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Recent Policy Studies
Budget & TaxationBy Matthew Mitchell, Mercatus CenterWorking Paper, 08/25/2010
State and local government spending has grown at a remarkable clip over the last half-century. Since the close of World War II, aggregate state and local spending grew 34 percent faster than the private sector and 37 percent faster than federal government spending. In recent years, the difference in growth rates has widened. From 2000 to 2009, state and local government spending grew nearly twice as fast as the private sector (while over the same period, the federal government grew even faster). Spending growth has not been uniform across spending categories, and Medicaid spending is by far the fastest-growing component of state expenditures. In this paper, I review some of these trends and then estimate what would have happened under an alternate scenario in which spending growth had been restrained.
Budget & TaxationBy Arnold Kling, Mercatus CenterWorking Paper, 08/25/2010
It would appear to be quite likely that the United States will experience a debt crisis within the next two decades, unless the path for fiscal policy changes from what is projected by the Congressional Budget Office. However, international capital markets continue to treat U.S. Treasury debt as a fairly safe asset. One way to interpret this phenomenon is that investors expect the United States to take steps to get its fiscal house in order. The assumption that the United States will have the political will to stabilize its fiscal position is based more on hope than on recent experience. If the political process continues to enlarge the government’s commitments to spend in the future, investor expectations will change at some point. That change in market perception is likely to be swift and severe.
Budget & TaxationBy National Center for Policy Analysis, National Center for Policy AnalysisReport, 08/25/2010
The current personal income tax rates will expire beginning January 1, 2011. If Congress does not act to extend the current tax rates, the tax burden will increase for all income levels, not just the wealthy.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy Manhattan Institute, Manhattan InstituteTrial Lawyers Inc., 08/25/2010
Environmental litigation is deeply rooted in Anglo-American law: the common-law tort of nuisance, which emerged in twelfth-century Britain, allows individuals to recover compensation for “real injuries” to their “lands.” Some modern environmental litigation, most prominently that which seeks redress for injuries generated by the oil spill from BP’s Gulf of Mexico Deepwater Horizon rig, falls well within this historical paradigm. But much of the litigation sure to flow from the spill is of a very different character. How should we think about suits charging BP with securities fraud for not making clear its safety risks? What about suits alleging pension fraud for not making clear the financial threat to the company’s retirees posed by its Gulf of Mexico operations? And what about suits that target not just BP but all oil companies, not for oil actually spilled but for the threat of rising sea levels resulting from global warming, itself indirectly caused at least in part by the use of fossil fuels?
Economic GrowthBy Nicholas Eberstadt, Hans Groth, University of St. GallenWDA Forum, 08/25/2010
Some years from now—just how many we cannot yet be sure—the current global financial crisis will be over. And the Western economies will generally be saddled with much higher levels of public debt than they held in, say 2007. But greater—and unrelenting—pressures on Western budgets and public debt levels lie immediately beyond the current crisis. These will be driving by the inexorable demographic forces that are transforming the OECD countries in a “gray zone.”
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Michael Mazza, American Enterprise InstituteAsian Outlook, 08/25/2010
The Obama administration’s hopes that its warmer approach to Beijing would yield a more fruitful Sino-American relationship have been disappointed. Rather than adopting a more cooperative bearing, Beijing has become increasingly assertive over the past year. Recognizing the resulting detriment to U.S. interests and Asia-Pacific peace and security, the Obama administration is now pushing back. This new direction may convince Beijing to reconsider its recent assertive policies, but for now, the United States and China have entered a period of tense relations, raising the odds of a true crisis. Particularly worrisome is Chinese media coverage of this summer’s quarrels, which has been nationalistic and anti-American in tone and content. Such coverage makes conflicts more difficult to resolve, as the Chinese regime cannot afford to look weak in the eyes of an incensed citizenry. Policymakers in both countries should be aware of this dynamic as they approach any additional disputes in the coming months.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Bruce Klingner, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 08/25/2010
August has become the month when former U.S. Presidents fly to Pyongyang to gain the release of U.S. citizens incarcerated for illegally entering North Korea. Last year, Bill Clinton attained the freedom of two U.S. journalists sentenced to 12 years of hard labor. Now, Jimmy Carter has arrived in North Korea seeking the freedom of Aijalon Mahli Gomes, a U.S. missionary sentenced to eight years of hard labor for crossing into North Korea and demanding the regime improve its human rights record.
