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Recent Policy Studies
Foreign Policy/International Affairs
As the U.N.’s Arms Trade Treaty Process Begins, U.N.’s “Programme of Action” on Small Arms Shows Its DangersBy Theodore Bromund, David Kopel, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 07/20/2010
In 2001, the United Nations created the “Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat, and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects” (PoA). The PoA is not a treaty. Rather, it is a mechanism for encouraging voluntary cooperation. The U.S. should resist all efforts to turn the PoA into a treaty. If preparations for the 2012 meeting show that these efforts to make it into a treaty are continuing or that the PoA will persist in wasting time on broad, controversial, or unrelated items, the U.S. should withdraw from the PoA process. If it participates, it should keep the focus on using voluntary cooperation between law-abiding democracies to facilitate control of illicit arms trafficking.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Wendell Cox, Ronald Utt , The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 07/20/2010
In addition to the devastating economic effects of cap and trade, the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act (S. 1733)—introduced by Senators John Kerry (D–MA) and Joseph Lieberman (I–CT)—would likely lead to the same conditions that caused the housing bubble of a few years ago. Over the past decade or more numerous studies and reports have been conducted and published by a variety of independent sources on the influence of land use regulations on housing affordability. As the record reveals, communities that adopted the sort of land use regulations and restrictions implied by S. 1733 became highly unaffordable for the typical family. The ensuing housing bubble soon collapsed, and the economy swooned with it. With home prices now slowly approaching affordable levels, it would be a sad day indeed if congressional actions contributed to a reversal of this trend.
EducationBy Emily Cohen, Kate Walsh, Education NextEducation Next, 07/20/2010
Across the country, many cash-strapped districts fretting over likely layoffs are eyeing seniority rules as they hammer out new contracts. To the surprise of some district superintendents, contract negotiations are not likely to offer much relief. In fact, when it comes to seniority rules, and many other core aspects of teachers’ employment, the contract is not the problem. State law is. In Ohio’s case, state law dictates that teachers on continuing contracts and those with greater seniority should have preference, language that is effectively emulated in 14 other states in the country. While teacher contracts may flesh out the details of school rules and rights of teachers, states are in the driver’s seat. Local control—although it is still brandished when expedient—is today more myth than reality, at least when it comes to matters involving teachers.
Budget & TaxationBy Geoffrey Lawrence, Nevada Policy Research InstituteAnalysis, 07/20/2010
Nevada’s current legislative leadership—operating as the Interim Finance Committee—has already signaled its intent to ignore the state’s need for comprehensive fiscal reform and instead simply pursue a quantum increase in the state tax burden, while billing it as a comprehensive review of the state revenue structure. Like each of its predecessors over the last 20 years, however, this legislature’s tax study was structured to ignore genuine fiscal reform issues and instead merely provide cover for lawmakers out to transfer private-sector resources to the powerful, organized, tax-consuming groups that get them elected. Nevertheless, Nevada seriously needs genuine, revenue-neutral fiscal reforms, and this report seeks to fill that vacuum.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & Science
Paying For the “American Power Act”: An Economic and Distributional Analysis of the Kerry-Lieberman Cap-and-Trade BillBy Andrew Chamberlain, Feliz M. Ventura, Institute for Energy ResearchPolicy Study, 07/20/2010
With the passage of the Waxman-Markey bill in the U.S. House of Representatives last year, lawmakers took a historic step toward establishing a broad-based cap-and-trade system in the United States. Attention has now turned to the U.S. Senate, where Sen. John Kerry and Sen. Joe Lieberman have unveiled similar legislation known as the “American Power Act” or the “Kerry-Lieberman” cap-and-trade bill. The Kerry-Lieberman bill would establish a broad-based federal cap-and-trade system, requiring companies in electricity, natural gas, petroleum refining and other industries to hold emission “allowances” or permits for each ton of greenhouse gas emitted. This study explores the Kerry-Lieberman bill’s damaging economic effects in detail.
