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Recent Policy Studies
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Andrew M. Grossman, The Heritage FoundationLegal Memorandum, 07/30/2008
The Enumerated Powers Act would be a small step toward reviving the practice of constitutionally limited government. Although it would not stop Congress from passing unwise laws, the Act would empower those Members who take the Constitution seriously to force the House and Senate to at least consider constitutional norms in lawmaking.
Budget & TaxationBy J.D. Foster, Stephen Keen, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 07/30/2008
The “Jobs, Energy, Families, and Disaster Relief Act of 2008” is set for a cloture vote in the Senate. The legislation includes an Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) patch for 2008. Congress should make the AMT patch permanent until such time as it can engage in a broader review of tax policy that will eliminate the AMT altogether.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Loren B. Thompson, Lexington InstituteIssue Brief, 07/30/2008
Cluster bombs are designed to neutralize a wide area by carpeting it with many small explosive devices, called submunitions. But some of the submunitions on older cluster bombs fail to detonate, and can lie unnoticed for months or years until children pick them up. The result all too often is dead children, or lost limbs, blindness and other tragic wounds. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recently approved a new policy to reduce the danger cluster bombs pose to noncombatants by setting a timetable for phasing out unreliable munitions and using only systems that detonate or go dormant quickly. Unfortunately, by the time the new policy became public, the world community was well on its way to signing a treaty on cluster munitions that could have the unintended effect of killing civilians rather than protecting them.
Budget & TaxationBy George A. Pieler, Institute for Policy InnovationIPI Ideas, 07/30/2008
On June 1, New York began forcing online retailers to collect sales tax from vendors of any goods shipped to New York. As a result, Amazon.com and Overstock.com are suing New York to keep their customers (and themselves) free of New York State sales tax. The Internet can’t be looked at as a new way to define a point for assessing sales tax. Internet sales in general are a catalyst for economic activity, and that activity generates robust revenues from the companies doing business on the Internet. If this kind of tax-raising competition gains steam, there won’t be any extra tax dollars, just less economic growth.
Budget & TaxationBy Byron Schlomach, Goldwater InstitutePolicy Report, 07/30/2008
Today’s definition of open government, which consists primarily of open meetings and the Freedom of Information Act, is inadequate. For the state of Arizona specifically, government entities should go online to increase transparency. Other states are implementing open government, as well as a transparency model developed by the American Legislative Exchange Council. The surest, quickest, and easiest way to get to the heart of an enterprise is to open its check register and see how its money is being spent. The Arizona legislature recently passed a measure, Senate Bill 1235, that is a good first step, in that it requires the establishment of an online database for transactions involved in state contracts. But true transparency goes far beyond contracts.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Kenneth P. Green, American Enterprise InstituteEnvironmental Policy Outlook, 07/29/2008
Contrary to popular belief, ethanol fuel will do little or nothing to increase our energy security or stabilize fuel prices. Instead, it will increase greenhouse gas emissions, local air pollutant emissions, fresh water scarcity, water pollution (both riparian and oceanic), land and ecosystem consumption, and food prices.
Regulation & DeregulationBy Eli Lehrer, John Locke FoundationPolicy Report, 07/29/2008
North Carolina’s government-controlled auto insurance system is unfair to good drivers because it overcharges them in order to subsidize some of the state’s more risky and dangerous drivers. Every auto insurance policy written in the state has a hidden tax – which averages 6 percent – that goes to the government-mandated, privately run insurance pool. This pool uses the tax to subsidize the policies of risky drivers who should, but don’t, pay higher rates because of a legal cap. Current regulations place a maximum on auto insurance rates. Insurance companies are allowed to dump into a risk pool anyone whose risk factors are such that a rate below the maximum would be unprofitable. Even though these people are placed in the high-risk pool, the rates that they pay are still subject to the cap.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Edward J. Erler, Hillsdale CollegeImprimis, 07/29/2008
Citizenship, of course, does not exist by nature; it is created by law, and the identification of citizens has always been considered an essential aspect of sovereignty. After all, the founders of a new nation are not born citizens of the new nation they create. Indeed, this is true of all citizens of a new nation—they are not born into it, but rather become citizens by law.
