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Recent Policy Studies
EducationBy Lindsey Burke, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 02/18/2011
The federal Race to the Top (RTTT) competitive grant program awarded $4.35 billion among select states, giving preference on grant applications to those states that agreed to adopt national education standards and tests. Moreover, the Obama Administration has suggested making federal Title I funding contingent upon adoption of national standards—a move that would provide no new funding for standards and assessment implementation but would effectively mandate their adoption by withholding federal funding for low-income schools. While this carrot-and-stick approach to the adoption of standards and assessments is a cause for concern, it could also require more new spending. Ultimately, developing and overhauling state accountability systems will be far more costly and of questionable value during a time of budget shortfalls nationwide.
Budget & TaxationBy Alabama Policy Institute, Alabama Policy InstituteStudies, 02/18/2011
The Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP) was first designed to allow retiring state and education employees who would be difficult or expensive to replace an option to work beyond their retirement age in return for some sort of cash payout. However, DROP is costly and hamstrings the state in periods of financial distress, because it encourages longer-term, higher-paid employees to continue working, even when the employer might want them to retire in order to replace them with younger employees or just terminate/combine positions. Failure to address DROP’s cost problems could lead to a much larger and more expensive problem in the very near future. Alabama legislators must stop the insanity of finding savings by adopting programs that increase costs, restructuring the program to assure that the legislation meets its original intent and saves the state money.
Family, Culture & CommunityBy Alabama Policy Institute, Alabama Policy InstituteReport, 02/18/2011
The economic and social consequences of legalizing casinos in Alabama vastly outweigh any benefits they might bring. With the casino market approaching saturation, and every state around Alabama offering some form of legalized gambling, there is little reason for tourists to consider Alabama casinos a worthwhile travel destination. Alabamians would be the target market of any casino placed in our state. The public and private sector costs associated with expanding legalized gambling in Alabama would be at least $120 million per year. About two-thirds of this amount—$86.9 million—would come as a result of increased crime rates. Other costs, such as family breakdown and suicide, are harder to quantify. Government has a responsibility to protect its citizens, not make them economic slaves.
EducationBy Alabama Policy Institute, Alabama Policy InstituteStudies, 02/18/2011
If Alabama’s Prepaid Affordable College Tuition (PACT) program is to meet or satisfy its obligations to its participants, it must make changes to ensure its solvency, particularly if it is to ever re-open to new enrollees. First, it must lower its ratio of equities to fixed income investments to a balance that is more in line with the national average of about 60 percent equities and 40 percent fixed income. Second, if the PACT remains closed to new enrollees, it must continue to bring in revenues to offset future gains in tuition, as well as to erase its current losses. Finally, if the decision is made to re-open the PACT program to new enrollees, an adjustable stabilization reserve should be created to help the program adapt to short-term changes in tuition costs, investment returns, and purchaser behavior.
EducationBy Alabama Policy Institute, Alabama Policy InstituteStudies, 02/18/2011
Statistics show that many students in Alabama are falling through the cracks in the state’s public education system. Many of these students would benefit from access to high quality charter schools that can meet their needs. Research shows that charter schools can improve academic achievement, graduation rates, and college enrollment. Alabama has the opportunity to learn from best practices and other states’ experiences to create a strong charter school law that brings high quality education options to children who need them.
Health CareBy Alabama Policy Institute, Alabama Policy InstituteStudies, 02/18/2011
Alabama’s Public Education Employee Health Insurance Program (PEEHIP) program needs an immediate comprehensive strategy for cost containment and pre-funding of PEEHIP benefits for future retirees. Of the three options available (raising taxes, reducing government spending, and reforming PEEHIP) only the latter two have the potential to both save the state money and keep the state’s economy from further harm. After laying out the PEEHIP program and its problems, this study makes recommendations for reducing government spending and reforming PEEHIP.
Budget & TaxationBy Jason Clemens, Milagros Palacios, Niels Veldhuis, Fraser InstituteResearch Studies, 02/18/2011
Canada’s federal government has laid out a plan to eliminate its deficit over the next five years. Unfortunately, the current federal plan is based on assumptions of strong revenue growth, restrained spending growth, and limited increases in interest rates. Rather than relying on these questionable assumptions about the future, the federal government should have looked at its own experience in the mid-1990s when Canada led the world in solving its deficit and debt problems. In 1995, the federal Liberal Party undertook deliberate and difficult steps—cutting nominal spending and public-sector employment—and was able to solve the deficit and debt problems of the country effectively. This study is intended to educate readers about the state of the current fiscal problems of the federal government, the parallels with the failures of the 1980s and early 1990s, how governments solved the problems in the mid-1990s, and how we can solve today’s problem.
