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Recent Policy Studies
Retirement/Social SecurityBy James D. Agresti, Stephen F. Cardone, Just Facts FoundationReport, 01/28/2011
This research contains comprehensive details about Social Security.
Transportation/InfrastructureBy Wendell Cox, Hugh Pavletich, Joel Kotkin, DemographiaReport, 01/28/2011
In much of the English speaking world, affordability is often conflated with cheapness and lack of economic competitiveness. Real estate developers, and the press that covers them, instead revel in driving prices to the stratosphere, identifying out of reach values with some definition of economic good. But what might prove a benefit to individual owners or speculators may not be so wonderful for most families or the broader society. Over the past decade, even after the housing bubble implosion, the ratio of housing prices to incomes has shown a steady increase. This process has been most evident in markets such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Boston but also occurred, particularly during the bubble, in traditional growth regions such as Phoenix, Las Vegas and across Florida. This phenomena, as the authors of the Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey make clear, also extends outside the United States.
Budget & TaxationBy Bill Peacock, Jordan Brownwood, Texas Public Policy FoundationPolicy Brief, 01/28/2011
Texas consumers pay some of the nation’s highest utility taxes, with telecommunications services being taxed more than alcohol and just slightly less than tobacco. Municipal franchise fees, which are levied on services such as telephone, cable, water, and electricity for their use of the public right-of-way, make up a significant portion of these taxes. The cost to consumers amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars every year. Regardless of the current legal status of franchise fees, rent is an inaccurate way to describe their function. Ultimately, a competitive, efficient communications infrastructure can be far more beneficial to a community than the diminishing, unpredictable tax revenue it generates.
Budget & TaxationBy Rio Grande Foundation, Citizens Against Government Waste, Rio Grande FoundationBooklet, 01/28/2011
The 2011 New Mexico Piglet clearly shows that governments of all levels in New Mexico are still wasting millions of dollars despite the current tough economic times. From corporate welfare to unnecessary arts funding, this report is a clear signal to New Mexico taxpayers and policymakers that there is still plenty of fat to be cut from government. By eliminating wasteful and ineffective spending, policymakers in state and local governments could dramatically improve their budget situations in the short term. In the long term, New Mexico government could be made more efficient and taxes could be reduced, thus making New Mexico more attractive to businesses and entrepreneurs.
Economic GrowthBy Kristian Niemietz , Institute of Economic AffairsBook, 01/28/2011
In recent years, poverty has generally been understood in ‘relative’ terms. That is, people are regarded as poor if they earn less than some benchmark relative to average earnings. One perverse result of such relative poverty measures amongst many is that poverty often declines in a serious recession when the better paid lose their jobs. The policy response of income transfers, which are used to address the perceived problem of relative poverty, has often led to serious problems that actually reduce long-term opportunities for poorer people. The author proposes an entirely new way of measuring poverty. If this measure were applied, public policy would orientate itself towards creating the conditions that allowed the poor to become better off. Such a strategy would focus not only on ensuring economic growth and more labor market participation, but also on supply-side reforms that would reduce the cost of living for the poor.
Health CareBy Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Michael Ramlet, Cameron Smith, American Action ForumOperation Healthcare Choice White Paper, 01/28/2011
The Affordable Care Act is an impediment to economic growth and federal fiscal balance, threatening nearly 700,000 jobs and increasing the deficit by nearly $300 billion in the near term. Repealing the Affordable Care Act can save 695,000 jobs and reduce the federal deficit by $279.7 billion. After repealing the Affordable Care Act, Congress should start with a clean sheet of paper and adopt initiatives that would encourage providers to offer higher-quality care at lower costs; reduce the cost pressures that threaten to bankrupt Medicare and Medicaid; and give every American access to more options for quality insurance.
ImmigrationBy Janice Kephart, Center for Immigration StudiesBackgrounder, 01/28/2011
States are finding that implementation of the 2005 REAL ID Act is much easier and less expensive than previously thought, and is a significant factor in reducing fraud. In states like Indiana, REAL ID has significantly improved customer satisfaction. Additionally, 11 states are already in full compliance, well ahead of the May 2011 deadline for the 18 benchmarks, and another eight are close behind. Thus far, implementation of these 18 benchmarks has cost far less than originally projected. Due to its rousing success, no major changes are needed in REAL ID regulations.
