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Recent Policy Studies
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Hanns Kuttner, Hudson InstitutePaper, 02/15/2011
Digital payment shows how productivity can grow in the public sector. Making a payment digitally costs less than a paper check. Those who receive a monthly benefit payment, most often from Social Security, make up the largest number of payments the federal government makes by paper check. Direct deposit has been an alternative to paper checks for 35 years. Not everyone has a bank account, limiting the potential for direct deposit. A newer form of digital payment, a prepaid debit card, will allow digital payment to replace the monthly paper check. Millions of recipients will now go digital in 2013, implementing a change Congress called for in 1996. Those who do not choose a digital payment type will be enrolled as prepaid card users.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Gary D. Libecap, Hoover InstitutionDefining Ideas, 02/15/2011
In 2006, the California Legislature enacted AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act that directed greenhouse gas emissions in the state to be at their 1990 level by 2020. To get a sense of what that means for the state, in 2006, California’s population already was 23 percent larger and its economy nearly a trillion dollars larger than in 1990, and it will be larger still in 2020, although how much larger depends in part on the costs imposed by this law. Despite AB 32’s lofty objectives, California’s actions will have no direct impact on global greenhouse gas emissions or on any predicted pattern of climate change; additionally, why California’s unilateral actions are costly to the state.
Health CareBy Eli Lehrer, Heartland InstitutePolicy Brief, 02/15/2011
The competitive bidding process for Medicare should not be expanded to include certain complex therapeutic devices until adequate research establishes metrics to monitor the impact on clinical outcomes and cost across the health care continuum. In other words, the government should not institute a mechanism to reduce costs if there is evidence that it will actually increase costs and end lives. Research should analyze the outcomes from the use of low-cost and high-cost devices within each device category to see if there is a difference in the overall cost of treating the patient. Competitive bidding should continue, and, in time, the entire process must change.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Brett Schaefer, The Heritage FoundationLecture, 02/15/2011
Multilateral diplomacy is challenging. The dynamics are often more complex than bilateral negotiations because there are many more players. But while policies and venues may change, the role of diplomacy—to advance and promote the foreign policy objectives of the United States—is constant and does not change when the diplomacy is multilateral rather than bilateral. A diplomat at the United Nations is expected to rally support for U.S. policy and positions just as he or she would at an embassy in Britain or Botswana. To maximize its efforts, the U.S. needs to reassess its strategy, focusing on the battles that really matter. In addition, Congress and the Administration need to take a fresh look at the U.N. system and ask fundamental questions about how to reduce budgets, eliminate extraneous or unnecessary activities, and increase accountability. Experience has shown that diplomacy alone is not sufficient to achieve support for reform.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy James Phillips, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 02/15/2011
Iran’s hostile regime has been one of the chief beneficiaries of the political turmoil that has convulsed Egypt and Tunisia, which distracted the United States and other countries from the ongoing standoff over Iran’s nuclear program. The dramatic events diverted international attention from Tehran’s stubborn refusal to negotiate an acceptable resolution of the nuclear issue at the failed Istanbul talks last month. The Obama Administration should vigilantly refocus international attention on Iran’s nuclear defiance, support for terrorism, and human rights abuses and ratchet up pressure on Iran’s radical regime.
National SecurityBy Mackenzie Eaglen, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 02/15/2011
Right now, Congress is determining how to fund the government through the remainder of the fiscal year. One proposal on the table in the House of Representatives includes funding defense significantly below President Obama’s requested levels for fiscal year (FY) 2011 by roughly $13 billion. These spending plans would have significant and immediate negative impact on the U.S. military. Congress should fully fund defense for FY 2011 at the level requested by the President: $548 billion. Matching the President’s budget request for defense in FY 2011 provides the minimum basis required to provide adequate defense budgets in the future. Fully funding defense requirements this year demands vigilant efforts by policymakers to identify spending cuts elsewhere in the federal budget.
Budget & TaxationBy J.D. Foster, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 02/15/2011
Despite tax hikes and budget gimmicks, the President recently proposed a budget that keeps the federal government on a thoroughly irresponsible and unsustainable course. While acknowledging the looming red ink menace, it embraces rather than tackles it. Under the President’s announced policies, the federal government would be expected to push total debt to $16.7 trillion over the coming decade. Congress should study the President’s budget carefully to understand in the main the path the country should not take. Then—beginning with the upcoming debate on a continuing resolution for appropriations, then the budget resolution, then the debate on the debt limit, and on through the year—Congress should chart a very different course, one of strong, immediate spending restraint and strong economic growth to restore the nation’s fiscal house to order.
