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Recent Policy Studies
Budget & TaxationBy David Tuerck, Paul Bachman, Michael Head, Beacon Hill InstitutePolicy Study, 06/27/2011
On February 11, 2011, Maine Governor Paul LePage released his budget proposal for the fiscal year 2012-2013 biennium. In his budget message, Governor LePage declared that the budget has one priority: “to reform and restructure state government to ensure that state government helps–not hinders–private sector job creation.” In addition, the Republicans and Democrats in the legislature have each introduced their own budget plans. All three tax reform plans, if enacted, would reduce state taxes on Maine’s households and businesses. This report illustrates that making moderate changes to, in particular, the state personal and corporate income taxes, would improve Maine’s economy. State policymakers should consider this type of tax reform or bolder moves to cut taxes and provide a larger boost to the economy.
Elections, Transparency, & AccountabilityBy Robin Gates, Wisconsin Policy Research InstituteReport, 06/27/2011
Just like so many governments nationwide, Wisconsin’s state government faces serious challenges. The fiscal situation is abysmal, and the problems their state agencies must solve are large and complex. Yet it is a time of great opportunity. The tools available to state agencies to accomplish their public purposes have never been greater. The challenge for political leaders is how to change state government management so it can harness these forces to meet state needs. Former public employee Robin Gates—who also has the benefit of private sector experience—lays out a clear case for strengthening state agency management, importing innovative management processes and, perhaps most important, holding management accountable for results.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Jonathan L. Awner, Denise Dickins, Cato InstituteRegulation, 06/27/2011
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act is one of the most onerous pieces of corporate governance regulation. The most contentious provision is Section 922, which directs the Securities and Exchange Commission to implement a “whistleblower” program by which individuals may report suspected securities violations to the agency. Dodd-Frank elevates whistle blowing by enabling employees, vendors, and customers, among others, to bypass companies’ internal control systems and report accusations directly to the U.S. Government. It further stipulates that whistleblowers could receive as much as 30 percent of any fines, penalties, or the repayment of losses resulting from their reports. This study finds that existing whistleblower programs have received limited use in spite of offered bounties and implementing internal bounties may have unintended consequences, including increases in unwarranted reports and additional administrative costs.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Chinmay Jain, Pankaj K. Jain, Thomas H. McInish, Cato InstituteRegulation, 06/27/2011
Last February the Securities and Exchange Commission voted 3–2 to adopt SEC Rule 201 in response to the recession of 2008. Rule 201 places restrictions on short sellers, requiring that they place order at or above the National best Bid price when the National System stock declines below 10 percent. SEC Chair Mary Schapiro has said the rule “is designed to preserve investor confidence and promote market efficiency…” But Former SEC chief economist Larry Harris fundamentally disagrees, arguing that Rule 201 will cause a “massive loss of confidence…” This study shows that short sellers are more active before price declines than after and that short selling has increased for stocks that experience positive returns.
Economic GrowthBy Thomas Perrin, James Madison InstituteReport, 06/27/2011
Floridians had high expectations when the Legislature’s 2011 regular session began. With a Republican super-majority in both chambers for the first time since Reconstruction and a newly elected Governor who touted fiscal conservatism and reducing the scope of government, many thought the stars had aligned to address some big ticket items that had fallen by the wayside in years past. In most cases they were right as lawmakers took on the daunting task of addressing many of the major policy decisions facing Florida all at the same time while also addressing serious budget challenges. At the end of the day, the Legislature approved a $69.7 billion budget (trimmed to $69.1 billion by Governor Rick Scott), passed 295 bills, and placed seven constitutional amendments on the 2012 general election ballot. The report below focuses on some of the many issues the James Madison Institute tracked during this year’s legislative session.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Henry I. Miller, Gregory Conko, Cato InstituteRegulation, 06/27/2011
A comprehensive environmental review by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists had concluded that a genetically engineered alfalfa variety was substantially equivalent to other conventional varieties and posed no genuine risks. U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack chose to ignore two things: the findings proposed by the USDA and President Obama’s pledge that “political officials should not suppress or alter scientific or technological findings and conclusions.” Instead, Vilsack pandered to the organic food lobby by announcing that the Agriculture Department might have certain restrictions on farmers including the ability to plant the alfalfa variety on huge swaths of American cropland, proposing geographic restrictions as well as minimum separation distances from other crops for the commercial cultivation of the genetically engineered alfalfa variety. This article shows the increasing prevalence of obstructionist litigation which now shows that the irrationality of this regulatory policy.