Family, Culture & CommunityBy John R. Hendrickson, Public Interest InstituteInstitute Brief, 07/29/2008
In May the California State Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision, overturned state law which designated marriage to be between one man and one woman and allowed same-sex couples to enter into marriages. In Iowa the issue over preserving traditional marriage, that is, marriage between one man and one woman is a top concern for many. Twenty-seven states have approved constitutional amendments to define and protect traditional marriage, but the citizens of Iowa have not been able to vote on a marriage amendment because the amendment has been bottled up in the Legislature. California’s ruling is another sign of the need to constitutionally protect marriage, not only in Iowa, but on a national level, which means adopting the Federal Marriage Amendment. Advocates for same-sex marriage are trying to turn their crusade into the next civil rights movement.
Regulation & DeregulationBy Deborah D. Thornton, Public Interest InstituteInstitute Brief, 07/29/2008
Whether it is cutting your grass, harvesting your corn, smoking your cigarette, or making a bonfire in your backyard, “they” are against it. Unfortunately, the “they” referenced are our friends and neighbors, our elected and appointed officials who think “they” should be in charge of your life instead of you. The micromanagement of every aspect of our lives by the global warming activists, under the guise of protecting the earth, is the latest, most pervasive, and most dangerous demonstration of the “nanny state” at work, and a significant threat to our constitutionally protected right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
National SecurityBy Jack Spencer, The Heritage FoundationTestimony, 07/29/2008
The current nonproliferation regime provides the international community with the tools to control the spread of dangerous nuclear materials. However, none of these tools can magically prevent a dedicated nation (or other international actor) from seeking threatening capabilities. This is not a nonproliferation policy problem or commercial nuclear problem, but a hostile regime problem. Preventing hostile regimes from acquiring nuclear capabilities requires the political will to use the available tools effectively. Furthermore, there will always be a struggle to keep technology of all sorts out of the hands of those who would misuse it. This struggle, however, is not a justification to deny society the benefit of critical technologies such as nuclear power.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Jonathan J. Miltimore, Public Interest InstituteInstitute Brief, 07/29/2008
The exceptional track record of the United States should not be taken for granted. Nor should we fail to understand why this has happened. It is through neither chance nor temperament that the United States has enjoyed—with only the occasional exception—its striking electoral success. The Constitution is what has made this success possible.
Budget & TaxationBy John V.C. Nye, Cato InstituteRegulation, 07/29/2008
In recent years, there has been a revival of interest in Pigovian taxation, especially for dealing with the problems of global warming and pollution. A number of prominent articles have variously argued for additional Pigovian taxes on gasoline. Concerns about the desirability of Pigou taxation for reasons other than pure efficiency may remain, but these are debates about the appropriate source of government revenues and the particular distortions and distributional consequences of taxing some goods and not others. Often, the calls for taxes really reflect the proponents’ distaste for a particular set of externality effects rather than the inefficiency itself.
LaborBy Bryan O’Keefe, Capital Research CenterLabor Watch, 07/29/2008
One of the most important developments in labor relations over the past thirty years has been the union creation of “corporate campaigns.” Comprising a broad range of tactics that unions use to pressure employers, corporate campaigns have become an essential part of union organizing drives. But now employers are fighting back. They have come up with a counter-strategy against corporate campaigns, one that has the potential to put some union bosses behind bars.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Alexandra B. Klass, Cato InstituteRegulation, 07/29/2008
In 2005, the law of eminent domain captured the attention of the public at large. Suddenly, everyone cared about public use, takings, and the Fifth Amendment. As a result of the Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo v. City of New London, the issue of what constitutes a public use for purposes of eminent domain authority dominated the media, dinner conversations, state and federal legislative sessions, and highway billboards. The public was shocked and outraged to learn that city officials could take a private home to facilitate a new corporate headquarters and that a state could replace “any Motel Six with a Ritz Carlton.” Although the Supreme Court had upheld similar takings long prior to its decision in Kelo, the public had now taken notice, was not happy, and wanted to make sure government officials could not knock on the doors of the nation’s citizens with the same authority.
PhilanthropyBy Sue Ann W. Kirkham , Capital Research CenterCompassion and Culture, 07/29/2008
Sharing and Caring Hands is “dedicated to the proposition that the community can make a difference in the lives of others through volunteerism, donations, and commitment, and that this can be accomplished without creating an expensive bureaucracy that saps the resources necessary to carry out its vision.” The organization has a unique approach to helping families—the focus on establishing financial equilibrium that sets it apart from government programs: to apply for food stamps (USDA), your bank account must be empty; to qualify for help with utility bills (Heat Share), you need to be four months behind in payments; to get rent assistance (Section Eight), you have to maintain a minimal income level. Applying the logic required to justify spending public dollars, traditional programs deduct assistance as a person’s earned income increases, making it difficult to pay off debts and escape the whirlpool of dependence.
