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Recent Policy Studies
EducationBy Paul E. Peterson, Education NextEducation Next, 04/22/2011
Recently, two separate studies—one by Alan Ginsburg, a former director of Policy and Program Studies in the U.S. Department of Education, the other by a committee constituted by the National Research Council (NRC)—have sought to discredit the work of Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of schools for the District of Columbia. In all the numbers Rhee’s critics have assembled, the two facts that stand out have nothing to do with test scores, but rather with student and teacher absenteeism. One does not know how quickly leaders can have an impact on student learning, but strong educational leaders are known for their impact on school culture. In short, a case against Rhee has yet to be established.
EducationBy Joshua Dunn, Martha Derthick, Education NextEducation Next, 04/22/2011
The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) has been a bold assertion of federal government power vis-à-vis the states. But a 9th Circuit case from California, Renee v. Duncan, provides a reminder that federalism still lives. The case involves an attempt by Public Advocates in San Francisco to compel the state to satisfy the law’s requirements that all teachers of core subjects be highly qualified, and if some are not, that less-qualified teachers not be employed disproportionately in poor and minority areas. As standards of qualification, the law names possession of a bachelor of arts, subject-matter competence, and certification or licensure by the state. Importantly, it leaves standards of certification to the states. Ultimately, the 9th Circuit found that the regulation violates the intent of Congress. The 9th Circuit, which is routinely overturned by the Supreme Court, can add Congress to the list of institutions dissatisfied with its legal judgment.
EducationBy Guido Schwerdt, Amelie C. Wuppermann, Education NextEducation Next, 04/22/2011
This study examines whether student achievement in the United States is affected by the share of teaching time devoted to lecture-style presentations as distinct from problem-solving activities. Contrary to contemporary pedagogical thinking, it finds that students score higher on standardized tests in the subject in which their teachers spent more time on lecture-style presentations than in the subject in which the teacher devoted more time to problem-solving activities. However, the finding that spending increased time on lecture-style teaching improves student test scores results should not be translated into a call for more lecture-style teaching in general. Newer teaching methods might be beneficial for student achievement if implemented in the proper way, but our findings imply that simply inducing teachers to shift time in class from lecture-style presentations to problem solving without ensuring effective implementation is unlikely to raise overall student achievement in math and science.
EducationBy Stuart Buck, Jay P. Greene, Education NextEducation Next, 04/22/2011
As education policy churns through fad after fad, merit pay is really hot right now. The U. S. Department of Education asked states to include proposals for implementing teacher merit pay—pay based on classroom performance—in their 2010 applications for Race to the Top (RttT) monies, and many applicants promised action on this front. In Washington, D.C., former schools chancellor Michelle Rhee negotiated a strikingly original merit-pay plan. However, interest groups often succeed in diluting or co-opting a merit pay plan; in the end, the plan ends up rewarding teachers mostly or entirely for inputs rather than for outputs. The difficulty with merit pay in education is that it attempts to simulate a market-based practice in a nonmarket environment. None of the forces that cause organizations to seek effective merit pay systems, or to maintain and alter them effectively over time, exist in public education.
Economic GrowthBy Audrey Spalding, Thomas Duda, Show-Me InstitutePolicy Study, 04/22/2011
In 2010, four different people tried to buy 2925 Union Blvd., a vacant city-owned property in Saint Louis. All four were told no. The city’s refusal to sell 2925 Union is by no means unique: More than 9,000 parcels like this one are owned by the city, and even though there are offers to purchase many of them, most aren’t being sold. From a public policy perspective, offers to buy vacant city properties are win-win: The city has fewer vacant properties to maintain, and private individuals can take on the risk and profits of redeveloping some of Saint Louis’ most undesirable properties. Yet from January 2003 through December 2010, Saint Louis government has rejected offers to purchase more than 2,200 vacant city properties.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Richard Williamson, The Heritage FoundationLecture, 04/22/2011
Despite the comprehensive peace agreement on Sudan signed on January 9, 2005, several key issues have not been resolved: important political and economic issues, principally the future of Abyei; five contested border areas that were identified in 2005; citizenship; debt relief; and the underlying issue of oil-revenue sharing. Close to 70 percent of Sudan’s oil is in the South, and the North has become dependent on that oil for stability and prosperity. If separation goes forward, the South has a huge need to deal with development issues, from governance to education to economic issues, and it is not well equipped to do that. The U.S. and the international community will have to provide critical assistance and will have to do so more intelligently. The U.S. must also not forget the ongoing suffering of men, women, and children in Darfur.
