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Recent Policy Studies
Family, Culture & CommunityBy Samuel W. Sturgeon, The Heritage FoundationSpecial Report, 11/14/2008
Adolescents from intact family structures tend to delay sexual initiation until a significantly older age than their peers from non-intact family backgrounds. Adolescents from intact families are less likely to have ever had sexual intercourse, have had on average fewer sexual partners, are less likely to report a sexually transmitted disease, and are less likely to have ever experienced a pregnancy or live birth when compared to their peers from non-intact families. However, the effects of family structure on all adolescent sexual outcomes other than sexual debut tend to operate primarily through the delay in sexual debut experienced by adolescents from intact families. Age, race, and gender differences are discussed, as well as methodological challenges associated with the study of family structure and adolescent sexual outcomes.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Nicolas Loris, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 11/14/2008
In one of the first moves in the lame duck session, Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) is calling for a vote on an omnibus lands package that would create 10 new “heritage” areas and restrict millions of acres as federal wilderness land. As a result, the bill would eliminate major recreation and restrict new oil and gas leasing, logging, mining, and all other business activity in these areas. In total, 3 million acres would be withdrawn from energy leasing. The Congressional Budget Office places an $8 billion price tag on the omnibus lands bill: $7.1 billion in discretionary spending and over $915 million in mandatory spending.
Budget & TaxationBy Josh Barro, Tax FoundationFiscal Facts, 11/14/2008
While the financial crisis and economic slump have been pinching state and local government budgets around the country, New York City has been particularly hard hit. With its heavy dependence on the financial industry, the city is expecting a combined total budget shortfall of approximately $4 billion for fiscal years 2009 and 2010. The city last faced a budget crisis in 2001, when the combination of a recession and the September 11 attacks caused a significant drop in tax revenue. Michael Bloomberg, then just starting his mayoralty, responded with a combination of budget cuts and tax increases. (Many of those tax increases were rescinded as economic conditions improved.) Last week, Bloomberg proposed a raft of changes to close the new gap. Similar to the last go-around, the package includes something for everybody to dislike, with $1.5 billion in broadly-aimed budget cuts and nearly $1 billion in tax increases, with more tax increases likely down the road.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Jacob Sullum , Reason FoundationReport, 11/14/2008
Obama’s “green jobs” rhetoric is part of his strategy to conceal the enormous expense associated with his plan to “transform our entire economy” and “build a new economy that is powered by clean and secure energy.” Obama wants to “implement an economy-wide cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.” That is even more ambitious than the goal of a cap-and-trade bill that the Department of Energy estimates would cost between $444 billion and $1.3 trillion in reduced economic growth over two decades. If Obama’s cap-and-trade plan works as advertised, it will create incentives for businesses to achieve greenhouse gas reductions as efficiently as possible. He nevertheless cannot resist centrally planning the response—for example, by arbitrarily requiring that 25 percent of the nation’s electricity come from renewable resources by 2025, instead of letting the market decide what mix of conservation and alternative energy makes the most sense.
Information TechnologyBy Bret Swanson, Progress & Freedom FoundationProgress Snapshot, 11/14/2008
If Barack Obama ran for president by calling for a heavier hand of government, he also won by running one of the most entrepreneurial campaigns in history. Will he now grasp the lesson his campaign offers as he crafts policies aimed at reigniting the national economy? Amid a recession, two wars, and a global financial crisis, will he come to see that unleashing the entrepreneur is the best way to raise the revenue he needs for his lofty priorities? Mr. Obama, following FDR’s mastery of radio and JFK’s success on TV, is the first candidate to fully exploit the Web. The community organizer seemed to realize that new social networking and video technologies were perfect for politics.