National SecurityBy Jena Baker McNeill, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 08/25/2010
Perhaps one of the most significant lessons learned from recent U.S. disasters is that the private sector is a critical actor in the homeland security enterprise. Time and again, from the attacks of September 11 to Hurricane Katrina—and even recently with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill—the private sector has been at the forefront of relief and recovery operations. The private sector’s indispensable role begs for the federal government to form solid bonds with industry. These relationships not only promote security innovations but allow these new developments to be plugged directly into disaster response efforts. Consequently, Congress and DHS should ensure that private sector relationships are well incorporated into future homeland security policymaking.
Health CareBy Clete DiGiovanni, Robert Moffit, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 08/25/2010
The Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act (PPACA) is projected to yield $575 billion in Medicare savings over the next 10 years, mostly from Medicare payment reductions to doctors, hospitals, and health plans. But beneath these payment reductions, the PPACA also makes statutory changes that could challenge the autonomy of physicians to treat patients as they think best, undercut the freedom of physicians to remain in private practice, and threaten the continuation of fee-for-service medicine regardless of the preferences of doctors and patients.
National SecurityBy Ethel Machi, Jena Baker McNeill, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 08/24/2010
The Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission has emphasized the need for a “bio-specific strategy” in terms of preventing acts of bioterrorism. The U.S., however, has significant work to do in terms of developing this strategy in a way that is representative of the risk of bioterrorism, respects legitimate uses of biological agents, and prepares the nation if such a disaster strikes.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Dean Cheng, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 08/24/2010
The long-awaited Department of Defense (DOD) annual report on Chinese military capabilities, required under the fiscal year (FY) 2000 National Defense Authorization Act, was finally released last week. The most interesting thing about this year’s report is what it leaves unsaid. The report is replete with information that should alarm anyone concerned about Taiwan’s diplomatic space and ability to defend itself if necessary. Yet the obvious strategic conclusions to be drawn from this information are left to the reader.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Helle Dale, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 08/24/2010
When a program can increase U.S. security and counterterrorism efforts and benefit the American economy at a time of a struggling recovery, you have hit a double jackpot. And when the program—in this case the United States Visa Waiver Program—is also an effective public diplomacy tool for improving the image of the U.S. abroad, it is a triple jackpot.
National SecurityBy Jena Baker McNeill, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 08/24/2010
Suggesting that the primary risk to U.S. national security lies with the millions of American pleasure boaters is the wrong way to approach the small-boat challenge. Not only would placing the assumption of guilt on boaters be largely ineffective; it would have a potentially disastrous financial impact—not only on boaters but on boat builders and the entire boating industry as well. Nevertheless, these are the areas where legislative solutions have often centered. The true solution should come from working with the maritime community, enhancing already inherent organizational structures, and educating those who know the waters best. These solutions should increase the security of the overall maritime domain while preserving the economy and civil liberties.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Walter Lohman, Nicholas Hamisevicz, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 08/24/2010
China’s human rights record is dismal and not improving. Successive editions of the U.S. Department of State’s annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices have documented China’s lack of progress in human rights, ranging from continued abuses in Tibet to imprisonment and harsh treatment of political prisoners to a general crackdown on religious groups that are not sanctioned by the government. The Obama Administration should make defense of universal liberties a central part of U.S. public and private diplomacy with the People’s Republic of China.
Budget & Taxation
New CBO Budget Baseline Shows that Soaring Spending—Not Falling Revenues—Risks Drowning America in DebtBy Brian Riedl, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 08/24/2010
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has updated its 10-year budget baseline, and America’s fiscal outlook continues to worsen. The CBO projects $6.2 trillion in additional deficits over the next decade. This darkening budget forecast would have been even worse, were it not for the unrealistic assumptions that Congress requires the CBO to employ to make future budget deficits appear smaller.
Insuring Resiliance: The Potential Impact of an Optional Federal Charter on the Social Resiliency of Hazard-Prone RegionsBy David C. Marlett, Mercatus CenterPolicy Comment, 08/19/2010
The capacity to withstand disruptions, rebuild, and retain essentially the same identity and culture after a natural or man-made disaster is the root of a community’s social resiliency. The ability of a community to recover from disasters depends on a number of institutions, both formal and informal, that have been the subject of much discussion in the social sciences. Critical, however, to the ability of a community to recover from disasters is a well functioning insurance market. This issue of the Mercatus Policy Series assesses the potential consequences of federal regulation—as opposed to the current system of state regulation—on property and casualty insurers and their ability to provide coverage in hazard-prone regions.