National SecurityBy Jena Baker McNeill, Matt Mayer, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 02/14/2011
The Democratic staff of the House Homeland Security Committee issued a report on Friday that criticizes the House Republicans’ plan to reduce Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spending to the fiscal year (FY) 2006 level in FY 2012. However, since 9/11, funds directed to state and local governments through the DHS grant programs have done little to contribute to readiness and instead have served as another avenue for pork-barrel spending in Congress. If Congress is serious about fiscal responsibility and the ability of state and local governments to respond effectively to threats, it should reassess the current grant structure and spend federal dollars exclusively on projects that actually make America more prepared.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Andrew P. Morriss, et al., Cato InstituteBook, 02/14/2011
This book critically and realistically evaluates the claims of green-energy and green-jobs proponents who argue that we can improve the economy and the environment, almost risk-free, by spending hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars in return for false or highly speculative promises. The False Promise of Green Energy illustrates the irresponsibility of attempting to transform modern society with borrowed money, wishful thinking, and bad economics. It shows how the top-down control programs offered by green-energy and green-jobs advocates are unlikely to achieve positive results compared with allowing competitive forces to continue to provide ever greater environmental quality and energy efficiencies.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Mark A. Calabria, Cato InstituteTestimony, 02/14/2011
Reform of our federal mortgage finance policies should be among Congress’ top priorities. While the complexity of reform demands a deliberate and thoughtful process, there are immediate steps that can be taken to protect both the taxpayer and our broader economy. Among these steps are: moving Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into receivership; lower the current conforming loan limits; aligning Government Sponsored Enterprise (GSE) compensation standards with that of the Federal government; improving the credit quality of GSE loan purchases; and instituting a mechanism to recoup taxpayer assistance to the GSEs.
EducationBy Andrew J. Coulson, Cato InstituteTestimony, 02/14/2011
The United States has little to show for the $2 trillion in federal education spending of the past half century. In the face of concerted and unflagging efforts by Congress and the states, public schooling has suffered a massive productivity collapse—it now costs three times as much to provide essentially the same education as we provided in 1970. However, the Washington, DC, Opportunity Scholarships Program (which helps students to attend private schools) is producing better results at a quarter of the cost. Congress should preserve and grow the Opportunity Scholarships Program as an example of what is possible and phase out its vast array of ineffective programs.
Budget & TaxationBy James Sherk, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 02/14/2011
The Davis–Bacon Act (DBA) requires the government to pay construction wages that average 22 percent above market rates. This shields unions from competition on federal construction projects and will add $10.9 billion to the deficit in 2011. If Congress is serious about reducing spending or lowering unemployment, it should repeal the DBA. Congress should also reduce the amount it contributes to state construction projects by the amount the DBA inflates costs. This would ensure that the federal government realizes the full $10.9 billion in savings in 2011.
National SecurityBy Theodore Bromund, James Phillips, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 02/14/2011
Proponents of a containment policy toward Iran are ignoring the harsh realities inherent in such a policy. First, the U.S. has been trying to contain Iran since the Iranian revolution in 1979, with little success. If Iran develops a nuclear weapon, it will become even more difficult to contain. A serious containment policy will require the U.S. to maintain a credible threat of force against Iran. This will be even more difficult if Iran goes nuclear because the U.S. will have lost credibility. A containment policy will also require the U.S. to support the undemocratic governments in the countries neighboring Iran, creating many political dilemmas. Instead of pursuing a policy of containment, which would be a policy in name only, the U.S. should keep the military option alive, defend itself and its allies, and seek both to weaken the regime’s economic base and to empower and encourage its domestic adversaries.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Morgan Roach, Ray Walser, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 02/14/2011
The crisis in Côte d’Ivoire is an opportunity for African institutions to step up and hold political leaders accountable for poor governance. To the extent that the U.S. can support their efforts, the Obama Administration should do so. The U.S. should continue on its current trajectory (especially sanctions on Gbagbo’s supporters), lending a hand rather than taking charge, supporting election results (not individuals), and resisting power-sharing.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Ariel Cohen, James Phillips, Owen Graham, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 02/14/2011
Iran’s theocratic Shia regime has used its oil revenues to export the Islamic revolution and to fund an extensive nuclear weapons program. Yet Iran’s energy sector is also its greatest vulnerability, particularly its need to import gasoline to meet domestic demand. The most recent round of U.N. Security Council sanctions and unilateral sanctions by the European Union, Japan, and other countries offer some hope of stopping Iran’s nuclear program. The U.S. needs to aggressively enforce its own sanctions and lead efforts to persuade other countries to enforce existing sanctions and to impose their own sanctions.