Health CareBy Michael D. Tanner, Cato InstituteBriefing Paper, 07/29/2008
This year, the candidates offer dramatically contrasting visions for reform. Interestingly, they start from a similar point. Breaking from the conventional wisdom of the recent health care reform debate, neither offers a proposal for truly universal coverage, though both would expand coverage significantly (particularly Senator Obama). Rather, both McCain and Obama recognize that the key question in healthcare reform is not coverage but cost. In so doing, they are reflecting a growing belief among health care experts that the continued growth of health care spending is unsustainable, and that something must be done to bring costs under control.
PhilanthropyBy John Gizzi, Capital Research CenterFoundation Watch, 07/29/2008
This year California lawmakers considered unprecedented legislation imposing politically correct reporting standards on the state’s foundations. Championed by left-wing activist groups, Assembly Bill 624 would have required foundation grantmakers to publicly disclose the race, gender and ethnicity of their board trustees and the boards and staff of their grantees. The bill was withdrawn at the eleventh hour after California’s largest foundations promised to lavish millions of dollars on minority communities. Because caving in to liberal pressure groups never placates them, expect this philanthropic shakedown in your state or Congress soon.
Economic and Political ThoughtBy Colleen Dyble, Institute of Economic AffairsBook, 07/29/2008
In the last fifty years, many aspects of socialism have been rolled back around the world. Indeed, in the 1990s, following the collapse of communism in Central and Eastern Europe, it seemed as if classical liberal ideas had triumphed. But this did not happen by accident. The role of free-market think tanks was critical. Indeed, though the ‘war of ideas’ has been hard fought, it has been only partially won. New threats to freedom have emerged, including environmentalism and big-government conservatism.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy American Legislative Exchange Council, American Legislative Exchange CouncilThe State Factor, 07/29/2008
The nation is facing an epidemic credit problem, as the number of Americans with poor credit continues to increase while the credit options available to them continue to decrease. Lawmakers should allow the private sector to grant loans to individuals with poor credit and offer them a variety of choices that may help them build credit, while others will simply allow them to meet their immediate financial needs. Financial education is an important component to solving this problem. Lawmakers must be careful not to worsen the sub-prime loan crisis by passing ill-conceived legislation which restricts interest rates and makes it more difficult for consumers to access credit. This will not solve the current access to credit problem and will only hurt those consumers who are already credit challenged. Instead, our leaders should push for loan transparency standards that will empower consumers without limiting their choices.
Regulation & DeregulationBy Dick M. Carpenter II, John K. Ross, Cato InstituteRegulation, 07/29/2008
The interior design industry’s approach of pursuing titling laws as a first step toward licensure creates an important opportunity to bring First Amendment law to bear on legal regimes that restrict economic liberty—the right to earn an honest living in the occupation of one’s choice. To limit, by government force, the right to use a particular title to members of a state-approved cartel is to create a monopoly on speech that violates the rights of entrepreneurs to communicate truthful information to potential customers. The industry’s incremental tactics also provide a rare peek into the real-world process of rent-seeking by established interests. The long-term effects of occupational licensing and incentives to pursue it are just as Smith and Friedman predict, but the path to cartelization is not always as clear cut—forcing some cartels to settle for censorship first.
Crime, Justice & the Law
Testimony Before the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security of the United States House of Representatives Committee on the JudiciaryBy David B. Muhlhausen, The Heritage FoundationTestimony, 07/29/2008
The concern over high crime rates and a failed rehabilitative model of corrections led federal and state governments to reform their correctional systems. In 1984, the U.S. Congress passed the Comprehensive Crime Control Act. Included within the Comprehensive Crime Control Act was the Sentencing Reform Act. The Sentencing Reform Act replaced the wide and seemingly arbitrary indeterminate sentences of federal judges with determinate sentences. While this reform greatly diminished the responsibilities of the U.S. Parole Commission, the agency still performs important functions, such as overseeing federal old-law cases and offenders from the District of Columbia. Congress should reauthorize the commission but avoid any temptation to revive indeterminate sentencing and parole at the expense of public safety.