Health CareBy Amy Lischko, Cristi Carman, Pioneer Institute for Public Policy ResearchWhite Paper, 06/27/2011
The Massachusetts health reform law has not fulfilled its promise of containing health care costs for many small employers and their employees. As in the years before the 2006 reform, small employers on average continue to pay higher premiums than mid-sized and large companies, and their premiums continue rising more quickly (after adjusting for variations in geography, demographics, and benefits). Fortunately, Business Solutions to the Health Care Crunch describes trends in employer-based health insurance plans that have the potential to contain escalating health care costs. It includes case studies of Massachusetts firms that have implemented innovative insurance plans and have experienced resulting reductions in health care spending growth as well as positive health effects.
Health CareBy Michael L. Marlow, Alden F. Shiers, Cato InstituteRegulation, 06/27/2011
Concern over rising health care costs has encouraged a growing number of government interventions aimed at reducing the prevalence of obesity. Examples of such interventions include special taxes on sodas, bans on toys offered in children’s meals with high levels of calories and salt, and restrictions on locations of new restaurants. The government has adopted a “one size fits all” policy goal for weight which exerts an “excess burden” on those subgroups that exhibit optimal weight gain in excess of government goals. Placing identical goals for obesity rate reduction across all individuals also exerts excess burdens on those individuals who differ from government’s mandated “ideal” weight. Researchers typically assume its reduction is desirable without addressing the issue of its optimal level. This paper suggests optimal levels of obesity have increased over time and that optimal levels are not identical for all individuals or groups.
Budget & TaxationBy Richard C. Dreyfuss, Mackinac Center for Public PolicyPolicy Brief, 06/27/2011
In 1997, as a result of state legislation, the pension plan for the Michigan State Employees’ Retirement System (MSERS) underwent a significant change. State employees who qualified for MSERS and who were hired on or after March 31, 1997, were placed in a “defined-contribution” retirement plan; those hired before March 31 were, and continue to be, enrolled in a “defined-benefit plan. Author Richard C. Dreyfuss analyzes state pension data to determine whether state taxpayers have saved money from this reform. Using data from the Michigan Office of Retirement Services, the Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency and the MSERS defined-benefit plan’s comprehensive annual financial reports, the author estimates that from fiscal 1997 through fiscal 2010, state government saved a sizeable $167 million in MSERS defined-benefit plan normal costs by switching new employees to the defined contribution plan.
Health CareBy Timothy Sandefur, Cato InstituteRegulation, 06/27/2011
Certificate of Necessity (CON) laws were originally devised to regulate railroads and other public utilities. First appearing in Massachusetts in the 1880s, Progressive Era proponents proposed these CON laws by arguing that: they would prevent “wasteful duplication” of services, prevent “ruinous competition,” and promote private investments in public service industries. Occupational licensing laws, such as aforementioned, are among the most common abridgements of economic liberty. These laws exist for the explicit purpose of preventing competition. There is no reasonable foundation for applying such rules to moving companies, taxi companies, or hospitals. CON restrictions, which still exist today, unfairly favor entrenched private interests, increase the cost of living for consumers, destroy economic opportunity for vulnerable entrepreneurs, and in the case of hospitals, threaten Americans’ lives.
Regulation & DeregulationBy Jonathan H. Adler, Cato InstituteRegulation, 06/27/2011
Over the past several decades, the scope, reach, and cost of federal regulations have increased dramatically. Regulations of the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act would prevent federal agencies from implementing major regulatory initiatives without congressional approval. REINS Act supporters hail the legislation as a needed check on federal regulatory agencies. Opponents criticize it as a potentially unconstitutional attack on federal regulations that could undermine health, safety, and environmental protections. The primary effect of the legislation would be to make Congress more responsible for federal regulatory activity by forcing legislators to voice their opinion on the desirability of significant regulatory changes.
