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Recent Policy Studies
Budget & TaxationBy Chris Edwards, Daniel J. Mitchell, Cato InstituteBook, 09/10/2008
This book explores one of the most dynamic and exciting aspects of globalization—international tax competition. With rising mobility and soaring capital flows, individuals and businesses are gaining freedom to work and invest in nations with lower tax rates. That freedom is pressuring governments to cut taxes on income, investment, and wealth. Like other aspects of globalization, tax competition is generating intense political opposition. Numerous governments and international organizations are fighting to restrict tax cuts. Edwards and Mitchell challenge those efforts, arguing that tax competition is helping to advance prosperity, expand human rights, and rein in bloated governments. The authors argue that the U.S. economy can be revitalized by embracing competition and overhauling the federal tax code. They discuss how current tax rules suppress wages and investment and describe the tax changes needed for workers and businesses to succeed in the fast-paced global economy.
Health CareBy J.P. Wieske, Christie Raniszewski Herrera, American Legislative Exchange CouncilBook, 09/10/2008
Legislative interest in health insurance and health care reform is at an all-time high. This Guide is meant to identify the issues and help you sort through the solutions that work, as well as the public policies that do more harm than good. We explain who the uninsured are and what can be done to address that problem. Plus we have summarized various issues facing state legislators, highlighted actions already taken by states, and offered solutions. We have also included a glossary that explains a number of industry terms. We invite you to use this Guide as a starting point for your deliberations and proposals.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Daniel R. Simmons, American Legislative Exchange CouncilBook, 09/10/2008
Many of the state Attorneys General want to know of reliable sources for information on climate change. This is exactly why we produce this publication—to provide an informational resource that state legislators can turn to for reliable information on climate change. At a time when state legislators are bombarded with the distortions, half truths, and downright wrong assertions about climate change, now more than ever state legislators need good information on these issues.
EducationBy Alabama Policy Institute, Alabama Policy InstituteResearch Study, 09/10/2008
The time has come for Alabama to seriously examine why above-average efforts at educating our children have produced such dismal results. Our data show that some schools perform quite well at below-average spending, while others spend substantially more and get far less for their dollar. Indeed, it appears that aggregate per-child spending may even be counterproductive in some cases. Merely increasing school budgets does not appear to be the solution to improving Alabama’s public schools. Several possibilities could explain these results. One of the most likely reasons for this disparity is that the intellectual and cultural development of children by variables outside of the school—such as their families—are much stronger predictors of success in the classroom than school funding.
Budget & TaxationBy Brian M. Riedl, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 09/10/2008
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO)’s new 10-year baseline shows steep Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid spending costs driving the budget deficit upwards. The published CBO baseline shows manageable 10-year budget estimates based on unrealistic assumptions that Congress requires the CBO to include in its baseline. Therefore, the CBO also provides a set of alternative budget assumptions that can be used to build a more realistic baseline. This realistic baseline shows that, while tax revenues should begin recovering next year, entitlement spending is projected to drive the budget deficit to $577 billion by 2013 and $969 billion by 2018. The best way to get the budget under control is by reforming Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid and bringing down their 7 percent projected annual growth.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Lisa Curtis, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 09/10/2008
The United States-India civil nuclear deal cleared its toughest international hurdle this past weekend when the 45-nation Nuclear Supplier’s Group (NSG) developed a consensus on approving civilian nuclear transfers to India for the first time in over three decades. The NSG decision marks a significant victory for those who welcome India’s rising global economic and political influence and the contribution New Delhi will make toward improving stability and security in Asia in coming years.
Budget & TaxationBy Joseph Henchman, Kevin W. Benedict, Chris Atkins, Tax FoundationAmicus Brief, 09/10/2008
The North Carolina Supreme Court is considering the case of Heatherly v. State, brought by the North Carolina Institute for Constitutional Law, a non-profit legal foundation. In a friend-of-the-court brief filed in the case, the Tax Foundation urged the Supreme Court to reverse a lower court ruling and hold that the North Carolina Education Lottery generates tax revenue, not “profits.” The Tax Foundation had previously filed a brief with the North Carolina Court of Appeals, which sustained the law in 2-1 vote.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Lani Cohan, H. Sterling Burnett, National Center for Policy AnalysisBrief Analysis, 09/10/2008
Federal mismanagement of United States forests has increased the number, size and cost of wildfires over the past decade. Historically, the national forests have been logged to provide lumber for commercial activities, to promote forest recreation, species protection and management, and to prevent wildfires. In recent decades this has changed. Pressure and lawsuits from environmental lobbyists have prevented or delayed both commercial and salvage logging, turning many of our national forests into tinderboxes. The government should introduce market competition in the management of the nation’s forests. Some forests, or portions of some national forests, could be sold outright to the highest bidders. Alternatively, some forests could be managed by private organizations in return for fees. Private forest owners and managers would have the incentive to minimize wildfires and improve forest health.