EducationBy Eric Fruits, Cascade Policy InstituteReport, 01/28/2011
The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program was established in 2001. It provides an income tax credit for corporations that contribute money to nonprofit scholarship-funding organizations that award scholarships to students from families with limited financial resources. The Florida legislature calculates that the program saved the state $36.2 million in fiscal year 2008-09. If Oregon adopted a program similar to Florida’s, the benefits of reduced demands for education funding would exceed the costs of the tax credit, producing a net savings to the state of $7.7 million.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Daren Bakst, John Locke FoundationSpotlight, 01/27/2011
Constitutional amendments should be enacted only when there is a significant issue that must be addressed. The need for an eminent domain amendment is clear, and the issue certainly is significant. The legislature would not be creating new rights but instead preserving the rights that North Carolinians already are supposed to possess. There will only be one bite at the apple, though, if an amendment becomes law—it will be very difficult to address eminent domain abuse through an amendment again, at least for the foreseeable future. That means the legislature needs to get the amendment correct and not push an amendment simply to get something through to claim a hollow, political victory. The North Carolina legislature has a chance to make a real difference this upcoming term when it comes to eminent domain abuse and should take advantage of the unique opportunity.
Information TechnologyBy Seth L. Cooper, Free State FoundationPerspectives from FSF Scholars, 01/27/2011
By replacing the free market with regulatory requirements and agency enforcement proceedings, the FCC now asserts itself as the powerful institution for resolving competing interests on the Internet. And so the order could usher in a new front for competitors seeking regulatory advantage over one another. This means that the Commission has now put itself into a position that will require significant discipline in order to resist the pro-regulatory bias typical of regulatory institutions as well as pressures from competing interests to impose intrusive or protectionist Internet regulation. Having rejected market power and consumer harm considerations as the basis for its regulatory framework, whether the FCC has the disposition or analytical resources to defensibly resist such undesirable regulation of the Internet remains an open question.
EducationBy Michael Van Beek, Mackinac Center for Public PolicyReport, 01/27/2011
Given the potential advantages of virtual learning, the Michigan legislature should make permanent the “seat-time waivers” that currently enable many students to enroll in more than two “full-time online” courses, which do not require regular attendance in a classroom. These waivers are currently available through the Michigan Department of Education, but could be eliminated at any time without legislative consent. In addition, the state should remove its artificial caps on enrollment in virtual charter schools and on the number of virtual charter schools. Michigan’s history demonstrates that students and parents desire educational choices, and virtual learning holds promise.
EducationBy Pioneer Institute , Pioneer Institute for Public Policy ResearchWhite Paper, 01/27/2011
The results of this study show that factory model contracts are more likely to be found in the Commonwealth’s lowest-performing school districts, many of which serve disproportionate numbers of poor and minority students. They suggest that if teacher collective bargaining contracts in these districts were designed to better adhere to the professional model of collective bargaining, school and district leaders and teachers may have the autonomy necessary to implement changes that could positively impact student performance.
EducationBy Matthew Ladner, Nick Dranias, Goldwater InstitutePolicy Report, 01/27/2011
Children with disabilities are often poorly served by public schools. In 1999, Florida created a school voucher for children with disabilities called the McKay Scholarship Program. This program allows children with disabilities to take a portion of the funding the state would spend on their education and use it at any school they choose – whether that’s a traditional public school, a charter school, an online program, or a private school. Researchers have found that the program significantly improved learning among Florida’s children with disabilities. Ohio, Utah, Georgia, Oklahoma, and Louisiana have enacted voucher programs emulating McKay.
Budget & TaxationBy Nick Kasprak, Tax FoundationFiscal Sanity, 01/27/2011
The compromise between Senate Republicans and the President produces a much lower tax bill (or a higher tax refund) for low-income workers. Despite not being quite as generous as current 2010 tax law in very low-income cases, below $40,000 for married filers and $20,000 for single filers, it remains a better deal than the GOP or the Democratic bills proposed in Congress.
Budget & TaxationBy Joseph Henchman, Tax FoundationSpecial Report, 01/27/2011
Due to a combination of improving revenues and growing political opposition to increased state-level taxes and additional federal aid to states, 2010 was a lighter year on state-level tax changes than anticipated. But as temporary federal stimulus aid ends in mid-2011 and with many states still not balancing their projected revenues with desired expenses, 2011 may be a year of dramatic tax increases.
