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Recent Policy Studies
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Grant Bosse, Josiah Bartlett Center for Public PolicyReport, 07/15/2011
In 2008, New Hampshire joined a ten-state regional compact designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through a cap-and-trade program on electric generation facilities. The stated purpose of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from fossil-fuel burning power plants in the ten-state region by 10% by 2018. This report examines how that program has been implemented in New Hampshire over the past two years, how much revenue has been generated from the sale of carbon allowances, and how New Hampshire officials have spent that money.
Comparative Effectiveness Reviews: Quantitative Analysis of Research and Development Investment EffectsBy Benjamin Zycher, Pacific Research InstitutePRI Study, 07/15/2011
Because federal policy makers have powerful incentives to restrain the growth of federal health care outlays, an expanded federal role will engender behavioral responses from the private sector driven by expectations of how comparative effectiveness review (CER) findings will be used. The report suggests that an expanded CER process at the federal level—a top-down process—may be unwise in a policy context, and that a renewed emphasis upon a “bottom up” approach of experimentation by many millions of practitioners and patients would be a more fruitful vehicle for the acquisition of information about the comparative effectiveness of alternative clinical approaches.
Budget & TaxationBy Ernest Istook, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 07/15/2011
A proposed balanced budget amendment (BBA) to the Constitution is set to be considered by Congress this July—the first such vote since 1997. The BBA is a powerful proposal that attracts great vitriol from the American Left, which recognizes it as an enormous threat to its big-government ways—perhaps the greatest threat. For that reason, the history of Congress’s work on a BBA is full of frustrations, high-profile defections, reversals, and betrayals. This paper discusses that history. It also describes some of the milquetoast versions and amendments that have been offered to gut the BBA while providing political cover for those who are unwilling to support a robust version.
Budget & TaxationBy Peter J. Nelson, Center of the American ExperimentPolicy in Detail, 07/15/2011
This memo uses the state of Minnesota to illustrate that state income tax rates matter much more today than they did in the 1970s. When Minnesota implemented higher rates in the 1970s, other aspects of the state and federal tax laws offset the anti-competitive pressure of Minnesota’s higher tax rates. That is no longer the case. Tax policy changes in the 1980s and the 1990s reduced the value of state and federal income tax deductions that allowed top earners in the 1970s to offset Minnesota’s high income tax rates. Without that same offset, today’s state income tax rates impose greater pressure on top earners and their employers to avoid Minnesota. If Minnesota is to move forward with a strong economy, it must replace its 1970s tax system with a pro-growth 21st century tax system that recognizes the enhanced competitive benefits that low tax rates offer today.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Robert Morrison, Family Research CouncilBooklet, 07/15/2011
The Founders of our country considered religious liberty our “first freedom.” In their view, it was the bedrock upon which all other freedoms rest. This is because they understood that one’s right to worship God and follow his conscience according to the principles of his religious faith was foundational to all morality. In his Farewell Address, Washington wrote, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports.” It is to uphold these great and perpetual truths that the Family Research Council, through the pen of historian Robert Morrison, has published What the Founders Really Did on Religious Liberty: “Deeds not Words.”
Economic GrowthBy Michael Patrick Leahy, Broadside BooksBook, 07/14/2011
I, Light Bulb: A Death Row Testimonial demonstrates how the American economy has gone from free markets to politically correct, government controlled crony capitalism in the half century since Leonard E. Read wrote the classic essay, “I, Pencil.” Author Michael Patrick Leahy tells the story of the ban on the current generation of incandescents from the perspective of a condemned 100 watt light bulb. In the voice of the light bulb, Leahy points out the need for political activism to reverse this ban, arguing that it not only prevents an innocent incandescent light bulb from continuing a useful economic life, it also deprives every American of their own economic liberty and freedom of choice.