Budget & TaxationBy Brian Riedl, Emily Goff, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 02/14/2011
House Republicans are now pledging to reduce fiscal year 2011 discretionary spending to $100 billion below President Obama’s original request. As reported, this new budget proposal would unwisely reduce security spending by $16 billion relative to President Obama’s request and reduce non-security spending by $84 billion relative to President Obama’s request and by $69 billion compared to the 2010 level. Rather than stop at $84 billion, lawmakers could seek a full $100 billion reduction in non-security discretionary spending. Defense should be funded at the level proposed in the FY2011 president’s budget. This would bring that spending down to 2005 levels for the final seven months of the fiscal year (and 2008 levels over the full year) and create a new, lower baseline that could save nearly $2 trillion over the decade. This article contains a list of non-military spending that should be cut.
Transportation/InfrastructureBy Ronald Utt, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 02/14/2011
President Barack Obama’s high-speed rail program promises to spend hundreds of billions of dollars in federal and state funds to provide mediocre passenger rail service to an extremely small fraction of travelers. In this time of tight budgets, neither the federal government nor the states can afford such extravagance. Instead of creating a heavily subsidized, underutilized passenger rail system, Congress and the Administration should promptly end the program and use the recovered funds to reduce the federal budget deficit.
Budget & TaxationBy Curtis Dubay, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 02/14/2011
There is much to fault with the current corporate tax code, but the high tax rate is the biggest threat facing the economy right now. Congress should focus on lowering the corporate tax rate first and work on other issues later. Tax reform—whether of the individual tax code or the corporate tax code—requires early, sustained, and determined presidential leadership. If a lower rate is to become a reality in the near future, President Obama must follow up on his call to action with a clear plan to guide Congress and a willingness to spend political capital to turn the plan into reality.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Jena Baker McNeill, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 02/14/2011
Currently, two of the PATRIOT Act’s key provisions are up for reauthorization by Congress. As the deadline draws nearer, it is important to re-engage on the importance of the PATRIOT Act and explain how the law helps authorities to track down terror leads and dismantle plots before the public is in any danger. In view of the facts that the PATRIOT Act is Constitutional and does not abuse powers, Congress should reauthorize the PATRIOT Act sunset provisions, seek permanent reauthorization, and resist initiatives to erode key provisions.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy David John, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 02/14/2011
Creating Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were serious policy mistakes, as were subsidizing them through privileged access to federal funds and implicit guarantees. These mistakes should never be repeated. Nothing less than their complete elimination is acceptable; a viable process for elimination is discussed in this WebMemo. However, this is not a development to fear but rather the first step in rebuilding a modern housing finance industry that would provide Americans with greater opportunities to own their own home without the risk of another multi-hundred-billion-dollar bailout.
International Trade/FinanceBy Ray Walser, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 02/14/2011
Inaugurated August 7, 2010, Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos is striking a prudent balance between preserving the security policies of predecessor Alvaro Uribe and forging a new path for economic and social development in Latin America’s third-largest nation. Santos’s productive first six months signal that Colombia is an advancing and able partner in a problematic region. Colombia hopes that solid achievements will clear the way for passage this year of the U.S.–Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA), originally signed in November 2006. The White House and Congress should welcome Columbia as a partner by finalizing FTA discussions and sending it—along with the FTA for Panama—to Congress for approval.
Regulation & DeregulationBy James Gattuso, The Heritage FoundationTestimony, 02/14/2011
From the lighting in their homes, to the volume of their television sets, to the cars they buy, Americans are facing an unprecedented tide of red tape and regulations that are increasing prices, reducing innovation, and destroying jobs. While reforming the regulatory process is important, it is also important to note that such reforms will not by themselves solve the problem of overregulation. No set of procedural reforms will be enough to stem the regulatory tide. Ultimately, regulatory burdens will rise until policymakers fully appreciate the burdens that regulations impose on Americans, and exercise the political will necessary to limit and reduce those burdens.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Lisa Curtis, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 02/14/2011
Promoting democracy and liberty around the world has long been a core component of U.S. foreign policy. After its initial efforts to distance itself from the Bush Administration’s policies, the Obama Administration seems to be reaffirming the U.S. commitment to supporting democratic ideals and institutions around the globe. Such efforts are particularly important in Muslim-majority countries because the principles of liberal democratic governance are a powerful antidote to Islamist extremists’ message of intolerance, hatred, and repression. The Obama Administration needs to prioritize the promotion of democracy and individual freedom both to extend the blessings of freedom to other countries and to protect U.S. national security.
