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Recent Policy Studies
Transportation/InfrastructureBy Michael Ennis, Washington Policy CenterReport, 08/22/2008
Today, reducing traffic congestion is not a priority for public officials in Washington State. There is currently no stated policy goal or financial relationship to congestion relief. Initiative 985 would seismically shift the State’s current policy back toward one that ties spending to a specific performance goal, traffic congestion relief.
Regulation & DeregulationBy Drew Thornley, Bill Peacock, Texas Public Policy FoundationReport, 08/22/2008
Beginning in 1997, the Texas Legislature took several steps to move the homeowners’ insurance provisions in the Texas Insurance Code (Code) in a consumer-friendly direction: this included the 2003 reforms calling for a file-and-use regulatory system. However, five years into the 2003 reforms, the Sunset Review Commission’s Staff Report (Staff Report) on the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) rightly concludes that the “Legislature cannot judge the success of the shift to file-and-use rate regulation because the system has not been fully implemented.” One reason for the sluggish implementation is “TDI’s use of both pre- and post-market regulatory tools.”
EducationBy Brooke Dollens Terry, Michael Alexander, Texas Public Policy FoundationPolicy Perspective, 08/22/2008
At least 16,810 students were on a waiting list to attend a charter school last year. Such a large number demonstrates a strong demand for more charter schools which warrants the removal of barriers to expansion such as limiting the number of open-enrollment charters to 215. The Texas Legislature has unnecessarily prevented charters from operating in a free market and should eliminate the cap.
EducationBy Marc J. Holley, Mackinac Center for Public PolicyBook, 08/22/2008
The first step in reforming teacher quality is to redefine what being a highly qualified teacher truly means. The words “highly qualified” should no longer refer to a teacher with extensive pedagogical training or years of experience; they should refer to a teacher whose work improves student learning.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Daren Bakst, John Locke FoundationSpotlight, 08/22/2008
Energy efficiency is an important goal, but not when it comes at the expense of economic efficiency—but that is precisely what happens with energy-efficiency programs. Fortunately, there are numerous market incentives that can drive energy efficiency. Consumers want to save money, and manufacturers want to appeal to these consumers. Someone has to be living in a cave not to have already heard constant advertisements pushing energy efficiency.
EducationBy Terry Stoops, John Locke FoundationSpotlight, 08/22/2008
With no threat of losing its clientele to competitors, many schools and school districts behave like the monopolies they are—focused on strengthening the organization’s position and goals, rather than meeting the needs of students and parents. Indeed, one need not look further than the low regard that many teachers and administrators have toward parents to find evidence of this organization-first mentality. Genuine accountability to parents begins with school choice.
Budget & TaxationBy Joseph Coletti, John Locke FoundationSpotlight, 08/22/2008
This year’s budget was produced in a relatively open process for the General Assembly, but closed by any normal definition. After some debate in the House, minimal debate in the Senate, and no debate of the final bill, legislators from both parties approved a budget that will allow them to be reelected but leave them facing even more difficult choices when they return. This combination of higher spending, higher debt, and no new savings present a tough challenge and falls far short of traditional definitions of fiscal responsibility.
EducationBy John R. LaPlante, Kansas Policy InstitutePolicy Papers, 08/22/2008
Kansas students are not doing as well as commonly thought and it is time to create a system that is truly responsive to what students and parents want and need.
Health CareBy Gregory L. Schneider, Kansas Policy Institute08/22/2008
We hear a lot about how government should play a role in providing health insurance to the uninsured. According to some polls, as many as 61 percent of Americans believe government should play more of a role in providing health care to the uninsured. Yet the central problem in the health care debate is not the uninsured but rather the cost of health insurance. One of the main reasons health insurance costs more than it should is due to government regulation of insurance and especially the burden of political mandates on health insurance companies.
A Pennsylvania School Report Card: How the Commonwealth’s Public Schools Stack Up to the Rest of the NationBy David V. Anderson, Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy AlternativesCommonwealth Policy Brief, 08/22/2008
This policy brief used a mapping procedure to convert PSSA test results into ones consistent with the NAEP. This provides stakeholders with more realistic performance results. They are, however, also more alarming. With few exceptions, schools are engaged in massive social promotion of children who are not academically proficient. Even the very best schools promote upwards of 10 percent of their children to levels for which they are not prepared. In the worst schools, more than 95 percent are improperly promoted, based on the NAEP standard of proficiency.