National SecurityBy Paul Rosenzweig, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 06/27/2011
In May, the Obama Administration unveiled a legislative proposal for cybersecurity that is now working its way through Congress. It is one of several major legislative packages offered that seek to enhance the security and resilience of the nation’s cyber infrastructure. Getting the federal government’s role right in cybersecurity is crucial. One of the key principles in addressing any proposed law is that Congress should take its time and get the solution right. What Washington does online should enhance the security, freedom, and prosperity of Americans in equal measure. The Administration’s proposal does not adequately address all these priorities.
EducationBy Vance H. Fried, American Enterprise InstituteWorking Paper, 06/27/2011
Over the past two decades, the cost of a college education has risen dramatically. Tuition and fees have increased at twice the rate of inflation, rising more quickly than market goods or services and outstripping the growth in family incomes. Professor Vance Fried finds that this dramatic rise in college tuition costs is, in fact, not due to lavish university facilities and extra student services. Instead, tuition has skyrocketed because of the ways in which traditional colleges and universities organize and allocate resources. Undergraduate colleges wishing to offer a quality yet affordable education should consider optimizing class size, downsizing extracurricular student activity programs, and eliminating or consolidating low-enrollment programs.
National SecurityBy Michael W. Lewis, Vincent J. Vitkowsky, Federalist SocietyEngage, 06/27/2011
Since taking office, President Obama has expanded the Bush Administration’s use of drones to target al Qaeda and Taliban leaders. Many have urged the Obama Administration to articulate legal justification for the continued use of drones to target and kill terrorists. The Administration addressed concerns last March when Harold Koh, State Department Legal Adviser, made a speech to the American Society of International Law. The arguments raise very important questions about the Administration’s targeted killing policy, such as: Who may be targeted, where may the targeting take place, and are targeted killings illegal assignations under U.S. domestic law?
National SecurityBy Lisa Curtis, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 06/27/2011
New information has revealed contacts between members of Pakistani terrorist group Harakat-ul-Mujahideen and Osama bin Laden’s courier. These revelations show that Pakistan’s segmented approach to terrorism contributed to bin Laden’s ability to live undetected in a military town deep inside Pakistan. Pakistan has long sought to distinguish between Kashmir-focused terrorist groups—which it allows to operate freely in Pakistan as a buffer against India—and al-Qaeda. U.S. officials should reject this distinction and make clear that they view any individuals who facilitate al-Qaeda as threats to America. If Pakistan fails to take action against terrorist organizations affiliated with al-Qaeda, Washington should withhold security aid to Islamabad.
Economic GrowthBy Arthur B. Laffer, Stephen Moore, Jonathan Williams, American Legislative Exchange CouncilReport, 06/24/2011
Bloated state spending levels and trillions of dollars in unfunded government employee pension liabilities pose huge financial obstacles to economic recovery in the 50 states today. This begs the million—or trillion—dollar question: Why are some states prospering while others are still struggling? The American Legislative Exchange Council uses this study, Rich States, Poor States, to examine and discuss the best practices that enable states to drive economic growth, create jobs, and improve the standard of living for their citizens. Through empirical evidence and analysis ALEC discovers which policies lead to state economic growth and which policies states should avoid. Not surprisingly, states that spend and tax less experience higher growth rates than states that tax and spend more.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Brett Schaefer, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 06/23/2011
The U.N. Human Rights Council has failed to consistently fulfill its mandate to hold governments accountable for violating basic human rights, fundamental freedoms and to promote and protect human rights. Two years of U.S. membership on and engagement with the council have not significantly improved its performance. Rather than continuing to expend finite resources to achieve marginal, temporary results, the U.S. should focus its U.N. human rights efforts through the Third Committee of the General Assembly. This should be supplemented with targeted support for the more effective elements of the U.N. human rights apparatus; such elements include the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the independent human rights experts who are charged with monitoring specific human rights issues and situations. The U.S. should also begin exploring the option of creating a truly effective international human rights body outside the U.N. system.
National SecurityBy Matt Mayer, Scott Erickson, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 06/23/2011
Many aspects of the terror threat—from communication between terrorist groups to recruitment of new members—has been changing, largely due to ever-developing Internet technology and new possibilities in cyberspace. One new trend is the lone-wolf terrorist—such as Army Major Nidal Hassan, who massacred his fellow soldiers at Fort Hood. New developments in the terror threat—and the terror threat as a whole—require a cultural shift of entrenched attitudes and approaches in law enforcement agencies across the country. Robust partnerships between the federal government and states and localities are also a crucial part of fighting 21st-century crime and terrorism. Homeland security and law enforcement experts Matt Mayer and Scott Erickson explain why a paradigm shift is needed—and how to achieve it.
