March 5, 2010 3:30PM

Sunlight Before Signing Update—and a First!

When I last reported on Sunlight Before Signing---President Obama's promise to post bills online for five days before signing them---the administration had begun to rack up the wins. Of the 13 bills he signed in December, five had received the Sunlight Before Signing treatment.

Alas, since January, only one of the 18 bills subject to the promise has gotten the online exposure the president promised. (That was H.R. 1377/P.L. 111-137, a bill dealing with reimbursement of veterans for services they receive at non-V.A. facilities.)

It's an unfortunate slow-down from the heady days when the president's SBS batting average rocketed from a dismal .009 to .048. The president's current Sunlight Before Signing average is only slightly improved at .049 (7 for 142).

The average could have risen quite nicely. Eight bills were post office renamings that sat at the White House for more than five days anyway. It was just a matter of posting them on Whitehouse.gov. True: these aren't important bills, but the Sunlight Before Signing promise was simply to post all bills. The American people could benefit from seeing the "unimportant" work of Congress and the president along with the important.

There was one interesting development in SBS since I last reported: we saw a bill go through that was not subject to the Sunlight Before Signing promise.

S. 2949/P.L. 111-127 provided additional funds to the U.S. Repatriation Program in light of the disaster in Haiti. That money was for getting people out of harm's way, and waiting five days to release the funds would have kept people in physical peril. It was "emergency" legislation, which President Obama sensibly excluded from the five-day waiting period of Sunlight Before Signing.

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March 5, 2010 2:25PM

This Week in Government Failure

Over at Downsizing Government, we focused on the following issues this week:

March 5, 2010 2:23PM

Federal Pay Gap Reversed

I've long raised concerns about the rapidly rising costs of federal worker pay and benefits. Despite the obvious acceleration of federal compensation above private compensation in recent years, federal unions have continued to claim that federal workers suffer from a giant "pay gap," which is currently supposed to be 26 percent.

Unfortunately, the pay gap mythology has been spread by Washington Post reporters, one recently writing, "The budget answers critics ... who say federal civilians earn much more than private-sector workers... [G]overnment figures indicate that federal employees are underpaid by 26 percent compared with their counterparts in similar position in the business world."

The Post is generally a great paper, but they seem to have blinders on with respect to federal pay issues. As a result, the USA Today has repeatedly scooped them. USA Today has a groundbreaking piece today revealing that in job-to-job comparisons, federal workers typically have wages 20 percent higher than private-sector workers.

Instead of federal workers suffering from a 26-percent "pay gap," they actually have a 20-percent advantage over private sector workers. And that doesn't include benefits, which are four times higher in the federal government than in the private sector, on average.

How could the federal unions get it so wrong? The calculation of the supposed 26-percent pay gap is reported in this annual memo. But the underlying calculations are extremely complex, non-transparent, and subject to a huge degree of statistical modeling.

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March 5, 2010 12:42PM

Weekend Links

  • ObamaCare — Now with GOP sprinkles! “Though mostly not bad, they’re hardly game changing.…At its heart, ObamaCare hasn’t changed. It still represents a top‐​down, centralized, command‐​and‐​control approach to reform.”
  • More broken promises, PATRIOT Act edition: Obama’s Office of Legal Counsel grants fresh retroactive immunity for Bush‐​era telecommunication lawbreaking.
March 5, 2010 12:26PM

Sneaky SAFRA

Great column on the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act by Tim Carney in today’s Washington Examiner. He hits the major points — SAFRA hardly threatens a sudden federal takeover of student lending, but also promises anything but “fiscal reponsibility” — while adding a critical warning: the whole stinkin’ bill could be tacked onto health care reconciliation.

Wow! As if the health care bill isn’t abominable enough on its own…

March 5, 2010 10:17AM

Do You or Do You Not Hate America?

Sen. John Kerry (D, MA) made an, er, interesting rhetorical case yesterday (as reported on E2 Wire, The Hill’s Energy and Environment blog) that borrows heavily from the Bush playbook: your patriotism hinges on voting for his favored policy — in this case, a climate change bill. Not that the bill is really about climate change, of course. It’s about a list of goodies completely unrelated to the changing political winds:

What we are talking about is a jobs bill. It is not a climate bill. It is a jobs bill, and it is a clean air bill. It is a national security, energy independence bill,” he told reporters in the Capitol…

“And people are going to have to decide whether they are going to vote for America or against it,” he concluded.

March 5, 2010 10:04AM

Smelling Your E‑mail

In response to this week’s news that the beleaguered U.S. Postal Service is facing $238 billion in losses over the coming decade, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer lamented the inevitable demise of the government mail monopoly:

As a conservative who believes in the market, it ought to die, but as a conservative that believes in tradition and stuff that really holds us together, I would subsidize until it dies a natural death in the next generation. But for old guys like me, keep it going for a while.

[As for] the hard-hearted younger generation — well, if you ever got a sweet-smelling love letter at 17, you'd feel otherwise. Of course, I never did, but somebody did.

You can't smell your e-mail.

I did receive sweet-smelling love letters from a girl back home during my first year in college. Fifteen years later, my old college roommate is still making fun of me for it. But I don’t "feel otherwise" about the government mail monopoly. The sooner it disappears and is replaced by private operators unshackled from the unions and government mandates that are speeding the USPS’s demise, the better.

Krauthammer’s comment that “you can’t smell your e-mail” isn’t even true. The technology exists for scents to emit from your computer when you open an e-mail, click on a web advertisement, or play video games.

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