Regulation & DeregulationBy Ira T. Kay, Steven Van Putten, Cato InstitutePolicy Analysis, 09/10/2008
The economic slowdown and the active political season are generating calls for imposing new regulations on executive pay. The presidential candidates of the two major parties have lashed out at what they perceive to be excessive pay for certain executives or for corporate executives in general. Such populist sentiments are often based on misunderstandings about the role of corporate executives in the economy and the vigorous competition that exists for these highly skilled leaders. In the past, federal regulatory efforts based on such misunderstandings have generated unintended consequences, which have damaged the economy and hurt the ability of the market for executives to self-regulate over time. Before additional regulatory and legislative efforts are unleashed, policymakers should examine the rationale for current pay structures and the strong links between executive pay and corporate performance.
EducationBy Andrew J. Coulson, Cato InstitutePolicy Analysis, 09/10/2008
Would large-scale, free-market reforms improve educational outcomes for American children? That question cannot be answered by looking at domestic evidence alone. Though innumerable “school choice” programs have been implemented around the United States, none has created a truly free and competitive education marketplace. Existing programs are too small, too restriction laden, or both. To understand how genuine market forces affect school performance, we must cast a wider net, surveying education systems from all over the globe. In more than one hundred statistical comparisons covering eight different educational outcomes, the private sector outperforms the public sector in the overwhelming majority of cases. Moreover, that margin of superiority is greatest when the freest and most market-like private schools are compared to the least open and least competitive government systems (i.e., those resembling a typical U.S. public school system). Given the breadth, consistency, relevance, and decisiveness of this body of evidence, the implications for U.S. education policy are profound.
Economic GrowthBy Steven J. Davis et al., American Enterprise InstituteWorking Paper, 09/10/2008
Unemployment inflows fell from 4 percent of employment per month in the early 1980s to 2 percent or less by the mid 1990s and thereafter. United States data also show a secular decline in the job destruction rate and the volatility of firm-level employment growth rates. We interpret this decline as a decrease in the intensity of idiosyncratic labor demand shocks, a key parameter in search and matching models of unemployment. According to these models, a lower intensity of idiosyncratic shocks produces less job destruction, fewer workers flowing through the unemployment pool and less frictional unemployment. To evaluate the importance of this theoretical mechanism, we relate industry-level unemployment flows from 1977 to 2005 to industry-level indicators for the intensity of idiosyncratic shocks. Unlike previous research, we focus on the lower frequency relationship of job destruction and business volatility to unemployment flows. We find strong evidence that declines in the intensity of idiosyncratic labor demand shocks drove big declines in the incidence and rate of unemployment. This evidence implies that the unemployment rate has become much less sensitive to cyclical movements in the job-finding rate.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Charles W. Calomiris, Stanley D. Longhofer, William Miles, American Enterprise InstituteWorking Paper, 09/10/2008
Despite housing’s importance to the economy and worries about recent financial and economic turmoil traceable to housing market difficulties, little has been written on how distress in the housing market, measured by foreclosures, affects home prices, or how these variables interact with other macroeconomic or housing variables such as employment, housing permits or sales. Employing a panel vector autoregression model to examine quarterly state-level data, our paper is the first to systematically analyze these interactions. Our estimates provide a useful benchmark. Based on the past experience of the housing cycle, even when one proverbially bends over backwards to inflate estimated foreclosures and take account of possible nonlinearities in their effects on house prices, there is no reasonable basis from past empirical relationships for believing (as many commentators do) that the housing wealth of consumers has fallen or will fall by a substantial amount.
