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Recent Policy Studies
Regulation & DeregulationBy William P. Ruger, Jason Sorens, Mercatus CenterReport, 06/09/2011
This project develops an index of economic and personal freedom in the American states. Specifically, it examines state and local government intervention across a wide range of public policies, from income taxation to gun control, from homeschooling regulation to drug policy.
Budget & TaxationBy Joseph Henchman, Tax FoundationFiscal Facts, 06/09/2011
In short, while film incentive programs were once universally applauded as great economic development tools and tourism boosters, their merits are now being rigorously debated. At a minimum, film incentive programs should be required to report how many dollars in incentives were provided per each Full-Time Equivalent job created by qualified productions. Programs should be reviewed periodically for their effectiveness by legislative oversight or a third party.
Budget & TaxationBy Joseph Henchman, Tax FoundationFiscal Facts, 06/09/2011
“Amazon” tax laws such as the one Louisiana is currently considering are poor tax policy and likely unconstitutional. Some possible amendments to obviate these flaws include: Require that in-state affiliates be the source of a majority of the out-of-state seller’s sales in the state for the collection obligation to be effective; set a de minimis threshold of $1 million or more of in-state referred sales for the law to apply to a particular out-of-state company; replace the collection obligation with a requirement that the out-of-state vendor notify the customer by e-mail that a use tax obligation may exist; treat out-of-state and in-state online businesses alike by forcing in-state businesses to collect each jurisdiction’s respective sales tax on all their out-of-state sales; and exempt the in-state online sales by brick-and-mortar retailers from the state sales tax.
Health CareBy Ronald Bailey, Reason FoundationReason, 06/09/2011
We do in fact know what works when it comes to restraining prices, encouraging innovation, and increasing consumer satisfaction—competition in markets. Markets are superb at gathering widely dispersed information and resources from millions of people and firms and then distilling that information into prices. Here’s a partial list of what needs to be done: Allow physicians to sell their services in any form that they choose, as group members, health maintenance organizations, fee-for-service, etc. Nurses and other health care professionals should be encouraged to compete with physicians for primary care services. Insurers should be allowed to compete across state lines offering a wide variety of policies tailored to the perceived needs of various customers. Consumers looking out for their own health and insurance needs would be vigilant about the costs and benefits of treatments, ensuring that medical progress remains economically affordable.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy Veronique de Rugy, Reason FoundationReason, 06/09/2011
Economists are getting better at understanding how to keep people out of jail. In a 2007 paper for Economic Inquiry, for instance, the U.C.–Santa Barbara economist Jeff Grogger found there are large deterrent effects from increased certainty of punishment and much smaller, generally insignificant effects from increased severity. Such findings call into question the economic rationality of increasingly long prison terms. Who knows how many more millions will be locked up by the time public policy finally catches up with economics?
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Jonathan H. Adler, PERC – The Property and Environment Research CenterPERC Reports, 06/09/2011
If the common law is to be taken seriously as a viable alternative to conventional regulation, much work needs to be done. Making the case for the common law requires additional research and analysis into how common law systems operate in practice to address environmental concerns, how they can be improved, and how they compare with regulatory options. In the alternative, it is time for free market environmentalists to reconsider what made the common law attractive in the first place and develop ideas for regulatory or other mechanisms to resolve pollution problems while respecting property rights and facilitating market exchange.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Christopher Sands, Hudson InstituteBriefing Paper, 06/09/2011
John Sloan Dickey observed in 1971 that Canadians were forced to grapple with an “American presence” not just on their border but in their daily lives – one that complicated the challenge of forging a national identity that wasn’t mere reactionary anti-Americanism. For Americans in 2011, there is a real “Canadian presence” not just on our border, but permeating the intellectual, cultural, commercial, and political dimensions of our daily lives, too. Today’s technology creates new opportunities for consultation at a time when the Baby Boom generation is in a position to shape the “structures of process” as a legacy for the New Generation to inherit and inhabit.