Budget & TaxationBy Joseph Henchman, Kail Padgitt, Tax FoundationFiscal Facts, 01/27/2011
The enacted tax increases will severely impact Illinois’s attractiveness to business and individuals. The state’s individual income tax, in particular, has been one of the best features of Illinois’s tax system, helping mitigate a high sales tax and burdensome property tax. It remains to be seen whether the weak spending cap and other changes will resolve the state’s long-term structural budget gap. The tax changes, however, have great potential for undermining Illinois’s ability to attract and cultivate business activity as the economy recovers.
Budget & TaxationBy Scott A. Hodge, Tax FoundationFiscal Facts, 01/27/2011
The recent move by Illinois lawmakers to increase the state’s corporate tax rate from 7.3 percent to 9.5 percent is further evidence that no tax change is made in a vacuum. Not only did the rate hike move Illinois from having the 21st highest overall corporate tax rate among the 50 states to having the 3rd highest, it also raised the average corporate tax rate for the nation as a whole, thus inching the U.S. closer to Japan as having the highest corporate tax rate among the leading industrialized nations.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy Frank Cruz-Alvarez, Alexandra Bach Lagos, Washington Legal FoundationLegal Opinion Letter, 01/27/2011
In William Beaumont Hospital, et al. v. Medtronic, Inc., Judge Robert H. Cleland of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan rejected a hospital’s attempt to shift responsibility for a patient’s harm from its own negligent employees to a medical device manufacturer. Judge Cleland’s opinion provides a positive lesson in judicial fidelity to the common law requirements of proximate cause, and should be particularly instructive in cases where a patient claims injury from use of a health care product improperly administered by a medical professional.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy James M. Wood, Washington Legal FoundationLegal Opinion Letter, 01/27/2011
Sometimes it feels like hardly a day goes by without the Department of Justice announcing a multi-million dollar civil and criminal settlement with a manufacturer of prescription products for the off-label promotion or sales of a medicine. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has recently provided a bit of relief from this assault affirming the dismissal of a class action under the federal Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations law (RICO) and California’s Unfair Competition Law based upon the alleged off-label promotion of two prescription products. Though unpublished, the decision does identify the rigor that courts should apply to claims such as these.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy Thomas R. McCarthy, Washington Legal FoundationLegal Backgrounder, 01/27/2011
The Ninth Circuit en banc panel properly dismissed the plaintiffs’ complaint in Mohamed v. Jeppesen Dataplan because of the centrality of the state secrets to the case. Given the Ninth Circuit’s recent failures with regard to state secrets, Mohamed is a step in the right direction. However, the court’s failure to understand the doctrine’s constitutional foundation unnecessarily complicates the doctrine and may leave the government (and thus the citizenry) with less than full protection of state secrets in future Ninth Circuit cases.
No Child Left Behind—Again? Federal Pressure and Foundation Money Push for National School StandardsBy Philip Brand, Capital Research CenterFoundation Watch, 01/27/2011
Large charitable foundations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are spearheading a nationwide drive to develop national standards in English and mathematics in elementary and secondary schools. School districts and teachers will be more accountable. They will have to make sure that all their students, rich and poor, from Maine to Hawaii, meet the same standards. Isn’t this a good idea?
LaborBy David Denholm, Capital Research CenterLabor Watch, 01/27/2011
Most Americans have probably never heard of “prevailing wage” laws, or if they have, think they’re redundant since, by definition, they must mandate a wage that is already “prevailing.” Nothing could be further from the truth: Prevailing wage laws, used by labor unions and by contractors who have union contracts, inflate the cost of construction projects. Time and again the Department of Labor has decided that a union’s wage rate is a local area’s “prevailing wage” even though in 2009 only 14.5 percent of all construction industry workers were union members. But times are changing. Despite union political power many states understand what’s wrong with prevailing wage laws and are repealing them. Will the federal government also see the light?
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & Science
Little Green Monsters: Advocates for the West and Other State and Local Environmental Groups Push the Policy EnvelopeBy Kevin Mooney, Capital Research CenterGreen Watch, 01/27/2011
Large groups like the Sierra Club receive the national media’s attention when energy and environmental issues are in the news. But across the United States and Canada hundreds of small and local green groups promote an anti-freedom, anti-prosperity agenda that threatens both America’s economic health and its national security. A group called Advocates for the West is one of these obscure organizations. Savvy and tenacious, it is on the cutting edge of environmental extremism. But there are many others. How do they do it, and how can they be stopped?