Health CareBy Devon Herrick, Ariel House, National Center for Policy AnalysisBrief Analysis, 09/10/2008
Public officials and health care experts have recently suggested a number of reforms to reduce the cost of individual health insurance. However, most of the proposals fail to address the contribution of mandated benefits to the high cost of insurance in many states. Differing regulations and mandates among the states cause wide variations in individual health insurance rates. Protection from interstate competition allows lobbyists to impose expensive mandates. Allowing residents to purchase coverage across state lines would create more competitive insurance markets. In addition, letting insurers experiment with different designs to create innovative and cost-effective health plans will decrease the number of people who cannot afford care.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy J.D. Foster, David C. John, Stephen Keen, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 09/09/2008
After years of warning and months of high drama, the Treasury Department recently took the unfortunate but necessary step of seizing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (Fannie and Freddie). Treasury placed the two institutions into conservatorship and provided the means and terms by which Treasury would recapitalize them as necessary. The cost to the taxpayer is unknown at this time and represents payment for serious mistakes made years ago and repeated regularly. Decades of policy blunders creating and protecting Fannie and Freddie finally led the predicted system risk to become a dangerous financial reality. However, once the market is stabilized, free-market reform must be implemented to prevent a recurrence. The next President and Congress should allow Fannie and Freddie in their current form to wither to extinction. The private sector is ready, well-prepared, and subject to the proper incentives to continue to ensure a steady flow of correctly priced capital to America's housing markets.
Health CareBy Dennis G. Smith, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 09/09/2008
Congress may soon return to reauthorization of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Congressional leaders seemed determined last year to spend a pre-set level of money to the extent of rewarding unsound policies. SCHIP needs a fresh approach. Congress can return SCHIP to its original focus on uninsured low-income children by setting a firm cap on eligibility that applies to both SCHIP and Medicaid and by restoring fiscal discipline. Instead of expanding SCHIP, policymakers should promote tax relief for working families to enable them to buy private insurance, including employer coverage, and inject the oxygen of healthy members and resources needed to improve and strengthen private insurance pools. In turn, such action will help to make insurance more affordable for everyone.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Ryan O’Donnell, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 09/09/2008
Last month, history reasserted itself in the form of Soviet-era T-62 tanks rolling through the streets of Gori. The Russian-Georgian war rocked the geopolitical landscape, unearthing dormant challenges even as Soviet steel forged new ones. In the days and months ahead, the international community—sovereign nation and transnational organization alike—will face numerous diplomatic, economic, and even military challenges. The Heritage Foundation has issued several WebMemos addressing these issues at length, and this one provides a summary of the policy recommendations designed to guide the world community’s efforts to preserve Georgian sovereignty while sending a clear message to Moscow that Russian aggression will not be tolerated.
Health CareBy R. Glenn Hubbard, John F. Cogan, Daniel P. Kessler, American Enterprise InstituteResearch Brief, 09/09/2008
Subsidies for health insurance for chronically ill, high-cost individuals may increase coverage in the broader population by improving the functioning of insurance markets. In this paper, we assess an historical example of a policy intervention of this sort, the extension of Medicare to the disabled, on the private insurance coverage of non-disabled individuals. We use data on insurance coverage from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics from before and after the extension of Medicare to the disabled to estimate the effect of the program on private insurance coverage rates in the broader population. We find that the insurance coverage of individuals who had a health condition that limited their ability to work increased significantly in states with high versus low rates of disability. Our findings suggest that that subsidizing individuals with high expected health costs is an effective way to increase the private insurance coverage of other high-cost individuals.
Transportation/InfrastructureBy Joesph M. Giglio, Hudson InstituteBook, 09/09/2008
In a radical departure from his previous books, Joseph M. Giglio uses the techniques of popular fiction to dramatize how America’s transportation system can be transformed into a vigorous engine for economic growth—and to make clear that our ability to meet the challenges of an increasingly competitive global economy depend on this transformation. Funny, irreverent, and clear-eyed, Judges of the Secret Court gives today’s savvy readers a refreshing dose of real-world insights into creating a “New Covenant” on transportation—between the federal government, state and local governments, and private enterprise—that will not simply repair a broken transportation system, but will turn it into a crucial generator of economic growth.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Arnold Kling, Cato InstituteBriefing Paper, 09/09/2008
Even if one thought that home ownership was worth encouraging, mortgage debt was worth subsidizing, and the government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) structure was viable, allowing the GSEs to assume a dominant role in mortgage finance was a mistake. The larger they grew, the more precarious our financial markets became. Regulators should contemplate freezing the mortgage purchase activities of the GSEs while at the same time loosening the capital requirements for banks to hold low-risk mortgages. The result would almost surely be an industry much less concentrated than the current duopoly. A housing finance system that does not rely so heavily on Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae will be more robust.