LaborBy James Sherk, The Heritage FoundationSpecial Report, 07/14/2011
The U.S. labor market has barely improved since the recession officially ended two years ago. Nearly one in 10 workers remain unemployed, and job creation has stagnated. Archaic labor laws restrict employee involvement in the workplace while forcing many workers to support unions they oppose. Government-employee unions use their enormous political influence to maintain special privileges. Congress should (1) increase opportunity in the economy by removing barriers to job creation and pay increases; (2) create parity between private and government workers by reforming federal compensation and restoring a nonpartisan civil service; and (3) expand choice in the workplace by permitting employee involvement programs and increasing union accountability to their members. Labor law must be reformed to address both the recession and the reality of the 21st-century labor market.
Budget & Taxation
The House and Senate Balanced Budget Amendments: Not All Balanced Budget Amendments Are Created EqualBy Brian Darling, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 07/14/2011
Republicans in the House and Senate have announced that they will force votes on balanced budget constitutional amendments. While the Senate and House versions of the current BBA are similar, there are some important differences that Members of Congress and the American people need to understand. For example, the Senate version makes it more difficult to enact revenue-neutral tax reform, while the House version would waive its tax limitation in times of military conflict. How Congress resolves these differences could determine whether future Congresses and Presidents balance the budget without increasing taxes.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy The Heritage Foundation, The Heritage FoundationFact Sheet, 07/14/2011
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was created by the Dodd-Frank bill. It is an independent bureau within the Federal Reserve System that was designed by lawmakers to regulate a vast array of financial products and services. It officially opens on July 21, although staff have already begun to craft new regulations. Like so many bureaucracies, the CFPB is largely unaccountable to Congress. To make matters worse, the CFPB is not even under the supervision of the Federal Reserve; it's statutorily prohibited from “intervening” in CFPB affairs. America will suffer severe consequences from the CFPB. The bureau will make consumer loans, credit and debit cards, and many other financial products and services harder to obtain and more expensive to use. Furthermore, the CFPB will not even help to prevent a future financial crisis.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Derek Scissors, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 07/14/2011
Chinese investment in the rest of the world, especially in the United States, continues to be a controversial topic. It is important for policymakers to understand the scope of China’s investments, and unless there is a specific national security consideration, market principles should guide the American policy response. At home, American policy concerning Chinese investment should be more transparent. Overseas, the best reply to rising Chinese commercial influence is to expand American commercial influence—for instance, through free trade agreements. These steps will help to create more economic opportunities in the U.S., enhance America’s global position, and pose no threat to national security.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy Hans von Spakovsky, The Heritage FoundationLegal Memorandum, 07/14/2011
Voter fraud may be a part of America’s history, but it does not have to be a part of America’s future. Six states—Georgia, Indiana, Texas, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Kansas—have recently adopted laws requiring voters to produce a photograph identification card (voter ID) when they vote at their polling places on Election Day. Such voter ID laws are under attack from opponents armed with an array of claims—specious allegations and over-the-top tales of voter disenfranchisement—but courts continue to rule in favor of voter ID requirements. Therefore, states should continue to pursue voter ID laws. They have a valid and legitimate state interest not only in deterring and detecting voter fraud, but also in maintaining the confidence of their citizens in the security of U.S. elections.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Byron Gee, Alfred Smith, Washington Legal FoundationLegal Opinion Letter, 07/14/2011
In a case that may shift significant liability onto the United States to fund hazardous-waste cleanups, a federal district court recently held that the United States Government (“Government”) is liable under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) as both an “arranger” and “operator” for cleanup costs at a property the government leased to a private mining company. The court held that the Government’s leasing, permitting, inspection, and oversight functions exposed it to CERCLA liability. The court also rejected the Government’s argument that it acted in a mere “regulatory” capacity. This decision potentially exposes the federal government—the largest landowner in the nation—to an expanded share of cleanup costs on leased property throughout the country.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Victor E. Schwartz, Phil Goldberg, Christopher E. Appel, Washington Legal FoundationLegal Backgrounder, 07/14/2011
In the game of roulette, if one were to place a bet on just one number, the possibility of winning is a long shot. However, the odds of winning measurably increase if one were to bet on multiple numbers. This roulette philosophy is behind the latest round of climate change lawsuits aimed at regulating carbon dioxide emissions. A group sponsoring the litigation has already filed lawsuits in a California federal District Court and a handful of states, and is intent on filing similar litigation in all remaining states. If just one of these lawsuits “hits”, the sponsor may be on its way to winning the jackpot. From a legal perspective, these lawsuits are a substantial stretch. The state and federal defendants in each of these cases should swiftly file motions to dismiss. Taxpayer resources must be reserved for more serious judicial matters.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Jeffrey S. Moller, Washington Legal FoundationLegal Opinion Letter, 07/14/2011
In 1997, the EPA decided that it was not necessary to prescribe a federal maximum contaminant level for methyl tertiary butyl ether in drinking water. Instead, EPA issued only a non-binding “aesthetic” guideline, suggesting a level of contamination which would prevent water users from detecting an unwanted odor or taste. So why did a federal court jury decide more than fifteen years later that Exxon should be liable to pay the City of New York over $100 million for the contamination, or potential contamination, at levels well below any state or federal guideline? This legal opinion suggests that such a verdict can be reached when a lay jury—who may also be served that drinking water and are citizens of the plaintiff municipality—is allowed to toss aside the judgment from public and private experts on the matter.