EducationBy Joseph L. Bast, Heartland InstitutePolicy Brief, 06/09/2011
The Texas Legislative Budget Board, by using an extremely low enrollment estimate and by assuming the current funding system won’t be changed to place savings in the same year as expenses for savings grants occur, produces a fiscal note for HB 33 that forecasts losses to the state in the first two years and then only very small savings. Using more accurate and realistic estimates of enrollment and assuming the state’s payment system is modified, we conclude that the state would save $2.28 billion in the first two years of the program, and growing amounts in every successive biennium.
EducationBy Joseph L. Bast, Heartland InstitutePolicy Brief, 06/09/2011
In summary, the Indiana School Scholarship Act has at least eight provisions that can serve as models for legislators considering drafting legislation for school choice programs in their states. Those provisions are necessary and well-written in this law. The act also contains five provisions that are not so good, that reflect compromises with or concessions to persons or groups that oppose school choice and so wish to undermine an effective school choice program. On balance, the strengths of the new law outweigh its flaws. If the program is implemented, it will benefit millions of children and prompt many other states to follow Indiana’s lead. It is a genuine breakthrough for school reformers everywhere and ought to be celebrated as such. But, it will require constant vigilance to ensure that the law is properly implemented and that future revisions and reforms strengthen rather than weaken it.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Jack Spencer, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 06/09/2011
H.R. 1280—a new bill currently before the House of Representatives—is intended to ensure that America’s commercial nuclear exports do not lead to the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Designed as an amendment to the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, the bill has a laudable goal. But, despite some positive aspects, the overall effects of H.R. 1280 would be counterproductive. Heritage Foundation nuclear policy expert Jack Spencer explains how the proposed amendment would prevent implementation of U.S. regulatory and safety standards, put U.S. businesses at a disadvantage in the global market, and could hinder, not support, U.S. and international nonproliferation efforts.
Budget & TaxationBy Joseph Henchman, Tax FoundationFiscal Facts, 06/09/2011
Fewer states have been hit harder by the present recession than Nevada. However, many experts believe that Nevada is well positioned for strong growth in the future, but the state legislature’s proposed tax policies-such as a corporate income tax and a gross receipts tax-would be major impediments to an economic revival. As Nevada policymakers consider fiscal options through 2011, they should keep this in mind.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Nile Gardiner, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 06/09/2011
President Obama was effusive in his praise for the Special Relationship when he visited London in May, but his Administration continues to slap Britain in the face over the highly sensitive Falkland Islands sovereignty issue by aligning itself with Argentina’s call for U.N.-brokered talks on the future of the islands. This reckless approach toward the U.S.–U.K. alliance threatens to upset relations between Washington and London at a time when both countries are actively engaged in a major war in Afghanistan and American and British aircraft are enforcing the NATO no-fly zone over Libya.
Regulation & DeregulationBy William Ruger, Jason Sorens, Mercatus CenterMercatus on Policy, 06/09/2011
This report focuses on Oregon and how it compares to other states in its fiscal, regulatory, economic, and personal freedom. Thanks to recent reforms, Oregon is now the eighth most free state in the country and the most free state in terms of personal freedom. However, it is exactly in the middle of the table for economic freedom, where room for improvement remains. In addition, the report offers recommendations as to how Oregon can become freer.