Regulation & DeregulationBy Cary Coglianese, Cato InstituteRegulation, 07/29/2008
Early last year, President Bush signed Executive Order 13422, implementing modifications to the review requirements for new federal regulations. EO 13422 follows previous orders signed by presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton that established White House policy for scrutinizing federal rulemaking and incorporated aspects of cost–benefit analysis into regulatory review. The Bush order gives presidential appointees in regulatory agencies increased “gatekeeper” functions, requires agencies to specify in writing the market failures they hope new rules will solve, and calls for agencies to provide the Office of Management and Budget with information on certain guidance documents. Both scholars and decisionmakers should bear in mind that administrative procedures are embedded within a complex web of politics, institutions, and organizational behavior. Within that web, procedures are but one factor influencing government agencies.
Economic GrowthBy Aparna Mathur, American Enterprise InstituteStudies, 07/29/2008
One of the key factors explaining the geographic dispersion of entrepreneurship is US personal bankruptcy law. An institutional approach to entrepreneurship shifts attention away from the personal traits and backgrounds of individual entrepreneurs which has been the focus of the traditional literature, and towards how institutions or the ‘rules of the game’ shape entrepreneurial opportunities and actions. An increase in the dollar value of the entrepreneur’s own state exemptions by 50,000 would increase the probability of a business start by nearly 20 percent. The effect of business conditions in surrounding states on the decision to set up a business in the entrepreneur’s current state of residence suggests that entrepreneurs are nearly 25 percent more likely to start businesses in states that have better conditions than their neighbors, than in states with worse conditions than their neighbors. States must follow policies that are competitive with at least their immediate neighbors’, in order to retain and encourage entrepreneurship in their own state.
Regulation & DeregulationBy Andrew P. Morriss, Cato InstituteRegulation, 07/29/2008
The history of tobacco regulation includes quite a few episodes of bootleggers-and-Baptists coalitions in the 1960s and 1970s. Indeed, the federal Food and Drug Administration had been explicitly foreclosed from regulating tobacco when it was created by the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act. By the 1990s, the regulatory Baptists were tired of their role in the tobacco wars. Each of their victories—banning TV ads, restrictions on tar and nicotine advertising, warning labels—had proven to be helpful for the regulatory bootleggers. But the bootleggers were in need of new allies because the risk of the seemingly endless litigation from the third-wave lawsuits was taking its toll on their stock prices. This led to the rise of the regulatory “televangelists.”
Family, Culture & CommunityBy Brian D’Onofrio, Center for Marriage and FamiliesBriefing Paper, 07/29/2008
Divorce is a powerful force in contemporary American family life. The growing number of divorces has profound implications for children, mothers, fathers, and society. The consequences of these family changes for children and society are hotly debated. Generally, initiatives aimed solely at addressing either family structure or social/family processes fail to appreciate that healthy families are more likely to flourish in environments in which marriage is strong and in which families have access to the material, social, and psychological resources they need to thrive. Accordingly, legal, mental health, and school initiatives, as well as public policy reforms, should adopt a comprehensive approach toward reducing the risks in children’s lives, including parental divorce.
Regulation & DeregulationBy Doug Kaplan, Institute for JusticeReport, 07/29/2008
The bureaucratic and regulatory hurdles small developers must pass in order to build private projects have become outrageous. The amount of paperwork and fees that go along with each of the intricate regulatory steps to build and renovate in one example in Santa Cruz actually stifles efforts to bring economic development to local communities. Local governments don’t “catalyze” private development; they drive it away by making it too expensive.