Budget & TaxationBy Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Jennifer Pollom, Cameron Smith, American Action ForumReport, 02/10/2011
In light of the implications of last year’s budget plan for the federal balance sheet and U.S. economy, it is imperative that this year’s budget depict a new direction.
Budget & TaxationBy Chris Edwards, Cato InstituteTax & Budget Bulletin, 02/10/2011
The number of federal aid programs for state and local governments totaled 1,122 in 2010, or more than triple the number 25 years ago. Some of the most expensive federal aid programs are in the areas of education, housing, health care, and transportation.
EducationBy Andrew Campanella, Malcom Glenn, Lauren Perry, Alliance for School ChoiceReport, 02/10/2011
The School Choice Yearbook is a compendium of the nation’s most accurate data on school voucher and scholarship tax credit programs, an analysis of trends and information regarding school choice, a directory of the accountability provisions and requirements for each program, and a chronicle of the past year’s choice-related events and activities.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Matthew Spalding, Trent England, The Heritage FoundationFirst Principles, 02/10/2011
By design, the amendment process requires extensive deliberation and ensures that amendments are the settled opinion of the American people. To date, as was expected, every amendment to the Constitution has been proposed through Congress before being ratified by the states. Although there have been several attempts to call an Article V amending convention—some of which have driven Congress to act—the extensive unknowns and significant risks involved in that uncharted option make congressional proposal of amendments abundantly more prudent and the most viable method to achieve serious constitutional reform.
Health CareBy Robert Moffit , The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 02/10/2011
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s major federal mandates on the states are not effective until 2014, and the law’s provisions may not even be in force by 2014. Nonetheless, state officials should not wait for the federal government to tell them what to do. Their job is to seize every inch of territory in health policy they can, within the law, and challenge in the courts every transgression of their legitimate authority if and when federal officials violate it. The inability or unwillingness of state officials to frame the issues and define the terms of the national health care debate—and offer consequential policies that will improve the lives of millions of Americans—is tantamount to political surrender on the installment plan. Congressional efforts to repeal, block, or defund the unconstitutional PPACA should be complemented by a new federalist movement spreading like wildfire in the state capitals.
International Trade/FinanceBy Derek Scissors, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 02/09/2011
The entire global economy would benefit if the dollar-yuan exchange rate were driven by market demand. It would contribute to a U.S.-China economic relationship that is more balanced, more sustainable, and more beneficial to people in both countries in a way that a government-ordered revaluation would not. The U.S. can help alleviate Chinese concerns and spur financial reform in China. It would require American assistance—and insistence—on a schedule for capital account liberalization.
National SecurityBy James Sherk, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 02/09/2011
The Obama Administration has decided that the government will engage in limited collective bargaining with airline security screeners. This decision will reduce the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) effectiveness. In most parts of government, labor disputes and union inefficiencies raise costs for taxpayers. In national security agencies, they also put lives at risk. Federal law prohibits most national security agencies from unionizing for exactly this reason. The Secret Service, the FBI, and the CIA do not collectively bargain. America cannot afford conflict between unions and management that could allow a terrorist attack to succeed.
EducationBy Matthew Ladner, Friedman Foundation for Educational ChoiceReport, 02/09/2011
Ten years after Governor Jeb Bush’s election in Florida and subsequent work to improve K-12 education, this study lays out the cumulative impact of his reforms, using data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Ultimately, Florida’s reforms largely yielded positive results. This report suggests how Tennessee policymakers could emulate the Sunshine State. Florida’s work was not easy, but the academic success that has occurred should make it easier for other states to follow, including Tennessee.