Economic GrowthBy Brett Schaefer, Anthony Kim, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 07/19/2010
The goal of reducing poverty is admirable and should be supported by the U.S. and the U.K., but focusing on arbitrary aid targets that are only indirectly related to reducing poverty does little to advance that objective. The folly of adhering to outdated, arbitrary aid targets is compounded when it leads a government to increase aid budgets in the midst of historic debt and deficit challenges. Cameron and Obama should not make such a policy misstep. Instead, the two leaders should use the summit as a critical first step toward bringing real changes to the less developed world by shifting their commitment to the principles of economic freedom rather than the false promise of foreign aid.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy George J. Mannina, Washington Legal FoundationLegal Opinion Letter, 07/19/2010
The Obama Administration’s evolving National Ocean Policy of “ensure no harm” to the oceans, coupled with implementing the 1992 Rio Declaration precautionary principle will, via Executive Order, impose new requirements on federal agencies undertaking actions, approving permits, or funding projects. These new requirements will have far reaching consequences for activities occurring in or on the oceans as well as for activities that affect the oceans via drainage from watersheds or air emissions.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy Sarah Hody, Martin Kwedar, Washington Legal FoundationLegal Backgrounder, 07/19/2010
One of the most effective ways to fix the problem of overzealous prosecutors is to remove vague and ambiguous criminal laws altogether. The Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution guarantee rights against unreasonable searches and seizures, to confront opposing witnesses, to a jury of peers, and additional enumerated rights to confer a general guarantee to a fair trial. With federal criminal laws like the vague backdating violations, the recently weakened but still arguably open-ended honest services fraud law, and others, prosecutors have great latitude to pick a target and prosecute that individual as a criminal. By removing ambiguous federal crimes, prosecutors will be compelled to focus on cases where concrete, criminal violations of the law occurred.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy R. Ben Sperry, Washington Legal FoundationLegal Opinion Letter, 07/19/2010
The need for reform of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is apparent when one considers the problems presented in the cases Oncology & Hermatology Assocs. of S.C., LLC v. South Carolina Dep’t of Health & Envtl. Control and Lockheed Martin, Corp. v. L-3 Commc’n Integrated Sys. The fact that the courts were able to grant relief to the parties adversely affected in these particular cases means little for the many parties who have settled out of court rather than face the large costs associated with broad discovery. Further, relying upon courts to fashion remedies in every case for discovery issues would lead to inconsistent rulings and judicial inefficiency. Making the rules for discovery more clear and definite would allow parties to be more cooperative, as the Coase Theorem suggests. By narrowing “the definition of discoverable information to those materials directly relevant to an issue to be tried,” the FRCP would become more clear and definite, which would help fulfill the goal of promoting the “just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding.”
Crime, Justice & the LawBy Marc Levin, Texas Public Policy FoundationPolicy Perspective, 07/19/2010
There are many opportunities for improved use of risk assessment in the Texas corrections system that may result in a more cost-effective allocation of limited resources to better protect public safety and reform offenders. The value in improved assessments is likely to be most fully realized through utilizing the results, along with needs evaluations, to develop and implement individualized evidence-based supervision and treatment strategies. In this regard, there is also a need for more precise data that demonstrates the effectiveness of various available non-residential and residential programs for offenders with the same or similar offense type and risk and needs level.
Budget & TaxationBy James Sherk, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 07/19/2010
Federal employees get substantially better wages and benefits than do the private sector workers whose taxes fund their paychecks. After controlling for education, experience, and other observable characteristics, federal employees earn cash wages 22 percent above comparable private sector workers. Adding in the value of non-cash benefits raises their total compensation premium to 30 to 40 percent. If Congress reduced federal pay to market rates, it would save taxpayers approximately $47 billion a year. Congress should stop giving federal employees inflated earnings before considering raising taxes.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Theodore Bromund, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 07/19/2010
The U.S.–U.K. Defense Trade Cooperation Treaty, which was signed in 2007 and ratified by Britain in 2008, has the support of the Obama Administration. But the Administration has not worked hard enough to allay the concerns that have so far prevented the U.S. Senate from ratifying the treaty. During Prime Minister David Cameron’s visit to the United States, he should press President Obama to demonstrate his commitment to advancing the Anglo–American Special Relationship and improving the efficiency of defense procurement in both countries by announcing his intention to work with the Senate to secure the rapid ratification of this treaty.