Regulation & DeregulationBy Nathan Benefield, Antony Davies, Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy AlternativesTestimony, 02/18/2011
In more than twenty years of research, numerous studies have failed to reach a consensus as to what social benefits, if any, people derive from their states controlling alcohol markets. This testimony discusses the results of two studies that indicate that state control of alcohol markets does not contribute to improved social outcomes and, disturbingly in the case of driving under the influence fatalities, appears to contribute to reduced social outcomes.
EducationBy Matthew Brouillette, Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy AlternativesTestimony, 02/18/2011
The Pennsylvania public school system must be reformed through incentive-based methods. The public schools lack the incentives necessary for the kind of educational improvement we expect and our children deserve. School choice is the key incentive for improving all schools. By utilizing school vouchers to empower parents to become active education consumers, schools will themselves adopt effective rules and wisely allocate resources to provide the best educational services.
EducationBy The Commonwealth Foundation, Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy AlternativesPolicy Brief, 02/18/2011
Thousands of children from needy and working-class families are currently trapped in failing schools simply because of where they live. Despite spending nearly $20,000 per student in some of Pennsylvania’s chronically underperforming schools, academic achievement remains inadequate. In an attempt to thwart efforts to give children better educational opportunities, the public school establishment is trying to divert the attention of policymakers through a series of oft-repeated myths and half-truths. This Policy Brief lays out 15 school choice myths and expels them with 46 facts.
EducationBy The Commonwealth Foundation, Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy AlternativesPolicy Brief, 02/18/2011
The Pennsylvania School Board Association is circulating a list of questions that Pennsylvania state legislators should be asking about Senate Bill 1, which deals with school vouchers. This Policy Brief answers these questions, explaining where funding for vouchers comes from and the types of decisions that private and parochial schools can and will make in reference to vouchers. Additionally, it responds to concerns about the voucher system in relation to standardized testing, accountability, and religious education.
ImmigrationBy David North, Center for Immigration StudiesMemorandum, 02/18/2011
Debate over the H-1B foreign worker program often focuses on the number of visas issued each year for one sub-category, 65,000. But that number, while accurate, is misleading; to understand the full impact of this, or any other, long-term non-immigrant program, we need to know not just the annual admissions—the “flow”—but also the “stock,” the number of people here in that status at any given time. There is no official estimate of the size of the total H-1B population; this study estimates it at 650,000 as of September 30, 2009, 10 times larger than the flow number usually referred to.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Alex J. Pollock, American Enterprise InstituteTestimony, 02/18/2011
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac need to be divided into a “bad bank,” a “good bank,” and a government agency. The bad bank should be put into a liquidating trust, the good bank should be privatized, and the governmental activities of delivering subsidies and non-market loans should be merged into the structure of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Such a restructuring would certainly be complex and most likely cannot occur as of yet. But there are a number of focused, specific actions we could take now, consistent with the long term aim; this testimony suggests twelve such actions.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Christopher DeMuth, American Enterprise InstituteTestimony, 02/18/2011
Environmental regulation has been one of the success stories of American government, producing large and palpable public benefits. But it has been, in retrospect, much less cost-effective than it could have been—we could have achieved the same environmental quality at lower cost or more environmental quality at the same cost (or some of each). Environmental regulation has generally become less rather than more cost-effective over time, and there is a wide variation in the effectiveness of the Environmental Protection Agency’s various authorizing statutes for controlling air, water, and land pollution. Ultimately, EPA statutes should be revisited in order to greatly improve their environmental and economic results.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Peter J. Wallison, American Enterprise InstituteTestimony, 02/18/2011
There is powerful evidence that the financial crisis was caused by government housing policies and not by a lack of regulation or the simultaneous failures of risk management among the world’s largest financial institutions. Under these circumstances, there is reason to doubt that the Dodd-Frank Act was necessary to prevent another financial crisis. It is more likely that a change in government housing policy would provide greater protection against a repetition than the Dodd-Frank Act, with none of the adverse effects that the act is likely to have on economic growth in the United States.