Economic GrowthBy Sam Staley, Reason FoundationReason, 01/27/2011
“China is building faster trains and newer airports,” the president said. “Meanwhile, when our own engineers graded our nation’s infrastructure, they gave us a ‘D.’” “Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80% of Americans access to high-speed rail, which could allow you go places in half the time it takes to travel by car,” said President Obama. “For some trips, it will be faster than flying—without the pat-down.” The president’s comments raise an important question: How relevant are China’s investments in infrastructure to the challenges of U.S. economic competitiveness? Unfortunately, if China’s commitment to high-speed rail is a benchmark for the kind of commitment President Obama believes the U.S. must make to remain competitive, we may be learning the wrong lessons.
Health CareBy National Center for Policy Analysis, National Center for Policy AnalysisReport, 01/27/2011
There are 10 structural flaws in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Each is so potentially damaging, Congress will have to resort to major corrective action even if the critics of the ACA are not involved. Further, each must be addressed in any new attempt to create workable health care reform.
Health CareBy Devon M. Herrick , National Center for Policy AnalysisBrief Analysis, 01/27/2011
Insurance that features limited benefits in return for a lower premium is not for everyone. Indeed, limited-benefit plans are not intended to cover the costs of catastrophic illness. By contrast, high-deductible coverage only protects against a catastrophic illness and is not intended to pay day-to-day medical bills. But these plans are more affordable for many Americans and provide a level of benefits many Americans find sufficient. The Affordable Care Act mandates plans that are likely to price those Americans out of health coverage altogether.
Economic GrowthBy Bruce Yandle, Mercatus CenterWorking Paper, 01/27/2011
Where do jobs come from? They may be generated when governments decide to fund public-works projects that employ workers, but doing so may destroy more jobs than are added. Jobs emerge when governments expand the provision of services valued by taxpayers. These include protection of life and property and the provision of public goods that cannot be produced economically by private firms.2 Jobs are born every day when private firms add workers to take care of business. Jobs are created when individuals decide to employ themselves in one-person firms that they own.
Regulation & DeregulationBy Jerry Ellig, Alan E. Wiseman, Mercatus CenterWorking Paper, 01/27/2011
Several states impede direct-to-consumer wine shipment from out-of-state sellers by excluding out-of-state retailers from direct shipment or by enacting production caps that prevent direct shipment of wines from wineries with annual production above a designated number of gallons. We explore the economic effects of these two barriers to competition by combining new data on winery prices and production with price data employed in previously published research.
National SecurityBy Sean Lawson, Mercatus CenterWorking Paper, 01/27/2011
Research by historians of technology, military historians, and disaster sociologists has shown consistently that modern technological and social systems are more resilient than military and disaster planners often assume. What’s more, they have shown that fears and assumptions to the contrary often lead to a centralized, militarized quest for top-down control that is ultimately counterproductive to achieving stated policy objectives. Influenced by cyber-doom scenarios, current U.S. cybersecurity policy, with its creation of a military Cyber Command and suggestions for an “Internet kill switch,” is tending towards the centralized, militarized, control-oriented, fortress mentality that research suggests is neither prudent nor effective.
Retirement/Social SecurityBy Veronique de Rugy, Jason J. Fichtner, Mercatus CenterMercatus on Policy, 01/27/2011
In the next year, lawmakers will consider different options for Social Security reform. In order to adopt the best policies, they must have all the facts. Unfortunately, much rampant confusion exists about how the Social Security trust funds operate. Some question whether the bonds held as assets in the trust funds are “real,”1 while others misleadingly claim that the existence of trust funds means that Social Security does not face a financial problem.2 The truth is while the trust funds hold real assets, Social Security also faces real financial problems.
Economic GrowthBy Nicole Gelinas, Manhattan InstituteCity Journal, 01/27/2011
Three decades after leading the nation out of malaise, Reagan can lead once again, this time through the example of the four pillars of his original campaign—taming inflation, cutting taxes, spending government money on the right things (in his case, defense), and balancing the budget. The Gipper didn’t achieve all those goals, and President Obama and Congress would need to adapt his example to a different time, of course. In fact, Obama’s job may be tougher, as history shows that recovery from a burst credit bubble is harder than recovery from other kinds of recession. But the mission is the same: economic growth. And the principle behind the four pillars also remains the same: government shouldn’t compound crisis-induced economic uncertainty by adding more uncertainty.
