« links for 2010-01-22 | Main | "A Modest Proposal" to Reform How Bank Executives are Paid »

Saturday, January 23, 2010

"Fixing the Broken Government Policy Process"

Jeff Sachs wants to improve the policy process in Washington:

Fixing the Broken Government Policy Process, by Jeffrey D. Sachs, Commentary, Scientific American: The breakdown of the Washington policy process has four manifestations. First is ... inability to focus beyond the next election. “Shovel-ready” projects squeeze out attention to vital longer-term strategies... Second, most key decisions are made in congressional backrooms through negotiations with lobbyists, who simultaneously fund the congressional campaigns. Third, technical expertise is largely ignored or bypassed, while expert communities such as climate scientists are falsely and recklessly derided by the Wall Street Journal... Fourth, there is little way for the public to track and comment on complex policy proposals working their way through Congress or federal agencies.
These failings take a special toll on the challenges of sustainable development because there is no quick fix... Instead of getting long-term strategies for adopting low-carbon energy sources, upgrading the power grid, encouraging electric transportation and so on, we are getting cash for clunkers, subsidies for corn-based ethanol, and other ineffective and highly costly non-solutions delivered by large-scale lobbying. ...
Some free-market economists say sustainable development should be left to the marketplace, but the marketplace now offers no incentive to reduce carbon emissions. ... When we let the private sector enter into public decision making, we end up with relentless lobbying, money-driven politics, suppression of new technologies by incumbent interests and sometimes miserable choices devoid of serious scientific content. How can business and government work together without policies falling prey to special interests?
First, the administration should initiate a more open, transparent and systematic public-private policy process in each major area of sustainable development. ... A high-level roundtable would be established in each area... The proceedings would be open to the public, Web-based, and available for submissions and testimony by interested parties. ... Second, the administration would prepare draft legislation, on which the experts on the roundtables and the general public would be invited to comment through Web-based submissions. Third, the congressional processes, too, would become Web-supported. Hearings and testimony would be open to the public, and Web sites would encourage comments and additional evidence.
These measures would infuse the policy process with vastly more accountability and technical expertise and would help keep the lobbying in check. They would open the policy process to the public to ensure ample and vigorous discussion. ...

Currently lobbyists are still allowed to contribute massively to congressional campaigns and to political action committees. ... A major step toward reform would be to prohibit campaign contributions by individuals employed by registered lobbying firms. ...

Even if this would fix the problem, can a broken policy process be used to fix a broken policy process?

    Posted by on Saturday, January 23, 2010 at 12:46 AM Permalink  Comments (57)


    Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.