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

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Move the Capital: New Animated Video Examines Washington’s Toxic Culture, Proposes Radical Solution

In the latest edition of “The Weekly Stupid”—the newsletter of the “Who’s in Charge Around Here?” campaign—a new animated video from Common Good examines an overlooked reason why Washington doesn’t work: it’s toxic culture.

Click on the image below to watch the video:

The culture of a place determines how it works. Whether people in a place take responsibility, feel free to innovate, speak truth to power, pitch in, help others grow, or do a thousand other things that help a group thrive, is usually fostered by its culture. Conversely, a culture can also lead people to be self-protective, short-sighted, quick to assign blame, and disinterested in joint purpose—sounds like Washington, right?

Here's a radical idea: Start moving agencies out of D.C. It wouldn’t matter where, as long as new people were in charge. Most Americans go to work expecting to make things work. They take responsibility—for results. Americans are willing to make hard choices, because that’s their job. In contrast, Washington avoids responsibility like the plague. It lacks the will to govern. That’s why, one way or the other, we believe Washington needs to be replaced.

For more discussion on the poisonous culture of Washington, check out Philip Howard's essay over at The Daily Beast.

Click here to sign up for future editions of "The Weekly Stupid." To learn more about the “Who’s in Charge Around Here?” campaign, visit Take-Charge.org. You can also follow it on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: #TakeCharge.

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Center on Capitalism and Society’s 14th Annual Conference

Along with the Roosevelt Institute, Common Good will co-host Columbia University’s Center on Capitalism and Society’s 14th Annual Conference on November 18, 2016. Titled “Agency, Prospering, Progress, and the Working Class,” the event will take place at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs.

The Center is directed by Nobel laureate and Common Good advisory board member Edmund Phelps. Common Good’s Philip Howard serves on the Center’s advisory board.

Click here for more information on the event.

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Philip Howard in the New York Times: Red Tape, Not Funding, to Blame for Decrepit Infrastructure

Responding to a recent article in the New York Times on Hillary Clinton’s and Donald Trump’s agreement to increase infrastructure spending, Philip Howard penned a letter to the editor arguing that the reason we can’t rebuild America’s infrastructure is not a matter of financing, but of red tape:

To the Editor:

Candidates Agree on One Thing: Infrastructure” (front page, Sept. 19) notes a rare point of agreement between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump: to spend at least $250 billion fixing America’s decrepit infrastructure.

The main hurdle is not financing, however, but red tape. Congress funded an $800 billion stimulus plan in 2009, and five years later only $30 billion had been spent on transportation infrastructure. As President Obama put it, “There’s no such thing as shovel-ready projects.”

Delays of a decade or longer are common. Last year, Common Good published a report, “Two Years, Not Ten Years,” that found that decade-long review and permitting procedures more than double the effective cost of new infrastructure projects.

What the candidates need to address is how to create clear lines of authority to cut through red tape. Until then, vital projects will languish on the drawing boards.

PHILIP K. HOWARD
Chairman, Common Good
Brooklyn

Click here to see the letter. 

To learn more about the state of America’s infrastructure, and Common Good’s proposed solutions to streamline permitting, visit the Infrastructure & Environment page of our “Who’s in Charge Around Here?” campaign site.

To sign up for the campaign, visit Take-Charge.org. You can also follow it on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: #TakeCharge.

You can also join former Sen. Bill Bradley (D-NJ), Gov. Tom Kean (R-NJ), and Sen. Al Simpson (R-WY) in supporting our “It's Time to Overhaul Washington” petition—available here on Change.org.

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Philip Howard in the Wall Street Journal: Practical Fixes for a Broken Washington

“Change is in the air,” Common Good Chair Philip Howard argues in today’s Wall Street Journal. But neither Secretary Clinton nor Donald Trump has a coherent vision of what it should look like:

Mrs. Clinton sees lots of trees, not the forest, and is viewed as the candidate of the status quo. Mr. Trump is running as an outsider and strong man, but will have neither the vision nor mandate to overhaul entrenched structures. Whoever wins, angry voters are likely to be even angrier four years from now.

