The Blog

News and stories from the campaign to reclaim individual responsibility and liberate Americans from bureaucracy and legal fear.


February 9-10 Infrastructure Workshop: Renewing American Infrastructure

On February 9 and 10, Common Good, Stanford University’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law, and Stanford’s Global Projects Center will co-host a workshop titled “Renewing American Infrastructure” at Stanford. 


New investment in American infrastructure has become a centerpiece of the new Trump administration, and was one issue on which both candidates agreed during the election. As the administration prepares to roll out its initiative on this issue, there are a number of large, unanswered questions. How will resources for new infrastructure be generated, and at what scale? What will the role of the private sector be? How can we streamline and reduce the regulatory burden faced by infrastructure projects, so that they can be completed in a timely and cost-effective fashion? How do we de-politicize the resource allocation process, and ensure fair access to funding? What is the correct balance between the federal government and the states in overseeing projects? And finally, how do we make sure that projects incorporate new technologies, both for the sake of sustainability, and to integrate complex infrastructure environments?


Thursday, February 9

1:30 to 4:30 PM

Panel 1: Financing a New Federal Infrastructure Initiative

  • Mary Peters, former US Secretary of Transportation
  • David Hayes, Stanford Law School
  • Daniel Flanagan, Infrastructure Investment Services
  • Ross Israel, QIC
  • Bob Hellman, American Infrastructure Partners
  • Moderator: Philip K. Howard, Common Good

Friday, February 10

9:00 AM to 12:30 PM

Panel 2: Streamlining the Regulatory Burden

  • Keith Hennessey, Bechtel
  • John Porcari, former US Deputy Secretary of Transportation
  • Ed Krapels, Anbaric
  • Philip K. Howard, Common Good
  • Moderator: Francis Fukuyama, Stanford University

Panel 3: Ensuring Fairness in Resource Allocation

  • Patrick Foye, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
  • Dan Carol, Georgetown University
  • David Spector, Colorado High Performance Transportation Enterprise
  • Moderator: Ray Levitt, Stanford University

1:30 to 4:30 PM

Panel 4: Incentivizing Innovation and Sustainability 

  • Scott Zuchorski, Fitch Ratings
  • Anthony Ferrari, Crimson Infrastructure
  • Stephen Beatty, KPMG
  • Moderator: Michael Bennon, Stanford University

Panel 5: Policy Recommendations

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Press release (pdf)

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Wall Street Journal: The President’s Right to Say ‘You’re Fired’

Read the essay here.

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Philip Howard in the WSJ, American Interest: Current Civil Service System Is Unconstitutional

Both sides of the aisle recognize that the civil service system is terminally ossified and needs to be rebuilt. But how do we get rid of the current, bloated bureaucratic mess in the face of union power and public indifference?

In today's Wall Street Journal, Philip Howard argues that the civil service system, as currently structured, is unconstitutional and could be rebuilt by an executive order that honors principles of neutral hiring and fosters a culture of excellence and accountability. The full essay in the American Interest, with compelling constitutional history on the importance of executive authority, is here.

From the Wall Street Journal op-ed, “The President’s Right to Say ‘You’re Fired’":

President Trump wants to overhaul the civil service. Even ardent liberals agree it needs to be rebuilt, but past efforts at reform have withered in Congress under union power and public indifference. There’s a more direct path: Mr. Trump can repudiate civil service in its current form as a violation of the Constitution’s mandate that ‘the executive power shall be vested in a President.’… Because of civil-service laws passed by Congress many years ago, the president has direct authority over a mere 2% of the federal workforce. The question is whether those laws are constitutional. Does Congress have the power to tell the president that he cannot terminate inept or insubordinate employees? The answer, I believe, is self-evident. A determined president could replace the civil-service system on his own, by executive order. The move would doubtless be challenged in court, but it would likely be upheld, especially if the new framework advances legitimate goals, honors principles of neutral hiring and is designed to foster a culture of excellence.

Read the full op-ed here.

From the American Interest essay, “Civil Service Reform: Reassert the President’s Constitutional Authority”:

In 2014 the Partnership for Public Service issued a report describing civil service as ‘a relic of a bygone era,’ and called for ‘a new civil service framework,’ including ending the presumption of lifetime careers. Like other good government reports, however, it treated accountability with kid gloves. But once the power of accountability is restored, designing a new civil service system requires no genius. The basic elements are: 1) neutral hiring, without the endless red tape of the current system; 2) a safety net to treat public employees fairly if they are let go; and 3) a neutral body (perhaps the current Merit System Protection Board) with responsibility to guard against unfairness.

Read the full essay here.

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American Interest: Civil Service Reform: Reassert the President’s Constitutional Authority

Read the essay here.

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Trump Administration and Senate Democrats Endorse Need to Streamline Infrastructure Approvals

Yesterday the Trump administration embraced elements of Common Good's infrastructure plan, in an executive order aimed at streamlining approvals. The order echoes our earlier proposal to give the chair of the CEQ the responsibility to speed up important projects by designating certain projects “high priority” based on “consideration of the project's importance to the general welfare, value to the Nation, [and] environmental benefits[.]”