Regulation & DeregulationBy William Ruger, Jason Sorens, Mercatus CenterMercatus on Policy, 06/09/2011
This report focuses on Florida and how it compares to other states in its fiscal, regulatory, economic, and personal freedom. Overall, Florida does relatively well, especially in personal freedom, although its economic policies leave room for improvement. In addition, the report offers recommendations as to how Florida can become freer.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Ken Blackwell, Ken Klukowski, Threshold EditionsBook, 06/09/2011
The United States is at a crossroads. Our national debt is rising, our social programs are unsustainable, and our government is expanding at an alarming rate. This book is a wake-up call. Written by acclaimed conservative leaders Ken Blackwell and Ken Klukowski, it is a back-to-basics action plan inspired by the original words and beliefs of our nation’s forefathers. Using the U.S. Constitution, the authors guide us through our current political minefield, showing how both Democrats and Republicans have led our country astray. They reveal startling connections between the crash of the economy, the collapse of the family, and the rise of big government. They lay out a policy agenda of constitutional fixes for our greatest national problems, from retirement, to education, to social issues, to taxes.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Brett Schaefer, The Heritage FoundationReport, 06/09/2011
Despite NATO intervention and advances by opposition forces, the Libyan conflict appears far from resolution. The White House support for rushing referral of Muammar Qadhafi to the International Criminal Court (ICC) has significantly complicated efforts to get Qadhafi to leave the country. The lesson of the ICC referral of Libya is that the pursuit of international justice is not without consequences and must be balanced with the need to resolve threats to international peace and security. The Administration should be more cautious when considering future proposals to refer situations to the ICC.
Family, Culture & CommunityBy Chuck Donovan, The Heritage FoundationReport, 06/09/2011
Marriage and family are declining in America, following a trend well established in Europe. This breakdown of the American family has dire implications for American society and the U.S. economy. Halting and reversing the sustained trends of nearly four decades will not happen by accident. The federal, state, and local governments need to eliminate marriage penalties created by the tax code and welfare programs and instead use existing resources to better encourage and support family life.
Economic GrowthBy John Friar, Pioneer Institute for Public Policy ResearchAnalysis, 06/09/2011
Massachusetts is among a handful of states nationwide that have seen no new net job growth since 1990, and it is among the even fewer states that saw significant job loss between 2001 and 2007, even before the recession. This paper adds to our understanding by examining the shrinking size of Massachusetts’ firms and the causes of this economy-wide phenomenon in order to determine whether the trend has systemic impacts on our economy. Shrinking firm size raises a central policy question: What is precluding Massachusetts establishments from growing and, in the process, hiring more people? Given that firm shrinkage is pervasive across industries, the answer may lie in the general business environment, not any one specific policy. That is, it is likely due to factors that make the costs of growing and hiring outweigh the benefits. These costs include labor, commercial rents, housing, taxes, unemployment insurance, and the legal and regulatory environments, to name just a few factors other studies have highlighted.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Dana Dillon, Hoover InstitutionPolicy Review, 06/09/2011
American interests in maintaining the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and other contested waters should be defended with diplomacy backed by military strength. The U.S. must not flinch or compromise, because any temporary concession to China’s demonstrably unreasonable demands will not earn gratitude, but instead will become a precedent for China’s future demands. Diplomatically and militarily, Washington must continue to deploy sufficient force to deter China’s unjustifiable territorial ambitions.
EducationBy Jonathan Haughton, et al., Beacon Hill InstituteBHI Policy Study, 06/09/2011
Conventional wisdom holds that public education is an investment that produces a large, often double digit, percentage return to the students and society at large. The long term gains are large but they are not the result of recent spending increases. Other factors are clearly at work. The Beacon Hill Institute's results indicate that the relationship between spending and student performance is very weak and that changes in spending levels, up or down, contribute very little toward student performance. As Massachusetts state and local governments continue to face tight budgets, leaders should not refrain from considering cuts to education spending. Despite the longstanding myths, substantial cuts in education will not significantly impinge upon student performance in any meaningful way.
National SecurityBy James Carafano, The Heritage FoundationReport, 06/09/2011
The U.S. defense base is on the verge of a crisis—losing the design engineering and industrial capacity to affordably produce the cutting-edge military systems that once gave the American military an unassailable advantage. The reason for this is simple: The free market works. When there is no competitive market for goods and services, the industries that produce them dry up and blow away. The Pentagon has been under-funding procurement by about $50 billion a year. That, however, is only part of the problem. The U.S. government unnecessarily hamstrings the ability of American defense companies to compete overseas. Unleashing the capacity to compete will help save our defense industrial base, build the capacity of allies, and strengthen U.S. ability to leverage technological innovation. Both the President and the Congress ought to put competitiveness at the top of the agenda.