National SecurityBy Chris Harnisch, American Enterprise InstituteReport, 07/19/2010
The Somali terror group al Shabaab has taken credit for the July 11 bombings in the Ugandan capital, Kampala. The group seeks al Qaeda’s recognition and, likely, an al Qaeda franchise designation and its first international attack was likely at least partially driven by that aim. Al Shabaab’s ambitions are not limited to the continent of Africa. The group has threatened the West, including the U.S., and it has numerous international militants, including Americans and Europeans. The Uganda attack should serve as a wakeup call for the entire international community.
EducationBy Heather Zavadsky, American Enterprise InstituteEducation Outlook, 07/19/2010
Despite the emphasis on comprehensive education reform in the federal Race to the Top initiative, current headlines reveal continued pursuit of piecemeal reforms such as pay for performance, teacher tenure, school restructuring, and myriad other stand-alone solutions. The end result of such reforms is a patchwork of misaligned programs that do not consider the ultimate goal: a seamless K–12 education system for all students. In Bringing School Reform to Scale (Harvard Education Press, 2009), Zavadsky uses the stories of five urban school districts to make the case that raising achievement for all students requires systemic change. These five award-winning districts demonstrated either higher performance or greater improvement than similar districts in their states. The practices and reform paths of each district offer lessons for educators and policymakers on how to move whole districts from unacceptable to noteworthy performance.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Max Singer, Hudson InstitutePaper, 07/16/2010
Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael Oren and American President Barack Obama agree that Obama’s view of the Middle East is sharply different from previous presidents. While this dramatic difference spells trouble for Israel it also means that Obama’s view has not yet become U.S. policy. No president has the power to make such a “tectonic shift" in U.S. policy by himself. Israel must balance its acceptance of Obama’s policies with the reinforcement of parts of the American policy-making system that have not been converted to the President’s view.
Foreign Policy/International Affairs
The Cameron–Obama White House Meeting: The U.S. and U.K. Must Reject a Timetable for the War in AfghanistanBy Sally McNamara, Lisa Curtis, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 07/16/2010
The Obama Administration should actively counter the perception that the U.S. is war-weary and ready to strike a grand bargain with the Taliban. Such perceptions weaken the U.S. position in the region and dampen prospects for the overall success of NATO’s new counterinsurgency strategy. An artificial deadline dramatically undercuts the U.S. and U.K. by signaling uncertainty to its partners and enemies alike. Cameron and Obama should use their summit to stop this damaging speculation and talk up the chances of victory in Afghanistan without mention of artificial timelines.
National SecurityBy Paul Rosenzweig, James Carafano, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 07/16/2010
There is no silver-bullet law that will solve all cybersecurity challenges. Nor is there a permanent solution, as the cyber universe is a dynamic environment. Legislators will have to pay attention to new technological trends and developments in the wired world to stay current. Congress is only just beginning to take cybersecurity seriously. When it begins to act, it should ensure that its directives make cyberspace better, not worse.
Economic and Political ThoughtBy Dick Armey, Matt Kibbe, Harper CollinsBook, 07/16/2010
Former Majority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives and leading organizer of the Tea Party movement, Dick Armey offers a Tea Party Manifesto: Give Us Liberty. Written with Matt Kibbe, President and CEO of FreedomWorks, Give Us Liberty defines the issues and agenda of the wildfire grassroots movement that is electrifying the nation, as it calls on fiscal conservatives to take back America. This groundbreaking manifesto is essential reading for tea party activists—or any American seeking to understand what the Tea Party is fighting for and what’s next for the movement.