Health CareBy Cato Institute, Cato InstituteCato Policy Report, 06/23/2011
When President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law on March 23, 2010, few would have predicted what happened in the following year. Opposition to the law has led to Republican gains in Congress, a House vote to repeal it, and two federal courts striking down part or all of the law as unconstitutional. At a half-day Cato Institute conference, held one year after the House of Representatives passed the law, Kavita Patel, M.D., managing director of delivery-system reform at the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform at the Brookings Institution; Michael F. Cannon, director of health policy studies at the Cato Institute; Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA; and Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office, debated how the law has already affected America’s health care sector, labor markets, and the federal budget, and what impact it will have in the future.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy Michael J. Reitz, Kimberly Blackwood, Freedom FoundationReport, 06/23/2011
Over the last 30 years there has been a growing recognition of the importance of state courts. Every year the Washington State Supreme Court issues decisions in between 100 to 150 cases, often resolving disputes over important public policy issues. Careful analysis of the court’s work is especially relevant in a state where judges are elected. Voters usually face great difficulty deciphering a judicial candidate’s record, qualifications and legal philosophy. In order to equip citizens with better information about the men and women at the Temple of Justice, the Freedom Foundation is publishing an annual summary of the most significant cases decided by the court—especially cases that address individual liberties and accountability in government. Additionally, this publication includes data about the court’s 2010 docket, details about each justice’s work and tools to gauge each justice’s influence on the bench.
ImmigrationBy Malcolm Pearl, Center for Immigration StudiesMemorandum, 06/23/2011
One aspect of the debate over immigration concerns how to curb the number of children born to temporary or illegal alien residents in the United States who then become U.S. citizens, based on the current interpretation of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment. Trying to pass legislation that changes birthright citizenship rules likely will face several legal and political challenges. A smaller step that can go a long way in reducing the problems associated with this practice, and one fraught with fewer potential land mines, is to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to detect, deter, and penalize foreigners who come to the United States on tourist or other temporary visas for the purpose of giving birth and returning home. Presently there is no prohibition, nor concerted U.S. government effort to stop, individuals from taking advantage of our liberal citizenship policies in order to make their children instant U.S. citizens.
ImmigrationBy Ray Walser, Jena Baker McNeil, Jessica Zuckerman, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 06/23/2011
Over the past 10 years, traversing the U.S.–Mexico border illegally has become increasingly dangerous for would-be immigrants. Illegal immigrants face kidnapping, murder, and rape at the hands of violent drug cartels and ever more ruthless human smugglers. Hundreds of people die every year trying to cross the border into the U.S. However, illegal immigration is dangerous not only to the illegal immigrants themselves—it is costly to societies and nations as a whole. In order to fight illegal immigration and reduce the toll on human lives, the United States must take a comprehensive approach of increasing border security and improving legal immigration procedures and public diplomacy, as well as fostering reforms and greater efforts to crack down on human smuggling in Latin America.
Elections, Transparency, & Accountability
The Citizen Legislature: How Reasonable Limits on State Legislative Salaries, Staff and Session Lengths Keep Liberty AliveBy William Ruger, Jason Sorens, Goldwater InstitutePolicy Brief, 06/22/2011
An analysis of indicators of economic and personal freedom in the 50 states reveals that states with “citizen legislatures”—part-time legislators, low salaries, short sessions, and small legislative staffs—enjoy more economic and individual liberty. New Hampshire, which enjoyed the top overall freedom ranking, also enjoyed the status of having the most minimalistic state legislature. By contrast, five out of the ten least freedom-friendly states—New York, New Jersey, California, Massachusetts and Illinois—all shared the dubious honor of supporting state legislatures that are among the top ten most lavish in terms of salary, staff, and session length. Our findings confirm that citizen legislators—as opposed to career legislators—avoid legislating in areas that are normally private domains and prevent government from expanding unsustainably. Consequently, voters should continue to resist efforts to increase legislators’ salaries, staff, and the length of time the legislature is in session.