Getting the Big Ideas Right: The Strategic Concepts that Helped Achieve Substantial Progress in IraqBy David Petraeus, The Heritage FoundationHeritage Lecture, 11/14/2008
The job of strategic leaders is first to try to get the big ideas right; then it’s to communicate those big ideas to subordinate leaders and hopefully be so persuasive that they embrace them. The first big idea was that we had to secure and serve the population. The decisive terrain in counterinsurgency is not necessarily the high ground or the bridge or the usual focus of military operations, but the human terrain. You have to understand the people. Security is an absolutely vital foundation, but it is not sufficient. You have to have a plan that encompasses what we call lines of operation: economic, diplomatic, political, informational, rule of law, and capacity building. Ambassador Crocker and I worked very hard to develop and refine the Joint Campaign Plan that focused on securing the population and the other lines of operation.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Washington Legal Foundation, Washington Legal FoundationReport, 11/13/2008
Copyrights, patents, trademarks, and other forms of intellectual property merit the same respect under the U.S. Constitution as real property. Several key issues and debates involve intellectual property rights such as online copyright protection; the patent system in the United States and abroad; and efforts to prevent overseas counterfeiting of technology.
Economic and Political ThoughtBy Jesus Huerta De Soto, RoutledgeBook, 11/13/2008
The book examines the dynamic processes of social cooperation which characterize the market, with particular emphasis on the role of both entrepreneurship and institutions. The author’s multidisciplinary approach to the subject is in keeping with a trend in economic thought established by the Austrian School of economics, of which the author is a significant contributor. The book is divided into three distinct parts. The first comprises three chapters devoted to the study of the theoretical basis for the dynamic conception of the market. In this first part, special attention is given to the analysis of the theory of dynamic efficiency, the essential differences between neo-classical and Austrian economics, and the three-level approach (theoretical, historical and ethical) to the study of social phenomena.
Health CareBy Dennis G. Smith, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 11/13/2008
The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services published a final Medicaid rule that permits Medicaid recipients to self–direct their own health care and supportive services. The rule, Self–Directed Personal Assistance Services Program State Plan Option (Cash and Counseling), is a great victory for persons with disabilities. Medicaid recipients in need of long–term care have been given the freedom to control their own destiny. If states take advantage of it, this change has the potential to revolutionize the $100 billion long–term care delivery system under Medicaid.
Economic GrowthBy Brian M. Riedl, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 11/13/2008
In a throwback to the 1930s and 1970s, Democratic lawmakers are betting that America’s economic ills can be cured by an extraordinary expansion of government. This tired approach has already failed repeatedly in the past year. Spending-stimulus advocates claim that government can “inject” new money into the economy, increasing demand and therefore production. This raises the obvious question: Where does the government acquire the money it pumps into the economy? Congress does not have a vault of money waiting to be distributed: Therefore, every dollar Congress “injects” into the economy must first be taxed or borrowed out of the economy. No new spending power is created. It is merely redistributed from one group of people to another.
Budget & TaxationBy Jerry Brito, Mercatus CenterPublic Interest Comment, 11/13/2008
Earlier this year, Governor Steve Beshear appointed an E-Transparency Task Force to develop and implement a one-stop shop on the internet to allow citizens to easily access information about the state’s finances. That Task Force recently asked for public comments on “mockups” of a proposed website design and online disclosure generally. Gov. Beshear’s executive order states that the task force’s efforts will “include, but not be limited to, providing information about state expenditures and state programs.” We encourage the task force to embrace this potentially wide-ranging mandate to open up state government. While the Task Force should therefore be commended for pursuing several educational modules that aim to teach the public about the budget process, these modules would benefit from further consideration.
Budget & TaxationBy J. Scott Moody, Maine Heritage Policy CenterMaine View, 11/13/2008
The next state budget has not been submitted yet, but the debates about a gap of at least $500 million between tax revenues and spending have already started calls for cuts, elimination of programs, state employee layoffs, hiring freezes, across-the-board spending decreases, and/or ideas to the raise state’s revenues with tax increases, new taxes or higher fees. These predictable crises are fueled by the obvious fact that Maine government spends too much money, and the decisions to spend the money directly create the high taxes. Adding another complication to this problem is the fact that Maine people’s incomes are relatively low. These factors combine for a double-whammy on Maine people, who are supporting very high state spending with below-average incomes. Still another aspect that makes studying these threads a challenge is that tax revenues are transferred among levels of government (federal, state, county and local), which can blur the cause-and-effect relationships between taxes and spending.