Economic GrowthBy Stephen J.K. Walters, Louis Miserendino, Institute for JusticeReport, 07/29/2008
Downtown Baltimore needed rescuing. Doing nothing was never an option. The city would be far better off today had it done the right thing. Baltimore’s redevelopment strategy has long been deeply flawed, and that eminent domain’s contribution to its renewal has been, on net, negative. In a nutshell, the city’s lack of progress on so many fronts is a direct by-product of its failure to understand and treat the real source of its problems: hostility to private property rights and a resulting flight of capital that largely drained the city of its economic lifeblood. In this view, the aggressive use of eminent domain is not part of the solution to Baltimore’s many problems but another manifestation of their root cause.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Samuel Thernstrom, American Enterprise InstituteOn the Issues, 07/29/2008
Policymakers have considered only two responses to climate change: cutting emissions and adaptation—that is, learning to live with a warmer planet. There is, however, a third possible strategy, one that could be fast, effective, and affordable—but that is being ignored. This idea is commonly known as geoengineering, although a more accurate term would be “climate engineering.” What geoengineering could do is buy time to make that transition while protecting us from the worst potential effects of warming. The idea of “engineering” the climate may strike people as horrifying or absurd; in fact, we are changing the global climate now—in a massive, unintentional, and uncontrolled experiment. There is no other public policy problem of comparable importance for which the potential harm is so large and the proposed solutions are so clearly inadequate—while a potentially effective, affordable, and practical approach to the issue is being ignored.
EducationBy Matthew Ladner , Goldwater InstitutePolicy Brief, 07/29/2008
Arizona trails far behind other states in terms of public school academic achievement. National comparative data often place Arizona near the bottom of state rankings. Aggregate fourth-grade reading scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the Nation’s Report Card or NAEP, barely budged between 1992 and 2007. Other states, meanwhile, have made substantial progress. But Arizona lawmakers and educators can turn this situation around. Previously enacted reforms, such as the charter school law, have shown a promising ability to produce exceptional outcomes in Arizona. Nine of the top 10 public high schools in the greater Phoenix area, ranked by reading scores, were charter schools in 2007. Arizona lawmakers can build on this success.
Budget & TaxationBy Jake Haulk, Eric Montarti, Allegheny Institute for Public PolicyAllegheny Institute Report, 07/29/2008
Notwithstanding the Mayor’s support for the merger of the City and County governments, Pittsburgh continues to press ahead with attempts to sell its services to other municipalities in the County. This effort is predicated largely on the purportedly successful contract with the Borough of Wilkinsburg to provide residential garbage collection through the end of 2010. The City estimates it will save the Borough up to half a million dollars per year compared to what the Borough would have paid the former private collector. But is the City ready to offer its services beyond its geographic borders at an economical cost? More importantly, are the City’s estimates of its costs of service provision, specifically garbage collection, accurate and complete?
EducationBy Paul DiPerna, Friedman Foundation for Educational ChoiceResearch Study, 07/29/2008
Oklahomans have shared their views about “school choice” in the forms of tax credit scholarships, school vouchers, charter schools and virtual schools. Results imply that voters like the idea of customizing the school selection process in a way that best meets the needs of a child and his or her family. So how high is the support for school choice reforms? Percentages favoring tax-credit scholarships, school vouchers, and charter schools are consistently in the 50s—generally and across nearly all subgroups. School choice is not a partisan issue among voters in Oklahoma. Favorability spans political parties and political self-identification. Democrats, Independents, and Republicans favor publicly funded scholarship granting systems (through business or individual tax credits), school vouchers, and charter schools.
Economic and Political ThoughtBy Ellen Frankel Paul, Jeffrey Paul, Fred D. Miller, Social Philosophy & Policy CenterSocial Philosophy & Policy, 07/29/2008
Freedom of association is a cherished liberal value, both for classical liberals who are generally antagonistic toward government interference in the choices made by individuals, and for contemporary liberals who are more sanguine about the role of government. However, there are fundamental differences between the two viewpoints in the status that they afford to associational freedom. While classical liberals ground their support for freedom of association on the core notion of individual liberty, contemporary liberals usually conceive of freedom of association as one among many values that are necessary for a liberal democracy to flourish. Which position provides a better grounding for freedom of association? Is liberal democracy the core value, or does a liberal democracy become defensible to the extent that it protects the core value of individual freedom?
Health CareBy George Lightbourn, Christian Schneider, Wisconsin Policy Research InstitutePolicy Report, 07/29/2008
No state has introduced legislation as sweeping as what has been proposed and passed by the Wisconsin Senate. Named Healthy Wisconsin, this legislation would extend health care coverage to all citizens of the state, funding the initiative through a payroll tax that would be shared between employer and employees. No one would be uninsured and no one would be able to completely opt out of Healthy Wisconsin. Modeled loosely on the health care systems found in other countries, its proponents tout it as providing coverage for everyone while reining in costs. It accomplishes this by leveraging market concepts and by avoiding the entanglements that come with government programs. Healthy Wisconsin sounds almost too good to be true. Proponents of Healthy Wisconsin maintain that it is a private sector program using: private insurance companies, private providers and private hospitals. But what is the reality and, what will the answer to this question mean to the taxpayers?