Budget & TaxationBy Collin Hitt, Illinois Policy InstituteTax & Budget Brief, 06/22/2011
Following the passage of this year’s record income tax increase, Illinois politicians promised fiscal austerity. However, the fiscal year 2012 budget contains $1.1 billion in hidden costs that will boost this year’s spending to $34.2 billion. This is far from an overall reduction compared to 2011. Instead, it’s equal to $800 million in new spending—an accounting gimmick was used to hide significant spending. Based on the budget passed by the General Assembly, future spending could lead to a cumulative deficit of more than $25 billion by the end of the decade. Unless significant spending reductions are made in the budget Illinois will continue down a path to ruin. Legislators dedicated to fiscal austerity and a sunset of the Illinois tax increase, as promised, should demand immediate spending reductions. They can start by eliminating the healthcare gimmicks and by actually cutting costs within its medical entitlements.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Christina Hoff Sommers, Hoover InstitutionPolicy Review, 06/22/2011
On November 18, 2010, the U.S. Senate began new hearings on a decades-old United Nations treaty. The treaty in question—the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)—commits signatory nations not only to eliminating discrimination but also to ensuring women’s “full development and advancement” in all areas of public and private life. The document was adopted by the General Assembly and submitted to UN member states in 1979. Since then, nearly every nation has ratified it; the only holdouts are three Islamic countries, a few Pacific islands, and the United States. CEDAW contains many worthy and indeed noble declarations, but its key provisions are 1970s feminism preserved in diplomatic amber. Releasing those aged provisions in 21st-century America would be strange at best, and at worst they could seriously compromise the privacy, well-being, and basic freedoms of Americans
Economic GrowthBy Art Carden, Independent InstituteWorking Paper, 06/22/2011
The rise of mass-market merchandisers is one of the most important aspects of the modern American economy. The retail and wholesale trade sectors were especially important parts of productivity growth in the late 1990s. Within the first decade of the twenty first century the retail sector has been completely transformed: it delivers goods to consumers with a combination of quantity, price, and promptness that would have been unthinkable earlier in the twentieth century. Wal-Mart is the world’s most important (and controversial) retailer because it is at the forefront of changes that have led to substantial welfare increases, most significantly for those at the bottom. However, Wal-Mart’s biggest impact has been on prices and, interestingly, evidence suggests that Wal-Mart’s price effect leads to increases in real income.
Budget & TaxationBy Joseph Coletti, John Locke FoundationSpotlight, 06/22/2011
On June 15th five Democrats stuck with Republicans in the North Carolina State House to override Governor Bev Perdue’s veto of the budged plan for the next two fiscal years. The General Assembly managed to accomplish its most important task this year, passing a budget with no tax increases and a significant rebalancing of state government spending. It is the best possible budget given the governor’s veto. Critics have misdirected their fire in pushing for tax hikes and complaining about reductions in Medicaid and public schools, instead of looking for savings in corporate welfare. The legislature should use this budget as a starting point to reform taxes and state employee pay and benefits.
Regulation & DeregulationBy Mark Brnovich, Tom Gede, Federalist SocietyEngage, 06/22/2011
While the most recent efforts to legalize Internet gaming were not successful at reaching a full floor vote in the House, it is a good bet that efforts to expand gambling on the Internet will continue at both the federal and state level. That being said, as the debate over legalizing gambling on the Internet continues, we should be mindful of both the costs and benefits of gambling. While it can provide an increase in revenue and personal liberty, the social costs will increase, including broken families, criminal activity, and cheating.
Economic GrowthBy F. Scott Kieff, Hoover InstitutionDefining Ideas, 06/22/2011
The America Invents Act, a patent bill pending in Congress, is being sold by proponents as an effort to improve the predictability and efficiency of the U.S. patent system by trying to harmonize it with those of other countries. It would do so by shifting the U.S. system from being based on a first to invent approach to being based on a first to file approach. One central problem with the proposal is that while first to file may sound like an easy determination, it turns out not to be. The rest of the world follows essentially a first to file approach, but in every one of those patent systems there is a vast amount of highly evolved law on what counts in the question: first as compared to what?