Budget & TaxationBy Nick Gillespie, Reason FoundationReason, 07/14/2011
It’s all debt limit, all the time, it seems. Everyone’s talking about what may or may not happen when the U.S. government finally butts up against its legal borrowing limit on August 2, the supposed date in which the federal government will max out the credit lines that account for about 40 percent of all current spending. The Democrats are claiming that if the limit isn’t increased yet again, all sorts of horrible calamities will befall the United States. A minority of Republicans are arguing that the limit doesn’t need to be raised while most are using the looming deadline as a means of extracting concessions on spending and revenue issues down the line. Stuck in the middle are the American people, the ones who will have to foot the bill one way or another. That being said, here are five facts about the debt-limit discourse worth keeping in mind:
Health CareBy Peter Suderman, Reason FoundationReason, 07/14/2011
A small army of health policy wonks helped Democrats pack ObamaCare full of big ideas that they hoped would transform American health care. Perhaps the biggest of those ideas is the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). This board is a 15-member panel of bureaucrats appointed by the President—and insulated from accountability by the electorate—tasked with holding total Medicare spending to predetermined spending targets. The panel’s name suggests it’s merely an advisor to Congress, but its “recommendations” have the force of law unless Congress holds down spending enough to meet the target or eliminates the board, which it can only do with a supermajority vote in the Senate. IPAB is arguably the law’s most controversial provision, and it faces a host of hurdles: It may not work, it might be unconstitutional, and it could block other reforms.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy Harvey Silvergate, Reason FoundationReason, 07/14/2011
The Soviet Union enacted an infamous law in 1922 that criminalized “hooliganism.” The crime was in the eye of the beholder, and because it was impossible for dissidents to know in advance whether they were violating this prohibition, they were always subject to arrest and imprisonment. Fortunately, the United States has legal safeguards against Soviet-style social controls, not least of which is the judicial branch’s ability to nullify laws so vague that they violate the right to due process. Yet far too many federal laws continue to leave citizens unsure about the line between legal and illegal conduct, punishing incorrect guesses with imprisonment. Entire lives can in fact change based on the attention of a creative federal prosecutor interpreting vague criminal laws.
Budget & TaxationBy Michael K. Wohlgenant, American Enterprise InstitutePaper, 07/14/2011
The US sugar industry receives enormous government support and protection from foreign competition. This paper examines the economic effects of these policies and proposes a dramatic reversal of course. It finds that the sugar program costs US consumers about $2.4 billion per year, which translates into a family of four paying about $40 per year in higher food costs. Furthermore, the paper finds that the sugar program’s cost has created the high-fructose cornsyrup industry. Not surprisingly, during this time the rate of obesity started to skyrocket. Given its damaging effects, both on the consumers’ wallet and health, the sugar program should be repealed.