Economic and Political ThoughtBy Center of the American Experiment, Center of the American ExperimentSymposium, 08/22/2008
A useful frame for understanding current political contests and debates is to consider, on the one hand, the extent to which politicians, activists, writers, talk show hosts, and others hold fast to what they view as clear-cut principle. Or, on the other hand, the extent to which such players are open to accommodation, perhaps even eager to reach compromise with their opponents, regardless of whether such foes are outsiders or insiders of their own party. How does Lincoln fit in all of this? For perhaps the best example, I know of no issue in American history better defined by these kinds of conundrums than the timing of the Emancipation Proclamation.
EducationBy Greg Forster, Friedman Foundation for Educational ChoiceSchool Choice Issues, 08/21/2008
In 2006-07, its first year of operation, the EdChoice program produced substantial academic improvements in Ohio’s most stubbornly underperforming public schools. Positive effects were detected in some grades, and no negative effects were detected in any grades. The positive effects were substantial in size, though not revolutionary. If the effects accumulate over time, in three to four years the voucher-eligible schools will have improved by one standard deviation (equal to one-sixth of the distance between the top-scoring and bottom-scoring schools in Ohio).
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Center for Religious Freedom of Hudson Institute, Hudson InstituteReport, 08/21/2008
This report compares textbooks from the Saudi Ministry of Education, which are posted on its website as this is issued, with those analyzed in our 2006 study, Saudi Arabia’s Curriculum of Intolerance, and shows that the same violent and intolerant teachings against other religious believers noted in 2006 remain in the current texts. All of these textbooks have been reissued at least once and all but two of them reissued twice, yet overall the changes to the passages in question have been minimal, and the degree of substantive change has been negligible. Taken together, the revisions that have been made amount to moving around the furniture, not cleaning the house. This analysis is issued as the deadline nears for the removal of intolerant teachings from all Saudi textbooks. This commitment stems from the Saudi government’s “confirmation” of policies that were publicly announced and lauded as “significant developments” by the U.S. State Department in July 2006, and are to be implemented in full by the start of the 2008-2009 school year.
Information TechnologyBy W. Kenneth Ferree, Progress & Freedom FoundationProgress Snapshot, 08/21/2008
There can be little doubt but that rules imposing wholesale a la carte obligations on independent programmers, fully protected by the First Amendment, would suffer the same fate as the video description rules. Wholesale a la carte would not merely affect program content incidentally or by accident, its very purpose is to alter the makeup of cable programming lineups and defeat the ability of some programmers to gain carriage in favor of others. That is, government mandated wholesale a la carte rules would in part determine which programming services will be seen and which will survive. If Congress had intended the FCC to wield that elephantine authority, the Media Access Project would not have to stoop, peering into the wall cracks of the Communications Act, to find it.
Information TechnologyBy Barbara S. Esbin, Progress & Freedom FoundationProgress on Point, 08/21/2008
Now that the FCC has asserted its authority to regulate Internet provider broadband network management practices, the question arises, “who will regulate the regulator?” This is not an idle inquiry, but rather an urgent problem. For apparently what we have on our hands is a runaway agency, unconstrained in its vision of its powers and unconcerned about the serious reservations expressed by the current Administration and members of Congress. As dissenting Commissioner McDowell stated: “Under the analysis set forth in the order, the Commission apparently can do anything so long as it frames its actions in terms of promoting the Internet or broadband deployment.”
Health CareBy Devon Herrick, National Center for Policy AnalysisBrief Analysis, 08/21/2008
An antiquated third-party payment system is the primary obstacle to the growth of telemedicine. Because 87 percent of medical costs are paid by someone other than the patient (such as insurers, employers or government), providers have little incentive to create innovative services that benefit patients directly. Additionally, state laws and regulations prevent physicians licensed in one state from practicing in other states. This impediment keeps doctors from providing crucial medical services, such as writing prescriptions or completing follow-up consultations remotely, to patients who have left the state. Similar regulations keep foreign doctors from providing telemedicine services. Telemedicine can improve the quality and increase the efficiency of patient care, but these barriers must be lowered in order to realize its full potential.
