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Recent Policy Studies
Budget & TaxationBy Daniel Wityk, National Center for Policy AnalysisBrief Analysis, 08/29/2008
The marriage penalty is a quirk in the tax code that pushes married couples into a higher tax bracket than two unmarried single earners living together and earning the same combined income. The 2001 Bush tax cuts all but eliminated the marriage penalty by lowering tax rates and simplifying other elements of the tax code. However, these Bush tax cuts expire in 2010, and American families face steep marginal tax increases if Congress fails to renew them.
Health CareBy Devon Herrick, National Center for Policy AnalysisBrief Analysis, 08/29/2008
The slight increase in the number of uninsured over the past decade is largely due to immigration and population growth—and to individual choice.
Retirement/Social SecurityBy Laurence J. Kotlikoff, National Center for Policy AnalysisBrief Analysis, 08/29/2008
The current Social Security system allows individuals to claim reduced, early retirement benefits beginning at age 62. Individuals who wait until the full retirement age to collect receive about 30 percent more in monthly benefits. If they wait until age 70 to collect, their benefits will be about 60 percent larger than at age 62. So what choice should people make? Assuming a normal life expectancy and using the interest rate on government bonds, the actuarial present value of lifetime benefits are the same for those taking early retirement as for those waiting to take benefits at a later age. Of course, if one’s life expectancy is not normal (either because of illness or particularly good genes), one retirement age will look more attractive than another. Fortunately, you can have the best of both worlds: You can retire at age 62, then pay back and reapply for Social Security benefits at age 70 if you come to regret your earlier decision.
Economic GrowthBy Diana Furchtgott-Roth, Hudson InstituteHudson Institute Economic Report, 08/29/2008
Housing construction declined in July, largely because of a sharp drop in multifamily permits and starts. It appears that the unexpected June increase in multifamily construction was a blip; the June figure of 404,000 was the highest in 2 ½ years, while July multifamily starts, at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 309,000, were slightly above the May figure of 280,000, and in line with earlier months this year. The decline in single-family starts, from 660,000 in June to 641,000 in July, was a statistically insignificant 2.9 percent. On the other hand, the July single-family figure was the lowest since January, 1991, and total starts of 965,000 were the lowest since March, 1991.
EducationBy David Mansdoerfer, Lexington InstituteIssue Brief, 08/29/2008
What should be expected from the tenure of Randi Weingarten, newly elected president of the American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s second-largest teacher union? In her first major address in July and subsequent statements, the former head of the union’s flagship New York City local described an expansive agenda with public schools assuming broader community roles in a deeply-entrenched government education monopoly.
National SecurityBy Lexington Institute, Center for American Progress, Lexington InstituteStudies, 08/29/2008
Sea-based missile defense options are expanding. The fleet is rapidly evolving from a limited, experimental system to an operational, battle-ready missile defense capability. Since 2002, there have been numerous successful tests of realistic engagement scenarios. Sea-based missile defense works—and it’s ready to do more.
Economic and Political ThoughtBy Mark Steyn, Hillsdale CollegeImprimis, 08/29/2008
On August 3, 1914, on the eve of the First World War, British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey stood at the window of his office in the summer dusk and observed, “The lamps are going out all over Europe.” Today, the lights are going out on liberty all over the Western world, but in a more subtle and profound way.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Russ Harding, Mackinac Center for Public PolicyStudies, 08/29/2008
For more than a century, Michigan’s water resources have been a wellspring of environmental and economic benefit to the state. Protecting these resources is important. But the current interpretation of Michigan wetland law ignores the dramatic improvements in water qual¬ity and environmental safeguards in recent decades. Worse, it threatens to turn a pursuit for nebulous envi¬ronmental benefits into a weapon against the people’s rights and prosperity. The dispute over the “wetland” at Hart Enterprises is simply one example of this.
Economic and Political ThoughtBy Stephen J. Copp, Institute of Economic AffairsBook, 08/28/2008
The law, together with the institutions associated with it, plays a central role in economic prosperity, which concerns all of us. The legal foundations of free market economies, which have delivered enormous improvements to the quality of life of countless people, evolved over centuries. Their justification does not lie simply in utilitarian concepts of economic efficiency but also in moral concepts of natural law and a broader concept of freedom. Great care needs to be taken when changes are made to areas of law that can be foundational in shaping market behaviour, to ensure that they are not undermined.