Economic GrowthBy Alex Brill, American Enterprise InstituteTestimony, 02/18/2011
The massive, poorly considered stimulus bill rushed through Congress was not designed to spend money quickly. While some activities such as one-time additional Social Security payments, extended unemployment benefits, and other aid occurred quickly, funding that involved actual projects or federal contracts were very slow to begin. In the seven months of fiscal year 2009 remaining after enactment of the ARRA, only 18 percent of the stimulus bill’s spending occurred. Even now, over one-fourth of all stimulus monies remain unspent. A number of departments and agencies with large stimulus fund allocations appear particularly bad at getting money out the door, including the Departments of Energy, Transportation, Commerce, and Homeland Security and the GSA. Ultimately, the stimulus bill will continue to cost money beyond that estimated by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) because many provisions are being extended or made permanent.
EducationBy Liv Finne, Washington Policy CenterLegislative Memo, 02/18/2011
Digital learning can transform education. Washington State’s SB 5603 serves the public interest because it would expand learning opportunities for all Washington public school students by giving them access to online learning programs. This Legislative Memo discusses the benefits of online education and presents the Ten Elements of High Quality Digital Learning recently published by national experts in online learning.
Health CareBy Roger Stark, Washington Policy CenterPolicy Brief, 02/18/2011
This Policy Brief examines the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act’s impact on businesses, Medicare, Medicaid, young adults, and providers in Washington State. Ultimately, the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act allows the government to take over one sixth of the United States’ economy and dictate a top-down, one-size-fits-all health care system for the entire country. In short, the new health care law will adversely impact and severely restrict choices for virtually everyone in Washington State.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy David G. Tuerck. Paul Bachman, Michael Head, Rio Grande FoundationStudies, 02/18/2011
In March 2004 Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico signed into law Senate Bill 43. This bill required sources of renewable energy to make up 5 percent of the investor-owned electric utilities sales by 2006, and 10 percent by 2011. In 2007 the law was expanded by Senate Bill 418, which accelerated the timeline and increased the mandate such that renewable sources account for 10 percent of all power generated by 2011; 15 percent for 2015; and 20 percent for 2020 and thereafter. Ultimately, these standards were put in place without taking into account long term and unintended consequences, and they carry demonstrably high costs with dubious benefits. Lawmakers should eliminate entirely or postpone them until they can debate all facets of the policy and make informed decisions about how best to serve New Mexicans while being responsible environmental stewards.
WelfareBy Steve Poftak, Pioneer Institute for Public Policy ResearchPolicy Brief, 02/18/2011
Massachusetts’ unemployment insurance (UI) safety net is the most generous in the nation by several measures, including eligibility and benefit duration. Massachusetts is the only state that provides 30 weeks of benefits; 48 other states provide 26 weeks. Massachusetts also allows an individual who has been working for 15 weeks in only one quarter to be eligible for the same benefits as someone who has been in the workforce for 20 years. These two features of the Massachusetts UI system have the paradoxical effect of creating an inhibitor to job creation – an expensive ‘per job’ tax. In 2010, the ‘per job’ tax burden due to unemployment insurance costs was $638 in Massachusetts, twice the U.S. average. This policy brief offers four reform proposals that would keep in place a safety net comparable to any other state in the country, while reducing the ‘per job’ tax burden on Massachusetts employers.
Information TechnologyBy Lawrence J. Spiwak, Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal and Economic Public Policy StudiesPerspective, 02/18/2011
Last December, the Federal Communications Commission released its much-anticipated and highly controversial Open Internet Rules. As its primary legal justification for its actions, the Commission relied upon Section 706 of the Communications Act, which provides that “the Commission … shall encourage the deployment of advanced telecommunications capability to all Americans” by utilizing, “in a manner consistent with the public interest, convenience and necessity,” certain “regulatory methods that remove barriers to infrastructure investment.” However, as Section 706 applies equally to “each State Commission with regulatory jurisdiction over telecommunications services,” the FCC’s order has introduced, perhaps inadvertently, significant questions of federalism that need to be considered. This Perspective briefly discusses these federalism questions.
Regulation & DeregulationBy Ashley Muchow, Illinois Policy InstitutePolicy Brief, 02/18/2011
Excess red tape hurts business. Where superfluous laws and regulations prevail, businesses and individuals lose out. Kansas knows this, and has developed a plan to jump-start business activity in the Sunflower State: the Office of the Repealer. The Office’s sole responsibility is to highlight and dispel outdated and overly burdensome laws and regulations. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn should take a page out of Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s playbook and take up the idea of the Office of the Repealer.