Budget & TaxationBy David Addington, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 04/22/2011
Federal spending and federal borrowing have been out of control for decades as America has amassed a giant, unaffordable debt and a giant, intrusive government. This did not happen by accident. Congress passed all the laws that made it happen. Fortunately, Congress has under the Constitution all the power it needs to solve the problem it created. As federal borrowing approaches the current debt limit of $14.294 trillion, Congress must accomplish three things to put the United States on a path to financial responsibility: (1) cut current spending, (2) restrict future spending, and (3) fix the budget process.
Health CareBy Paul Howard, Manhattan InstituteMedical Progress Report, 04/21/2011
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act presents New York policymakers with a unique opportunity to reform its individual and small-group insurance markets. However, creating an effective market-based exchange requires policymakers to recognize that simply imposing its current high-cost insurance arrangements on the exchange may lead to the collapse of the exchange over time. Instead, reforms should build on the lessons learned from state exchanges in Utah and Massachusetts, federal programs such as Medicare Part D, and private exchanges such as New York's HealthPass. Creating an efficient, flexible exchange that offers individuals and small groups the maximum number of affordable insurance options will require: a new commitment to consumer choice; openness to innovative provider network and benefit designs; and risk-sharing mechanisms that reward insurers as well as consumers for producing improved health outcomes at lower cost.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy Harry Messenheimer, Rio Grande FoundationReport, 04/21/2011
In recent years, New Mexico has frequently been cited as a model state for reforming drunk driving laws and policies. Particular credit has been given to a 2005 law requiring ignition interlock devices for all convicted drunk drivers. This report considers whether that credit is deserved. It seeks to answer two questions. First, has New Mexico’s interlock law reduced drunk driving recidivism? And second, has New Mexico’s interlock law reduced drunk driving fatalities? In truth, interlocks have no lasting, long-term effect on driver behavior. Some interlock advocates have claimed that the interlocks mandate has reduced alcohol related fatalities by 35 percent. But association is not necessarily causation. That drunk driving fatalities in New Mexico generally decreased from 2005 to 2009 may be partially due each to a statewide emphasis on policy modifications and media campaigns, more responsible attitudes about driving drunk nationwide or just plain luck.
Budget & TaxationBy Paul J. Gessing, Rio Grande FoundationCase Study, 04/21/2011
Lobbyists for government workers regularly claim that government employment is no more generous than equivalent work in the private sector. While this may be true if we only compare salaries, there is no comparison between the benefits packages provided to public workers and those available in the private sector. Unlike the “defined contribution” retirement plans available in the private sector, government workers in New Mexico are given “defined benefit” plans that place the risk on taxpayers and guarantee workers a 3 percent annual cost of living increase regardless of market or cost of living realities. The case study shows an example of the Public Employees’ Retirement Association (PERA) payouts for an actual case. Ultimately, it represents an abuse of taxpayers and illustrates the unsustainable nature of New Mexico’s public employee pension system.