Economic GrowthBy F. Scott Kieff, Hoover InstitutionDefining Ideas, 06/22/2011
The America Invents Act, a patent bill pending in Congress, includes procedures that would undermine property rights if it were to become law. The proposed bill includes a new administrative procedure for challenging the validity of what it calls “business method patents.” An agency would actually have authority to wipe out patents already adjudicated. But especially now, when the economy is in dire condition, policymakers must understand that predictable property rights are essential for economic growth, including investment, innovation, and jobs. Furthermore, the bill’s unpredictable enforcement of property rights will weaken U.S. trade policy. In the past, it has been our consistent, foreseeable enforcement of property rights that has given the U.S. the moral authority and bargaining power to bring other countries a great distance in trade negotiations towards enforcing property rights around the world.
Economic GrowthBy F. Scott Kieff, Hoover InstitutionDefining Ideas, 06/22/2011
The America Invents Act, a patent bill pending in Congress, beleaguers inventors with endless processes and politics. Many good, dedicated people work in the U.S. Parent Office, but that does not mean the office should be beefed up, as the pending bill would allow. Rather than making decisions about the validity of patents in the politically influenced Patent Office, it makes most sense for these decisions to be made in federal court litigations. A court is where actual historical and technological facts can be tested in front of a jury with the aid of fair and established rules of evidence and procedure. A politically enhanced patent system is one that will further entrench those companies with the largest lobbying shops in Washington; it will turn a body of law designed to promote competition into one that frustrates it.
Economic GrowthBy F. Scott Keiff, Hoover InstitutionDefining Ideas, 06/22/2011
The implementation of the America Invents Act may be drawing near. But despite significant support from both parties, in both the Senate and the House, there’s still a good chance that the bill will not pass—and it should not. Purported to be a tool for streamlining the patent system, the America Invents Act will at best gum up the patent system and at worst turn it into a system for protecting the largest entrenched players at the expense of market challenging competitors. The bill would frustrate the ability for small and medium sized innovators to bring innovations to market, and block the opportunities they would create for capital formation and jobs.
Regulation & DeregulationBy Richard A. Epstein, National AffairsNational Affairs, 06/22/2011
We have done a poor job of preserving the balance between limiting the discretion of Government officials so that they do not undermine the rule of law, while also allowing them enough leeway to perform their roles. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act make the imbalance far worse. Both laws seek to dramatically transform the American economy, and yet both laws are silent on exactly how these overhauls are to take place. The only real fix is to impose sharp constraints on the growth of government, and to adopt a different attitude toward government’s role in our lives
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Mark Cantora, American Enterprise InstituteThe American, 06/22/2011
The Obama administration’s latest shot in its fusillade against free speech comes in the form of a draft executive order requiring that potential government contractors disclose their political contributions in order to be eligible for the contract bidding process. The executive order, titled “Disclosure of Political Spending by Government Contractors,” seems innocuous enough, and its stated goal of “ensur[ing] the integrity of the federal contracting system in order to produce the most economical and efficient results for the American people,” is honorable and difficult to argue against. However, not only does the draft executive order act as yet another attack on the First Amendment, but its implementation would condemn the order to failure in achieving its intended goals.
National SecurityBy Jack Spencer, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 06/22/2011
With multiple wars ongoing, traditional threats looming, and new ones emerging, the U.S. Armed Forces are already under tremendous stress. So introducing a new assignment that needlessly bleeds scarce resources away from core missions to advance a political agenda is untenable. Yet this is exactly what the Obama Administration is doing by ordering the military to lead a green revolution. The White House is pushing the idea that the alternative energy industry would get the kick start it needs if the military will just commit to using them. But the assumptions behind this argument are flawed, and the strategy would increase demands on the military budget while harming national security. Congress should put a stop to it right away.
Economic GrowthBy Christine Chmura, et al., Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public PolicyEconomic Outlook, 06/22/2011
Dr. Christine Chmura of Chmura Economics and analytics look at what's in store for the economy—nationally and in Virginia. Nationally, the recovery is moderate because of the headwinds that remain: continued falling housing prices, additional foreclosures, stubbornly high unemployment, and soaring energy prices. In fact, national employment is expected to expand by a mere 1.0% in 2011, followed by 1.2% growth in 2012. In regard to Virginia, it continues to particurlarly suffer from effects of the housing crisis. In just March 2011 alone, one in every 742 housing units in Virginia filed for foreclosure compared to the national average of one in every 542. Until the excess foreclosed properties are digested by the market, housing activity will be less likely to rebound.