Budget & TaxationBy Kristina Rasmussen, Amanda Griffin-Johnson, Illinois Policy InstituteReport, 06/09/2011
Illinois lawmakers have been patting themselves on the back for supposedly holding the line on spending and getting rid of wasteful projects. Should taxpayers buy into this newfound “fiscal responsibility?” No. A review by the Illinois Policy Institute found that the budget passed by the House left overall spending levels largely unchanged from last year. Additionally, many low-priority projects are slated to receive millions of dollars – dollars that deficit-plagued state government doesn’t have to spare.
International Trade/FinanceBy U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Chamber of Commerce of Mexico, U.S. Chamber of CommerceReport, 06/09/2011
The United States and Mexico share a border of nearly 2,000 miles, a cultural heritage, and a desire to grow both our economies through cooperation and hard work. The two nations also share an obligation to address a series of complex issues. This report, developed by the business communities of both the United States and Mexico, recommends ways to enhance growth and security simultaneously. Recognizing that both the public and private sectors must work together to meet these challenges, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Chamber of Commerce of Mexico are providing these recommendations to improve security, trade facilitation, infrastructure, immigration, and travel.
Budget & TaxationBy Andrew Biggs, Jason Richwine, American Enterprise InstituteWorking Paper, 06/09/2011
Public sector compensation has come under increased scrutiny from politicians and the media, but comprehensive technical comparisons of federal and private compensation have been largely absent from the discussion. Drawing from the academic literature and using the most recent government data, this report measures the generosity of federal salaries, benefits, and job security. Compared to similar private sector workers, we estimate that federal workers receive a salary premium of 14 percent, a benefits premium of 63 percent, and extra job security worth 17 percent of pay. Together, these generate an overall federal compensation premium of approximately 61 percent. Reducing federal employee compensation to market levels could save taxpayers roughly $77 billion per year.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Timothy J. Considine, Robert W. Watson, Nicholas B. Considine, Manhattan InstituteEnergy Policy & the Environment Report, 06/09/2011
Directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing have unlocked vast new reserves of natural gas in the United States. Development of these resources is now well under way in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Unlike their neighbors to the south, however, New York residents are not directly benefiting from natural gas development as the result of a government-imposed moratorium, itself a response to environmental concerns surrounding hydraulic fracturing. This study analyzes the economic and environmental impacts of shale gas drilling in New York and finds the net economic benefits to be significantly positive. This study also reviews the public records of environmental violations reported by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection over the period 2008–10. The study finds that the cost of these environmental impacts is far smaller than the economic benefits that drilling can provide.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Robin Harris, The Heritage FoundationReport, 06/08/2011
To achieve some diplomatic success without being overshadowed by America is a British political priority. Yet without the commitment of substantially more defense resources, Britain will be unable to do more than strike a pose, and the West can least afford posing because security threats—notably a rising China, a revanchist Russia, a still incorrigible Iran, and a mad, bad North Korea—are real, and only strong American leadership can meet them. To face these and other challenges will require more, not less, U.S. defense effort. Any illusions, like that of the U.K.’s adopting a leading role in key regions, can only weaken the American national consensus that is required. Britain’s problems go beyond the financial and economic difficulties which, rather than foreign affairs, are the main preoccupation of British public opinion.