Budget & Taxation
Know Your Income, Then Budget: The People of Illinois Deserve a Balanced State Budget They Can AffordBy Collin Hitt, Illinois Policy InstituteTax & Budget Brief, 02/18/2011
Illinois cannot afford to overspend any longer. State vendors are exhausted and the bond markets are still wary of lending the state more money. Lawmakers must take steps to ensure that, under any scenario, the government has a positive cash flow. They must keep the numbers in mind—within five years Illinois will have little more than $33 billion to use for general fund appropriates. That money must be used to pay pension costs, bonded debt and operating expenditures. As budget proposals are considered for FY2012, it should be obvious that a general fund budget that nears $33 billion takes too little caution. A general fund budget that exceeds that figure places Illinois on an unsustainable path.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Edward Erler, The Heritage FoundationReport, 02/18/2011
There is a widespread belief that the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment automatically confers citizenship to anybody simply born on U.S. soil, regardless of the legal status of his or her parents. In reality, birthright citizenship is incompatible not only with the text of the Citizenship Clause, but more fundamentally, with the principle of consent—one of the bedrocks of republican government. From a constitutional point of view, the inclusion of the clause “and subject to the jurisdiction thereof” indicates that mere birth is not sufficient to acquire citizenship. Congress, consistent with the highest principles of equal citizenship and consent, would do well to clarify who is “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States.
Regulation & DeregulationBy Robert Moffit, The Heritage FoundationCenter for Policy Innovation Discussion Paper, 02/18/2011
Congress needs to take action to constrain the burgeoning regulations and closed-door, secretive rulemaking of the growing administrative state. To do that, Congress needs to restore formal rulemaking, with oral hearings presided over by an administrative law judge. It also needs to strengthen congressional control and oversight of rulemaking and establish a Congressional Office of Regulatory Review, which, among its other duties, would estimate the cost of major regulations.
National SecurityBy Jena Baker McNeill, et al, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 02/18/2011
The United States is known around the world for sending help—from in-person medical assistance to financial donations—when disasters strike in other countries. When disasters have recently struck the U.S.—9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and the Gulf oil spill—other countries have been equally quick to offer help. Yet, as astute as the U.S. is when it comes to delivering aid, the opposite is the case when it comes to responding to foreign offers of aid. It is crucial that the U.S. develop a reliable process by which to accept help from other countries when it is needed. In this Backgrounder, four national security experts lay out a plan for such a process.
Budget & TaxationBy Nick Gillespie, Veronique de Rugy, Reason FoundationReason, 02/17/2011
Specific cuts can and should be debated, as the political class belatedly grapples with a crisis of its own making. But one idea that should be rejected early on is the notion that revenue shortfalls got us into this mess and that new taxes are needed to pull the country out of it. As calls for revenue increases come fast and furious, keep the number 19 in mind. Until federal spending is brought down to 19 percent of the economy or less—something that was accomplished with little trouble for the years 1997 through 2002, not to mention most of the period between 1950 and 1970—no serious solution will be possible.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Matthew Sinclair, Dalibor Rohac, Legatum InstitutePaper, 02/17/2011
The global regulatory response to the financial crisis is based on a misperception of the factors that led to the accumulation of problems which unravelled in 2008 and 2009. The crisis is blamed on insufficient regulation and exuberance of the financial sector. As a result, it is natural to call for more regulation and a closer monitoring of the financial industry and for identifying and tackling systemic risk as it occurs by government policies. This view also ignores the complicit role of procyclical financial regulation which exacerbated the expansionary phase of the cycle and therefore made the downturn all the more painful. Understanding the role played by government policies in generating systemic risk within the financial sectors suggests that simple tightening of the existing regulations, and their harmonisation, is not going to address the factors that led to this crisis and that can potentially lead to the next financial meltdown.
WelfareBy Guy Sorman, Manhattan InstituteCity Journal, 02/17/2011
Conservatives would do well to revisit Milton Friedman’s alternatives to the welfare state. One such alternative was his negative income tax, or NIT. The NIT would use the mechanism by which we now collect tax revenue from people with incomes above some minimum level to provide financial assistance to people with incomes below that level. In Friedman’s plan, the poor would receive a direct cash grant, which would replace all other welfare programs for the poor, eliminating today’s bureaucracy. In actuality, the NIT has a myriad of advantages over the welfare state. In short, a policy agenda that combined school vouchers, health-care vouchers, and the NIT could help shape a twenty-first-century America that was freer—and thus truer to its historical roots.
EducationBy Mark C. Schug, M. Scott Niederjohn, Wisconsin Policy Research InstituteReport, 02/17/2011
It has been 10 years since Wisconsin overhauled an old set of rules for state teacher licensure (PI 3 and PI 4) and replaced it with a new set called PI 34. At the time of its approval in 2000, PI 34 was warmly welcomed by state leaders and legislators from both sides of the aisle. The purpose of this report is to assess PI 34 in an effort to learn whether it has made good on these high expectations. Ultimately, PI 34’s weaknesses far outweigh its strengths.