Budget & TaxationBy Jason Mercier, Washington Policy CenterPolicy Note, 09/05/2008
Constitutional restrictions will help prioritize government spending and provide a legislative climate in which further increases in the government’s financial burden are difficult to pass. Under such a restriction, if lawmakers felt they really needed to collect more money from people, tax increase proposals could be submitted directly to voters for approval.
Health CareBy Roger Stark, Washington Policy CenterReport, 09/05/2008
Although they were controversial at first, four years of real-world experience shows that Health Savings Accounts are a success, enjoy growing popularity and have increasing enrollment with each passing year. HSA participants represent all socio-economic levels in society and consumer surveys show that owners are becoming informed users of health care. Surveys also show that most HSA owners are satisfied with their coverage, and would not choose to go back to traditional third-party coverage.
ImmigrationBy Derek Monson, Sutherland InstituteReport, 09/05/2008
Most illegal immigrants now in Utah add value to society through their family and economic decisions.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Kathleen Hartnett White, Texas Public Policy FoundationPolicy Perspective, 09/05/2008
Unless the U.S. Congress removes restrictions on domestic oil production, unprecedented U.S. fuel prices will likely continue, the damaging effects now rippling throughout our economy. Unless the U.S. reduces dependence on unstable, if not inimical, foreign sources of oil, a grave peril to our national security will deepen.
EducationBy David V. Anderson, Rio Grande FoundationStudies, 09/05/2008
New Mexico students take an assessment test called the Standards-Based Assessment Test. This test inflates results relative to what New Mexico’s students would do on the nationwide National Assessment of Educational Progress.
EducationBy Roger Prosise, Lexington InstituteStudies, 09/05/2008
Bilingual education should be optional, not mandatory. There are states, such as Illinois, that mandate bilingual education. This paper describes the programs and practices used in Illinois’ Diamond Lake School District 76, which achieved remarkable gains in English reading and math test scores by implementing its own alternative “Sheltered English” program that teaches English language learner students primarily in English. While the district is small, its population is diverse, and there are many reasons to believe its successes can be replicated in other, larger school districts.
Elections, Transparency, & AccountabilityBy Lexington Institute, Lexington InstitutePostal Trend Watch, 09/05/2008
The United States Postal Service posted a net loss of $1.1 billion in Q3 FY 2008, bringing its year-to-date net loss to $1.13 billion. USPS attributed these losses to rising fuel costs and the ailing U.S. economy. The Service also felt the burden of a $1.4-billion contribution to the Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Fund—a requirement of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 (PAEA). In accordance with the PAEA, the Postal Service also submitted its “Network Plan” to Congress, outlining its strategy for modernization of its operations and for meeting the service standards it established in December 2007.
Budget & Taxation
Comparing International Corporate Tax Rates: U.S. Corporate Tax Rate Increasingly Out of Line by Various MeasuresBy Robert Carroll, Tax FoundationFiscal Facts, 09/05/2008
The United States has left the major features of its business tax system unchanged over the past 15 years. Meanwhile, other countries have been changing theirs, potentially hurting the competitiveness of the United States. Perhaps most emblematic of the trend abroad is lower corporate tax rates in virtually all developed nations. As a result, the United States now has the second-highest statutory tax rate among OECD member nations.
EducationBy David Whitman, Hoover InstitutionEducation Next, 09/05/2008
By the time youngsters reach high school in the United States, the achievement gap is immense. The average black 12th grader has the reading and writing skills of a typical white 8th grader and the math skills of a typical white 7th grader. The gap between white and Hispanic students is similar. But some remarkable inner-city schools are showing that the achievement gap can be closed, even at the middle and high school level, if poor minority kids are given the right kind of instruction.