EducationBy Don Soifer, Sarah Lohmann, Lexington InstituteIssue Brief, 08/21/2008
Senator Barack Obama raised eyebrows last month when he told a Georgia audience not to worry “about whether immigrants can learn English—they’ll learn English—you need to make sure your child can speak Spanish.” But these comments, and the strong reaction that followed, did little to focus attention on the critical fact that we as a nation are doing a poor job assimilating non-native speakers into the English-speaking American mainstream.
National SecurityBy Daniel Goure, Lexington InstituteIssue Brief, 08/21/2008
DHS has been inexplicably slow in deploying new sensor systems to provide improved warning of attack, whether by biological threats or of nuclear materials being smuggled through our hundreds of ports of entry. The Department should provide additional funds to accelerate production of the new generation of sensors with the intent of widespread deployment beginning in 2010. Without such rapid and reliable warning, the United States faces the prospect of losing the next war before it is even aware that it is under attack.
National SecurityBy Daniel Goure, Lexington InstituteTestimony, 08/21/2008
There is clearly an opportunity to pursue strategic arms control. The United States needs to be more innovative than heretofore in its approach. Arms control must focus on more than merely reducing the numbers of nuclear weapons. It should pursue the goal of changing the scale and scope of the potential destructiveness of the major powers’ residual arsenals and devalue the forces of emerging nuclear states. A new offense-defense compact should be established. One potential approach is to allow nations to trade lower levels of strategic offensive forces for larger deployments of strategic defenses.
National SecurityBy Loren B. Thompson, Lexington InstituteIssue Brief, 08/21/2008
During the cold war, helicopter purchases were considered a relatively uncontroversial aspect of military procurement. Not now. In the age of net-centric warfare, even rotorcraft have gotten sucked into the “system-of-systems” Sargasso Sea from which escape into serial production seems nearly impossible. The standard media response when problems arise is to blame contractors. But an examination of rotorcraft programs from each service reveals that fault usually lies with the government.
Monetary Policy/Financial Regulation
Good Money: Birmingham Button Makers, the Royal Mint, and the Beginnings of Modern Coinage, 1775-1821By Charles A. E. Goodhart, Independent InstituteBook, 08/21/2008
In Good Money, George Selgin (Professor of Economics, University of Georgia; Research Fellow, The Independent Institute) tells the story of a fascinating and important yet almost unknown episode in the history of money—British manufacturers’ challenge to the Crown’s monopoly on coinage. In the 1780s, when the Industrial Revolution was gathering momentum, the Royal Mint failed to produce enough small-denomination coinage for factory owners to pay their workers. As the currency shortage threatened to derail industrial progress, manufacturers began to mint custom-made coins, called “tradesman’s tokens.” Rapidly gaining wide acceptance, these tokens served as the nation’s most popular currency for wages and retail sales until 1817, when the Crown outlawed all moneys except its own. Good Money not only examines the crucial role of private coinage in fueling Great Britain’s Industrial Revolution, but also challenges beliefs upon which all modern government- currency monopolies rest. It thereby sheds light on contemporary private-sector alternatives to government-issued money, such as digital monies, cash cards, electronic funds transfer, and (outside of the United States) spontaneous “dollarization.”
Economic GrowthBy Hoover Institution, Hoover InstitutionFacts on Policy, 08/21/2008
As of 30 June 2008, the national average for the price of regular-grade gasoline was $4.15 per gallon, up 38 percent from a year ago.
