Fedblog FedblogFedblog
Government Executive Editor in Chief Tom Shoop, along with other editors and staff correspondents, look at the federal bureaucracy from the outside in.

Why Obama’s Post-Presidential Role Model Could be Herbert Hoover

Earlier this week, the New York Times reported on President Obama’s burgeoning effort to determine exactly what to do after he leaves the Oval Office for the last time in January 2017. It involves holding several dinners in recent months with business executives, thinkers, and those who might be interested in making financial contributions toward the creation of an Obama presidential library.

The piece contained this tidbit:

At a dinner this year at Spruce, a restaurant in the Presidio Heights neighborhood of San Francisco, Mr. Obama urged technology executives to focus their philanthropic efforts on helping government become more efficient, giving some the impression that the topic would most likely be a theme of his agenda after leaving office.

In addition, the Times reported that at a dinner at the White House in February, also attended by tech executives,“the president told the group that he wanted to focus on civic engagement and opportunities for youths, pushing guests for ideas about how to make government work better…”

Those aren't the only times lately that Obama has shown interest in the issue of government’s performance. In an interview with Fast Company magazine in June, the president talked about...

Smithsonian Holds Out Virtual Tin Cup for Spacesuit Restoration

You might think a suit designed to be worn on the surface of the moon would be highly durable. But that’s not the case. Spacesuits are actually fragile and subject to decay, which is why those from the early days of the space program have spent much of their time in recent years out of the public eye, sitting in storage facilities awaiting expensive restoration before they can be displayed.

Now the Smithsonian Institution has gone hat in hand to the public in an effort to fund a project to restore iconic spacewear. On July 20, the museum launched a Kickstarter campaign called Reboot the Suit to refurbish the suit worn by Apollo 11’s Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon.

The campaign reached its goal within a few days. So the Smithsonian upped the ante, seeking another $200,000 to restore the suit worn by Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard, the first American in space. That effort ends Wednesday, and as of late Tuesday morning, it too had reached its goal.

You might ask why an organization that gets an annual appropriation from Congress is extending a tin cup to the public to fund ongoing...

Millennials: More Government, Please

Much has been written about the disgust of the millennial generation with the state of the American political system and about how federal agencies haven’t been able to get younger folks to commit to careers in public service.

But this doesn’t apparently translate into a distrust of government generally, or a lack of faith in its ability to deal with the challenges facing the country. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released this week found that fully 60 percent of millennials say government should do more to solve problems, rather than leaving things up to businesses and individuals. Only 37 percent say government shouldn’t shoulder more responsibility.

In contrast, of those aged 35 and older in the survey, only 46 percent say government should do more, while fully half say the public sector is already doing too much.

Part of the issue here is that millennials appear simply to be more liberal than their elders. (In the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, they’re the only group with a net positive view of President Obama.) Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean that millennials are fans of big government. They may just be seeking more...

What ‘Go Set a Watchman’ Tells Us About the Big Government Debate

The literary event of the year is the breathlessly awaited publication of Go Set a Watchman, the prequel to To Kill a Mockingbird.

While the book arrived to mixed reviews, and questions about whether Harper Lee actually wanted it to see the light of day, it is at the very least a literary curiosity. And it accomplishes something unexpected: revealing just how little the debate over the size and role of the federal government has changed in the past five decades.

Go Set a Watchman, which its publisher, HarperCollins, says was originally written in the mid-1950s, centers on the return of Mockingbird’s Scout, now known as Jean-Louise, to her Georgia birthplace. There she discovers that the burgeoning national debate over race relations is playing out in her own family in ways that leave her deeply disillusioned -- particularly in her father, Atticus.

But it’s another character, Atticus’ brother and Jean-Louise’s uncle, Jack Finch, who puts the civil rights debate in the broader context of attitudes toward government. About two-thirds of the way through the book, he delivers a lecture to her about how things are changing -- and not for the better, in his view:

Look at the rest...

A Government Shutdown Looks Increasingly Likely

With one house of Congress already on August recess and Republican lawmakers readying a bid to defund Planned Parenthood in September, the chances for a government shutdown are rising on the pundit-o-meter.

Longtime budget analyst Stan Collender on Monday raised his semi-mathematical odds for a shutdown from a previous 40 percent to 60 percent. “It’s now more likely than not that a shutdown will result from the craziness going on in Washington,” he wrote on his Forbes Magazine blog. With few appropriations bills passed, few legislative days left and presidential veto threats looming, “in budget technical terms, the House and Senate leadership will be flying by the seat of its pants.”

On this weekend’s “McLaughlin Group” panel broadcast, where semi-mathematical predictions have run amok since the 1980s, the dialog went as follows:

HOST JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Are we in for Capitol Hill fireworks this fall? Eleanor?

ELEANOR CLIFT OF THE DAILY BEAST: This will be the fall from hell, but not because Speaker Boehner is in any kind of jeopardy. . . They’re going to bump up against the spending cliffs. They’re probably going to shut down the government over defunding Planned Parenthood.