Economic and Political ThoughtBy Matthew Spalding, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 07/16/2010
The growing nationwide effort of American citizens called the Tea Party Movement has changed the landscape of American politics. In its civil protests and spirited opposition to the direction of American politics, these citizen patriots—many of whom were never before involved in political activity—reflect the civic virtues of popular participation, public discourse, and open dissent that are the very hallmarks of American self-government.
International Trade/FinanceBy Robin Harris, The Heritage FoundationSpecial Report, 07/16/2010
The pretense that the European Union is successful and stable—and that the euro is a successful and stable currency—has been exploded by events surrounding the financial bailout of Greece. No one knows where the contagion will spread or how it may end. The world’s financial markets have occasionally teetered on the edge of panic. But the full implications of what has gone wrong still need to be grasped by euro-zone countries, European countries outside the zone, and the United States. The global lessons to be learned are both political and economic; they relate especially to the danger of allowing politics to prevail over economics, as has happened repeatedly in Europe. The crisis in the euro zone goes to the heart of the European project itself. That project needs to be rethought, and European institutions and arrangements need to be remodeled. America, which for decades urged European countries (including Britain) to create a Union that has turned out to be the opposite of what was hoped, has an interest in this. Today, America has only limited power to help put the difficulties right, but it can and should offer advice before events once again spiral out of control. It should also watch where it is going.
Budget & TaxationBy William B. Conerly, National Center for Policy AnalysisBrief Analysis, 07/16/2010
Many people are worried about the United States’ federal budget deficit and accumulating debt burden. In 2009 the federal budget deficit reached a record $1.4 trillion, and public debt (U.S. Treasury securities held by institutions and individuals outside the federal government) is currently more than $8 trillion and growing. The level of discourse is usually simple: “We’re going bankrupt!” But what is the specific threat that the federal government’s huge debt burden poses? Of the three potential effects of the budget deficit and growing public debt – inflation, a debt crisis, or tax hikes – higher taxes leading to slower growth is the most likely consequence.
EducationBy John D. Merrifield, National Center for Policy AnalysisBrief Analysis, 07/16/2010
The sudden increase in property values and demand for housing in Edgewood indicates the desire of parents to move into the district’s boundaries in order to qualify their child for the voucher program. While the exact number is unknown, many voucher users attended non-Edgewood public schools prior to becoming voucher users, moving to the district specifically for voucher eligibility. In addition, others would have left the district had the vouchers not existed, including many children entering school for the first time. The Edgewood experiment shows that policymakers can reap significant economic development and educational benefits at no net fiscal cost by implementing school choice programs like universal vouchers.
Budget & TaxationBy Washington Policy Center, Washington Policy CenterPolicy Brief, 07/16/2010
On November 6, 2007, the people of Washington enacted Initiative 960 to require a two-thirds vote of the legislature to raise taxes. This was the third time voters had enacted the two-thirds requirement. Similar measures had passed in 1993 and 1998, and each time lawmakers repealed the tax-limit provisions of these initiatives in the years following their enactment. In similar fashion, on February 22, 2010, a majority in the legislature passed a two-year suspension of Initiative 960, repealing the two-thirds requirement. Section 3 of the bill canceled a number of disclosure provisions in the initiative designed to provide information to the public. Efforts to restore the public disclosure provisions during floor consideration were defeated. The final measure passed on a partisan vote; only Democrats voted for passage, and 15 Democrats joined all the Republicans in voting against it.
EducationBy Mike Antonucci, Education NextEducation Next, 07/16/2010
If you think it’s far-fetched to suggest that a teachers union could play the role of political kingmaker, think again. The largest political campaign spender in America is not a megacorporation, such as Wal-Mart, Microsoft, or ExxonMobil. It isn’t an industry association, like the American Bankers Association or the National Association of Realtors. It’s not even a labor federation, like the AFL-CIO. If you combine the campaign spending of all those entities it does not match the amount spent by the National Education Association, the public-sector labor union that represents some 2.3 million K–12 public school teachers and nearly a million education support workers (bus drivers, custodians, food service employees), retirees, and college student members. NEA members alone make up more than half of union members working for local governments, by far the most unionized segment of the U.S. economy.