Health CareBy Roger Feldman, American Enterprise InstituteBook, 08/28/2008
Should Medicare pay for patient expenses the way automobile insurers pay for car-repair bills? Medicare’s current method of paying physicians sets fees for more than 8,000 separate procedures and services, totaling over $60 billion annually. With Medicare’s formulas underpaying for some services and overpaying for others, this complex system is an inefficient use of resources that discourages the use of primary care in favor of more expensive specialty services. Under this “medical indemnity” proposal, Medicare would pay each patient a fixed amount of money, reserving larger subsidies for sicker people. Patients, in turn, would select their own medical services from providers who would set their own competitive rates. Given a fixed amount of money to spend on medical care, patients would have strong incentives to shop for the combination of services, providers, and prices that most closely meet their needs.
Retirement/Social SecurityBy Andrew G. Biggs, American Enterprise InstituteArticle, 08/28/2008
Changes in measuring the future finances of Social Security implemented in the latest Congressional Budget Office (CBO) figures provide clearer estimates of future finances. The new figures use a stochastic model to project the likelihood of a range of future outcomes, unlike the current Social Security Administration reports, which do not give likelihood measures. The new CBO estimates also assume that Social Security will remain unchanged over the entire horizon. Since Congress is likely to change Social Security policy in the future, this assumption must be taken with some caution.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Reuel Marc Gerecht, American Enterprise InstituteOn the Issues, 08/28/2008
Would an Obama or McCain administration have any idea how to contain a nuclear-armed, oil-rich theocracy willing to deploy terrorism and guerrilla warfare to ensure that “justice” is brought to the Middle East and Afghanistan? And how will Israel react as it contemplates its future near a hostile Iran? It is time to breathe new life and urgency into a united Western front against Tehran.
EducationBy Charles Murray, American Enterprise InstituteOn the Issues, 08/28/2008
College is not all it is cracked up to be. Dumbed down courses, flaky majors, and grade inflation have conspired to make the term B.A. close to meaningless. Another problem with today’s colleges is more insidious: they are no longer good places for young people to make the transition from childhood to adulthood. Today’s colleges are structured to prolong adolescence, not to midwife maturity.
Health CareBy Aparna Mathur, American Enterprise InstitutePaper, 08/28/2008
Health insurance coverage and therefore health insurance mandates are a significant determinant of whether individuals decide to grow their businesses.
Health CareBy Emily J. Holubowich, Joseph R. Antos, American Enterprise InstituteArticle, 08/28/2008
There is a “perfect storm” brewing in the American health care system. Health care spending has grown faster than our economy for many years and is projected to double in as little as 10 years. In spite of what we spend on health care, research tells us that we only receive appropriate care half the time. We are simply not getting what we are paying for. Health services research provides the data and the evidence needed to make better decisions, design health care benefits, and develop effective policies to optimize health care financing, facilitate access to health care services, and improve health care outcomes. Despite what we know and what we can learn from health services research, federal funding for this important field continues to erode.
EducationBy Frederick M. Hess, American Enterprise InstituteEducation Outlook, 08/28/2008
Education reformers have long questioned whether school boards have become an anachronism. Pointing to promising efforts in Boston and New York City, some have argued for handing over control of school districts to mayors. A review of the research suggests that advocates overstate the evidence and underestimate the pitfalls, but, on balance, mayoral control is sensible for troubled, urban school systems. More important, however, there are clear design principles that must be adopted if this reform is to work as intended.
LaborBy Karlyn Bowman, American Enterprise InstitutePaper, 08/28/2008
Poll questions from leading survey organizations show that the vast majority of workers are highly satisfied with their jobs. There has been little change in the responses since survey organizations started measuring them regularly in the 1970s. Very few workers say they are completely or very dissatisfied with their jobs. Ninety percent of employed people said they were completely or somewhat satisfied with their jobs according to Gallup’s August 2008 poll. Only 9 percent said they were somewhat or completely dissatisfied. Dissatisfaction is slightly higher among some groups than others. Young people, for example, are just starting out and their salaries are often low. Their dissatisfaction is unremarkable. It is a product of their place in the life cycle.