Howard goes on to offer the needed prescription for change:

Common Good, the nonprofit of which I am chairman, has a clear, bipartisan plan for fixing broken government: Simplify regulation so that individual responsibility, not rote bureaucracy, is the organizing principle of government. Laws should set goals and guiding principles, with clear lines of authority. Simple frameworks will be sufficient, in most areas, to replace thousands of pages of micro-regulation.

No brilliant systems are required—just the ability to be practical. This overhaul is not partisan. Former Sens. Bill Bradley of New Jersey and Alan Simpson of Wyoming, former Govs. Mitch Daniels (Indiana) and Tom Kean (New Jersey) have joined the Common Good movement.

How do we determine which regulations and laws are good or bad? The litmus test is results: What’s good is what works. Achieving practicality requires creating structures that are adaptable and allow trial and error. The current system is far too rigid—cast-iron regulatory manacles can’t adapt quickly, waste taxpayer money and impose a deadweight on freedom.

Click here to read Howard’s full essay.

To sign up for the movement described above, visit Take-Charge.org. You can also follow it on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: #TakeCharge.

Lastly, you can join former Sen. Bill Bradley (D-NJ), Gov. Tom Kean (R-NJ), and Sen. Al Simpson (R-WY) in supporting our petition—available here on Change.org.

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Philip Howard in the Daily Beast: The Cure to Irresponsible Public Discourse Is to Restore Authority

Writing in the Daily Beast, and discussing New York Times Company CEO Mark Thompson’s new book, Common Good Chair Philip Howard explains how the breakdown of authority has turned public discourse into a shouting match:

Public discourse is a cacophony because the words don’t matter. There’s no decision-maker to persuade or to hold you accountable. The disappearance of authority was no accident. After the 1960s, we reorganized government to avoid fallible human judgment by replacing human authority with thick rulebooks. That’s why government is a tangle of red tape where no one can do much of anything. Critical infrastructure projects languish on drawing boards because no official has authority to give a permit. Schools are chaotic because teachers must prove in a due process hearing that Johnny threw the punch. In government without human authority, irresponsible actions have few consequences, and irresponsible words have no consequences. Yell, hiss, lie… whatever.

The solution, Howard concludes, is to empower people, and government officials in particular, to ask and act upon this question: “What’s the right thing to do here?”

Click here to read Howard’s full essay—and click here to read more about his proposed solution on the “Who’s in Charge Around Here?” campaign site. You can sign up for the campaign at Take-Charge.org. You can also follow it on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: #TakeCharge.

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Common Good Releases Animated Video on the Need to Expedite Approval of the Gateway Project

UPDATE: Common Good’s video on the need to expedite approval of the Gateway Rail Tunnel Project has received significant media coverage, including from NJ.com and the Washington Post. The Washington Post’s Fredrick Kunkle interviewed Common Good’s Philip Howard about the reasoning behind the video, and the need to reform America’s infrastructure approval process:

‘We need to create a critical mass of public pressure to make sure that at the end of the meeting, someone says, “Okay, let’ s move forward and do this, instead of having another meeting. ”

Howard said that another reason for the delay is that the public works approval process has been hijacked—sometimes by opponents, and sometimes by proponents who fear being sued by opponents. Their battleground has become the environmental impact review or concerns that bulldozers will raze history.

‘Everyone’s gaming the system,’ Howard said. ‘The environmental review, in my opinion, is an extraordinarily important component of decision-making. But it was intended to take months, not a decade. It was intended to focus the important environmental issues, not overturning every pebble.’

You can read the full piece here.