Health CareBy Grace-Marie Turner, et al., Harper CollinsBook, 02/17/2011
This book demystifies the convoluted plan that the Obama administration and a Democratic Congress pushed through, exploring its effect on real people. The authors explain exactly what the law stipulates and how the law will affect each of us: as patients, as employees, as taxpayers, and as citizens. They also lay out a plan for reforming the law so we can get health care right. Finally, the authors share concrete steps each of us can take to put the brakes on ObamaCare.
Opening the Internet to Regulation II: How Set-Top Box Merger Conditions Foreshadow Broadband Content ControlsBy Seth L. Cooper, Free State FoundationPerspectives from FSF Scholars, 02/17/2011
Over the last several weeks the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has assumed expansive new powers of regulation over broadband Internet services and broadband-delivered video content. In December the Commission issued its broadband Internet services regulatory framework. And in January the Commission issued its order subjecting the Comcast-NBCU merger to numerous regulatory conditions. Through these respective agency actions, the FCC now assumes oversight authority over aspects of broadband Internet services previously left to the free market. This paper focuses on some problematic implications of regulatory conditions imposed on Comcast-NBCU by the FCC in its recent merger order. In particular, the FCC’s regulatory conditions regarding Comcast-affiliated set-top boxes point more toward future regulation of broadband-delivered content than perhaps previously appreciated.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy Brian Pandya, Washington Legal FoundationLegal Backgrounder, 02/17/2011
On February 23, the U.S. Supreme Court will hold oral argument in the case of Global-Tech Appliances Inc. v. SEB, S.A. to address the legal standard for induced patent infringement. At issue is whether 35 U.S.C. sec. 271(b) carries a scienter requirement such that an accused infringer must have actual knowledge of the patent to be liable for inducing patent infringement. This case presents a challenging set of facts. Although it is plausible that the Supreme Court could impose a requirement of actual knowledge of a patent and reverse the decision below in its entirety, it seems more likely that that the Supreme Court will affirm the judgment that Global-Tech induced infringement of the patent, but reject the Federal Circuit’s deliberate indifference standard as inconsistent with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Inc. v. Grokster. Such a decision would raise the bar for proving induced infringement, but would leave unanswered questions.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy George S. Cary, Steven J. Kaiser, Washington Legal FoundationLegal Backgrounder, 02/17/2011
In Sheet Metal Workers Local 441 Health & Welfare Plan v. GlaxoSmithKline Judge Lawrence F. Stengel denied the plaintiffs’ motion to certify an antitrust class of indirect purchasers of the antidepressant Wellbutrin SR against its manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline. Judge Stengel concluded that the class could not be certified because a significant number of class members did not have claims. The reasoning of Judge Stengel’s decision demonstrates how careful and considered analysis can avoid the mistake of allowing dubious or non-existent claims to be swept into class action to the detriment of defendants and, often, to other class members. The case makes clear that, unlike in the summary judgment context where the plaintiff is given the benefit of competing evidence and expert opinion, a motion for class certification requires the court to affirmatively resolve such disputes, including among experts.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy Shannon Thyme Klinger, Michele L. Keegan, Washington Legal FoundationLegal Opinion Letter, 02/17/2011
In the wake of the government’s announcement of record healthcare fraud recoveries under the False Claims Act (FCA), and the recent publicity surrounding the $97 million award to the relator (or private plaintiff) in U.S. ex rel. Cheryl Eckard v. GlaxoSmithKline, et al., it is likely that FCA actions pursued against pharmaceutical and medical device companies will continue to increase. The United States ex. rel. Bennett v. Medtronic Inc. decision provides other courts with an important framework for using Rule 9(b) to evaluate whether alleged regulatory violations by pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers are appropriately subject to redress under the FCA.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Bill Peacock, Ryan Brannan, Texas Public Policy FoundationBill Analysis , 02/17/2011
While steps have been made to restore property rights that have been eroded through years of court rulings up through the Kelo decision, there are still problems that need to be addressed. Texas’s SB 18 is the latest attempt by the Texas Legislature to protect private property rights. Most of the provisions of SB 18 are well-founded and will move eminent domain law in the right direction. However, SB 18 does not contain a provision explicitly shifting the burden of proof in a condemnation proceeding from the landowner to the condemnor. The legislature should remove the presumption condemnors receive on questions of public use and necessity.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Bill Peacock, Ryan Brannan, Texas Public Policy FoundationBill Analysis , 02/17/2011
While steps have been made to restore property rights that have been eroded through years of court rulings up through the Kelo decision, there are still problems that need to be addressed. Texas’s SB 18 is the latest attempt by the Texas Legislature to protect private property rights. Most of the provisions of SB 18 are well-founded and will move eminent domain law in the right direction. However, the “buy-back” provision in SB 18 is at least as bad as current law, and will harm rather than improve property rights in Texas. This legislation should be amended to require entities to start developing a property taken for a public use within five years and to begin to use the property for the public use it was taken for within 10 years.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Bill Peacock, Ryan Brannan, Texas Public Policy FoundationBill Analysis , 02/17/2011
While steps have been made to restore property rights that have been eroded through years of court rulings up through the Kelo decision, there are still problems that need to be addressed. Texas’s SB 18 is the latest attempt by the Texas Legislature to protect private property rights. Most of the provisions of SB 18 are well-founded and will move eminent domain law in the right direction, including the provision than bans takings that are not for a public use.