Budget & TaxationBy Joseph V. Balagtas, American Enterprise InstitutePaper, 07/14/2011
The federal government has created an array of policies—production controls, subsidies, and marketing orders—that increase the price of milk for US consumers and increase the income of milk producers. This paper examines the economic and budgetary impact of these programs and offers policy alternatives. It finds that milk marketing orders, which are laws that set minimum prices for milk and prohibit milk export between regions of the U.S., cost consumers $420 million per year and raise dairy farm income by $293 million. Additionally, the paper reveals that not only do milk subsidy programs cost the taxpayers $1.3 billion per year, but that they actually hurt large, efficient dairy farmers and limit innovation. Given their detrimental effects, these programs should be repealed.
Economic GrowthBy Philip G. Pardey, Julian M. Alston, American Enterprise InstitutePaper, 07/14/2011
This paper examines the benefits of increased agricultural research and development (R&D) spending. US public investment in agricultural R&D has proved successful, with benefit-cost ratios around 20:1, but the growth in federal R&D spending has essentially remained stagnant. A failure to increase publicly funded agricultural R&D will likely have long-term consequences for the sustainability of US agriculture in a competitive global environment and for the natural resources on which it depends. Effective investments in agricultural R&D lead to innovations on farms that, in turn, enable reduced costs of production for American farmers, allowing a more abundant supply of farm commodities to be produced at a lower cost and sold at a lower price. The poorest households particularly benefit from lower food prices because they spend the largest shares of their income on food.
Budget & TaxationBy Myles Watts, Anton Bekkerman, American Enterprise InstitutePaper, 07/14/2011
This paper examines the structure and cost of the federal government’s primary program to support farmers who lose crops from natural disasters, the Supplemental Revenue Assistance (SURE) program. Unfortunately, the SURE program is the budgetary and economic-efficiency elephant in the disaster aid policy room. This paper finds that: Farmers who do not suffer from “disasters” are actually eligible for disaster aid, given that the definition of “disaster” is so loose that virtually any drop in crop production triggers aid; additionally, the SURE program costs taxpayers billions of dollars, nearly five times what it was estimated to cost when approved by Congress; and that, ideally, Congress should repeal the program entirely.
Budget & TaxationBy Vincent H. Smith, American Enterprise InstitutePaper, 07/14/2011
This paper examines the federally subsidized crop insurance program. Under this program, the federal government subsidizes about 60 percent of the premiums farmers pay for private insurance to protect them against financial losses due to drops in the value of their crops. The paper’s main findings include that: Crop insurance subsidies are now the single largest farm subsidy program, it is the insurance companies that are the real winners from crop subsidies, and that this program could actually be repealed without much harm to farmers; they could in fact protect themselves against financial losses by making greater use of modern financial techniques, such as forward selling, puts, options, and derivatives.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Tomislav Vukina, American Enterprise InstitutePaper, 07/14/2011
The federal government spends over $5 billion annually on nine separate programs that take farmland out of production or pay farmers to use their land in a more environmentally sensitive manner. This paper examines these programs and makes recommendations on how they can be run more effectively and efficiently through reforming Title II of the Farm Bill. Such recommendations include having the existing land-retirement and working-land programs be combined into one program. Merging them will reduce bureaucracy and encourage farmers to make cost-effective decisions about how to maximize the environmental benefits from their land. Furthermore, this new program should rely on a multicriteria auction; requiring farmers to bid for a contract to meet multiple environmental goals allows taxpayers to get environmental benefits for the lowest possible cost.
International Trade/FinanceBy Tim Josling, American Enterprise InstitutePaper, 07/14/2011
The trade title of the Farm Bill deals with some matters of trade policy but is limited to unilateral actions such as food aid and export credits. This paper examines how to make trade policy and domestic farm policy more coherent. It recommends that the US lend strong support to the ratification of the bilateral trade agreements with Korea, Columbia, and Panama. US agriculture, in fact, clearly stands to gain, and holding out for further concessions risks losing the chance to secure markets in those countries. Furthermore, trade policy and farm policy can be more coherent by the US showing more support for the Doha Round in 2011. Support can be shown by being more realistic about the “exchange rates” between additional market access in developing country markets and constraints on domestic support, and also between market access gains in agricultural and nonagricultural markets and services.