Economic GrowthBy Hoover Institution, Hoover InstitutionFacts on Policy, 08/21/2008
After hitting a peak in 2004, homeownership rates have since declined slightly; overall, however, the rates have not fluctuated much during the past ten years. In the first quarter of 2008, the homeownership rate was 67.8 percent. The homeownership rate has been more than 60 percent since 1960s, with roughly two out of three people owning homes since 1997.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Sally McNamara, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 08/21/2008
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is correct that Russia’s reputation on the international stage has been badly damaged by this crisis as well as its failure to adhere to the agreed upon cease-fire. However, it is unlikely that Moscow cared much about its reputation when it engaged in this old-fashioned big-power politics. Moscow has provoked a confrontation with Europe and America in Georgia, and it is one that cannot be ignored or go unpunished. It is true that Washington has important goals to achieve elsewhere in the world that would benefit from Moscow’s cooperation. However, it is improbable that the United States can count on Russian cooperation, especially if Russian national interest is not explicitly involved. In both its symbolism and reality, the war in Georgia is a signal of Russia’s geo-strategic ambitions and a preview of what the West can expect from Moscow in the future.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Derek Scissors, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 08/21/2008
Population is at the heart of long-term economic expansion. China is soon to leave what has been an extended demographic pattern supporting economic growth and enter a very different pattern entailing difficult policy choices. It remains likely that at some point China will pass the United States in broad economic measures, such as total GDP, but 2009–2039 will not necessarily just extend the trends from 1979–2009.
National SecurityBy Shanea Watkins, James Sherk, The Heritage FoundationCenter for Data Analysis Report, 08/21/2008
The popular impression that many soldiers join the military because they lack better opportunities is wrong. In all likelihood, our soldiers would have had many lucrative career opportunities in the private sector. The officers and enlisted men and women of the armed forces have made sacrifices to serve in the U.S. military.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Ariel Cohen, James Jay Carafano, Lajos Szaszdi, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 08/21/2008
After an almost 20-year hiatus, the United States and NATO allies may once again prioritize Russia as a potential threat to the common European security. NATO should send a strong signal to Moscow that its aggression will not stand. This should be done through diplomacy, international organizations, and inventive economic measures. The United States, its allies, and Europe must do everything possible to reverse Russian aggression against Georgia and to prevent hostile action against European countries.
National SecurityBy James Jay Carafano, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 08/21/2008
For the second time in recent years, the United States has witnessed another wake-up call for the importance of fielding directed-energy weapons capable of shooting-down mortar and artillery fire, as well as intercepting short-range rockets and missiles.The Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Congress need to place more emphasis on fielding working prototypes of these systems as quickly as possible.
Foreign Policy/International Affairs
The Sound of Silence: The Decline of the Voice of America in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central AsiaBy Helle C. Dale, Oliver Horn, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 08/21/2008
Last week, an exhausted, retreating Georgian soldier was overheard asking, “Where are our friends?” Given that only days before the conflict—and for the first time in over 60 years of broadcasting—the Voice of America’s Russian-language radio programming fell silent, this was a legitimate question. Russian is the principle language in both Russia and large swaths of Georgia, a region plagued by media censorship and human rights violations. Kremlin-controlled media outlets, meanwhile, filled the news and information void. As a result, Georgia plunged into a media blackout as the government shutdown broadcasting of Russian TV and blocked websites in the “.ru” domain. Sadly, this is a significant, but not unexpected, failure. In recent years, the Broadcasting Board of Governors has slashed funding for programming in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia in favor of broadcasts in the Middle East and Asia.
Regulation & DeregulationBy Andrew M. Grossman, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 08/21/2008
The Senate’s ADA Amendments Act represents a real and tangible improvement over the House version, which would have abandoned a large body of important case law, throwing the employment disability law into disarray. In contrast, the Senate’s approach, while still bad policy on the whole, is far less damaging to the law, and for that reason, its impact on the economy, the international competitiveness of U.S. businesses, and employment is likely to be far less. Now is not the right time to expand ADA coverage, but if legislation is inevitable, Congress should still reject approaches that muddy the meaning of the law and would inflict unnecessary pain across the economy.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Ray Walser, James M. Roberts, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 08/21/2008
Exploiting the U.S. leadership and media’s preoccupation with the Caucasus conflict, as well as the Beijing Olympics, elections, and high gas prices, President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela went on the offensive with a power grab of his own. In response, the U.S. must pursue a stronger, bipartisan effort to forge a more active, pro-democracy consensus in the Western Hemisphere. Democracy’s friends in Latin America deserve greater support than they are presently receiving.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy James M. Roberts, Edwar Enrique Escalante, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 08/21/2008
Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez is spreading his toxic “21st Century Bolivarian Socialism” through “ALBA houses” in Peru that are aimed at subverting market-based democracy and destabilizing Peru’s government. The Chilean, Brazilian, and Colombian governments should affirm Peruvian democracy. The U.S. Congress must encourage economic progress in Colombia, which would directly benefit Peruvian democracy, by approving the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Brett D. Schaefer, Anthony B. Kim, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 08/21/2008
Most major recipients of U.S. assistance vote against the U.S. more often than they vote with the U.S. Forging freedom coalitions in the U.N. is a practical strategy to promote mutual policy objectives. The U.S. should adopt a policy of letting aid recipients know that undermining U.S. priorities at the U.N. will affect future decisions on allocation of U.S. aid.
