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The State of Reform
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Open Government
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Federal employees have been battered by government shutdowns and abuse from elected officials. A new survey finds them still proud of what they do but willing to leave government service.

Federal workers say they're proud of their work but would also go elsewhere

While federal workers are proud of what they do, nearly half would leave if they could get a similar job elsewhere, according to a wide-ranging survey of government employees released last week.

The survey comes at a critical time for the federal workforce, which is aging rapidly. Federal workers older than 60 outnumber those younger than 30 by nearly two to one, according to the Office of Personnel Management. Job satisfaction and retention are central indicators that the people who actually operate American democracy have some confidence it's functioning as intended.

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"Budget reform is a tough nut to crack," argues Kevin Kosar.

The broken budget process is a democracy reform issue

Kosar is vice president of policy at the R Street Institute, a nonpartisan and pro-free-market public policy research organization. He's also a co-director of the nonpartisan Legislative Branch Capacity Working Group.

It is difficult to overstate how wrecked the federal budget process is. Late last month, President Trump signed a 30-day stopgap funding measure to dodge a government shutdown. This was the second time this autumn that Congress and the president had to resort to such a continuing resolution. Governing through short-term spending bills has become the rule in recent years, and not passing a congressional budget resolution (or spending plan) has become the new normal.

The wrecked process has produced alarming results. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has predicted that our country will have a trillion dollar deficit this year. Payments on the $22 trillion federal debt are more than $325 billion a year — which, to put it in context, is more than quintuple the budget of the Department of Education. Entitlements (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, federal workers' retirement benefits and so-called food stamps) account for about 60 percent of all spending. These mandatory outlays have swallowed nearly 90 percent of federal spending. "Fiscal democracy," as scholar Eugene Steurle terms it, is clearly eroding.

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McConnell Lays Out Senate GOP’s Case Against House Democrats’ Political Overhaul

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is out today with a forceful denunciation of the sweeping "good government" legislation Democrats plan to push through the House this winter – a primer for the talking points his fellow Senate Republicans will also use to explain why they plan to bury the bill on their side of the Capitol.

"House Democrats won't come to the table and negotiate to reopen government, but they've been hard at work angling for more control over what you can say about them and how they get reelected," the Kentuckian wrote in an op-ed for Friday's Washington Post. "They're trying to clothe this power grab with cliches about 'restoring democracy' and doing it 'For the People,' but their proposal is simply a naked attempt to change the rules of American politics to benefit one party. It should be called the Democrat Politician Protection Act."

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Shutdown Stops the Regulation of Campaign Money

Here's one way the partial government shutdown is doing particular harm to the work of good governance: The already minimal regulation of money in politics has been suspended. All but 30 of the Federal Election Commission's 300 employees have been furloughed since the funding impasse began 27 days ago and the year's first meeting of the commissioners had to be scrapped.

"The lapse in government funding means that enforcement of campaign finance laws that hold politicians and political committees accountable has stopped," all nine Democrats on the Senate Rules and Administration Committee wrote in a letter to the agency's chairwoman, Ellen Weintraub. "The lack of law enforcement and transparency brought on by the government shutdown has severe implications for the health and security of our democracy."

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