Economic GrowthBy Daniel A. Sumner, American Enterprise InstitutePaper, 07/14/2011
For many decades, the United States has subsidized farm commodities and farm inputs, maintained trade barriers, and generally involved government in the management of agricultural production, marketing, and trade. Many of those adversely affected by current US trade and domestic agricultural policies are among the poorest on the planet. This paper reviews major US agricultural policies and summarizes their most important aspects. Its findings include: US agricultural policies distort world market prices and thus hurt farmers in the developing world; agricultural import regulations limit access to US food and agriculture markets; and that food aid policies are expensive, wasteful, and outdated.
Budget & TaxationBy Christopher R. Knittel, American Enterprise InstitutePaper, 07/13/2011
Policies to promote biofuels are extensive. The political rhetoric justifying them typically takes one of three forms: supporting farmer wealth, reducing our dependence on foreign oil, and reducing greenhouse gases. To meet these objectives, policymakers have historically relied on biofuel subsidies. This paper examines whether current policies are cost-effective at meeting either of the three goals, with some of the conclusions being: Policymakers should rely on policies that do not distort market prices, such as lumpsum transfers to farmers, if the goal is to increase farmer wealth; and secondly, tariffs on foreign low-greenhouse gas biofuels, such as Brazilian ethanol, should be abandoned, if the goal is reduce our dependence on foreign oil or reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Budget & TaxationBy Joshua Elliott-Traficante, Josiah Bartlett Center for Public PolicyPolicy, 07/13/2011
The growing unfunded liability, pegged at the end of last fiscal year at $3.7 billion, has been the driving force behind pension reform in New Hampshire. This shortfall is not just a result of poor investment returns from the recent recession, rather it is systemic. Every year, for the past ten years, the dollar value of the unfunded liability has increased. This policy study identifies what the unfunded liability is, and takes a basic look at how the New Hampshire Retirement System functions on a financial basis.
Budget & TaxationBy The North Dakota Policy Council, North Dakota Policy CouncilAnalysis, 07/13/2011
The North Dakota Legislative Review is a comprehensive look at how state legislators voted during the 2011 legislative session. This analysis tracks twenty-four bills during the legislative session that ranged from nullifying the new federal health care law to tax increment financing reform. Unfortunately for conservatives, all of their reforms were overshadowed by the dramatic increase in the size and scope of state government.
Budget & TaxationBy Philip Booth, et al., Institute of Economic AffairsBook, 07/13/2011
Spending, taxation, and more government spending discourages economic activity and prevents innovation and competition. the welfare state should be completely reformed to provide income supplements through a negative income tax with household tax allowances. Government spending has not reduced the poverty level.
Budget & TaxationBy Bruce A. Babcock, American Enterprise InstitutePaper, 07/13/2011
The United States spends over $5 billion per year supporting the farm sector through Farm Bill programs, most of which are inefficient. For a farm program to be efficient, it should not induce farmers to change their production decisions (allocation test), should be targeted at farm financial stress (farm safety-net test), and should not duplicate what the private sector can provide (private-market provision test). This paper uses these three criteria to determine the efficiency of Title I farm programs. Some of the conclusions include: Direct payments do not create a financial safety net and should be eliminated; countercyclical payments duplicate what the private market provides and should be eliminated; and marketing loans can influence farmers’ planting decisions and should be eliminated or replaced.
Budget & TaxationBy Barry K. Goodwin, American Enterprise InstitutePaper, 07/13/2011
A professed desire to “help” the family farmer is common in our society, from “farm aid” events to New York Times editorials, congressional rhetoric, and PBS documentaries. The fact is that, in many respects, the conventional wisdom so often expressed in discussions about the plight of the US farmer is incorrect. This paper shines light on the fact a large share of agricultural subsidies goes to a small segment of society that tends to be wealthier, less financially leveraged, and of higher income than the nonagricultural sectors of the aggregate economy. Moreover, farmers do not generally face more risk than business owners in other sectors, nor do farms fail more often than other forms of business.