EducationBy James Forman Jr., Hoover InstitutionEducation Next, 09/05/2008
Maya Angelou Public Charter School’s success refutes the idea that kids in our target population are too far gone to benefit from any program, however well intentioned, well designed, or well funded.
EducationBy Jacob Vigdor, Hoover InstitutionEducation Next, 09/05/2008
Most districts reward teachers for their years of experience, advanced degrees, and in some cases special credentials such as a certificate from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. If every year of experience and every credential were strongly associated with a teacher’s ability to educate students, we could feel content that our system rewarded the ability to educate de facto. But the available evidence suggests that the connection between credentials and teaching effectiveness is very weak at best, and the connection between additional years of experience and teaching effectiveness, while substantial in the first few years in the classroom, attenuates over time. Though exact results vary from one study to the next, there is little doubt that credentials and additional years of experience (beyond the first few years) matter far less to teacher effectiveness than they do to teacher compensation as it is currently designed.
EducationBy William G. Howell, Martin R. West, Paul E. Peterson, Hoover InstitutionEducation Next, 09/05/2008
With the election season in full swing, this survey offers certain lessons for the two contenders for the U.S. presidency. If Barack Obama and John McCain want to walk in step with the American public, they should acknowledge the flagging performance of schools, for while Americans retain an abiding commitment to public education, the grades that they assign the nation’s schools are increasingly mediocre. Additionally, the candidates should convey support for the principle of accountability, while recognizing the faults of the particular accountability system mandated by No Child Left Behind. Finally, the candidates should remain open to new models of education provision. Though Americans continue to reflect upon the merits of charters, vouchers, online education, and home schooling, an overwhelming majority profess support for at least one of these alternatives to traditional public schools.
Health CareBy John C. Goodman, National Center for Policy AnalysisBrief Analysis, 09/05/2008
The McCain plan will not solve all our health care problems. But it has a far better chance of positively reforming the system than any other plan that has been proposed this campaign season.
Health CareBy John C. Goodman, National Center for Policy AnalysisBrief Analysis, 09/05/2008
It is hard to say under Obama’s plan who will get what benefits, how they will get it or how much it will cost, but it is assuredly the case that the costs will be much higher than Sen. Obama’s advisers predict, and it will be more difficult to achieve “universal coverage” than they assume.
Health CareBy Nadeem Esmail, Dominika Wrona, Fraser InstituteStudies, 09/05/2008
Canada is slow to adopt the latest medical technology forcing Canadian patients to rely on old and often outdated medical equipment for treatment in spite of total health care expenditures that are among the highest in the developed world.
LaborBy Paul Kersey, Mackinac Center for Public PolicyReport, 09/05/2008
Administrative and overhead costs for unions are unusually high, and spending on workers’ representation—the core task of labor unions—is correspondingly low, according to the findings in “Union Spending in Michigan: A Review of Union Financial Disclosure Reports.” The study examined national, state and local data from federal LM-2 reports for six prominent unions and used the information to create estimated budgets. Director of Labor Policy Paul Kersey’s review of union financial reports shows that less than half of a typical union member’s dues go into representation which is nearly matched by the cost of overhead and administration. In contrast, a typical nonprofit will usually try to keep overhead and administrative costs at around half of what is spent on its core programs.
Health CareBy Sarah McIntosh, Kansas Policy InstitutePolicy Papers, 09/05/2008
During the 2008 legislative session, Kansas lawmakers passed Senate Bill 81 which clarifies that under federal law employers who provide health insurance to their employees can also set up Premium Only Plans. These plans allow employees to use pre-tax dollars to pay for health insurance. The Kansas legislature should consider taking a further step in improving health insurance choices for Kansans by allowing employees to purchase their own health care plans through their employer’s cafeteria plan. This would make the employee the actual owner of the policy and allow them to retain the tax advantages of such an option.