Regulation & DeregulationBy T. Randolph Beard, et al., Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal and Economic Public Policy StudiesPolicy Bulletin, 04/21/2011
This Policy Bulletin provides an estimate of the relationship between government spending on regulatory activity and economic growth and job recovery. It estimates that reducing the size of the regulatory bureaucracy may grow the economy and invigorate the labor market. Even a small 5% reduction in the regulatory budget (about $2.8 billion) is estimated to result in about $75 billion in expanded private-sector GDP each year, with an increase in employment by 1.2 million jobs annually. On average, eliminating the job of a single regulator grows the American economy by $6.2 million and nearly 100 private sector jobs annually. Accordingly, as Congress and the President struggle with the difficult decisions of how to shrink federal spending, an excellent place to start would be to investigate responsible cuts in the size of the federal regulatory budget. However, the fact that regulation may also have social benefits should also be considered.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Loren Thompson, Lexington InstituteStudies, 04/21/2011
NASA’s human spaceflight program has been gradually losing ground since the Challenger disaster 25 years ago. In truth, Mars is the sole destination for the human spaceflight program that can generate sufficient scientific benefits to justify the scale of expenditures required. The two most important elements in any human spaceflight program that proposes to go beyond low-Earth orbit are an evolvable heavy-lift launch vehicle and a multi-purpose crew vehicle. Congress has directed that NASA’s future work on both systems should focus to the maximum degree possible on technologies already under development for the Constellation program. By applying those technologies to a human spaceflight agenda focused on the ultimate destination of Mars, NASA can preserve its investment in a highly skilled space workforce and related infrastructure. Failure to make Mars the centerpiece of future exploration efforts will probably doom the human spaceflight program to a further erosion of political support.
ImmigrationBy Gary S. Becker, Institute of Economic AffairsBook, 04/21/2011
How can market-based solutions help solve the challenges of immigration? This IEA Occasional Paper proposes a radical policy which, if implemented by the coalition government, could raise over £600 million a year. It proposes that visas to work in the UK should be sold off. The coalition’s immigration cap scheme could be amended using this proposal to ensure that the most suitable immigrants are allowed in. The people willing to pay the most to live in the UK are likely to be the same people who would contribute most to the economy.
EducationBy Carrie L. Lukas, Independent Women's ForumPolicy Focus, 04/21/2011
Americans deserve the world’s best education system, and that requires having the best teachers. Alternative teacher certification programs should be supported. Poor public schools create the equivalent of a permanent national recession. They cost our country billions, and limit the life prospects for millions of children. Additionally, research confirms what parents know: good teachers matter. Likewise, research indicates that traditional teacher certification does not guarantee a high quality teacher. Finally, many highly qualified women would love to teach if it was easier to get in the classroom. Dropping education related coursework requirement would free college women to explore different topics, giving them more professional options.
Health CareBy Jason Fodeman, Galen InstitutePaper, 04/21/2011
While much has been said about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), lengthy debates have failed to adequately address the impact that the 2,800 pages will have on doctors, patients, and medicine. This Galen Institute white paper does just that. This paper examines in detail how the government already hinders physicians’ abilities to provide good care for their patients and how these harmful trends will only worsen under PPACA. PPACA will strip away physician autonomy, drown doctors in bureaucracy, and drain job satisfaction. As the profession deteriorates, older doctors will retire while younger doctors will look to switch careers. Many students considering a careering in medicine will pursue other opportunities. The supply of providers will dwindle as demand for services reaches an all-time high. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is indeed bad for doctors, but it is always the patient that suffers the most.
Information TechnologyBy Randolph J. May, Free State FoundationPerspectives from FSF Scholars, 04/21/2011
Though competition and consumer choice now pervade almost all segments of the communications market, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has done little to eliminate regulations that were adopted in the days when Ma Bell and three television networks dominated the landscape. In fact, not only has the FCC failed to eliminate many regulations that are no longer necessary, it continues to add burdensome new ones. As a prime example, witness its adoption last December of new “net neutrality” regulations that govern the practices of Internet-service providers, even though the agency made no findings of present market failure or consumer harm. Congress should force the FCC to get rid of unneeded regulations. There is a way it can do so rather surgically.
