, but that’s just …

Yes, the U.S. Congress has a role in foreign affairs

As the U.S. Congress this week continues to debate legislation to address President Barack Obama's proposed nuclear deal with Iran, some critics howl that the bill would usurp …

Pointier Heads: Efficiency shrinks while government grows

I had my first reckoning with big government in a small town in New Jersey. The incident remains startlingly fresh in my mind, although it was years ago. A …

Is it time to rethink the congressional budget resolution?

April 15 has arrived and Congress once again has not adopted a budget resolution. It was not for lack of trying. The Senate voted for S.Con.Res.11 on March …

Congress should vote to override Obama’s latest veto

Congress returns from its two-week break on Monday. If it has any respect for itself, it will promptly schedule a vote on President Obama’s most recent veto. The nixed …

Do we still need the Post Office?

Do you like trees? I do. Who doesn’t? So why does our government encourage private companies to chop down millions of them each year and grind them into …

End life tenure for federal employees

J. David Cox traveled to Selma, Ala. at the invitation of. President Barack Obama to commemorate the hallowed civil rights march. It was an honor for the president …

The U.S. Postal Service’s existential problem

The U.S. Postal Service has an existential problem. For five years, the agency has flirted with insolvency. It has $15 billion in debt, its statutory maximum. According to …

Resisting bureaucracy

The third time will apparently be the charm for the Federal Communications Commission’s “net neutrality” regulations. Having been shot down twice by the courts in earlier attempts to …

Three steps for reasserting Congress in regulatory policy

Each year, federal agencies produce more regulations. These regulations affect nearly every aspect of our lives, yet are never voted on by Congress. This is a remarkable and …

Time for full investigations of Hillary Clinton

Recent press revelations indicate that Hillary Rodham Clinton likely violated federal law by conducting State Department business via a personal email account. Both Congress and the State Department …

Congress should pass the president’s ‘kill list’

President Barack Obama’s penultimate budget will be delivered to Congress today. Per the Budget and Accounting Act of 1921, the president’s budget will enumerate recommended spending levels for …

US returns Magna Carta to England

Today, America bids farewell to the Magna Carta. The 800-year old document returns home to Lincolnshire, England, after six months in America. It landed at Boston’s Museum of …

Five reasons why you can’t judge a Congress by counting laws

For the past six weeks, the media has bid a raucous good riddance to the 113th Congress. They have trashed it for its hyper-partisanship, for shutting down the …

Why I left the Congressional Research Service

The attached piece originally appeared in the January/February 20 edition of Washington Monthly. If there’s one event that epitomizes why I quit my job last October as a researcher …

Senate will release bulk downloads of legislative summaries, bill text from 113th and 114th Congress

WASHINGTON (Dec. 19, 2014) — The U.S. Senate will deliver access to its legislative information in modern, open data formats, starting when the 114th Congress convenes in January …

‘Commemorative’ bills plunge in 113th Congress

For all the talk of congressional dysfunction, there is a bit of good news: Congress has spent less of its valuable time passing "commemorative" legislation. For this development, …

Congress and public opinion: Five things you may not know

As anyone with an iota of awareness has already heard, Congress is exceedingly unpopular these days. A mere 14 percent of the public approve of the job Congress …

Federal snow storm aid, self-government and CRS reports

The Federation of American Scientists recently posted a copy of a report titled, “Major Disaster Declarations for Snow Assistance and Severe Winter Storms: An Overview.” The document was …

Collection of CRS reports released to the public

Something rare has occurred---a collection of reports authored by the Congressional Research Service has been published and made freely available to the public. The 500-page volume, titled “The …

Mail surveillance: The time for secrecy has passed

Recent news that federal authorities approved 49,000 instances of mail surveillance in 2013 is disturbing. Not only was this a huge jump from the usual average number of …

Yes, the government can open your mail without a warrant

By law, first-class mail is sealed against inspection, meaning that government officials may not open it without first getting a warrant from a judge. A citizen would be …

Postal Service mail-tracking: three big questions

Last week, the New York Times reported there were nearly 50,000 incidents of mail surveillance in 2013. Under the "mail cover" program, which has been around for …

Bureaucracy’s latest challenge: listening to the public

The American public often rails about bureaucracy. It is not difficult to fathom why. Who among us has not fumed while standing in a long line at an …

U.S. government celebrates half-trillion dollar deficit

Yesterday’s presentation by the U.S. Treasury was a comical spectacle—at least for those of us with sardonic senses of humor. The good news? The deficit for FY2014 (which …

Clinton and Enamorado on ‘The Fox News Effect’

Too often, political science journals publish articles focused on questions too distantly connected to real-world political phenomena. It is a modern sort of scholasticism, as my friend Professor Lawrence Mead …

A welcome message from R Street’s Governance Project

The R Street Institute this month launched the Governance Project, an effort to assess and improve the state of America’s system of national self-governance, with particular attention to …

Law against porn-watching by fed workers?

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., has introduced legislation to prohibit federal employees from accessing pornographic websites on their computers. As reported by The Washington Post, this legislation was prompted …

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