Health CareBy Roger Stark, Washington Policy CenterPolicy Note, 08/19/2010
The biggest impact on the younger generation is the high level of deficit spending by the federal government. Deficits simply pass the government’s current cost from the older generation to the younger. The 18- to 34-year-olds are already facing an unfunded liability burden from Social Security and Medicare of more than $100 trillion. The new federal health care law will continue to add to this liability, and will adversely affect the younger generation’s standard of living and quality of life.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy Marc A. Levin, Texas Public Policy FoundationPolicy Study, 08/19/2010
Just like retirees monitoring their investment portfolio, taxpayers deserve to know whether the system they are funding is achieving the intended results to the greatest degree possible with each dollar spent. Unfortunately, corrections systems have historically lacked clear, outcome-oriented performance measures.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Ronald Bailey, Reason FoundationReason, 08/19/2010
Ultimately, biotech crops should not be subject to any more regulatory scrutiny than any other crop varieties. Making those changes would go a long way toward breaking up the nascent seed monopolies that the over-regulation favored by anti-biotech activists has produced.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy James Blackburn, Monty Agarwal, Matthew Bathon, Washington Legal FoundationLegal Opinion Letter, 08/19/2010
In December 2009, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued its decision in Forest Group, Inc. v. Bon Tool Company, 590 F.3d 1295 (Fed. Cir. 2009), which radically altered the calculation of damages for false patent marking and set off a wave of lawsuits that seek to capitalize on the increased potential for damages for false patent marking under Forest Group.
Crime, Justice & the Law
Due Process Limits on Statutory Civil Damages? Unprecedented Ruling in Copyright Case a Double-Edged Sword for BusinessesBy Ben Sheffner, Washington Legal FoundationLegal Backgrounder, 08/19/2010
When the Supreme Court, in BMW of North America, Inc. v. Gore, 517 U.S. 559 (1996), vacated a punitive damages award of $2 million over a botched car paint job that caused a mere $4,000 in actual damages, the business community rejoiced. Finally, corporate defense attorneys said, the Court has put a brake on “runaway juries” that impose astronomical awards of punitive damages that bear no relationship to the actual injury suffered by the plaintiff. The business community may welcome such limits when a business is the defendant, and the alternative is a system where the sky is the limit for the jury when selecting an appropriate award. But what if the plaintiff is itself a major corporation, and the range of damages has already been set by an act of Congress? Under such circumstances, does the Constitution’s Due Process Clause impose limits on a jury’s award of punitive, or quasi-punitive, damages?
In the Matter of Applications of Comcast Corporation, General Electric Company and NBC Universal, Inc.By Richard A. Epstein, Free State FoundationPublic Interest Comment, 08/19/2010
The FCC is now considering whether to approve, and if so on what terms, the proposed merger between Comcast and NBC-Universal (NBCU). Many powerful and influential consumer groups have opposed this merger on the ground that it is inimical to the public welfare. In these comments, I take issue with that contention in order to explain why, whatever the economic merits of this merger, there are no principled public interest grounds on which to oppose the merger’s consummation. In order to make this case, these reply comments are divided into two sections. The first section takes advantage of a 10-year retrospective to show how these consumers groups made similar dire and misguided criticisms of the AOL-Time Warner merger. The current objections from these same consumer groups repeat many of these same errors. Errors of this magnitude do not just happen by chance.
Economic GrowthBy Nick Dranias, Goldwater InstitutePolicy Report, 08/19/2010
The annual Goldwater Institute Legislative Report Card scores Arizona lawmakers on their support of principles of limited constitutional government. Each piece of legislation is assessed in four categories for whether it expands or contracts liberty.
EducationBy Jay P. Greene, Goldwater InstitutePolicy Report, 08/19/2010
Enrollment at America’s leading universities has been increasing dramatically, rising nearly 15 percent between 1993 and 2007. But unlike almost every other growing industry, higher education has not become more efficient. Instead, universities now have more administrative employees and spend more on administration to educate each student. In short, universities are suffering from “administrative bloat,” expanding the resources devoted to administration significantly faster than spending on instruction, research and service.