Health CareBy Mark Rovere, Brett J. Skinner, Fraser InstituteStudies, 04/21/2011
Canada’s Medicare Bubble examines whether the public costs associated with Canada’s health system are economically sustainable. Economic reality recommends liberal reforms. Federal funding is not a solution: the federal government has already transferred billions more in health funding to the provinces than the amounts needed. Transfers encourage the provinces to avoid making necessary reforms. Paying more is not a solution: taxes cannot rise indefinitely to chase expenditures. Getting less is not a solution: provincial governments have used the blunt policy approach of rationing to constrain public expenditures without allowing private funding to fill the insurance gaps. This has reduced the availability of necessary medical goods and services. This study concludes that Canada’s health system produces rates of growth in health spending that are not sustainable solely through redistributive public financing. Supplementary user-based, private financing would off-load public cost pressures, encourage economic efficiency, and offer a sustainable source of additional resources.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Brett Schaefer, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 04/21/2011
Congress is correct to include contributions to the U.N. in its efforts to rein in spending. While it represents a small portion of the U.S. budget, the expansion of U.N. budgets over the past decade has been enormous and subject to insufficient oversight and prioritization. When the U.S. is forced to tighten its belt, it is reasonable to expect the U.N. and its affiliated organizations to similarly trim their budgets to emphasize priorities. U.S. budget cuts will shock the U.N. system, which has become accustomed to regular, large increases in funding. To minimize U.S. arrears and the disruption to U.N. activities, U.S. officials should inform the U.N. of anticipated reductions in U.S. contributions and suggest budgetary changes and reforms.
First, Do No Harm: The President’s Cousin Explains Why His Hippocratic Oath Requires Him to Oppose ObamaCareBy Milton Wolf, Harper CollinsBook, 04/20/2011
The discussion what role—if any—the government should play in regulating and dictating the delivery of health care in the United States has become ground zero in the much larger age-old struggle between statism and individual liberty. Personifying this struggle is the conflict between the big government schemes of President Barack Obama and the free market principles of the President’s own cousin, the private practice physician Milton R. Wolf, M.D. When Barack Obama and Dr. Milton Wolf met for the first time in May 2010, it marked the beginning of a new phase in this all-American family feud. In this work, Dr. Wolf takes the gloves off and describes the results of decades of government intervention in health care, the disastrous doubling down on failure of ObamaCare and finally the alternative free market reforms that will save our system and ultimately our nation.
Family, Culture & CommunityBy William J. Doherty, Melissa Froehle, Bruce Peterson, Center of the American ExperimentRoundtable, 04/20/2011
This roundtable facilitated discussion about marriage and divorce. It focused on answering three questions. First what can we do to help some married couples reconsider getting divorced? Second, if couples are still determined to divorce, how can we make the process less damaging, especially for kids? And third, to what extent is some of the best research and work in this area being done in Minnesota?
Crime, Justice & the LawBy Alison Suthers, William G. Myers, Washington Legal FoundationLegal Opinion Letter, 04/20/2011
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, sitting en banc, recently issued an opinion with significant implications for parties that rely on federal permits, leases, and other approvals to conduct energy, natural resource development, and other projects in nine western states. In Wilderness Soc’y v. U.S. Forest Serv., the Ninth Circuit abandoned its decades-old rule that only the federal government can properly defend legal challenges to these federal approvals brought under the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”). The Ninth Circuit’s decision is long overdue. As full parties in the trial court, intervenors will first and foremost be able to defend their interests in all phases of the case. They will also be able to participate as parties in any settlement negotiations that may occur. Finally, they will be able to appeal adverse decisions even when the federal government elects not to pursue an appeal.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy Jason J. Mendro, Washington Legal FoundationLegal Opinion Letter, 04/20/2011
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit’s recent decision in In re Text Messaging Antitrust Litigation is difficult to square with Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly. At bottom, Text Messaging and Twombly are both cases in which the claims rested primarily on lawful parallel conduct and the absence of competition among the dominant players in the market. Yet one complaint survived and the other was dismissed in what is likely the Supreme Court’s most important decision on pleading since the promulgation of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Crime, Justice & the Law
AEP v. Connecticut: Will The Supreme Court Make Defendants Do “Their Share” To Mitigate Global Climate Change?By Mark W. DeLaquil, David B. Rivkin, Washington Legal FoundationLegal Opinion Letter, 04/20/2011
The last several years have witnessed the proliferation of common law tort suits seeking compensation for the alleged harms caused by global climate change. The Supreme Court granted certiorari in one such case, American Electric Power Co. v. Connecticut. It is now presented with the question of whether states and private plaintiffs should be entitled to sidestep the political process by conscripting federal courts into regulating carbon dioxide emissions. Given the ubiquitous and global character of greenhouse gas emissions, and the uncertain nature of public nuisance liability, the Supreme Court’s decision will either affirm the commonsense principle that federal courts should not make contentious pollution control policy through the adversarial system or will open the floodgates to regulation by litigation.