Budget & TaxationBy Kevin A. Hassett, American Enterprise InstituteOn the Issues, 08/28/2008
Sustained losses in the U.S. auto industry have raised questions in recent weeks about the likelihood of a government bailout. The auto industry’s failure to keep up with competition and adjust to new market demands is worsened by a tax structure that discourages production. In order to revive the floundering auto industry, we should lower the corporate tax structure to a competitive level, rather than pour government money into an anemic industry.
EducationBy Frederick M. Hess, Rosemary H. Kendrick, American Enterprise InstituteBook Chapter, 08/28/2008
NCLB has altered the American education landscape. It has focused attention on achievement and on racial and economic achievement gaps while nationalizing the education debate to an unprecedented degree. In the process, it has upended traditional education politics and created new federal- state tensions. With public opinion mixed, the law’s scheduled reauthorization postponed to at least 2008, and its most ambitious demands still ahead, the long-term impact of NCLB is still very much up in the air.
Budget & TaxationBy R. Glenn Hubbard, American Enterprise InstituteOn the Issues, 08/28/2008
The problem with Obama’s fiscal plans is not that that they lack vision. On the contrary, the vision is plain enough: a larger welfare state paid for by higher taxes. The problem is not even that they imply change. The problem is that his plans are statist. While the candidate is sending a fiscal “Ich bin ein Berliner” message to Americans, European critics of his call for greater spending on defense are the whistle-blowers for what lies ahead with Obama’s vision for the United States.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy James Phillips, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 08/28/2008
Expecting to resolve a 60-year-old deep-rooted conflict in five months is unrealistic. The best that the Bush Administration can hope to achieve in its limited time remaining is to broker a framework agreement that sketches out how the negotiations should proceed in the future. This goal proved elusive at the Annapolis conference in November 2007. The Bush Administration should adopt a more realistic position, tone down its overambitious rhet¬oric, and pursue step-by-step diplomacy to forge an interim agreement that can keep the negotiations alive for the next Administration, not rush for a final settlement that will be dead on arrival. A flawed agreement would be worse than no agreement at all.
Foreign Policy/International Affairs
Russia’s Recognition of Independence for South Ossetia and Abkhazia Is Illegitimate: They Are Not KosovoBy Sally McNamara, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 08/28/2008
Russia has signaled its intention to continue escalating the crisis in Georgia by unilaterally and illegally recognizing the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. After both failing to abide by the terms of the formal ceasefire negotiated by French President Nicholas Sarkozy and vetoing attempts to resolve the crisis in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said he “now felt obliged to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia as other countries had done with Kosovo.” Comparing the situation in South Ossetia and Abkhazia with Kosovo is not only duplicitous, but it is also a calculated move by Moscow designed to show the West that it was serious when it threatened reprisals for Kosovo’s declaration of independence in February. Russia successfully engineered this crisis to suit its broader geopolitical ambitions, and unless the West pushes back in unequivocal terms, it is more than likely that Russia will pursue similar policies in other neighboring states, particularly Ukraine.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Sally McNamara, Ariel Cohen, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 08/28/2008
Violent conflict is not a thing of the past for Europe, and the sooner Europe equips itself to confront the challenges of a resurgent Russia, the better. If Europe is to take Moscow’s belligerence seriously, it needs to be ready to act with enough toughness to stop the Russian bear in its tracks.
LaborBy James Sherk, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 08/28/2008
Organized labor’s highest legislative priority is the deceptively named Employee Free Choice Act. EFCA replaces secret ballot elections-the method by which most workers join unions-with publicly signed union cards. Though EFCA still allows for secret ballot elections, standard union organizing tactics ensure that publicly signed union cards will dominate the recognition process. As a result, the act effectively eliminates secret ballot elections.