Elections, Transparency, & AccountabilityBy Adam Summers, Anthony Randazzo, Reason FoundationPrivatization Report, 02/17/2011
Public sector workers oftentimes receive higher salaries than their private sector counterparts, on top of the significantly greater benefits and job security they enjoy. This report discusses privatization news, developments, and trends in the area of federal government. It covers issues such as federal worker compensation, insourcing, federal contracting policy, privatization of space, privatization of the housing finance system, military housing privatization, and proposals to sell federal real estate.
Transportation/InfrastructureBy Robert W. Poole Jr., Reason FoundationPrivatization Report, 02/17/2011
This report covers privatization news, developments, and trends for the area of surface transportation, including highways, toll lanes, and public-private partnerships. The report discusses issues such as transportation infrastructure finance, public-private partnership toll roads, high occupancy toll/managed lanes and networks, and overseas concession highway projects.
Transportation/InfrastructureBy Robert W. Poole Jr., Reason FoundationPrivatization Report, 02/17/2011
Airport privatization began in 1987, when Margaret Thatcher’s government privatized the former British Airports Authority (now BAA). In the two decades since then, governments in Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Latin America, and the Caribbean have privatized major airports. In many cases, these privatized entities have gone on to acquire full or partial ownership interests in other airports (both in their own country and elsewhere), as have some government-owned airports. Thus, today’s global airport industry is often characterized by airport groups, rather than just individual airports. This report discusses airport privatization around the world, the screening of passengers and baggage, and trends in air traffic control.
EducationBy Lisa Snell, Reason FoundationPrivatization Report, 02/17/2011
This report discusses education privatization news, developments and trends. It covers primary and secondary education, school voucher systems, tax credit initiatives, charter schools, outsourcing, and university privatization. Ultimately, New Orleans is the one city in the United States that comes closest to every school in the city having charter-like autonomy with direct responsibility for student performance through a contract with a government authorizer.
Transportation/InfrastructureBy Robert Poole, Reason FoundationPolicy Study, 02/17/2011
HOT (high occupancy toll) lanes permit certain categories of high-occupancy vehicles to use those lanes at either no charge or a reduced toll rate. This requires effective enforcement to ensure that the promised performance is delivered. Manual enforcement of HOV lane occupancy requirements has not been very effective. Enforcing HOT lane eligibility is more complicated, since both toll-paying vehicles with transponders and toll accounts, as well as HOVs meeting the occupancy requirement, must be distinguished from other, ineligible vehicles. This study first reviews current efforts to develop technology-based approaches to occupancy enforcement (either roadside or in-vehicle). It suggests that these efforts are not likely to prove cost-effective over the next several decades. It then develops a policy-based approach to HOT lanes enforcement, aimed especially at more complex HOT lanes and HOT networks.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Hans von Spakovsky, The Heritage FoundationLegal Memorandum, 02/17/2011
The recent spate of global warming lawsuits is an attempt to circumvent the political process and implement public policy by judicial fiat. Unable to advance their policies through Congress, global warming activists have turned to the judiciary to implement their agenda. Although this legislation-through-litigation violates the Constitution’s separation of powers principles, some federal judges are receptive to such lawsuits. Therefore, it is up to the Supreme Court to affirm that global warming is a political issue that must be left to the elected branches of the U.S. government, not a tiny minority of unelected federal judges.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Sally McNamara, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 02/17/2011
The European Union has not been working with the United States as a partner, but against the U.S. as a global counterbalance. One of the main features of the EU’s counter-strategy is its advancement of a non-NATO defense identity, the Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP). The CSDP is not strengthening the transatlantic alliance, instead shifting resources from NATO to the EU, making it a rival military system. However, the Obama Administration continues to praise this and other integrationist policies as alliance-builders and historic milestones. While anti-NATO developments on the part of the EU are certainly milestones, they do not foster greater stability or security. Heritage Foundation European affairs and transatlantic security expert Sally McNamara explains how the Administration’s current EU policy undercuts U.S. interests—and how it can change course.