Budget & TaxationBy A. Barton Hinkle, Reason FoundationReason, 04/20/2011
In his proposed budget, Paul Ryan wants to trim $3 billion a year from a $15 billion annual total in farm support programs. This is a modest goal—perhaps too modest. While left, right, and center stand united in their opposition to subsidies, the programs continue to thrive. This is largely due to the fact that the benefits of farm subsidies accrue to a numerically small but highly motivated cohort, which will fight ferociously to safeguard the benefits. As such, farm subsidies are one of many programs that confer special benefits on a plethora of interest groups. Ryan will face struggles throughout his budget proposal, and he will have a hard time rolling back even farm subsidies, a cause at which the past four presidents have failed.
EducationBy Jason Richwine, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 04/20/2011
Achievement disparities among racial and ethnic groups persist in the American education system. Asian and white students consistently perform better on standardized tests than Hispanic and black students. While many commentators blame the achievement gap on alleged disparities in school funding, this Heritage Foundation paper demonstrates that public education spending per pupil is broadly similar across racial and ethnic groups. To the extent that funding differences exist at all, they tend to slightly favor lower-performing groups, especially blacks. Since unequal funding for minority students is largely a myth, it cannot be a valid explanation for racial and ethnic differences in school achievement, and there is little evidence that increasing public spending will close the gaps.
National SecurityBy Christopher Ford, Hudson InstituteLecture, 04/20/2011
In this piece, the author discusses the problems with a proposed Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT). He is not convinced that the FMCT – in its present form, at least – is an appropriate “next step” as the world struggles with the challenges of insecurity, conflict, proliferation, and disarmament. Ideologically-colored visions of the “proper” multilateral and universalist ways in which disarmament must be pursued should not be allowed to blind us to the virtues of actually producing results, even if by less politically-correct means. The Conference on Disarmament’s FMCT program may not be the best way to spend scarce diplomatic and political capital.
Regulation & DeregulationBy Clyde Wayne Crews, Competitive Enterprise InstituteReport, 04/20/2011
Economics 101 explains how and why firms generally pass along to consumers the costs of some taxes. Likewise, some regulatory compliance costs that businesses face will find their way into the prices consumers pay. Precise regulatory costs can never be fully known, because, unlike taxes, they are unbudgeted and often indirect. But scattered government and private data exist on scores of regulations and on the agencies that issue them, as well as on regulatory costs and benefits. Compiling some of that information can make the regulatory state somewhat more comprehensible. That is one purpose of the annual Ten Thousand Commandments report.
Monetary Policy/Financial Regulation
Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Future of Federal Housing Finance Policy: A Study of Regulatory PrivilegeBy David Reiss, Cato InstituteWebMemo, 04/20/2011
The federal government’s special treatment of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is an extraordinary regulatory privilege in terms of its absolute value, its impact on its competitors, and its cost to the federal government. Regulatory theory thereby clarifies how Fannie and Freddie have relied upon their hybrid public/private structure to obtain and protect economic rents at the expense of taxpayers as well as Fannie and Freddie’s competitors. Once analyzed in the context of regulatory theory, Fannie and Freddie’s future seems clear. They should be privatized so that they can compete on an even playing field with other financial institutions, and their public functions should be assumed by pure government actors. While this is a radical solution and one that would have been considered politically naive until the recent credit crisis, it is now a serious option that should garner additional attention once its rationale is set forth.