Economic and Political Thought
Bootleggers, Baptists, and Political Entrepreneurs Key Players in the Rational Game and Morality Play of Regulatory PoliticsBy Randy T. Simmons, Ryan M. Yonk, Diana W. Thomas, Independent InstituteThe Independent Review, 01/27/2011
Yandle maintains that bootleggers and Baptists provide “part of the glue that binds the body politic.” We have argued that political entrepreneurs are the glue that binds and bootleggers and Baptists are merely the pieces that the entrepreneurial glue holds together. Entrepreneurs are the critical actors in the political sphere because they are alert to and discover political profit opportunities. They act either to bring about change or to maintain the polity’s status quo by providing the required incentives for groups to form and by illuminating the benefits different groups’ coordination.
Economic and Political ThoughtBy Christopher Ford, Hudson InstitutePaper, 01/27/2011
Though there seems little reason why it should not yield insights when applied to the complex adaptive systems of human society, the field of Complexity Theory presents special problems for anyone looking to it for lessons in the field of public policymaking. In particular, complex systems’ nonlinearity and sensitivity to initial conditions seems to have subversive implications for policymaking, inasmuch as the unpredictability that they imply undercuts the very possibility of purposive policymaking. Complexity presents a “policymaker’s paradox,” for even as is suggests that small policy inputs can sometimes have an enormous impact upon systemic outcomes, it also seems to teach that we cannot predict what results our policy choices are likely to have over time. When outcomes are radically resistant to prediction, they are also necessarily resistant to the sort of deliberate control that policymaking traditionally assumes it possible to assert.
Economic GrowthBy Diana Furchtgott-Roth, Irwin Stelzer, John Weicher, Hudson InstituteHudson Institute Economic Report, 01/27/2011
December’s housing starts left a lump of coal in the housing industry’s stocking, rounding out a dismal year. The seasonally adjusted annual rate of 529,000 in December was the lowest rate of the year, down 8.2 percent from November; and the 2010 total of 587,000 starts was slightly better than 2009 (554,000), but lower than any other year since World War II. An increase in apartment construction in December was more than offset by a drop of 14.2 percent in new homes, from a November rate of 458,000 to a December rate of 417,000 – also the lowest of the year. Unfortunately, two very bad years in a row have not made a substantial dent in the overhang of unsold homes, which is not a good omen for 2011.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Terry Anderson, Gary D. Libecap, Hoover InstitutionDefining Ideas, 01/27/2011
Mark Twain supposedly quipped that “Whiskey is for drinkin’ and water is for fightin.’” Why this dichotomy? The simple answer is that whiskey is produced in the marketplace where suppliers and demanders gain from trade, while water is mainly subject to the “tragedy of the commons,” or to political allocation. With markets, whiskey prices will reflect shortage or abundance. Without water markets, demanders race to pump from the common pool or face prices set by politicians and bureaucrats which have little relationship to actual scarcity.
National SecurityBy Jessica Stern, Hoover InstitutionDefining Ideas, 01/27/2011
An understanding that ideology is not the only, or even the principal, reason that individuals are drawn to terrorist groups needs to be incorporated into our counter-terrorism efforts, especially when we consider counter-radicalization. It also makes clear that even if terrorists achieve their purported objectives, they may stick with the ?ght for the fun or the pro?t.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Charles Calomiris, Hoover InstitutionDefining Ideas, 01/27/2011
There is virtually no discussion in either the Dodd-Frank bill or the Basel Committee admitting the problem of risk measurement or proposing a solution for it. Slightly higher capital requirements are being imposed and more are being discussed, but nothing is being done to fix the regulatory system’s failure to measure risk and require capital accordingly.
Budget & TaxationBy Leonard Gilroy, Jonathan Williams, American Legislative Exchange CouncilReport, 01/27/2011
ALEC’s State Budget Reform Toolkit will advance a set of budget and procurement best practices to guide state policymakers as they work to solve the current budget shortfalls. The toolkit will assist legislators in prioritizing and more efficiently delivering core government services through advancing Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty.
Health CareBy Christie Herrera, American Legislative Exchange CouncilReport, 01/27/2011
The State Legislators Guide to Repealing ObamaCare will be an essential tool as you look to halt ObamaCare’s harmful effects and implement real healthcare reform that is both market-oriented and patient-centered.