Elections, Transparency, & AccountabilityBy J. Ammon Smartt, Keith W. Randall, Federalist SocietyReport, 02/09/2011
Under the Tennessee Constitution, attorneys general are selected by the justices of the Supreme Court of Tennessee for eight-year terms with no limit on term renewals. Justices of the Tennessee Supreme Court, in turn, are selected by a version of the Missouri Plan known as the “Tennessee Plan,” which calls for the governor to fill vacancies on the court from a list of three judges submitted by a nominating commission composed primarily of lawyers; these justices are eventually subject to retention referenda where voters are asked whether to retain the justices. This paper explores the effects of both judicial selection generally, and the Tennessee Plan specifically, on the attorney general of Tennessee. It first examines the methods used by states to select attorneys general. Then, it examines Tennessee’s selection method. Finally, this paper examines Tennessee’s method of selecting attorneys general in relation to issues of governmental accountability.
EducationBy Commonwealth Foundation, Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy AlternativesPolicy Points, 02/09/2011
Pennsylvania’s Senate Bill 1, The Opportunity Scholarship Act, would expand scholarships available to children in lower- and middle-income families through the Educational Improvement Tax Credit program and provide low-income students in chronically underperforming public schools with a state-funded voucher. While Senate Bill 1 will dramatically expand opportunities to families who lack the financial ability to access educational alternatives for their children, the Commonwealth Foundation suggests that all families be afforded such opportunities-regardless of income or zip code.
EducationBy Commonwealth Foundation, Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy AlternativesPolicy Points, 02/09/2011
This series of policy points discusses the need for school choice, created by both fiscal problems and lack of public school performance. It discusses why school choice is important, and it lays out the state of school choice options in Pennsylvania. Additionally, it examines the myriad of benefits accrued when school choice is permitted.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy American Legislative Exchange Council, American Legislative Exchange CouncilReport, 02/09/2011
The Environmental Protection Agency has begun developing and finalizing a slew of overreaching and inefficient air and water rules that, over the next several years, will dramatically increase energy costs, cause enormous negative impacts to jobs and the economy, irreparably damage the competitiveness of American business, and trample on state sovereignty in the process. This report outlines the costs of these major EPA rules, tells the true story of America’s modern clean air and water successes, and outlines best practices for state legislators (including following the many states that are considering resolutions in 2011 to call for Congress to slow and stop this regulatory onslaught). The report also explores more than 15 pieces of ALEC model legislation related to this topic.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Roger Bate, American Enterprise InstituteCongressional Staff Foreign Policy Brief , 02/09/2011
More than thirty-four million dollars worth of grants for the procurement of lifesaving drugs and other commodities for the world’s poor have been stolen from the UN-backed, Geneva-based Global Fund to Fight AIDS TB. Committees of the new US Congress may want to hold hearings concerning halting aid dispersion to the Fund in the coming weeks. If US were to withhold funding, the Global Fund would have to immediately halt many grant payments, and potentially cancel huge upcoming aid disbursements. While this corruption must be halted, the Global Fund should not be disbanded because it has been more transparent than other agencies. Indeed, if any good can come out of these problems, it will be that other agencies are encouraged to become as transparent as the Global Fund.
EducationBy Andrew P. Kelly, Mark Schneider, American Enterprise InstituteEducation Outlook, 02/09/2011
Over the next several months, high school seniors across the country will decide where to go to college. Many students and their parents will base the decision on program offerings, cost, and distance from home, but they may be overlooking a vital piece of information. A recent study of parents choosing between two public colleges found that, when provided with graduation-rate data, 15 percent switched their preference to the school with the higher graduation rate. Providing this key information could have real economic implications for students’ lifetime earning potential. This piece presents the findings of the study and proposes policies to improve consumer information and increase college completion.
Budget & TaxationBy Kevin A. Hassett, Aparna Mathur, American Enterprise InstituteTax Policy Outlook, 02/09/2011
At 35 percent, the US statutory corporate tax rate is the highest among all the countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Since the 1980s, other OECD economies have been steadily lowering their tax rates, but the United States has not cut its top statutory rate since 1993. In the OECD, the United States also has higher-than-average effective average and effective marginal tax rates, which are the best indicators for capital investors of their true tax liability. Policymakers seeking to understand why some companies are moving plants abroad should consider the impact of tax rates on competitiveness. The Obama administration and the 112th Congress should lower effective tax rates so the United States can compete in the global economy.