ORIGINAL POST: Common Good today released a three-minute animated video highlighting the need to expedite approval of the proposed Gateway Rail Tunnel Project under the Hudson River. The video—“Transportation Armageddon”—was created for Common Good by Alex Marino, a former writer for “The Daily Show.” It incorporates his humor and perspective in discussing a crucial issue: the need to prevent unnecessary financial and environmental costs from delay of the Project. Click the image below to watch the video:

The video is the first “Weekly Stupid” product created as part of Common Good’s recently-launched “Who’s in Charge Around Here?” campaign.

Download the press release on the video here.

Click here to read Common Good’s May 2016 report on the Gateway Project, “Billions for Red Tape.”

And to learn more about and sign up for the “Who’s in Charge Around Here?” campaign, visit Take-Charge.org. You can also follow it on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: #TakeCharge.

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Philip Howard, Bill Bradley, Tom Kean Talk Broken Government

The co-chairs of Common Good’s “Who’s in Charge Around Here?” campaign have appeared on TV and radio in the past few days to discuss the effort and, in particular, the need for it.

On Friday, campaign co-chair Philip Howard appeared on CNBC’s “Power Lunch,” arguing: “Americans are frustrated, but it’s like punching a pillow, because Washington is this giant hairball of accumulated regulations that prevent everybody, even the President, from [getting anything done].”

Click the image below to watch a five-minute clip of the interview.

On Monday, former Senator Bill Bradley, the other campaign co-chair, appeared with former Governor Tom Kean, a campaign endorser, on WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show.” “We have a lot of talk about the problems we face as a country, but there’s no coherent plan to fix Washington,” said Bradley. “And what we’re trying to do is lay out a plan to fix Washington ….”

Click the image below to listen to the 23-minute interview.

Learn more about and sign up for the campaign at Take-Charge.org. You can also follow it on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: #TakeCharge.

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Senator Bill Bradley, Philip Howard Ask in the Huffington Post, “Who’s In Charge Around Here?”

Writing in the Huffington Post this week, former Senator Bill Bradley and Common Good Chair Philip Howard argue that what’s missing from the current campaign season is a coherent plan to fix Washington:

Americans want change. But without a clear mandate a fresh face in the White House won’t have a chance against entrenched bureaucracy and special interests. It wasn’t long ago that we elected the freshest candidate in memory, running with the slogan ‘Change we can believe in.’ Washington just plowed ahead in the same direction.

Voter anger is too unfocused to drive change. It’s like punching a pillow. Fix Broken Government! OK, what does that mean? Let’s fill Congress with better people—say, clones of Washington, Hamilton, Lincoln, and Howard Baker. What’s our vision of what they would do?

Senator Bradley and Howard go on to discuss the campaign launched this week—titled “Who’s in Charge Around Here?,” and of which they’re co-chairs—to fill this void:

Our vision for fixing broken government is simple: Clean out the bureaucratic jungle so everyone—regulators and regulated alike—can use common sense. From the schoolhouse to the White House, replace mindless bureaucracy with human responsibility and accountability.

Reforming specific programs is not enough. Washington needs a change in its operating philosophy. Simplify regulation so people can understand what’s required. Leave room for people to roll up their sleeves and make sense of things. People must be free to ask in each situation: What’s the right thing to do here?

Read the full essay here.

Learn more about and sign up for the campaign at Take-Charge.org. You can also follow it on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: #TakeCharge.

And click the image below to watch the campaign’s first video, “Put Humans in Charge”:

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Common Good Launches National Bipartisan Campaign

Common Good today launched a national bipartisan campaign—called “Who’s in Charge Around Here?”—to build support for basic overhaul of the federal government. The campaign, which has been endorsed by leaders from both political parties, will show how to remake government into simple frameworks that allow people to take charge again. Rules should lay out goals and general principles—like the 15-page Constitution—and not suffocate responsibility with thousand-page instruction manuals.