The White House press release describing the executive order referred to the findings of our “Two Years, Not Ten Years” report, stating that “[a]ccording to one study, our antiquated power [grid] wastes the equivalent of 200 coal-fired power plants, water pipes leak trillions of gallons of water, and gridlock on roads and railroads wastes hundreds of billions annually.”

Senate Democrats also endorsed the need to streamline approvals in their blueprint, released yesterday, to spend $1T on infrastructure.

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Right of Way Magazine Reprints “Billions for Red Tape”

For the cover story of their January/February 2017 issue, Right of Way magazine reprinted the majority of Common Good’s May 2016 report “Billions for Red Tape: Focusing on the Approval Process for the Gateway Rail Tunnel Project.”

“Billions for Red Tape” shows that improved permitting for Gateway—a $24 billion infrastructure plan to alleviate a critical bottleneck on the Northeast Corridor—would save taxpayers billions and avoid significant environmental harm. It proposes approval mechanisms to reduce the cost and enhance the environmental benefits of the project.

Click here to access the Right of Way cover story; click here to access the full report; and click here to access the accompanying press release.

The report supplements an earlier Common Good report released in September 2015: “Two Years, Not Ten Years: Redesigning Infrastructure Approvals.”

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December 14 Forum: Drain the Swamp? Regulatory Reform Under President Trump

UPDATE: Click on the images below to watch video of the event. Selected clips will be made available in the coming days.

Panel 1: Getting Moving on Infrastructure

Panel 2: Rethinking Executive Authority and Congressional Oversight

Panel 3: Re-Imagining Regulatory Reform

Products distributed at and coming out of the event include:

  • Forum agenda and biographies
  • Philip Howard’s December 14 op-ed in the Washington Post on what President Trump could do to finally tame the red tape monster
  • An animated video—titled “Draining the Swamp”—on the benefits of regulation by results
  • Common Good’s draft legislation to implement the proposals from our September 2015 “Two Years, Not Ten Years” infrastructure report
  • Speaker Gingrich discussing the forum on his December 14 appearance on FOX News (begins at the 4:35 mark)


On December 14, Common Good and Covington & Burling LLP will hold a morning forum discussing regulatory reform in the Trump administration.

The event will have three panels: 1) getting moving on infrastructure; 2) re-imagining regulatory reform; and 3) rethinking executive authority and congressional oversight.

Participants include (list in formation):

Oren Cass, Manhattan Institute
Christopher DeMuth, Hudson Institute
Susan E. Dudley, George Washington University
E. Donald Elliott, Covington & Burling; Yale Law School
Daniel M. Flores, Chief Counsel, House Subcomm. on Reg. Reform
William A. Galston, Brookings Institution
Hon. Newt Gingrich
Jason Grumet, Bipartisan Policy Center
Frederick M. Hess, American Enterprise Institute
Philip K. Howard, Common Good
Richard G. Kidd IV, Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council
Brink Lindsey, Cato Institute
Will Marshall, Progressive Policy Institute
Diana C. Mendes, HNTB Corporation
Paul Noe, American Forest & Paper Association
Michael Schmidt, former economic policy advisor to Hillary Clinton
David Schoenbrod, New York Law School
John Veroneau, Covington & Burling
Philip A. Wallach, Brookings Institution

Event details:
Title:   Drain the Swamp? Regulatory Reform Under President Trump

When:   Wednesday, December 14, 2016; 9:00 AM to 12:30 PM, with informal lunch after; registration and breakfast begin at 8:15 AM.

Where:   Covington & Burling LLP; 10th Floor; One CityCenter; 850 Tenth Street, NW; Washington, DC 20001

To RSVP, please e-mail your name, position, affiliation, and contact information to Ruth Mary Giverin of Common Good at Please contact Ruth with any questions as well. All attendees must register before the day of the event.

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Philip Howard in the Washington Post: How President Trump Could Successfully Cut Red Tape

Here's Philip Howard's lead op-ed in the Washington Post on what's needed to finally tame the red tape monster.

Click the picture below to watch an animated video Common Good created to accompany Howard’s op-ed:

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Philip Howard in the American Interest: Democracy for an Age of Distrust

UPDATE: Howard’s essay was excerpted by the Weekly Standard—read it here.

Writing for American Interest, Common Good Chair Philip Howard argues that, in the wake of the 2016 election, there’s an historic opportunity to reimagine government. “Change is overdue,” he writes “But it’s not the change advocated by either party. The change needed, to liberate American citizens and to fix American government, is to return to our founding philosophy: to honor humans by creating a framework that empowers them to take initiative, act on their beliefs, and make a difference.”

Click here to access the essay as a PDF.

If you agree, it will make a difference if you encourage others to read it. This is a critical time, and the future direction of government is uncertain.

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