Economic and Political ThoughtBy Marcus E. Ethridge, Cato InstitutePolicy Analysis, 01/27/2011
A large and growing body of evidence makes it clear that the public interest is most secure when governmental institutions are inefficient decisionmakers. An arrangement that brings diverse interests into a complex, sluggish decisionmaking process is generally unattractive to special interests. Gridlock also neutralizes some political benefits that producer groups and other well-heeled interests inherently enjoy. By fostering gridlock, the U.S. Constitution increases the likelihood that policies will reflect broad, unorganized interests instead of the interests of narrow, organized groups.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Peter J. Wallison, American Enterprise InstituteReport, 01/27/2011
Like Congress and the Obama administration, the Commission’s majority erred in assuming that it knew the causes of the financial crisis. Instead of pursuing a thorough study, the Commission’s majority used its extensive statutory investigative authority to seek only the facts that supported its initial assumptions—that the crisis was caused by “deregulation” or lax regulation, greed and recklessness on Wall Street, predatory lending in the mortgage market, unregulated derivatives, and a financial system addicted to excessive risk taking. The Commission did not seriously investigate any other cause and did not effectively connect the factors it investigated to the financial crisis.
International Trade/FinanceBy John H. Makin, American Enterprise InstituteEconomic Outlook, 01/27/2011
China has become a global economic superpower, accounting for a third of global growth in 2010. Companies both in the United States and abroad now offer to invoice their Chinese customers in yuan, and the yuan is growing as an international medium of exchange. Concerns that the yuan could replace the dollar as an international reserve currency are premature, however. To become a global financial superpower, China would have to relinquish control over capital outflows and the exchange rate between the yuan and other major currencies. Chinese officials are unlikely to undertake such liberalization anytime soon.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy David Engdahl, The Heritage FoundationFirst Principles, 01/27/2011
Although often commonly referred to as the “sweeping clause” or the “elastic clause,” the “necessary and proper” clause is not in fact as expansive as its nicknames suggests. After listing the 17 specific powers delegated to Congress, Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution concludes by specifying that Congress has the power to pass any law both necessary and proper to implement the powers already delegated to it. This lawmaking power is limited and defined by the ends for which it is delegated: “for carrying into execution the foregoing powers.” All the clause does is to make explicit a power already implied in the grants of powers in Section 8 and elsewhere. The “necessary and proper” clause is thus a means for Congress to achieve its constitutionally mandated ends. As James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 44 to explain the meaning of the clause: “No axiom is more clearly established in law, or reason, than that wherever the end is required, the means are authorized.”
LaborBy James Sherk, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 01/27/2011
Union membership has fallen because traditional collective bargaining does not appeal to most workers. Polls show that only one in 10 non-union workers want to organize. This makes sense: in the competitive private sector, unions can do little to raise their members’ pay. Additionally, most workers like their jobs and believe they are on the same side as their employers. But while workers reject unions, they do want a voice in the workplace. Unfortunately, the NLRA prohibits employee–employer working groups that give employees that voice. It is time for Congress to allow non-union employers and employees to work together to improve working conditions.
Health CareBy James C. Capretta, Kathryn Nix, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 01/27/2011
The federal government’s finances were dismal even before the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) was enacted. That is why lawmakers who pushed for its passage felt compelled to try to calm worried Americans by claiming that the law would cut projected federal budget deficits in addition to covering the uninsured. And, in fact, the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) official estimate shows that PPACA’s health care provisions would cut projected deficits by $124 billion over the period from 2010 to 2019. But that cost estimate is not the whole story—not by a long shot. A close examination of what CBO said, as well as other evidence, makes it clear that the deficit reduction associated with PPACA is based on budget gimmicks, sleights of hand, accounting tricks, and completely implausible assumptions. A more honest accounting reveals the new law as a trillion-dollar budget buster.
Transportation/InfrastructureBy Ronald Utt, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 01/27/2011
Early this year, the new Congress will confront several challenges relating to the size, scope, and nature of the federal surface transportation programs. These challenges will in large part be driven by the need to constrain overall federal spending and by shortfalls in the highway trust fund. Congress should embrace these financial challenges as an opportunity to reform the federal transportation program while still meeting the goal of reducing federal spending and shifting greater responsibility to the states.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Gary Kepplinger, The Heritage FoundationFirst Principles, 01/27/2011
Separation of powers, though never mentioned by name in the Constitution, is one of the key principles that undergirds the government created by the Framers. For the concept to have any teeth in it, the Framers realized the need to go beyond a mere distribution of powers among the three branches of government. James Madison famously warned in Federalist No. 48 of the inadequacy of mere “parchment barriers.” Each branch of government must therefore also be granted powers that will allow it to check the other two branches. It is in this spirit that we should understand the Appropriations Clause. Although it appears in the section of the Constitution restricting the powers of Congress, it in fact functions as a key legislative check on the executive. The President and those acting under executive authority can spend only what Congress permits them to spend.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy James Carafano, et al., The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 01/27/2011
The Obama Doctrine, which guided the first two years of his Administration, put a premium on downplaying American sovereignty, peddling the virtues of “soft power,” and cheerleading for a more restrained and humbled America. The President’s approach has proven to be far short of what is needed to keep the nation safe, free, and prosperous. It is time for a new doctrine—and new priorities.