The campaign is co-chaired by former US Senator Bill Bradley (D-NJ) and Common Good Chair Philip Howard. Among those who have already endorsed the campaign are former Governors Mitch Daniels (R-IN) and Tom Kean (R-NJ), and former US Senator Alan Simpson (R-WY) who co-chaired the Simpson-Bowles Commission on government reform.

The campaign will use video and social media to drive a national conversation to return to Americans the freedom to let ingenuity and innovation thrive in their daily lives. The campaign’s first three-minute video, narrated by Stockard Channing, uses white-board animations to explain how government should work. Titled “Put Humans in Charge,” you can watch the video by clicking on the image below:

Americans know that common sense has taken a backseat to stupidity, but political debate has not drawn a clear link to suffocating legal structures. The campaign features “The Stupid List” showing how obsolete and over-prescriptive bureaucracy undermines infrastructure and the environment, schools, health care, jobs and the economy. The Stupid List is available here.

The campaign’s website is Take-Charge.org. The campaign is active on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using #TakeCharge.

Join the Take Charge mailing list for updates on the campaign and new pieces of content. Click here to read the complete press release, including quotes from Senator Bradley and Philip Howard.

We would appreciate your feedback or suggestions—you can e-mail us at TakeCharge@commongood.org.

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Philip Howard Leads Roundtable on Regulation for Inc. Magazine

In March, Inc. magazine organized a roundtable discussion with small business owners about the regulations that affect their businesses. Common Good’s Philip Howard moderated the conversation, which is summarized by Inc.'s Editor-at-Large Leigh Buchanan in their July/August issue.

One of the participants, who heads a winery, discussed a federal rule that limits where he can sell his product if it contains grapes from “‘noncontiguous’ states.” Inc. relates:

This rule exists, suggests Howard, to protect vested interests. But, he adds, 'it looks like [rules governing the wine industry] exist only because someone made them up that way 80 years ago.'

That could be said of tens of thousands of governmental rules that appear arbitrary, irrational, or out­dated. Unfortunately, the list is only growing. Roughly 3,400 federal regulations were issued in 2015, 545 of which directly affect small business, according to the Competitive Enterprise Institute. The Office of Management and Budget reports that another 3,000 are on course for this year. Entrepreneurs are, or soon could be, grappling with new federal and state rules related to—among other things—overtime, sick leave, health care reporting, employee retirement plans, independent contractors, lead dust in commercial buildings, and website accessibility for the disabled. The most recent academic paper on the topic released by the Small Business Administration's Office of Public Advocacy—in 2010—reports that per-employee regulatory costs for small companies are 36 percent higher than those for large ones.

The problem is not regulation per se, the roundtable participants agreed—entrepreneurs “want to do the right thing for their employees, their customers, and the environment,” Inc. writes—but that the growing mass of—oftentimes obsolete, conflicting—regulations prevent growth with no accompanying benefit:

Every time your business is prevented from doing something or you choose not to do something because the government makes it difficult, there is an opportunity cost. According to the Paychex survey, concern over regulation had dissuaded 39 percent of respondents from entering a new market, 36 percent from introducing a new product, and 25 percent from starting a particular kind of business.

The Inc. article ends by offering five reform proposals to “build[] a smarter, less restrictive regulatory system”—these include: allowing new business “breathing room” in addressing minor regulations; treating “disrupters” differently than established industries; regulating by principles as opposed to precise specifics; cleaning out obsolete regulations; and empowering regulators to use their common sense.

Common Good has long-advocated for these last three ideas. On the proposal to allow regulators to exercise discretion, Inc. writes:

‘America is run by dead people,’ says Howard. ‘The people who wrote those rules are dead, so you can't argue with them or hold them accountable.’ Some regulations date back 60 years, so it is vital that live human beings have the power to interpret them, says Howard. In general, those who enforce the rules should be encouraged to exercise their best judgment depending on the situation. All too often, regulators and inspectors are conditioned to say no, because that’s the safe bet.

Click here to read the Inc. article in full.

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