National SecurityBy Baker Spring, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 02/16/2011
Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) proposes to freeze all base budget non-military personnel accounts at the Department of Defense (DOD) until the department complies with the law regarding auditable financial statements. The Department of Defense should manage its finances according to best practices. Senator Coburn is correct in continuing his demand that the DOD reach the goal of a clean audit of all its assets and liabilities. Evidence suggests that it is making progress toward reaching this goal, but putting all elements of the DOD’s budget under the threat of a freeze is not the best way to make this demand. A more discriminating approach is needed, one that adds to the DOD’s overall ability to meet the American people’s demand that the federal government provide for their defense. The private sector offers numerous lessons in this regard. Senator Coburn’s approach, however, is counterproductive.
Economic GrowthBy J.D. Foster, The Heritage FoundationTestimony, 02/16/2011
At best, stimulus efforts based on government spending and tax cuts with little or no incentive effects have done no harm. While stimulus can work, it has not worked because the Administration emphasized tax relief with little or no incentive effects combined with massive increases in spending. Fortunately, the economy is showing clear signs of sustained recovery; despite—not because of—the actions taken in Washington to grow it.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Amy Kaleita, Pacific Research InstituteStudies, 02/16/2011
Many policies aiming to “green” the American car culture may do just the opposite. This study explores the environmental implications of several commercially available vehicle and fuel types, and identifies where policies could be improved to result in net benefits to Americans. It debunks several myths fueling the push for more biofuels and electric vehicles. Ultimately, government investment needs to spur technological development, not simply entrench and institutionalize first-generation efforts to ‘green’ the car culture. Policy makers should not promote electric vehicles until the energy sector overall becomes less reliant on high-carbon sources. They should also incorporate a holistic approach to renewable fuel policy that looks at more than carbon emissions but factors such as water and land use.
There Is No Real Difference Between an “Individual Mandate” to Buy Health Insurance and the Health Benefits We Have TodayBy John R. Graham, Pacific Research InstituteHealth Policy Prescriptions, 02/16/2011
Opponents of the federal government takeover of people’s access to health care have focused on the unconstitutionality of the so-called “individual mandate,” and two federal judges have recently determined that Obamacare’s mandate violates the U.S. Constitution. However, the individual mandate is economically meaningless. Penalizing the non-purchase of health insurance is merely the flip side of subsidizing the purchase of health insurance, which the government has done for decades. An individual mandate is not necessary for the federal government to take over our access to medical services. If the previous majority had written the law slightly differently, it would have achieved its objectives without any constitutional challenge. While the fact Judge Vinson found the individual mandate to be unconstitutional is encouraging, we must not forget that the Administration could have achieved the federal takeover without it. And they will surely try another approach if Judge Vinson’s ruling is upheld.
Retirement/Social SecurityBy Pamela Villarreal, National Center for Policy AnalysisPost Partisan, 02/16/2011
Small businesses should be encouraged, although not mandated, to offer retirement plans for their employees. The current $500 tax credit to help with administrative and start-up costs should be made permanent, and a choice between the flat $500 credit currently offered or a “per participant.” credit should be offered. In addition, small business groups should make information on how to set up retirement plans more readily available for small business owners. Finally, as focus continues to grow on the importance of post-Baby Boomers preparing for retirement, the job market will respond accordingly: more employees will look for retirement plan offerings as part of their compensation and more employers will have to provide them in order to remain competitive for workers.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy H. Sterling Burnett, Wesley Dwyer, National Center for Policy AnalysisBrief Analysis, 02/16/2011
Citing national security, those concerned about the United States’ freedom to act in its geopolitical interest have begun to embrace renewable energy as a means of reducing America’s reliance on foreign oil. However, key components of renewable energy technologies are made from a small number of rare earth elements, and other rare minerals. Despite the name, these elements are relatively abundant in Earth’s crust, but they are rarely found in economically exploitable concentrations. However, in China the minerals are concentrated in such abundance that the country has around 96 percent of the global market. China is increasing domestic consumption of rare earth elements and rare minerals, and has already demonstrated a willingness to use its near monopoly of the market to force geopolitical concessions from other countries. As a result, the push for green energy is likely to reduce U.S. economic and geopolitical security rather than enhance it.