Transportation/InfrastructureBy Ronald Utt, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 02/09/2011
The House Budget Committee has announced its discretionary federal spending target for the remaining eight months of fiscal year (FY) 2011, and the House Appropriations Committee subsequently provided details on how the 12 major program areas would have to be cut to meet that target. The transportation/housing account will receive the stiffest cuts of all: Both programs will be reduced by 17 percent compared to FY 2010 levels to an average of 9 percent for all discretionary programs. The Appropriations Committee and its subcommittee on housing and transportation should use this budget-cutting requirement as an opportunity to separate the wheat from the chaff and impose the severest cuts on those programs that provide the least benefits to mobility, congestion mitigation, and safety. Some programs that should be cut are discussed in this WebMemo.
Budget & TaxationBy Kail Padgitt, Tax FoundationFiscal Facts, 02/09/2011
In two-thirds of the United States, local-option sales taxes make it somewhat more difficult for citizens to know what the sales tax rates are, and transparency suffers. Thirty-three states allow localities to charge a local sales tax. The rates vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction; this piece averages those rates in a way that gives an accurate impression of the sales tax in each state.
Monetary Policy/Financial Regulation
Housing Finance Reform: Protecting Taxpayers, Ending Bailouts, Reducing the Government’s Role, and Promoting Private CapitalBy Anthony Randazzo, Reason FoundationTestimony, 02/09/2011
This testimony includes ten ideas for reforming short-term mortgage finance. They are a starting point or a first step towards a robust overhaul, and should open the door to further mortgage finance reform discussion, as well as affordable housing discussion. Ultimately, the goal of housing finance reform should be to allow private investors to replace the government-i.e. taxpayers-as financers in the housing market while ensuring that any subsidies remaining in the system are explicit, direct, narrow, and on-budget. Congress should then continue in earnest to implement such reforms, ensuring that in the future, America’s housing market is far closer to a free market.
Budget & TaxationBy Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, Oklahoma Council of Public AffairsReport, 02/09/2011
This proposed budget for Oklahoma, created by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, returns government spending to reasonable, pre-spending-spree levels while providing much-needed tax relief for Oklahoma’s overtaxed families. Driven by the ideas that state government has expanded beyond its core functions and that voters want government to be smaller, this budget lays a blueprint for a smaller Oklahoma state government.
LaborBy J. Scott Moody, Wendy P. Warcholik, Oklahoma Council of Public AffairsResearch, 02/09/2011
This piece utilizes the National Establishment Time-Series (NETS) database of Oklahoma’s businesses to examine the births and deaths of Oklahoma establishments; these births and deaths are avenues of job creation. Every year in Oklahoma, new establishments and jobs are born (births), while existing establishments cease to exist, taking their jobs with them (deaths). Understanding this dynamic process relating to the creation of jobs from the births and deaths of establishments is the final step to ensuring that public policy helps rather than hinders job creation.
National SecurityBy Jena Baker McNeill, Charles Stimson, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 02/09/2011
Last night, the House of Representatives voted not to suspend the rules and pass three key counterterrorism amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which are set to expire at the end of February. These three amendments involved roving surveillance authority, business record orders under FISA, and the lone wolf provision. However, the motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill, which requires a two-thirds vote to proceed, failed by a vote margin of 277–148. This vote was troublesome, mostly because it is unclear why the act, which has enjoyed bipartisan support, was not reauthorized. Little evidence has ever been proffered to demonstrate any PATRIOT Act misuse; thus, these provisions should be renewed.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy James Phillips, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 02/09/2011
Although Egypt’s widely supported protest movement was reportedly instigated by secular opposition activists, the largest and most well-organized group within Egypt’s diverse coalition of opposition groups remains the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist movement determined to transform Egypt into an Islamic state that is hostile to freedom. The Muslim Brotherhood has joined other opposition groups in negotiating with Vice President Omar Suleiman over the ground rules for establishing a transitional government. In facilitating a transition to a more representative government, the Obama Administration should be careful that it does not also inadvertently help the Muslim Brotherhood advance its anti-freedom agenda.
Budget & TaxationBy Josh Barro, Manhattan InstituteCivic Report, 02/09/2011
In 2010, the pension plans of state and local governments came under increased scrutiny in response to their generally weak financial positions and mounting costs to taxpayers. By some measures, these funds are as much as $3 trillion short of the assets they would need to cover the promises they have made to government workers and retirees. However, several shortcomings in these funds’ financial disclosures have made it difficult for even lawmakers and policy experts to accurately evaluate pensions’ actual financial condition. To remedy these problems, funds should disclose their finances more fully in the following areas: discounting, smoothing, accrual method, projections, and normal cost.