Economic GrowthBy Rea S. Hederman Jr., The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 08/28/2008
The Census Bureau report on poverty and inequality continued to buttress the facts that work and married families are the best solution to poverty. The poverty rate increased because more Americans did not work in 2007 as compared to 2006. Income inequality fell due to the income gains of the middle class and a loss of income to the top quintile. The Census Bureau did an excellent job attempting to account for disparity in household size in the different quintiles. Income inequality is exacerbated by the fact that more married couples with two earners are in the top quintiles, compared to single earners and single-parent households in the bottom quintiles.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Helen E. Krieble, James M. Roberts, Marcus Brubaker, Mario Loyola, The Heritage FoundationHeritage Lecture, 08/28/2008
Challenges on the U.S.-Mexico border include economic, immigration, and security challenges for both countries. The Mexican government should take the painful but necessary steps to open entrenched monopolies to competition as a way to boost economic growth and create jobs. Immigration reform needs outside-the-box thinking based upon the principles of the free market. The U.S.-Mexico Mérida Initiative can be an important tool to combat transnational terrorists, who are increasing their operations in Latin America.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Arturo Sarukhan, The Heritage FoundationHeritage Lecture, 08/28/2008
The Mérida Initiative should provide Mexico and the United States an opportunity to think strategically and to understand how enhanced cooperation and security will provide Mexico and the United States with a strategic platform for the next 10 or 15 years of our bilateral relationship.
Foreign Policy/International Affairs
U.S. Should Ensure That Georgia’s Sovereignty and Territorial Integrity Are Not Undermined by the United NationsBy Sally McNamara, Brett D. Schaefer, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 08/28/2008
As diplomatic efforts intensify at to the United Nations (UN) to resolve the conflict in Georgia, the United States must unambiguously define its redlines and veto any proposed resolution which does not explicitly uphold Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Economic and Political ThoughtBy Andrew E. Busch, The Heritage FoundationSpecial Report, 08/28/2008
Constitutional issues and rhetoric have played an important role in politics and government throughout American history. Contrary to the assumption by many contemporary Americans that the Supreme Court is the sole arbiter of constitutional meaning, the elected branches have numerous powers and duties that give them the opportunity to shape constitutional interpretation and application.
Economic and Political ThoughtBy Kim R. Holmes, The Heritage FoundationHeritage Lecture, 08/28/2008
The Heritage Foundation has established a long-term project to explore the question of whether the ideas and practice of Islam are compatible with Western notions of liberty-such as individual liberty, religious liberty and tolerance, and minority rights. The answers to some key questions that can act, perhaps, as benchmarks for people living in Muslim societies and states for how they would relate to the issue of liberty and freedom.
EducationBy Vance H. Fried, Center for College Affordability and ProductivityReport, 08/28/2008
Is it possible to get an “Ivy” education for $7,376 a year? Can a college provide high-quality undergraduate education at a reasonable cost? In this paper, I explore if cost can be reduced and quality improved through the use of new “value-designed” models of undergraduate education. A value-designed model allows you to appeal to customers seeking the greatest value. These are the students—or perhaps more often, their parents—who are looking for a high-quality product at a relatively low price. To be able to charge a relatively low price, a college must have either a large subsidy from public or private sources or low costs. In this paper, I focus on the cost side of providing a high-quality education.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Peter J. Wallison, American Enterprise InstituteFinancial Services Outlook, 08/28/2008
Having now become explicitly government-backed entities, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (and their supporters in Congress) can no longer argue that they do not pose a risk to taxpayers. It is not politically feasible for the government to back private companies when their shareholders and managements keep the profits but the taxpayers cover the losses. Thus, even if they escape their current precarious financial straits, Fannie and Freddie are now operating in a kind of twilight before they will eventually have to be nationalized, privatized, or liquidated. In addition, the recent attention to covered bonds as a way to finance mortgages suggests that, in the future, Fannie and Freddie’s traditional business—buying and holding or securitizing mortgages—will no longer be essential to U.S. housing finance. An analysis of the available options for policymakers suggests that the best course—from the standpoint of taxpayers—is not to keep Fannie and Freddie alive through the injection of government funds but to allow them to go into receivership.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Matthew Sinclair, TaxPayers' AllianceReport, 08/28/2008
Green taxes in Great Britain are set far higher than is necessary to pay for the costs of the British carbon footprint.