National SecurityBy Theodore Bromund, Nile Gardiner, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 04/20/2011
Britain’s Strategic Defense and Security Review (SDSR), released in October 2010, has already led to significant cuts in the size and capabilities of Britain’s armed forces, with more reductions in the years to come. Yet, prior to these cuts, Britain’s forces were already inadequately funded. The start of NATO’s operation against the Libyan regime of Colonel Muammar Qadhafi proves that the review was flawed and that the resultant reductions were unwise. The Prime Minister and his Secretary of Defence have so far shown resilience on Libya. They should now back that up with a long-term strategy for the rebuilding of British military power. Additionally, Washington should recognize that the arguments now heard in the U.S. about the need for cuts in defense spending have been made in Britain for over a decade. The arguments are no truer in the United States than they were in Britain.
EducationBy Andrew Gillen, Matthew Denhart, Jonathan Robe, Center for College Affordability and ProductivityPolicy Papers, 04/18/2011
Using U.S. Department of Education data, this report compares estimates of colleges and universities educational revenues and costs and finds that many colleges and universities are paid more to provide an education than they spend providing one to their students. These findings challenge the conventional wisdom which holds that the education for virtually all students is heavily subsidized. Although total university spending is often in excess of the tuition charges students pay, in reality only a portion of many institutions’ budgets go directly to educational spending, meaning that many schools spend large amounts on things totally unrelated to educating students. Ultimately, many students are left paying the bill through tuition bills which are greater than the costs of their education.
Budget & TaxationBy Nicolas Loris, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 04/18/2011
Government spending has been spiraling upward in nearly all areas—and spending by most government agencies can, and should, be cut. President Obama recently submitted his 2012 budget request to Congress, providing fertile ground for spending cuts. One of the fastest-growing federal agencies, the Department of Energy (DOE), with its numerous research, development, and grant programs, offers many opportunities for savings. While there is an important role for DOE in energy security and environmental management, many DOE projects fall outside its mission, supporting everything from commercialization of technologies to non-critical research—which can be conducted, usually much more efficiently, by the private sector. This Backgrounder provides a commonsense guide to trimming $6 billion from the President’s budget for FY 2012, while maintaining funding for the DOE’s real mission.
National SecurityBy Baker Spring, Michaela Bendikova, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 04/18/2011
New START, a bilateral arms control agreement with the Russian Federation, entered into force on February 5. This treaty is profoundly biased in favor of Russia, and the Department of Defense, already hard hit by the realities of the current fiscal environment, will have to bear all of the costs associated with the treaty implementation and delivery system cuts. Fortunately, Members of Congress can clarify the situation regarding costs of implementing New START. Congress should include a provision in the defense authorization bill that would require the Department of Defense to provide it with a consolidated list of the expenditures by budget account. This effectively means that the Department of Defense would have to provide Members with a description of all the costs of provisions pertaining to New START implementation. This is essential for Congress to assess the implementation costs of New START.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Bruce Klingner, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 04/18/2011
North Korea has again appealed for food aid to alleviate the suffering of its people. Teams from the World Food Program and nongovernment organizations (NGOs) have chronicled the country’s abysmal nutritional deficits, particularly for children and the elderly. Pyongyang told visiting inspection teams that it is now willing to accept strict monitoring requirements to prevent further diversion of food aid to its military, but doubts remain. However, North Korea’s need for food is not unique amidst other pressing global needs. Most importantly, Pyongyang’s refusal to implement economic reform and its belligerence against the very countries from which it seeks aid should preclude it from receiving large-scale aid. Additionally, until North Korea is willing to implement fundamental changes, there is little likelihood that providing international aid this year will reduce the likelihood of another similar request the following year—and the year after that.