EducationBy Talmadge Heflin, Texas Public Policy FoundationPolicy Brief, 06/22/2011
The Texas Taxpayer Savings Grant Program is designed to reduce the amount of general revenue spent on public education by reducing enrollment in and the associated costs of the state’s public K-12 schools. The program works by reimbursing parents and legal guardians for a portion of their tuition costs, should they choose to enroll their child in a private school, rather than a Texas public school. The purpose of the program is to save Texas taxpayers money, and to reduce the financial strain on Texas’ public education system. Texas currently spends more money in public education than other areas of state spending. Programs like the Texas Taxpayer Savings Grant Program will reduce the amount of general revenue required to run our public schools and hopefully help to prevent the difficulties with school finance.
Transportation/InfrastructureBy Rebecca Cheung, Washington Policy CenterPolicy Note, 06/22/2011
At the annual Transportation Policy Conference experts from throughout Washington State discussed many issues in regard to freight, mobility and tolling. Increasing competition from California and Canada on imports and exports is creating a need for faster and more reliable transportation in Washington State. Mary Peters, U.S. Secretary of Transportation from 2006–2009, emphasized the importance of congestion relief and concerns around the rising supply chain costs of freight distribution. Experts also discussed the effects of tolling in High Occupancy Toll lanes and freight mobility and transportation infrastructure costs across the state. Peters concluded with optimism but insisted on a return in dollars and the transparency of elected officials. Still, Peters’ main point was that that private sector practices can drastically reduce maintenance and project costs.
Budget & TaxationBy Matt A. Mayer, Buckeye Institute for Public Policy SolutionsPolicy Bulletin, 06/21/2011
The State of Ohio’s Senate Bill 5 (SB5) outlaws public employee strikes and puts other limits on collective bargaining by public employees. Supporters of the recently passed bill consider it a necessary reform to restore fairness to the taxpayers, while opponents continue to view it as an assault on public unions and saving little from the state’s budget. In fact, in an effort to repeal the bill, opponents are in the process of gathering enough signatures to put SB5 on the statewide ballot for this coming November. In the midst of the continuing battle over SB5, there are ten widespread myths about collective bargaining reform and SB5 that every Ohioan should know.
“Keep Your Friends Close, But Your Enemies Closer”: Internment of Enemy Aliens in the Present ConflictBy Theodore M. Cooperstein, Federalist SocietyEngage, 06/21/2011
United States law, in accordance with customary international law, has since 1798 permitted the internment or restriction of enemy aliens found within the United States during time of international conflict or war. The U.S. has applied this law in every declared war since the law’s enactment. Application of this law and related precedent to the present conflict (sometimes known as the Global War on Terror) permits the detention or restriction of aliens known or suspected of links to foreign terrorist organizations. In light of the U.S.’ ongoing debates over the detention of combatants in Guantanamo Bay—as well as the question whether to try them in military or civilian settings, if at all—this statute presents a secure alternative to the outright release of the detainees, or to their introduction into the civilian criminal justice system. Established law and precedent thereby affords a further option to address this thorny problem.
EducationBy The Institute for Justice, American Legislative Exchange Council, American Legislative Exchange CouncilReport, 06/21/2011
Is school choice constitutional? In most states, if a program is designed properly, the answer should be yes. Whenever school choice legislation is considered, the stakes are enormous. Children, parents, teachers and taxpayers all stand to benefit dramatically from well-designed programs. It is important for all school choice legislation to be very carefully crafted, starting with an eye toward its constitutionality under relevant state constitutional provisions. School choice programs are constitutional in nearly every state, but the key for each state is to design the right kind of program. This guide provides policymakers with the facts about the state of the law on school choice and arms them with the tools to create programs most likely to survive legal scrutiny.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Meir Katz, Federalist SocietyEngage, 06/21/2011
Governments aid religious organizations in a wide variety of ways. For example, governments provide vouchers that students can use to attend private schools, and support religious organizations that provide social services to the needy. These programs, and many more, are permissible under the Establishment Clause of the Federal Constitution. But many of these programs have been struck down under state “Blaine Amendments.” Although their scope and phraseology varies widely, these amendments impose a per se bar against government funding to a “religious sect or denomination” or for any “sectarian” purpose. This article explores the important role that the Blaine Amendments play in deciding modern church-state legal questions.