Health CareBy Paul Howard, Manhattan InstituteMedical Progress Report, 02/16/2011
Beginning in 2014, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is expected to significantly extend health-insurance coverage in New York by increasing Medicaid enrollment and offering federal subsidies for the purchase of private health insurance. However, there is no guarantee that the newly insured will be able to access the health-care system in a timely fashion as new demand for services outstrips physician supply. This study examines whether retail health clinics have a role in alleviating pressure on overcrowded physicians’ offices and reducing inappropriate emergency-room use, thereby lowering overall health-care costs. Published research and interviews that were conducted suggest that retail clinics have the skills and organization to serve as convenient and cost-effective providers of basic health-care services, provided that certain troublesome and unnecessary regulatory barriers are lowered or removed. Ideally, legislators should repeal costly regulations that inhibit retail-clinic entry and expansion in New York.
Elections, Transparency, & AccountabilityBy Daniel M. Rothschild, Mercatus CenterTestimony, 02/16/2011
Independent government streamlining commissions that bring together officials from the legislative and executive branches of government as well as outsiders from the private sector and nonprofit groups to look closely at government activities can be effective at identifying opportunities to cut waste, eliminate duplicative programs, realize economies of scale, and generally streamline state government operations. This testimony identifies eight specific factors relating to the creation and composition of streamlining commissions that will make them more effective and their reports more likely to result in positive policy changes. There is no “one size fits all” recipe for establishing or operating state streamlining commissions. Rather, effective commissions must be created and managed in a way that is compatible with a state’s political, economic, and constitutional environments.
Elections, Transparency, & Accountability
Reconsidering Michigan’s Public Employment Relations Act: Restoring Balance to Public-Sector Labor RelationsBy Paul Kersey, Mackinac Center for Public PolicyStudies, 02/16/2011
Michigan’s Public Employment Relations Act (PERA) requires local governments and school districts throughout Michigan to bargain collectively with unions representing their employees. The collective bargaining process is a creation of the state Legislature, which also has the power to repeal or amend it. This report outlines a variety of ways the Michigan Legislature can address the damaging impact of PERA. These options range from modest, targeted reforms to an outright ban on collective bargaining in local units of government. Ultimately, public officials in local government and school districts should no longer be pressured into signing contracts that are not in the best interests of the public they were elected to serve.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Roy Cordato, John Locke FoundationSpotlight, 02/16/2011
Over the last decade North Carolina has led the way among southern states in advancing a more extreme environmentalist agenda. The new Republican majority should put environmental policy into the context of the ideas of liberty, personal responsibility, and economic growth that the party ran on last fall. Among other things, it should repeal SB3, which caps the amount of electricity that can be generated from lower-cost fuels and places a limit on electricity usage. Also, no new environmental regulation or tax should be considered unless there is a real and identifiable problem to be solved, and government action can actually solve or ameliorate the problem in a scientifically verifiable way. It should be demonstrated that the benefits associated with solving or ameliorating an environmental problem outweigh the costs imposed by the regulation or tax.
EducationBy Terry Stoops, John Locke FoundationSpotlight, 02/16/2011
During the 2009-10 school year, North Carolina’s public schools offered nearly 540 different courses, nearly a 100-course increase from ten years ago. According to course membership data for the 2009-10 school year, North Carolina public schools had 208 undersubscribed high school courses, 65 undersubscribed middle school courses, and twelve undersubscribed elementary school courses. A statewide curriculum audit would be a sound way to reduce costs and refocus our curriculum on core skills.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Brett Schaefer, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 02/16/2011
Last year, the United Nations reported that it was holding $179 million owed to the United States from the U.N.’s Tax Equalization Fund (TEF) because the U.S. had failed to instruct the U.N. on how it wished to use those funds. On February 9, 2011, Congress voted on legislation instructing the Administration to secure the return of that money from the U.N. The Administration revealed that it had already allowed the U.N. to use $100 million of the $179 million. Congress should press the Administration for details about this decision. The Administration’s decision to “repurpose” the TEF funds implies the State Department’s belief that, once congressionally appropriated funds go to international organizations, it no longer has to abide by congressional authorization or instruction. If the State Department can “repurpose” funds once they go to an international organization, that authority can be used to circumvent or ignore prohibitions imposed by Congress.
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.