Transportation/InfrastructureBy Ronald Utt, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 04/18/2011
Under the laws governing the federal highway program, the federal fuel taxes paid into the trust fund by motorists (18.3 cents per gallon) and truckers are returned to the states by a series of mathematical formulas that attempt to match the scope and usage of each state’s surface transportation system with payments received from the trust fund. These formulas, however, embody a number of serious flaws that cause many states (called donors) to consistently receive shares that are less than they pay in, while others (called donees) consistently receive more. Representatives Jeff Flake and Scott Garrett have introduced bills that address the problem. Flake’s bill is the Highway Fairness and Reform Act of 2011 (H.R. 632), and Garrett’s is the Surface Transportation and Taxation Equity Act (H.R. 3595). In short, the 28 donor states should begin to work together to seek an end to the inequities embodied in current law.
Health CareBy Rita Numerof, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 04/18/2011
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) creates federal “accountable care organizations” (ACOs). In theory, ACOs provide financial incentives to health care organizations to reduce costs and improve quality. In reality, given the complexity of the existing system, ACOs will not only fail; they will most likely exacerbate the very problems they set out to fix. ACOs will concentrate more and more power in fewer and fewer organizations, allowing them to become “too large to fail.” Such a system undermines competition and entrepreneurship—the bedrock of innovation and job growth in this country. There is no evidence that supports the use of untested, complex organizational structures to improve quality of care and reduce costs. Creating incentives that focus on achieving higher quality of care, not quantity of medical procedures; providing choices to patients; and allowing real competition among health insurance providers is what will truly transform the health care system.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Hans von Spakovsky, The Heritage FoundationLegal Memorandum, 04/18/2011
In its Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One v. Holder (NAMUDNO) decision, the Supreme Court of the United States cast grave doubt on the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act’s Section 5, which requires certain jurisdictions to submit all changes in voting-related practices for federal approval. With two new cases challenging Section 5 now pending, the Department of Justice has abandoned its decades-long opposition to jurisdictions seeking “bailouts” from Section 5 coverage in an attempt to convince the courts that the bailout option renders the preclearance requirement reasonably tailored to address discrimination and therefore constitutional. But old habits die hard, and DOJ is imposing onerous conditions on jurisdictions seeking bailouts as the price of not objecting in court—a plain abuse of power. Because Section 5 is divorced from the current reality of voting practices, no number of bailouts will save the preclearance requirement.
LaborBy Christina Martin, Cascade Policy InstituteCommentary, 04/18/2011
Minimum wage laws discourage employers from hiring workers whose actual labor would be worth less than what they must be legally paid. Allowing inexperienced teens to work for a “training wage” can help them acquire the skills and experience they must gain in order to earn more in the future. Bills such as Oregon’s House Bill 3279, which would have allowed teens to work for less than minimum wage (as low as $7.25, the federal minimum wage) for their first 90 days of employment, should be seriously considered.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy Amy Kjose, American Legislative Exchange CouncilThe State Legislator's Guide, 04/18/2011
There has been much talk on both the national and state levels about tort reform, but there has been much less discussion about the particular policies included under this category. Many recognize that the legal system needs to be reformed but few know how to go about doing this. In fact, a poll conducted in the midst of the healthcare debate found that over 80 percent of people think some form of legal reform is needed. This Guide gives policy makers an overview of tort reform and some of the specific reforms helpful to the end goal of tempering excess in the legal system and efficiently delivering justice.
Budget & TaxationBy J. Scott Moody, Wendy P. Warcholik, Alabama Policy InstituteReport, 04/18/2011
Alabama’s state and local government workforce is imposing an enormous burden on taxpayers. Alabama’s state and local governments employ 20.86 people for every 100 employed in the private sector. This government workforce has created an enormous unfunded pension and retiree health care liability; Alabama’s pension and retiree health care system (called Other Post Employment Benefits, or OPEB) is larger than it should be. Because contributions to Alabama’s OPEB are lower than needed, one estimate suggests that the state’s pension system is underfunded by $47.8 billion. If this obligation is to be met, Alabama must fix the public sector over-employment problem, transform the defined benefit system into a defined contribution system, increase retiree contributions, refuse to raise taxes, and not issue pension obligation bonds.