Retirement/Social SecurityBy Laurence J. Kotlikoff, et al., National Center for Policy Analysis09/05/2008
Assuming that households are not liquidity-constrained and have assets to transfer to tax-favored savings, the Roth 401(k) can provide the same standard of living as a regular 401(k) and can protect households against future tax increases. However if existing tax provisions are retained through time and households are liquidity-constrained, contributing to a regular 401(k) generates more lifetime consumption than does contributing to a Roth 401(k). The regular 401(k) is particularly attractive when employers offer matching contributions. Given the considerable uncertainty facing American workers concerning the future nature of tax policy, the best option when it comes to choosing a retirement account vehicle is surely to diversify and allocate a sizable share of one’s tax-advantaged saving to each type of account.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Sigrid Fry-Revere, Molly Elgin, Competitive Enterprise InstituteIssue Analysis, 09/05/2008
While political squabbles continue to stymie public funding for stem cell research, enterprising private companies, foundations, and individuals have invested or donated funds, not only for general stem cell research, but also for testing potential therapies and related products. Government programs, such as California’s Proposition 71, are bureaucratic, wasteful, and mired in political controversy. As a result, the percentage of funds spent on actual research is low. Experience shows that it is possible to retain America’s dominance in biotechnology without government funding, and current research continues to prove that private funding produces results more efficiently and effectively. No matter how much public funding proponents promise, the best way to make progress in stem cell research is to allow the private sector to grow, unimpeded by cumbersome regulation and political controversy.
Economic and Political ThoughtBy Ronald Hamowy, Cato InstituteBook, 09/05/2008
Libertarianism has had its Primer, its Reader, its Freewheeling History—now at last it has its encyclopedia: The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism. This comprehensive book, years in the making, will instantly become the standard guide to libertarian people and ideas. The Encyclopedia begins with an introductory essay offering a historical and thematic overview of key events and thinkers in the development of classical liberal and libertarian thought. It includes more than 300 succinct, original articles on libertarian ideas, institutions, and thinkers. Contributors include James Buchanan, Richard Epstein, Tyler Cowen, Randy Barnett, Ellen Frankel Paul, Deirdre McCloskey, and more than 100 other scholars.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy David C. John, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 09/04/2008
The biggest mistake that Congress and the next president could make about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is to leave them alone or let them get away with only minor changes. While both again seem temporarily stable after their stock took another sharp drop and failure seemed moments away, the calm is deceptive. The two have now seen the value of their stocks drop by about 90 percent since January.
Retirement/Social SecurityBy Nicola Moore, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 09/04/2008
Given the uncertainty involved in long-term economic projections, the fact that CBO and Trustees’ estimates of the year of deficits and insolvency are actually fairly close together leaves little room to doubt that Social Security is in trouble. Even under CBO’s rosier scenario, the benefit cuts or tax increases that would be necessary to balance the system would be severe. No matter what set of assumptions is used, it is clear that the next Congress and the next president must take the need for reform seriously.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy John J. Tkacik Jr., The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 09/04/2008
In light of President Hu Jintao’s assertion immediately after Russia’s invasion of Georgia that Beijing and Moscow are “advancing across the board precisely in accordance with our commonly declared goals,” one should not expect major fissures in the great Eurasian partnership of China and Russia.
National SecurityBy Jena Baker McNeill, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 09/04/2008
A new Government Accountability Office report has found that 100 percent scanning of cargo containers is not only bad for trade but hinders the ability of the international community to improve supply chain security worldwide. This report is not the first round of bad news for 100 percent scanning, and indications are that it will not be the last. Congress must recognize the disastrous consequences of 100 percent scanning and begin examining alternatives that would maintain economic viability while protecting Americans.
Transportation/InfrastructureBy Ronald D. Utt, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 09/04/2008
Recent projections by the Office of Management and Budget and the Congressional Budget Office reveal that the highway trust fund will run out of money during FY 2009. Unless the fund is replenished soon, federal spending on highways could decline significantly as the fund reverts to a spend-as-you-earn basis until a permanent remedy is enacted. Until then, one solution is to re-concentrate the fund’s focus on highway investment and safety by abandoning the many low priority and non-transportation diversions that now encumber the federal program.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Bruce Klingner, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 09/04/2008
Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda’s abrupt resignation has again thrown Japan’s political landscape into uncertainty. His departure, coming less than a year after assuming office—as was the case with his predecessor—increases the potential that Japan will return to the revolving door of ineffectual prime ministers serving brief terms that prevailed through much of the 1990s.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Ray Walser, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 09/04/2008
The Canadian government will host the Eighth Defense Ministerial of the Americas September 2-6 at Banff in the scenic Canadian Rockies. The purpose of the meeting is the promotion of regional defense and security cooperation in the Americas and the strengthening of ties among 34 invited nations. It is a ministerial event in search of a diplomatic and strategic meaning
Health CareBy J.D. Foster, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 09/04/2008
Medicare is financially unsustainable in its current form. The Medicare Trustees’ 2008 estimate of the program’s total excess costs is $85.6 trillion. The Trustees acknowledge an important, flawed assumption used in developing their estimate of excess costs. If corrected, Medicare’s excess costs would increase, underscoring the need to reform Medicare quickly and substantially.