Transportation/InfrastructureBy Ronald Utt, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 06/08/2011
Transportation services represent a vital commercial activity providing benefits to every American and every American business. Yet the amount of transportation service provided is based on overall budget priorities rather than the needs and desires of transportation users. Such a system is also independent of consumers’ willingness to “buy” more transportation services, since no market exists to accommodate an increase in demand. This results in more congestion and more infrastructure decay.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy James Roberts, Ray Walser, The Heritage FoundationForeign Policy, 06/08/2011
Although the votes are still being counted from Peru’s June 5 presidential runoff election, it appears that the leftist candidate and former military officer Ollanta Humala has defeated his rightist opponent, Congresswoman Keiko Fujimori, daughter of jailed ex-president Alberto Fujimori (1990–2000), by a narrow margin. Humala’s election is stoking fear that Peru, one of Latin America’s brightest stars, will experience a dangerous slide toward Hugo Chávez’s “socialism of the 21st century,” authoritarianism, and economic nationalism. With U.S. economic and national security interests at stake, President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should immediately urge Humala to continue the successful free-market reforms of the past 20 years that have allowed Peru to become one of the fastest-growing economies in Latin America. Cooperation in the fight against drug trafficking and terrorism must also be high on the bilateral agenda.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Steven Groves , The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 06/08/2011
If the U.S. becomes a member of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, it will be required to transfer a large portion of the royalties generated on the U.S. extended continental shelf to the International Seabed Authority. These royalties may likely total tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars. The Authority may then distribute those funds to developing and landlocked nations, including some that are corrupt, undemocratic, or even state sponsors of terrorism. Instead of diverting U.S. revenues to such dubious purposes, the U.S. government should retain any wealth derived from the U.S. extended continental shelf for the benefit of the American people.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Sally McNamara, Ariel Cohen, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 06/08/2011
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is on course to secure a third consecutive victory in parliamentary elections this weekend. The outcome of these elections will have implications for more than that country’s political model, however. U.S. foreign policy in the region and Turkey’s future in Europe will also be affected as prominent foreign and domestic policy issues await the next Turkish government, including a democracy deficit; the war in Afghanistan; Ankara’s role in NATO’s future missile defense architecture; Turkey’s stalled EU accession bid; deteriorating Turkish–Israeli relations; Turkey’s support of Hamas; and the worrying Turkish–Iranian rapprochement.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Helle Dale, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 06/08/2011
The Chinese government employs the largest Internet censorship brigade in the world, and social media Web sites like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter are beyond the reach of the Chinese Internet user, who is being served by a parallel Chinese network of social media and search engines. In fact nearly 1 billion Chinese have no access to the Internet—68 percent of the population. This proves to be a strong case for not relying solely on the World Wide Web in U.S. communications strategy toward China. Unfortunately the proposed direction of the Broadcasting Board of Governors fiscal year 2012 budget will eliminate Voice of America (VOA) shortwave radio and satellite television transmission to China by October of this year. Unless Congress steps in, there is a real danger that the VOA, a strategic asset of great value to the United States and to freedom-loving listeners around the world, will be wasted.
Budget & TaxationBy David Addington, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 06/08/2011
The patent reform legislation pending in Congress has a serious flaw: It delegates to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) of the Department of Commerce the power to both hike the fees imposed on Americans who deal with the USPTO and then spend the revenue derived from those fees, without any further congressional exercise of the appropriations power. When the House of Representatives considers the patent reform bill, it should, in addition to addressing any other flaws in the bill, adopt an amendment to provide that the USPTO may spend the revenues it receives from fees “to the extent and in the amounts provided in advance in appropriations Acts” and not make the fees available to the USPTO to expend without fiscal year limitation. In an era of federal government overspending and overborrowing, the last thing Congress should do is turn over to a federal agency the decision on how much the agency can spend.
Economic GrowthBy Terry Miller, Anthony Kim , The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 06/08/2011
It is not coincidental that overall poverty in Africa is declining. Volumes of economic research have shown that the entrepreneurship encouraged by greater economic freedom leads to innovation, economic expansion, and overall human development. According to a 2010 empirical study by two renowned scholars from Columbia University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “African poverty is falling...much faster than you think!” The study notes that, if right policies are adopted, “the lesson we draw is largely optimistic: even the most benighted parts of the poorest continent can set themselves firmly on the trend of limiting and even eradicating poverty within the space of a decade.”