Economic GrowthBy James Roberts, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 01/27/2011
Governments and large agribusinesses are increasingly using the environmentalist movement and its policy arm of green nongovernmental organizations to justify imposing protectionist non-tariff barriers on developing countries. Wrong-headed environmental policies and “green” protectionism are contributing to a resurgence of malaria in some countries and endangering millions of jobs in developing countries. Even the World Bank’s mandate to foster economic development is being subverted to serve environmentalist and protectionist objectives. The EU and the U.S. need to eliminate protectionist policies and regulations that are masquerading as environmental safeguards and refocus the World Bank on promoting economic development to alleviate poverty.
National SecurityBy Ariel Cohen, Steven Groves, Baker Spring, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 01/27/2011
On January 14, the Russian Duma conducted a second reading of its proposed law for ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) on nuclear arms control with the United States. The Russian law, if adopted as currently written, is incompatible with the U.S. understanding of the treaty. This should bar the exchange of the instruments of ratification for New START and its entry into force.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Nicolas Loris, David Kreutzer, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 01/27/2011
Electric cars may eventually represent a large percentage of America’s vehicle fleet, but Congress should not force them into the marketplace with subsidies. It is time to end consumer and producer handouts for electric cars and focus on an energy policy that produces affordable electricity.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Ray Walser, James Roberts, Jena Baker McNeill, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 01/27/2011
It is good that Secretary Clinton is visiting Mexico at the halfway mark of the Obama Administration’s term in office. In all aspects, Mexico’s health is critical to the U.S. However, it is not just a matter of checking a diplomatic box and moving on. The visit should signal the Obama Administration’s continued commitment to securing America’s southern border while moving in tandem with its threatened neighbor to curb narco-violence and drug-related terror.
National SecurityBy Mackenzie Eaglen, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 01/27/2011
By bringing the defense budget back up to the President’s requested and legitimately needed level, Congress would be saving itself from creating unnecessary longer-term costs. By forcing the military to postpone plans to buy needed items for those in uniform, Congress will not end up saving any money. When schedules slip, costs grow. When costs grow, the overall buy is cut. This destructive cycle costs more in the long run and will only be perpetuated by a Congress demanding savings, efficiency, and the smart use of taxpayer dollars. Delaying defense programs virtually guarantees their cost growth not just this year and next but every year thereafter. Congress should consider these two options in order to pass a defense spending bill that fully funds the President’s budget request for FY 2011.
Regulation & DeregulationBy Diane Katz, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 01/27/2011
As the new Congress assembles, many legisla¬tors are considering how to lessen the regulatory burden on Americans. President Obama, too, now says that he wants to root out unnecessary government rules. With regulatory costs at record levels, relief is sorely needed. But it is not enough to talk about fewer regulations. Policymakers must critically review specific rules and identify those that should be abolished. This paper details 20 unnecessary and harmful regulations that should be eliminated now.
ImmigrationBy Jena Baker McNeill, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 01/27/2011
In his 2010 State of the Union address, President Obama emphasized the need to “tell hard truths” when it comes to the nation’s affairs. His own comments on immigration during yesterday’s 2011 State of the Union address, however, glossed over the realities of America’s growing immigration problem and failed to offer a solution that would protect the rule of law, strengthen the economy, and keep America secure. Instead of using such an important speech to present talking points meant to placate the pro-amnesty lobby, he should have emphasized the need to avoid amnesty while securing the border and enforcing laws inside the United States. These actions—along with reforms in visa services, a pilot temporary worker program, and greater cooperation with Mexico on security concerns and free market reforms—can make real progress toward solving the problem.
Budget & TaxationBy Brian Riedl, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 01/27/2011
Historic increases in federal spending are set to create permanent trillion-dollar deficits, eventually pushing the national debt past 100 percent of the GDP. Without change, the nation could potentially face a Greece-like economic crisis. This is unacceptable. Fundamental spending reforms are required to avert a budget crisis. Lawmakers should immediately bring non-defense discretionary spending down to 2008 or even 2006 levels. Next, they should enact tough spending caps to help lawmakers set priorities and make trade-offs. Then, Congress should disclose the massive unfunded obligations of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid and put those programs on long-term budgets. Finally, lawmakers should enact the necessary entitlement and programmatic reforms that can keep government within those limits.