The Best-Laid Plans: How Government Planning Harms Your Quality of Life, Your Pocketbook, and Your FutureBy Randal O'Toole, Cato InstituteBook, 11/13/2008
Although national economic planning has been widely discredited in theory and practice, government planners still control much of our infrastructure and land. O’Toole examines how the schemes of the planners go horribly wrong. Planners, obsessed with “smart growth,” think they can make our towns better places to live, but their plans result in unaffordable housing, more congestion, and increased crime. An Oregon native, O’Toole specifically examines how smart growth failed in Portland. He shows how the U.S. Forest Service tries to plan millions of acres of national forests but ends up making them more susceptible to catastrophes than ever. Combining theory with case studies to underscore his analysis, O’Toole calls for repealing federal, state, and local planning laws and proposes reforms that can help solve social and environmental problems without heavy-handed government regulation.
An Evaluation of Legislative Proposals for Higher Cable Fees to Finance Public, Education and Government Access ChannelsBy Theodore Bolema, Mackinac Center for Public PolicyPolicy Brief, 11/13/2008
House Bill 5047 and Senate Bill 636 are proposed amendments to Michigan’s Uniform Video Services Local Franchise Act of 2006, which streamlined Michigan’s franchising process for local cable systems. The bills, if passed into law, would remove several legal limitations on the size of the fee that local governments could charge cable television companies in order to finance local “public, education, and government access” channels on their cable systems. Absent these restrictions, local governments would be freer to impose on a cable company a “PEG fee” of up to 2 percent of its total revenues. These PEG fees would be in addition to the 5 percent “franchise” fee local governments may charge cable companies for the rights-of-way the companies need in order to pass their cables through public areas and connect them to consumers’ homes. This legislation does not appear to be justified or necessary.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Russ Harding, Mackinac Center for Public PolicyReport, 11/12/2008
Politicians and self-proclaimed environmentalist groups tell us that the salvation of our moribund economy is green jobs. We are being asked to believe in the bold new economy that will replace current forms of energy such as coal-fired power plants and gasoline-powered cars with alternative energy such as wind-powered utilities and cars that run on bio-fuels or electricity. But, are these green jobs our economic salvation or just another ill-advised attempt by politicians to steer the economy in a new direction? First we had the dotcom bubble and then the housing bubble. Is the green energy bubble next? American taxpayers would be better served by being told the truth by politicians, rather than the economic nonsense that surrounds the hype regarding the green economy.
National SecurityBy William W. Beach, et al., The Heritage FoundationCenter for Data Analysis Report, 11/12/2008
In June 2008, The Heritage Foundation invited energy scholars and policy experts to participate in a computer simulation and gaming exercise assessing the economic effects of a global petroleum energy crisis. The game demonstrated the vulnerabilities of the global system’s capacity to produce and deliver oil supplies to a concerted transnational terrorist threat. This exercise also suggests that major producer and consumer nations and key geo-strategic allies acting in concert with one another while protecting their own national interests could ameliorate the severity of long-term disruptions. Reliance on market forces and coordinated security activities did much to help restore the confidence of markets and consumers.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Karen Campbell, The Heritage FoundationCenter for Data Analysis Report, 11/12/2008
The global warming policy debate is increasing the calls for reduction of carbon-dioxide and other greenhouse-gas emissions. In the wake of the recent hike of oil prices, Congress is scrambling to develop an energy policy that addresses emissions while avoiding yet higher energy costs. Although emissions reductions and stable energy prices are not necessarily mutually exclusive, the proposal to allow the Environmental Protection Agency to broadly regulate emissions under the Clean Air Act will impose higher costs on U.S. industries, thus leading to slower economic growth and lower employment. At a time when other emerging economies are rapidly expanding and putting competitive pressure on the United States’ niche of lucrative investment opportunities, command-and-control policies will further erode these investments. Everyone, investors and non-investors alike, is affected.