EducationBy Matthew M. Chingos, Michael Henderson, Martin West, Education NextEducation Next, 08/19/2010
Never before have Americans had greater access to information about school quality. Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), all school districts are required to distribute annual report cards detailing student achievement levels at each of their schools. Local newspapers frequently cover the release of state test results, emphasizing the relative standing of their community’s schools. Meanwhile, new organizations like GreatSchools and SchoolMatters aggregate this information and make it readily available to parents online. But do all these performance data inform perceptions of school quality? Or do citizens base their evaluations instead on such indicators as the racial or class makeup of schools, regardless of their relationship with actual school performance?
Economic GrowthBy Joel Kotkin, Manhattan InstituteCity Journal, 08/19/2010
California has long been a destination for those seeking a better place to live. For most of its history, the state enacted sensible policies that created one of the wealthiest and most innovative economies in human history. California realized the American dream but better, fostering a huge middle class that, for the most part, owned their homes, sent their kids to public schools, and found meaningful work connected to the state’s amazingly diverse, innovative economy. Recently, though, the dream has been evaporating. Between 2003 and 2007, California state and local government spending grew 31 percent, even as the state’s population grew just 5 percent. The overall tax burden as a percentage of state income, once middling among the states, has risen to the sixth-highest in the nation, says the Tax Foundation. Since 1990, according to an analysis by California Lutheran University, the state’s share of overall U.S. employment has dropped a remarkable 10 percent. When the state economy has done well, it has usually been the result of asset inflation—first during the dot-com bubble of the late 1990s, and then during the housing boom, which was responsible for nearly half of all jobs created earlier in this decade.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Guy Sorman, Manhattan InstituteCity Journal, 08/19/2010
As in the 1930s and 1970s, so today: crises are a serious problem, but misguided economic policy makes them worse. After the 1930s, only war production could overcome the negative economic consequences of the New Deal. After the stagflation of the 1970s, it took the bold leadership of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan to reorient the West toward free markets and prosperity. How long will it take this time before governments understand that overreacting to the crisis and imposing disproved Keynesian remedies will dampen and delay economic recovery? The answer depends on the ability of free-market economists and commentators to communicate their narrative of the crisis. We sadly lack someone like Milton Friedman, who could effortlessly convey complex theories to a large audience. Enough talented economists are on hand, however, to build the platform that we need for a free-market revival.
Budget & TaxationBy E.J. McMahan, Manhattan InstituteCity Journal, 08/19/2010
Is New York State ungovernable? Back in April, David Paterson seemed to think so. Confounded by the legislature’s paralysis in the face of a deepening fiscal crisis, the lame-duck governor complained to the Wall Street Journal that New York lacked “a structure that empowers a single leader to get his or her state out of a major conflict.” But that conclusion is wrong. In fact, Paterson himself has recently been demonstrating how much power his successor will have to reshape the Empire State’s battered finances. The state’s constitution puts the governor squarely in the budgetary driver’s seat. And though recent history seems to belie it, the budget laws actually work to restrain spending—if the governor has the backbone to stand up to the legislature.
Economic GrowthBy Arnold Kling, American Enterprise InstituteThe American, 08/19/2010
The Keynesian prescription for a recession is to increase government spending. Even if the resulting output is not valuable (the proverbial digging ditches and filling them in again), the thinking is that this will stimulate productive output. Again, this is based on the theory that economic activity is spending. Supposedly, spending will encourage more spending, through the “multiplier” effect. The trend is for the proportion of people employed in final-stage production to get smaller and smaller. From our more Austrian perspective, the Keynesian prescription will fail. Government spending tends to create or reinforce unsustainable patterns of production—temporary housing booms, transitory increases in auto sales, and the like. However, there is no reason to expect unsustainable patterns of production to stimulate the creation of sustainable patterns of specialization and trade. If anything, it would seem likely that government support for unsustainable patterns of production could make the market's recalculation problem more confusing. It will delay long-term recovery, rather than hasten it.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Charlie Szrom, American Enterprise InstituteThe American, 08/19/2010
A new poll published August 5 by the University of Maryland, Zogby International, and researcher Shibley Telhami argues that the Arab world has warmed to the idea of an Iranian nuclear weapons program. The poll of six Arab countries finds that 57 percent of respondents this year said an Iranian nuke would be a “more positive” development for the region, compared to only 29 percent who gave that answer in 2009 when asked, “If Iran acquires nuclear weapons, [what] is the likely outcome for the Middle East region?” This finding has been widely reported (including by outlets in Iran), yet may paint an incomplete picture of Arab attitudes on a potential Iranian nuclear weapons program.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Roger F. Noriega, American Enterprise InstituteLatin American Outlook, 08/19/2010