National SecurityBy Jena Baker McNeill, James Carafano, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 01/27/2011
It is certainly important that the federal government take the security of the cyber domain seriously. Decreasing the security risks associated with multiple credentials may well be an important and worthwhile endeavor for the private sector. However, a government-run or government-directed Internet ID system presents a risk to liberty that simply outweighs the potential security benefits.
Health CareBy Ernest Istook, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 01/27/2011
Obamacare—the popular name for the recently enacted Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA)—is highly disliked by American voters who want to see it repealed. A majority of states are suing to overturn it, and the House of Representatives has voted to repeal it. Though repeal is being blocked by the Senate and the Obama Administration, there are ways that lawmakers can reduce the damage that Obamacare is inflicting on the American economy and everyday freedoms. Former Representative from Oklahoma Ernest Istook explains the tools—from routine defunding to cutting off backdoor funding for PPACA—that policymakers could employ now.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Erik M. Jensen, The Heritage FoundationFirst Principles, 01/27/2011
According to the Framers, powers ought not only to be distributed between the three branches of government (separation of powers), but Congress, as the most powerful branch, should be divided into two, with different constituencies, term lengths, sizes, and functions for each house. In this spirit, the Constitution allocates the power to raise revenue—part of the power of the purse—to the House of Representatives, the legislative body closest to the people. Regrettably, this clause has had little effect in practice as the Senate has construed its power to amend so broadly as to replace the entire text of revenue bills that had originated in the House. Members of the House of Representatives should be more zealous in protecting this exclusive prerogative.
Budget & TaxationBy J.D. Foster, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 01/27/2011
If Congress chooses not to raise the debt ceiling, then it could act swiftly to indicate that net interest is the highest priority to allay any remaining concerns about the possibility of defaulting on the debt. Congress could also declare exactly where spending should be cut to align total spending with receipts, not leaving this to a President acting without statutory guidance. If Congress inclines toward raising the debt limit, then it should also impose immediate, substantial spending reductions along with strong new rules such as hard spending caps to require continued, sharp spending reduction in future years. The outcome should reflect a clear, quick path to a sound fiscal policy. The responsibility for driving down spending and borrowing rests—under our Constitution—squarely with the Congress and the President of the United States.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Lisa Curtis, James Phillips, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 01/27/2011
President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night included brief words on the war in Afghanistan, where nearly 100,000 U.S. troops are deployed. While he was clear on U.S. objectives in the war when he stated, “By preventing the Taliban from establishing a stranglehold over the Afghan people, we will deny al-Qaeda the safe haven that served as a launching pad for 9/11,” he also undermined overall U.S. strategy by saying that he would begin withdrawing U.S. troops this July. The U.S. should maintain a robust U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan until it is clear that the recent progress is sustainable.
Health CareBy John E. Calfee, Gabriel Sudduth, American Enterprise InstituteHealth Policy Outlook, 01/26/2011
Despite the tremendous success modern medicine has had in treating coronary heart disease, heart failure has proved to be a formidable and significantly less treatable condition. The small drug armamentarium used to treat it is only modestly effective. Left ventricular assist devices, or “heart pumps,” are proving to be the best available option for patients with advanced heart failure, and the technology has huge potential for improvement. The development and use of these devices are both at an early stage, however, and innovation could easily be slowed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with unnecessary clinical requirements and other hurdles that retard device innovation and access.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Ali Alfoneh, American Enterprise InstituteMiddle Eastern Outlook, 01/26/2011
Brigadier General Qassem Suleimani was appointed chief of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) sometime between September 10, 1997, and March 21, 1998, during the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Suleimani’s appointment was no accident. He was chosen in part because he is a native of a mountainous village in Kerman, which is both geographically and culturally closer to Afghanistan than Qom, Suleimani’s commonly believed place of birth. Suleimani also had extensive battlefield experience in the civil war in Kurdish regions of Iran during the immediate aftermath of the revolution, was a seasoned commander in the war against Iraq from 1980 to 1988, and fought against drug cartels near the Iran/Afghanistan border from 1988 until he was appointed Quds Force chief. This Outlook provides biographical background on Suleimani that shows why he was chosen as IRGC Quds Force chief in the first place.