Economic GrowthBy Derek Scissors, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 11/12/2008
On November 9, China launched a widely anticipated stimulus program consisting of no less than 16 percent of China’s annual GDP, or $586 billion. This percentage is an eye-popping figure, which is exactly the intended effect. In substance, the program is largely a repackaging of previous measures designed to immediately bolster domestic confidence and spin Chinese participation in the upcoming G-20 global financial meetings. The package is merely the culmination of a series of steps taken over the previous nine months, measures enacted first to bolster suffering domestic stocks and then to boost a sharply decelerating domestic economy. These steps did not constitute even a small surprise to anyone following the troubles of the Chinese economy, but they may come as a shock to those counting on vigorous Chinese growth to “save” the world from the global financial crisis.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Jack Spencer, Nicolas Loris, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 11/12/2008
Concerns over global warming, energy dependence, and rising fuel prices are leading many to seek out alternatives to fossil fuels. Nuclear power is one available alternative that could help reduce dependence on foreign energy sources that is both emissions-free and affordable. Aside from the regulatory hurdles, one difficulty with employing nuclear technology is that the U.S. no longer has the industrial infrastructure to support a broad expansion of nuclear power. Some Members of Congress have suggested that federal government handouts, using the euphemism “incentives,” are necessary to get the nuclear industry up and running again. This is simply not the case. The nuclear industry has already begun its expansion. Instead, Congress should concentrate on guaranteeing regulatory stability, opening foreign commercial nuclear markets, and developing a sustainable, free-market approach to nuclear waste management.
Budget & TaxationBy Brian M. Riedl, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 11/12/2008
Congress and President Bush enacted at least $333 billion in “emergency” spending in the just-completed 2008 fiscal year. This total excludes the $700 billion financial market rescue, $42 billion in tax rebate outlays from the first economic stimulus package, and a $61 billion stimulus package that passed the House but not the Senate. While some of this spending may have been for worthy programs, much was routine expenditures given the emergency designation simply to evade spending caps and Pay-As-You-Go rules. If President-elect Barack Obama and Congress continue this practice, it will further drive up the budget deficit and render all budget controls obsolete. Congress should require a two-thirds supermajority to pass any emergency bill and make it easier for lawmakers to strike emergency spending that is not vital, sudden, unanticipated, and temporary. Unless this abuse is curtailed, “emergency” spending will continue to push the federal budget toward trillion-dollar deficits.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Steven Groves, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 11/12/2008
For the past several years, the United Nations Human Rights Council and General Assembly have adopted resolutions recognizing and promoting the concept of “defamation of religions.” Proponents seek to establish an international ban on any speech that would insult, criticize, offend, or disparage any person’s religion. Specifically, the Organization of the Islamic Conference has suggested that national legislatures pass laws to ensure protection against “defamation of religions.” Such a ban, however, could not withstand legal scrutiny in the United States. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects free speech and expression, even when speech is offensive or insulting. Moreover, a religious “speech code” would disrupt the assimilation of religious minorities that has occurred throughout U.S. history and could breed resentment rather than understanding among America’s religious communities.
National SecurityBy Rebecca Grant, Lexington InstituteReport, 11/10/2008
Cargo loaders are essential to air mobility at major US aerial ports and rugged overseas bases. C-130s, C-17s, giant C-5s and a wide range of contract airlifters from 747s to Russian Antonovs all share one thing in common. Their aircrews strive to cut down time waiting on the ground for cargo and passenger loading. Time airborne means mission progress; time waiting on the ground must be held to a minimum. Enter the cargo loaders – surely one of the most overlooked aspects of 21st Century airpower. While much bulk cargo moves by sea and land, air delivered cargo can range from units of blood to precision airdrop bundles for Special Forces fighting in the hills of Afghanistan. Allies are investing in airlifters, but often depend on the US Air Force’s loaders during major operations. Given future combat scenarios, the current inventory of loaders might not be enough to assure rapid air mobility.
National SecurityBy Daniel Goure, Lexington InstituteIssue Brief, 11/10/2008
Yesterday, in his first state of the union address, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev threatened to deploy short-range missiles against Poland if a missile defense system, the so-called Third Site, were deployed in that Eastern European country. The Russian President went on to list other hostile steps his country might take including electronically jamming the missile defense. It is ironic that President-elect Obama’s first test should be about missile defenses. He has expressed skepticism about the current Administration’s missile defense program, saying he would cut investments in unproven systems. During a mid-2007 visit to Poland, the then Senator said that the United States and Poland should cooperate on effective missile defenses, perhaps indicating his opposition to the Third Site.