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Jack Spencer, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 06/08/2011
The House and Senate are considering bills that are meant to help development of small and modular nuclear reactors (SMRs). These new reactors could provide all of the attractive qualities of large reactors—such as being safe, emissions-free sources of electricity—but at lower upfront costs with greater flexibility. Unfortunately, the two bills—the Nuclear Energy Research Initiative Improvement Act of 2011 (S. 1067) and the Nuclear Power 2021 Act (S. 512 and H.R. 1808)—would have the opposite impact. These bills would smother the private-sector initiative that has driven SMR development in recent years. Instead of embracing this new and innovative approach to nuclear energy development, these bills would subject the SMR business to the same government-depressed trajectory that plagues traditional reactors.
EducationBy Andrew J. Coulson, Cato InstitutePolicy Analysis, 06/08/2011
The central problem confronting education systems around the world is not that we lack models of excellence; it is our inability to routinely replicate those models. Over the past decade, one of the most prominent strategies for overcoming this problem has been for philanthropists to partner with the best charter schools in an attempt to bring them to scale. The present study seeks an empirical answer to the question: Is that strategy working—are the highest-performing charters attracting the most funding? The results are discouraging. There is effectively no correlation between grant funding and charter network performance, after controlling for individual student characteristics and peer effects, and addressing the problem of selection bias.
International Trade/FinanceBy Daniel Griswold, Cato InstituteFree Trade Bulletin, 06/08/2011
As Congress and the Obama administration decide the fate of pending free-trade agreements (FTAs) with Korea, Panama, and Colombia, advocates and opponents will likely point to the experience of other recent bilateral and regional trade deals to support their positions. In the past decade, FTAs with 14 other nations have been signed, approved, and enacted. Judging by actual U.S. trade flows since their enactment, the 14 most recent FTAs give strong evidence that trade agreements deliver the predicted boost to trade with the partner countries. Based on this record, we can expect the pending agreements with Korea, Colombia, and Panama to promote both U.S. imports and exports for the benefit of U.S. manufacturing, agriculture, and the overall U.S. economy.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy James V. DeLong, American Enterprise InstituteArticle, 06/08/2011
The Durbin amendment was a dead-of-night add-on to last year’s Dodd-Frank bill that requires the Federal Reserve Board to issue regulations limiting the interchange fees charged by debit card issuers to an amount that is “reasonable and proportional to the cost incurred by the issuer with respect to the transaction.” The amendment shows that the political system is catching up with market developments, which is not good news, because its operatives have no hesitation about intervening quixotically in one of the shifting networks of companies which struggle over which firm controls the customer.
Economic and Political ThoughtBy Amy A. Kass, Leon R. Kass, Diana Schaub, Intercollegiate Studies InstituteBook, 06/08/2011
What So Proudly We Hail explores American identity, character, and civic life using the soul-shaping power of story, speech, and song. Editors Amy Kass, Leon Kass, and Diana Schaub—acclaimed scholars who among them have more than a century of teaching experience—have assembled dozens of selections by our country’s greatest writers and leaders, from Mark Twain to John Updike, from George Washington to Theodore Roosevelt, from Willa Cather to Flannery O’Connor, from Benjamin Franklin to Martin Luther King Jr., from Francis Scott Key to Irving Berlin.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Ray Walser, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 06/08/2011
The Obama Administration’s investment of increased diplomatic capital in strengthening the OAS has borne scant fruit. Short of withdrawing from the regional body—an option that merits serious debate—the Obama Administration must continue focusing on democratic development, institutional reforms, cooperation against transnational threats, and strategies to foster accelerated channels of commerce and enhanced economic freedom. The Obama Administration should cease overselling the benefits of hemispheric multilateralism and seek opportunities to work with our remaining hemispheric friends to advance mutual interests and values.