Health CareBy Arnold Kling, Cato InstituteBook, 08/21/2008
America’s health care troubles largely stem from a great success: modern medicine can do much more today than it could in the past. So, what’s the trouble? How to pay for it.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy T.J. Rogers, Cato InstituteBriefing Paper, 08/21/2008
Since the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in 2002, the Financial Accounting Standards Board has passed rules that it promises will make corporate accounting more transparent. In fact, its revised Generally Accepted Accounting Principles have made it difficult for investors—or even CEOs—to understand a company’s financial report.
EducationBy Charles Murray, American Enterprise InstituteBook, 08/21/2008
With four simple truths as his framework, Charles Murray, the bestselling coauthor of The Bell Curve, sweeps away the hypocrisy, wishful thinking, and upside-down priorities that grip America’s educational establishment. Ability varies. Children differ in their ability to learn academic material. Doing our best for every child requires, above all else, that we embrace that simplest of truths. America’s educational system does its best to ignore it. Half of the children are below average. Many children cannot learn more than rudimentary reading and math. Real Education reviews what we know about the limits of what schools can do and the results of four decades of policies that require schools to divert huge resources to unattainable goals.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Robert W. Hahn, Peter Passell, American Enterprise InstituteOn the Issues, 08/21/2008
With Wall Street still reeling from the mortgage meltdown, the Federal Reserve now seemingly committed to rescuing big investment banks “too complex to fail,” and the U.S. Treasury proposing a top-to-bottom reorganization of financial regulation, pieties about the virtues of unfettered markets now seem hollow. Tighter oversight of financial markets—reversing a trend that began in the 1970s with the end of fixed commissions on the U.S. stock exchanges—is thus almost certainly in the cards. A little perspective, however, is in order. Reregulation could have unintended consequences, such as bolstering the power of well-organized interest groups, reducing access to capital, and undermining America’s competitive position in the huge and growing global market for financial services. Hence the wisdom in pausing to remember both how easy it is to fall into bad regulation—and how hard it is to dig out.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Ali Alfoneh, American Enterprise InstituteMiddle Eastern Outlook, 08/21/2008
Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has taken advantage of Iranian millenarianism in a well-orchestrated power play to bypass the established clergy. While Ahmadinejad’s populism is unlikely to ignite a messianic revolt against the clerical establishment, its manifestations—most notably leaks about the clergy’s involvement in economic corruption—will weaken their authority and allow the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps to consolidate further control over the power structures of the Islamic Republic.
Information TechnologyBy Jim Harper, Cato InstituteTechknowledge, 08/18/2008
Spectrum policy and telecom mergers should be depoliticized as much and as fast as possible so that neither continue to hinge on the demands of special interests and their politically appointed and elected allies. The innovation-crushing power of the FCC must go. The speech-curtailing power of the FCC must go. That is the lesson of the XM/Sirius merger.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Glen O. Robinson, Free State FoundationPerspectives from FSF Scholars, 08/18/2008
The FCC’s the fleeting expletive policy is beyond the pale of the very special and limited indecency doctrine the Court approved in Pacifica. In Fox v. FCC, the Supreme Court should overturn not only the fleeting expletive policy, but the Pacifica decision, too, for three reasons: First, merely eliminating the fleeting expletives policy would leave untouched the larger problem of ascertaining offensiveness. Second, there is no credible basis for continuing to single out terrestrial broadcasters from other communications media to which indecency controls do not apply. Third, as long as these controls are tolerated, they will encourage new political pressures for increased content regulation.