LaborBy Matthew Glans, Heartland InstituteReport, 11/10/2008
Worker’s Compensation insurance is a form of insurance that provides compensation for medical care for employees who are injured in the course of employment. Although safety has improved dramatically in many workplaces over the past few decades, the costs of state-mandated workers’ compensation insurance have soared. An alternative to state-controlled worker’s compensation insurance programs is privatization. Privatization shifts the responsibility of providing worker’s comp benefits from the state to private commercial insurance companies. The goal of privatization is to encourage competition between providers in an active market, giving employers more choices for insurance. Privatization has been implemented in several states, including West Virginia and Nevada, and could prove to be a sound alternative to state-based worker’s compensation insurance.
International Trade/FinanceBy Fran Smith, Competitive Enterprise InstituteC:/SPIN, 11/10/2008
Special interests are positioning themselves to push the new president to back up his pre-election positions on international trade with action. Meanwhile, Asian countries are worried about whether the new president will carry out some of the trade policies he promoted during his campaign, such as renegotiating the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement to provide more for U.S. car manufacturers. Also, while oil prices have dropped significantly from their historic highs, fuel costs remain an important issue—one that could negate Obama’s promises on the North American Free Trade Agreement. Freeing up trade is good for international relationships. Latin America, with many countries going increasingly leftist, has a few strong U.S. allies, most prominently Mexico and Colombia. Turning against those countries with new trade demands would foment more anti-Americanism and play into the hands of populist demagogues like Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.
The Constitution/Civil Liberties
Telecommunications & Electronic Media: Charting a New Constitutional Jurisprudence for the Digital AgeBy Randolph J. May, Free State FoundationReport, 11/10/2008
Communications law and policy would be very different today—and more suited to the now generally competitive and converging communications marketplace—if the Supreme Court’s twentieth century jurisprudence had been different. As it was, the Court took an unduly restrictive view of First Amendment free speech rights and an overly broad view of the nondelegation doctrine. Thus, the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Fairness Doctrine, requiring broadcasters to present both sides of controversial public issues, along with much other program content regulation, was upheld against First Amendment attack. And the FCC, the administrative agency charged under the Communications Act with regulating broadcasters, common carriers, and other communications companies, was given what at times amounted to unbridled discretion to regulate “in the public interest.” Arguably, at times the Court also took a somewhat overly narrow view of Fifth Amendment property rights of communications service providers.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Walter Lohman, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 11/10/2008
October 12, 2002, is a historic day in the global war on terrorism: Six years ago, Jemaah Islamiyah carried out the worst terrorist attack in the history of Indonesia—bombing a popular tourist area on the resort island of Bali. Yesterday, three perpetrators of this horrendous crime—the murder of 202 people—were executed. The executions are a grim milestone in Indonesia’s struggle against extremism and terrorism. The decision to impose capital punishment was not easily made. In a democratic country where terrorists cloak themselves in the religious values of the Islamic majority, all but the strongest politicians are tempted to accommodate extremism. But Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono—often criticized for indecisiveness—and the Indonesian justice system—frequently characterized as weak—held firm. For holding firm in its fight, Indonesia deserves American support.
Economic GrowthBy Rea S. Hederman, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 11/10/2008
The October jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics provided more grim news of a faltering economy. The unemployment rate increased to 6.5 percent, up almost two full percentage points from a year ago. The total number of lost jobs for October was 240,000, but of greater concern were the sharp downward revisions for the previous month. Congress should pass proposals that create a strong foundation for economic growth and increased employment. First, Congress and the President should not enact policies that would damage the economy in either the short or long term. There should be no tax increases while economic growth is weak. The federal government should not bail out states that spent unwisely during flush economic times. Second, Congress should lay a broad groundwork for economic recovery. The government can lower the corporate tax rate, which is the second highest in the industrial world.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Thomas M. Woods, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 11/10/2008
Deadly clashes resumed in North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo just one day before the African Union–sponsored Nairobi summit aimed at ending the crisis was convened. It is estimated that as many as 45,000 people die each month in the Congo as a result of the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis. The current spike in violence will certainly increase that number. Yet, the challenges for regional leaders and the international community go beyond addressing the immediate crisis; the underlying causes of instability in eastern Congo must be treated as well. As a result of neglect by the international community, perverse motivations by regional leaders, and a poorly defined U.N. mission that has cost billions of dollars with very few achievements to show, the eastern DRC continues to languish in conflict and despair.