Transportation/InfrastructureBy Arin Greenwood, Competitive Enterprise InstituteIssue Analysis, 07/15/2010
A major storm could throw Florida into a state of financial crisis. And proposals to correct this crisis are yet unavailing. While small in scale in relation to the state’s insurance and storm mitigation needs, could Disney’s model of private government (the Reedy Creek Improvement District) provide some ideas on at least one way of reducing Florida’s massive insurance exposure by creating hardier properties?
Economic GrowthBy Terry Miller, Kim R. Holmes, The Heritage FoundationSpecial Report, 07/15/2010
Reclaiming their heritage of economic freedom will not be an easy task for Americans. Action is needed in every area to challenge politically powerful special interests. Politics as usual will not suffice. Indeed, it is politics as usual that has gotten us off track, with government encroaching daily into areas that Americans have traditionally regarded as private. We don’t need a revolution, but we do need a restoration of the rights once considered unalienable—by the Founders and by the generations of Americans that followed them. The time to start is now. The actions that we need to take form the Economic Freedom Agenda for America.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Nile Gardiner, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 07/15/2010
Strong U.S.–British leadership is needed now more than ever. The war in Afghanistan and the wider war against Islamist terrorism are conflicts the free world simply cannot afford to lose. The U.S., the U.K., and their allies all have a huge stake in the outcome. Afghanistan must never again be allowed to become a safe haven for Islamist militants, who would plunge that nation back into the barbarism of the pre-9/11 era.
Economic GrowthBy Derek Scissors, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 07/15/2010
China has again announced fast growth with low inflation. And again, the PRC will be widely praised as a future, or even current, economic superpower. Other facts have not changed, however, and in these instances stability is not a laudable goal. Once more, there are inconsistencies in the most basic and prominent official Chinese data. To the extent official data are reflective, persistent imbalances within the economy are no smaller and may be worsening. The loan stimulus so effective in pushing the PRC past an economic rough patch has now faded. Growth, while still strong, is waning as the stimulus fades, highlighting another round of damage inflicted on the financial system.
Economic GrowthBy Veronique de Rugy, Jakina R. Debnam, Mercatus CenterMercatus on Policy, 07/15/2010
The understandable temptation to take action in time of recession should not lead lawmakers to take counterproductive actions. Dr. Robert Barro and Charles Redlick's data show that the Congressional Budget Office's multiplier overestimates the return on government spending almost by a factor of two. Thus, while the stimulus may appear to be a wise investment, it is really no wiser than a junk-rated mortgage-backed security; though the investment claims a good rate of return, in reality the return isn't worth it because money is lost.
Economic GrowthBy Robert J. Barro, Charles J. Redlick, Mercatus CenterWorking Paper, 07/15/2010
The global recession and financial crisis of 2008-09 have focused attention on fiscal stimulus packages. These packages often emphasize heightened government purchases, predicated on the view that expenditure multipliers are greater than one. The packages typically also include tax reductions, designed partly to boost disposable income and consumption (through wealth effects) and partly to stimulate work effort, production, and investment by lowering marginal income-tax rates (through substitution effects). The empirical evidence on the response of real GDP and other economic aggregates to changes in government purchases and taxes is thin. Particularly troubling in the existing literature is the basis for identification in isolating effects of changes in government purchases or tax revenue on economic activity.
Health CareBy Brian Blase, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 07/14/2010
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimated that an extension of the Medicaid bailout would add $15 billion to the national debt. This substantial cost—with the deficit at nearly $2 trillion already—is almost reason enough to reject the extension. But a continued bailout would also disproportionately benefit states that have the most bloated Medicaid programs and would further delay those states from taking necessary steps to live within their budgets.