LaborBy James Sherk, The Heritage FoundationCenter for Data Analysis Report, 09/04/2008
Many Americans are understandably worried about their job security, but policymakers should understand that American jobs are more secure today than in past years. Employers are much less likely to fire or lay off workers than they were during the 1991 or 1982 recessions. The economy is going through difficult times, but workers have much less to worry about than they had 30 years ago.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Ryan O’Donnell, James Phillips, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 09/04/2008
Under the guise of providing private instruction, the ISA indoctrinates its pupils, including many Americans, with the same ideology of hatred and intolerance that fuels this nation’s enemies in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet as another school year is about to begin, providing a fresh crop of impressionable young minds to the ISA and its Saudi sponsors, the U.S. State Department continues to do nothing. Until the State Department displays a willingness to dispense with diplomatic dhimmitude, the Saudi government will continue to use its wealth and influence to export hateful and bigoted elements of the Wahhabist ideology onto U.S. soil.
Elections, Transparency, & AccountabilityBy James Jay Carafano, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 09/04/2008
In the wake of Katrina, the federal government received withering criticism. These initial impressions did much to shape public perceptions, leading Congress to push for proposals that did little to improve—and in some cases detracted from—the ability of the nation to prepare for large-scale catastrophes. If these mistakes are not to be repeated after Gustav, Washington will have to be more sober in assessments of federal responsibilities for dealing with large-scale national disasters.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy John J. Tkacik Jr., The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 09/04/2008
The most frightening aspect of China’s approach to the Olympics was that the communist country did not care what foreigners thought. The message of the Chinese state to its citizens, to foreign governments and anyone else who cared to pay attention was “China is big and will do what it wants—get used to it!”
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Derek Scissors, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 09/04/2008
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) must improve its environment in order to sustain growth. The Chinese economy is far more efficient than it was 30 years ago, but its much-heralded expansion has placed unprecedented strain on natural resources and is now beginning to menace public health. Regardless of whether its economic size ever rivals or surpasses that of the U.S., China may very well match the now extinct USSR’s astounding levels of environmental degradation, inefficient indigenous industry, and eventual economic stagnation.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy Rachel Brand, The Heritage FoundationLegal Memorandum, 09/04/2008
Trimming back the federal criminal code by eliminating offenses that should be investigated and prosecuted by the states has long been a goal of policy experts and good-government advocates. This exercise in federalism is worthwhile both for its constitutional merits and for its effect on government accountability, as it would clarify which agencies are responsible for fighting which types of crime. Nevertheless, it is an uphill battle. Simply put, there is currently little political profit in advocating for less federal law enforcement. That reality has sapped support in Congress and the executive branch for broad reforms. Instead, change must be pursued incrementally, with an understanding of the practical and political dynamics contributing to the over-federalization of crime.
LaborBy James Sherk, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 09/04/2008
How secure are American jobs? Conventional wisdom holds that Americans are more likely to be laid off today than they were a generation ago and that globalization and corporate greed are putting more and more jobs at risk. Good jobs are being outsourced to countries where workers earn a fraction of American wages. The era of jobs for life is over; even long-time employees are no longer safe. Today, it seems, no job is secure. But this perception, like so much conventional wisdom, is wrong.
State Health Care Reform: Retargeting Medicaid Hospital Payments to Expand Health Insurance CoverageBy Christopher J. Meyer, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 09/04/2008
State officials must decide whether to use existing government health care funding to help individuals and families buy health insurance or continue funneling taxpayer dollars into existing health care institutions to defray the costs of emergency-room care for the uninsured. Transferring Medicaid dollars to help poorer individuals and families access solid private coverage can begin to change the broader health care system.