Health CareBy Nadeem Esmail, Fraser InstitutePolicy Analysis, 06/21/2011
There are a growing number of companies providing Canadians with easier access to medically necessary treatments outside the country. Of course, leaving Canada for medically necessary treatment is nothing new; Canadians have been doing so for many years, either in response to the unavailability of certain treatments, in response to concerns about quality, or in response to long wait times for medically necessary treatment. An estimated 44,794 Canadian in total received treatment outside Canada in 2010 which is a notable increase from the 41,006 Canadians estimated to have received treatment outside Canada in 2009.
International Trade/FinanceBy Ray Walser, Bruke Klinger, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 06/21/2011
From the Korean War to Operation Just Cause in Panama to Plan Colombia, the U.S. has expended lives and treasure to protect Colombia, Panama, and South Korea from Communist aggression, narco-violence, insurgency, and misrule. The investment has paid off. Today, all three are increasingly prosperous democracies and geopolitical allies with 100 million citizens and a combined GDP of $2 trillion. Despite this, the White House and Democrats in Congress denigrate these valuable allies by refusing to approve pending free trade agreements (FTAs). Not only do FTAs promote economic integration and enhance competitiveness; they also build a greater sense of security and certainty in ties between states. It is time for Congress to align U.S. economic and national security interests and pass the pending FTAs.
Transportation/InfrastructureBy Tom Ryan, Independence InstituteIssue Backgrounder, 06/21/2011
In 2009, Coloardo’s General Assembly passed Senate Bill 09-108, more commonly known as FASTER. Signed into law by Governor Ritter, the bill created the Colorado Bridge Enterprise, a government-owned business chartered to repair and maintain bridges within the state. Because government-owned enterprises cannot be financed through taxes, it raises revenue by imposing a surcharge. But the fact of the matter is that this “surcharge” is a tax, and the bill depends on continued silence for its provisions to move forward. As of now, Colorado families are being forced to pay an unconstitutional tax of almost $100 million annually. This tax hits everyone who registers a vehicle in the state squarely in the pocketbook—a tax that was enacted directly by the legislature without a vote of the people.
Elections, Transparency, & AccountabilityBy The John Locke Foundation, John Locke FoundationPolicy Report, 06/21/2011
The John Lock Foundation suggests in its new City County Issue guide for 2011 Local governments will serve their communities best by focusing on core government functions, limiting spending and taxation, and protecting private property from unnecessary government intrusion. Policymakers in the many local governments of North Carolina face a host of important challenges. This issue guide offers solutions to problems that confront North Carolinians at municipal and county levels. These solutions range from taxes to transit, from smart growth to stadiums and from education to eminent domain. The common thread in these recommendations is freedom. By increasing individual freedom, local governments can foster the prosperity of all North Carolinians and keep open avenues to innovative solutions from enterprising citizens.
ImmigrationBy Herbert Grubel, Patrick Grady, Fraser InstituteReport, 06/21/2011
The fiscal burden created by recent immigration into Canada has strained their country’s budget. In fiscal year 2005/06 alone, immigrants received an excess of $6,051 in benefits over taxes paid. To curtail this growing fiscal burden from immigration, temporary work visas should be granted to applicants who have a valid offer for employment from employers, in occupations and at pay levels specified by the federal government and determined in cooperation with private-sector employers. These temporary visas would be renewable and lead to landed immigrant status if certain specified employment criteria were met.
Health CareBy Grace-Marie Turner, Galen InstituteReport, 06/21/2011
The Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) was created by Congress as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as a means of containing Medicare spending. The IPAB was designed to take difficult decisions about Medicare payment reductions out of the legislative process and delegate them to a panel of independent experts. This board will give unelected, unaccountable government appointees the power to make decisions about payment policy in Medicare that will ultimately determine whether millions of seniors have access to the care they need. The more people learn about the IPAB, the more they will insist that it be repealed and replaced with better solutions.