Health CareBy Michael Bond, James Madison InstituteBackgrounder, 07/29/2008
Florida’s Medicaid reform demonstration is now in its second year. It now operates in five counties. The reform has unambiguously led to greater competition in all of the participating counties. It has also increased services and products available from many plans and has led to differing benefits packages provided by plans. The most popular expanded benefits offered by reform plans are over-the-counter drug benefits and adult preventative dental benefits. In addition, there is little evidence that primary care physicians are leaving the Medicaid program, with the voluntary non-renewal rate being around 3 percent in the two initial reform counties. Extremely limited data available on selected specialists in the program also do not indicate a problem with specialists participating in Medicaid, relative to free reform levels.
Transportation/InfrastructureBy Ronald D. Utt, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 07/28/2008
Voters’ refusal to support tax increases to fund more road spending reflects, in part, their lack of confidence that federal and state officials would use additional tax resources effectively to provide better transportation. Unless federal, state, and local officials take steps to improve management of transportation operations and restore voter confidence, voter skepticism will persist as congestion and safety standards worsen.
Regulation & DeregulationBy Rosemary Scanlon, Manhattan InstituteRethinking Development, 07/28/2008
The challenges that make building in New York City famously difficult have not reduced the level of construction the city has experienced over the past few years. The city’s desirability as a place to live and do business, the high incomes earned by its large cohort of accomplished professionals, and the easy availability of credit have spurred an extraordinary building boom that has overcome every obstacle thrown in its way. There are reasons nevertheless to investigate the causes of the local construction industry’s out-of-scale cost structure.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Lisa Curtis, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 07/28/2008
While the U.S. welcomes the establishment of democracy in Pakistan, time is not on the side of the new government to deal effectively with the international threat building in the border areas unless it accepts U.S. advice and assistance. The worst outcome for Gilani’s visit would be one in which the two sides talk past each other and break no new ground on counterterrorism initiatives. From the U.S. perspective, a successful visit would convey support for the Pakistani people but also result in concrete joint initiatives that assure both Americans and Pakistanis that the two sides remain steadfast partners in the war on terror.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Ben Lieberman, Nicolas Loris, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 07/28/2008
America is currently facing energy challenges reminiscent of the 1970s. Unfortunately, rising gas prices have policymakers repeating the mistakes from that decade—mistakes that took a bad situation and made it worse.
Transportation/InfrastructureBy Eli Lehrer, Competitive Enterprise InstituteIssue Analysis, 07/25/2008
Three-and-a-half decades after it emerged in its modern form, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) remains deeply dysfunctional. Although modestly successful in improving the quality of land use planning in the United States—at least relative to what came before—the program has enormous weaknesses. In particular, it has cost taxpayers billions of dollars despite promises that it would sustain itself, encouraged some development in environmentally sensitive flood plain areas that would not have occurred absent the program, and has impeded the development of superior, private sector models to deal with flood risk. Legislation recently approved by the House of Representatives and the Senate would resolve some of the program’s most obvious absurdities and reduce its liabilities slightly, but will not solve its fundamental, underlying problems. Rather than continued “baby steps,” NFIP needs drastic reform.
PhilanthropyBy K. Lloyd Billingsley, Jason Clemens, Adam Frey, Lawrence J. McQuillan, Pacific Research InstitutePRI Study, 07/25/2008
As California goes, so goes the nation. California is now leading the quest to impose new racial and gender reporting requirements on foundations as well as the charities that receive grants from them and the businesses that work with them. Such legislation will have national consequences as the framework is already being discussed in Washington, D.C. Racial and gender reporting requirements will impose serious compliance costs on foundations, charities, and the businesses they work with. These are resources that could be used to support the many good works undertaken and completed by charities—from providing shelter to the homeless, to food for the hungry, to education for the poor, to assistance for those in difficult circumstances, to support for the elderly. The benefits of such requirements will in no way come close to offsetting these serious and disconcerting costs.
