Rebuilding Morale in DC

At the Washington Monthly, John Donahue and Max Stier argue that some of government’s most intractable problems remain so because they’re in the hands of the worst-run agencies. Fixing them will take high-level commitment:

In many European and Asian countries the high status of public service helps offset modest financial rewards. But in the U.S., decades of bureaucrat bashing have exacerbated the economic factors and driven away untold thousands of talented Americans who might have tolerated lower compensation if abuse hadn’t been part of the package. Celebrating private enterprise and denigrating bureaucracy run deep in America’s political DNA. Some recent administrations have viewed federal organizations and the workers who staff them with something approaching contempt. Others have made at least some efforts to improve how federal agencies operated. But it has been a long time since federal workers had a real champion in the White House. No president since John F. Kennedy (some would argue since Theodore Roosevelt) has been willing to spend much political capital to improve the human capital that constitutes the core of the federal government.

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Mother of All Traffic Jams

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I have friends going to Washington for Obama’s inauguration, but I’m content to watch it on TV, thank you very much. Even the DC Metro system is expecting madhouse-level crowds:

“It will be sardine crush-load on the way in and sardine crush-load on the way out,” agency spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said.

The image, by the way, is of the special $7.80 weekend pass the Metro folks will be selling for the inauguration. They suggest buying in advance.

Matt Yglesias isn’t convinced of the soundness of Metro’s approach, given that they plan to waive parking charges at stations for the day:

Fares and fees should really be kept as low as possible, with as much of operating costs as possible covered by direct subsidy. The exception to this guideline, however, is when you’re genuinely up against a supply constraint. When you can’t fit any more people on to your trains and there’s no good way to expand service, you need to use pricing to keep demand in check, even in an Yglesian world where transit funding was sky-high. … What’s more we of course don’t live in that ideal world where public subsidy is generous enough to use fees purely for rationing purposes. Metro needs to cover some of its operating costs through fares and parking fees. And Inauguration Day is a potential bonanza in that regard.

Spoken like a true right-winger there, Matt.

Climate Change: “Partner … Ally”

Obama had a message for the country’s governors on Tuesday:

Buffalo’s Hidden History

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Given that a lot of peeps in my family still live in Buffalo, I try somewhat to keep up on what’s happening back there. Needless to say, the town has obviously fallen on hard time. The NYT, however, had an excellent piece in Friday’s paper about how some folks are trying to preserve some of the city’s best architecture. Well worth the read.

Another Public Housing Failure

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Sad story in the NYT about the elevator problems dogging the Wagner homes in East Harlem. The lifts are extremely unreliable and have caused serious disruptions to the lives of people who hardly need the added aggravation. Needless to say, the poor maintenance of public housing is a serious and nationwide issue.

SpaceX Makes It

NASA Watch has the on-board video. The first-stage separation still looked rough to me but they got away with it.

Seattle Transit

Matt Yglesias points out, or more accurately has it pointed out to him, that California isn’t the only major player with a big rail bond/program on the ballot this fall.