Under the cloak of Washington’s indifference, Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chávez is making steady progress in cementing strategic relations with China, which is eager to eclipse U.S. presence in a key, mineral-rich South American economy. Russia is a source of weapons and foreign policy clout, Iran is abetting Chávez’s shadowy nuclear program, and Cuba is managing a system of internal control and repression in Venezuela. Together with China’s capital, in the form of loans and investments, this cadre of hostile powers has selfish motives and ruthless methods for keeping Chávez in power. China has funneled money and expertise into Venezuela’s oil industry and taken an authoritative role in improving the country’s manufacturing sector and finances. With so much to gain in trade and oil, China will strive to keep Chávez in power. The United States can no longer afford to practice wishful thinking but must recognize the threat growing in Venezuela.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Brett Schaefer, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 08/19/2010
It is stunning to realize that until a few years ago, the U.S. Congress had only a general idea of how much the U.S. was providing to the United Nations on an annual basis. Congress is right to demand accurate information on exactly how much the U.S. is providing to the U.N. system each year. This is particularly relevant considering the vulnerability of U.S. taxpayer dollars to waste, mismanagement, and corruption in the U.N. system and the lack of transparency and oversight in the U.N. generally. Making sure U.S. contributions are used appropriately starts with knowing how much the U.S. is providing to the U.N. and where that funding originates. The legislative requirement for the Administration to report to Congress on U.S. contributions to the U.N. is scheduled to expire in 2011. Congress should take action to make this reporting requirement permanent.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Ray Walser, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 08/19/2010
Colombia’s new President Santos has made a bold although not risk-free effort to tackle the most pressing challenge to peace and security in South America. His effort merits U.S. and international support. It cannot be allowed to degenerate into yet another Chavista ruse.
Health CareBy Gregg Girvan, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 08/19/2010
Obamacare is on the march, and state policymakers must decide by 2014 how they will respond to this encroachment on states’ rights to control their own health insurance markets. The state of Utah has been on the reform path since 2005. With its system of defined contributions (as opposed to the standard defined benefits), a functioning health insurance exchange, and appropriate risk-adjustment mechanisms, Utah has given its workers the freedom to choose among many health plans with different levels of benefits, instead of remaining tied to the one-size-fits-all approach dictated by Washington. The Heritage Foundation has discerned five distinct lessons that the other 49 states can learn from Utah’s experience. The time for learning—and for action—is now.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Marion Smith, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 08/19/2010
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Obama Administration have touted the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) as a beneficial and necessary negotiation, and urged for its immediate ratification. However, the negotiating record of New START—which contains critical information—has not been released to the U.S. Senate. Because of the importance of strategic nuclear arms and due to the ambiguity of this treaty’s implications, the lack of the negotiating record prevents an informed debate and deliberation in the Senate, obstructing the Senate’s constitutionally mandated role to provide “advice and consent” on all U.S. treaties. Senators ought, therefore, to demand access to all essential information in order to effectively discharge their duties as enumerated by the Constitution.
Economic GrowthBy The Heritage Foundation, The Heritage FoundationReport, 08/19/2010
Compiled by a team of Heritage experts, Solutions for America identifies the nature and scope of our most pressing problems in 23 discrete policy areas, and recommends 128 specific policy prescriptions for Congress to consider. Some of the recommendations are groundbreaking. Others are familiar. Some are being debated right now. All have one thing in common: They would return power to the people. And, collectively, they will transform America, setting her back on the track to prosperity and greatness.
Economic GrowthBy Karen Campbell, Guinevere Nell, The Heritage FoundationCenter for Data Analysis Report, 08/19/2010
The Economic Freedom Act, proposed by Representative Jim Jordan, would terminate the ineffective Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), and substitute a proven way to stimulate the economy: tax relief—from permanent repeal of the capital gains and death taxes to significant reductions in payroll taxes and the top corporate tax rate. Analysts at The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis (CDA) conducted static and dynamic analyses of the act (H.R. 5029), finding that over the long term, dynamic economic effects would offset much of the cost of the tax relief. In the short term, the act would increase the deficit if it was not coupled with reductions in spending. This means a specific plan for spending cuts is imperative. The CDA analysts detail the economic and fiscal effects of the Economic Freedom Act’s spending and tax cuts.