Economic and Political ThoughtBy Robert Sirico, The Heritage FoundationFirst Principles, 07/14/2010
Defense of economic liberty without reference to morality will ultimately prove injurious to liberty itself. Rightly understood, capitalism is simply the name for the economic component of the natural order of liberty. It means expansive ownership of property, fair and equal rules for all, economic security through prosperity, strict adherence to the boundaries of ownership, opportunity for charity, wise resource use, creativity, growth, development, prosperity, abundance. Most of all, it means the economic application of the principle that every human person has dignity and should have that dignity respected.
National SecurityBy Peter Brookes, Owen Graham , The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 07/14/2010
The Obama Administration views New START as the crown jewel of its effort to “reset” U.S.–Russian relations, making them anxious for the Senate to ratify the treaty. Yet America’s national security should not be a sacrificial lamb to better ties between Moscow and Washington. Accordingly, the U.S. Senate should give New START a careful and thorough vetting and be careful not to rush its constitutional duty to review treaties.
International Trade/FinanceBy Derek Scissors, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 07/14/2010
China’s investment in the U.S. is skewed toward the government in part because political opposition has blocked spending outside bonds—investment protectionism. There is certainly a very narrow range of sectors directly important to national security that should be off-limits. Yet most of the political opposition goes well beyond that. Such opposition is not well-considered; the U.S. should accept more non-bond investment.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Ben Lieberman, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 07/14/2010
The Deepwater Horizon spill is the first significant spill from a well in American waters since 1969. In the meantime, offshore oil production has become a significant source of domestic energy and jobs. Fully a third of American oil comes from offshore, and the potential for additional growth is great. The U.S. can and should respond to the spill but in ways that do not jeopardize the benefits of tapping America’s offshore energy.
Health CareBy Betsy McCaughey, Encounter BooksBook, 07/14/2010
The fight against ObamaCare is just beginning. The new health law, signed on March 23, 2010, destroys our constitutional rights. For the first time in history, the federal government will dictate how doctors treat their privately insured patients. That will affect you, no matter what brand-name health plan you have. Worse, some hospitals will stop taking Medicare. Where will seniors go?
Economic and Political ThoughtBy Roger Kimball, Encounter BooksBook, 07/14/2010
For much of the postwar period, William F. Buckley Jr. was the leading figure in the conservative movement in America. Culled from millions of published words spanning nearly sixty years, Athwart History: Half a Century of Polemics, Animadversions, and Illuminations offers Buckley’s commentary on the American and international scenes, in areas ranging from Kremlinology to rock music. The subjects are widely varied, but there are common threads linking them all: a love for the Western tradition and its American manifestation; the belief that human beings thrive best in a free society; the conviction that such a society is worth defending at all costs; and an appreciation for the quirky individuality that free people inevitably develop.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Matt Welch, Reason FoundationReason, 07/14/2010
Seeing individuals as powerless in the face of choice, or as empty vessels too easily overwhelmed by nefarious content, is a key component of paternalism. This view denies citizens their basic agency and autonomy, reinforcing the long-discredited but still popular notion that mass behavior is dictated from the top down. Suppressing peaceful speech to prevent potential violence is a kind of pre-emptive heckler’s veto. We see it when partisans try to silence the opposition and when the government weighs the costs and benefits of free expression.
Economic and Political ThoughtBy Michael Barone, American Enterprise InstituteThe American, 07/14/2010
The major political development of the last 17 months has been an inrush of hundreds of thousands or even millions of Americans into political activity, symbolized by but not limited to the tea party movement. Tea partiers have adopted the language and in some cases even the costumes of the Founders. While the Progressives’ descriptions of a “horse and buggy” Constitution and their sense that giant auto factories and steel mills were the harbinger of the future seem tinny and out of date, the language of the Founders continues to resonate with the clear timbre of a silver spoon tapping a crystal glass. And so one can take satisfaction that most of our fellow citizens in our freeholders’ republic still hold these truths to be self-evident.