Budget & TaxationBy John R. Hendrickson, Public Interest InstituteInstitute Brief, 08/25/2008
Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who serves as the ranking minority member of the House Budget Committee, has recently issued “A Roadmap for America’s Future,” a bold policy solution to reform the big three entitlement programs. Rep. Ryan’s Roadmap does not offer a big-government approach nor does it ask taxpayers to surrender more of their earnings to help bailout entitlement programs. It uses free market and limited government principles to reform health care, Medicare, Social Security, and imple¬ment tax reform.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Deborah D. Thornton, Public Interest InstituteInstitute Brief, 08/25/2008
The “Iowa Core Curriculum,” passed during the 2008 Legislative session and mandated for use in all Iowa schools, public or private, requires students to use Al Gore’s book, An Inconvenient Truth, to develop a PowerPoint presentation advocat¬ing a reduction in greenhouse gases.8 Even before the establishment of the core curriculum, freshman science classes at City High School in Iowa City were required to view An Inconvenient Truth and write a letter to a government official telling them why global warming is a problem and urging them to do something. These assignments constitute a brazen attempt to promote a highly ideological and special interest-driven campaign, not to teach science.
EducationBy Amy K. Frantz, Public Interest InstituteInstitute Brief, 08/25/2008
Iowa is not getting a lot of “bang for its buck” from state higher-education spending.
Economic and Political ThoughtBy Steve Thomas, Maxim InstitutePaper, 08/25/2008
The debate about government revenue and expenditure and tax cuts is a healthy one, but only talking about the appropriate level of taxation misses a more important prior question: to what end is central government taxing its citizens? In other words, what is the government using our money for, and are these the right things for government to be involved in? These questions about the role of government should be fundamental to the taxation debate, as the government should only be taxing people so that it has enough money to carry out its proper tasks.
Health CareBy Tom Daxon, Oklahoma Council of Public AffairsReport, 08/25/2008
When considering programs to assist the less fortunate, policymakers sometimes focus on their pet projects. Such bias may result in unintended, sometimes tragic consequences for the people these programs are meant to help. Accordingly, O-CHIP reviews the Medicaid program in terms of its role in the overall safety net of programs for the poor. Unfortunately, the structure that emerges is one that frequently destroys families and smothers initiative. What was meant to help instead does great harm.
Economic and Political ThoughtBy Yon Goicoechea, Cato InstituteCato's Letter, 08/25/2008
Out of the closure of RCTV emerged the student movement, which would go on to play a major role in opposing Chávez’s plans to institute “21st century socialism” in Venezuela. That
Family, Culture & CommunityBy David Popenoe, Center for Marriage and FamiliesResearch Papers, 08/25/2008
Strong families remain essential for a strong and healthy society and irreplaceable for successful child rearing and for satisfying the deeper social-emotional needs of both adults and children. This fact leads one to think that perhaps future generations of Americans will want to make a cultural shift back in the direction of two-parent families held together by lifelong marriage. It is hard to envision this scenario in the very near future, but over the course of the next twenty years signs of this change could become evident. And the scenario will surely become more likely if the nation becomes better educated about the evidence relating family weakening to the host of problems that ail modern societies, especially those concerning our children.
Economic and Political Thought
Reflections of a Political Economist: Selected Articles on Government Policies and Political ProcessesBy William A. Niskanen, Cato InstituteBook, 08/25/2008
Reflections of a Political Economist collects some of the most incisive and important policy analysis and public choice articles by William A. Niskanen from the last fifteen years. His interests have ranged widely during this time, covering many different areas of public policy, always with an eye toward rigorous economic thinking, fiscal conservatism, and finding shrewd, practical solutions to important problems.
International Trade/FinanceBy Razeen Sally, Cato InstituteBook, 08/25/2008
International trade policy has lost its way. Trade policy has become disconnected from 21st century business and consumer realities. The World Trade Organization and free trade agreements have outdated negotiating models and yield diminishing returns. The world’s fastest growing economies are those in Asia that have embraced freer trade and global integration unilaterally, without waiting for trade negotiations. Hence, the priority should be bottom-up unilateral liberalization
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Joseph L. Bast, Heartland InstitutePamphlet, 08/25/2008
In the long term, the individual choices of people and businesses, not governments, will lead to a more diversified fuel supply, reliable energy technology, and environmental protection that is effective as well as efficient. Market-driven energy policies will generate the wealth necessary to maintain a healthy environment and provide our homes and businesses with affordable and reliable electricity.