Information TechnologyBy Arin Greenwood, Competitive Enterprise Institute07/24/2008
The Skill Game Protection Act is an improvement on the current legislation, as it makes clear that games of skill may be legally played on the Internet. However, it is poorly drafted, and its ambiguous language can lead to greater confusion than already exists. Such ambiguity is to blame for many of the problems in the Internet skill games world today. Lawmakers should ensure that players, businesses, and others know what they are allowed to do, and what is required of them. It would be best if the Department of Justice knew all this, too.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Lisa Curtis, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 07/24/2008
Despite risking both his career and the survival of his government, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s bold initiative to move forward with the U.S.-India civil nuclear deal has saved the nuclear pact from entering a period of dormancy that would have likely meant its eventual demise.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy David Kreutzer, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 07/24/2008
A 2006 study by the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations is used by those claiming a causal link from futures market speculation to higher petroleum prices. However, evidence since publication unequivocally disproves that finding—using the SPSI’s own logic.
Health CareBy Amy Hopson, Andrew J. Rettenmaier, National Center for Policy AnalysisPolicy Report, 07/24/2008
Though talk of fundamentally reforming Medicare has been limited lately, the baby boomers’ imminent retirement and the continued rise in health care costs will force Medicare back to the forefront of upcoming policy discussions. Exploring all avenues for reform is necessary as the country looks to the future and braces for the baby boomers’ retirement. Taxpayers fund retirees’ Social Security and Medicare benefits as well as Medicaid benefits for eligible retirees. Social Security benefits are a predictable function of a retiree’s past earnings, but the growth of Medicare and Medicaid health care costs are expected to far outpace Social Security’s growth and are subject to great uncertainty.
Economic and Political ThoughtBy Kim R. Holmes, The Heritage FoundationLecture, 07/24/2008
Economic freedom is more than a path to prosperity. It also is a condition that opens up opportunities to enjoy freedom in the largest sense of the word—both politically and socially. We should never entrust the United Nations or an international court with the important task of safeguarding our rights and liberties, much less with attempting to create new ones.
National SecurityBy Danielle Pletka, American Enterprise InstituteTestimony, 07/24/2008
The question of the extension of the United Nations mandate that governs the allied presence in Iraq has received undue attention, and distracted from the very real question of American interests. Presumably, one’s position on the wisdom of the initial decision to topple Saddam Hussein notwithstanding, few responsible American leaders are interested in leaving Iraq if in so doing they create an environment that poses a threat to American security or that of our allies.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Vincent R. Reinhart, Peter J. Wallison, Allan H. Meltzer, American Enterprise InstituteOn the Issues, 07/24/2008
Only in the weird world of Washington are mistakes rewarded with major new responsibilities. After mismanaging both housing loans and the dot-com mess, the Federal Reserve may now become responsible for supervising investment banks. The proposal by Treasury secretary Henry Paulson to do so could lead investment banks to accept more risk because they will be able to hide some of their mistakes by borrowing from Federal Reserve banks. This is cause for concern in itself. What is more, most of the proposal is unnecessary.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Alex J. Pollock, American Enterprise InstituteTestimony, 07/24/2008
Many accounting problems arise from the belief that there can be only one set of financial statements which must be “right” or “true.” A better conclusion is that accounting truth cannot be completely captured by any single official approach. The various theories of what an asset is, what profit is, what capital is, give rise to different financial statements. The best solution would be to publish statements from different perspectives, using different theories applied to the same facts, estimates, guesses and transactions. For example, one could be current GAAP, one fair value, one the tax books, one the regulatory books, one what management thinks is the real story. Like the others, fair value would be one perspective, but not the one-and-only perspective. With this approach, we could all know more, because we are more likely to approach accounting truth through multiple perspectives.
Economic and Political ThoughtBy John R. Bolton, American Enterprise Institute07/24/2008
Betting against the United States—a sport even many Americans engage in—may be popular, but is has never proven profitable. Nor will it as long as the United States adheres to the fundamental and interrelated premises on which it is founded: the centrality of individual liberty, openness to new ideas and opportunities, and the optimism that brought so many of our ancestors to the New World in the first place. It is certainly true that some or all of these attributes are found in one or another quantity in almost all other nations around the globe, so they are certainly not America’s possession alone. Some nations may even be said to exhibit these characteristics more fully than the United States in one or another aspect of their economy, politics or culture. But only in America have they come together in the concentration we have seen throughout American history. This is the basis of American “exceptionalism,” the characteristic that drives the declinists to drink or distraction more than any other.