Budget & TaxationBy Barry K. Goodwin, Vincent H. Smith, Daniel A. Sumner, American Enterprise InstitutePaper, 07/13/2011
The 2012 Farm Bill will be hotly debated over the next year of Congress as lawmakers look to cut waste from the federal budget. This paper reviews the implications of some important basic facts and analyses as guidance for the 2012 Farm Bill; its focus is on programs that provide subsidies and revenues to farmers, while recognizing that food, food safety, and nutrition programs involve substantial policy and resource issues and, especially in the case of nutrition, extensive federal outlays. The most important conclusion is that, overall, farm program subsidies could be eliminated, or at least reduced from current levels by about $8 to $10 billion, without affecting the US food supply or the financial viability of US agriculture.
Economic GrowthBy Derek Scissors, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 07/13/2011
China’s economy has been weakening. It is no surprise: Frantic spending in response to the global crisis brought gigantic amounts of waste and distorted resource allocation. This is being manifested in debt, price pressures, and slowing growth. For the first time in perhaps a decade, China’s economic model may appear to be unappetizing. The People’s Republic of China has to strain harder to reach the same speed of growth, and the burden is proving difficult to bear. As a result, the U.S. has a policy opening. American initiatives in promoting open markets, both bilaterally and multilaterally, will fall on more receptive ears than at any time since 2006. This presumes, of course, that the U.S. is willing to rely on markets at home.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Ali Alfoneh, American Enterprise InstituteMiddle Eastern Outlook, 07/13/2011
On May 18, President Barack Obama imposed sanctions against Major General Qassem Suleimani, chief of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. Suleimani is identified as “the conduit for Iranian material support” to the Syrian General Intelligence Directorate. To counter Suleimani and the Quds Force, U.S. strategists need to understand his history of overconfident behavior and military successes. This Outlook analyzes open-source Persian-language materials to help provide insight into Suleimani’s leadership style, his military career, and his recent ideological rhetoric in support of exporting the Iranian revolution. A survey of the literature reveals that Suleimani is a man who became a successful general without much formal training. Though a shrewd tactical leader, Suleimani is not a strategist.
Health CareBy Henry I. Miller, Hoover InstitutionDefining Ideas, 07/13/2011
At a time of high-profile budget-cutting, the Obama administration continues to squander federal resources on social engineering projects. Under the “Community Transformation Grants” program, recipients—local government agencies and non-profits—are required to use “evidence-based strategies” to improve health in their communities; this presumptive improved health will result in saving billions of dollars in health care costs. However, “evidence based strategies” are conspicuously absent from most of these administered social engineering programs. On the contrary, what evidence there is reveals that some programs do not work. For others, there simply isn’t any evidence to indicate that they are effective because the interventions have not been studied, making these at best extremely expensive experiments.
EducationBy Andrew P. Kelly, American Enterprise InstituteSpecial Report, 07/13/2011
In the aftermath of President Barack Obama’s education-heavy State of the Union address in February 2011, one savvy education policy observer declared that we are on the verge of a new “Washington consensus.” Beneath this cheery consensus, however, a serious fissure remains over what role, if any, private, for-profit organizations should play in providing education. This report argues that while the current debate about for-profits in education reflects basic philosophical differences between liberals and conservatives, there are important nuances that are critical to understanding politics and policy. A closer look reveals that even policymakers and citizens who are skeptical of for-profits in education are not opposed to for-profit involvement across the board, but are quite supportive of for-profits acting in particular roles.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy David John, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 07/13/2011
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac—the government-sponsored mortgage giants—must be shut down. Both entities distort the market by issuing mortgage-backed securities with subsidized government guarantees that the mortgages will be repaid. If such guarantees are necessary, they should be priced and issued by the private sector, not by the state. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac must be closed down completely and permanently. Heritage Foundation expert on financial institutions David C. John details specific steps to achieve this shutdown carefully and methodically without further upsetting the delicate housing market—and without making the situation worse.
EducationBy John Hendrickson, Public Interest InstituteInstitute Brief, 07/12/2011
The crisis in civic education has escalated nationwide and many students—at all levels of education, as well as the general population—demonstrate ignorance in understanding American history, government, and Western Civilization. Without a clear understanding of American principles and the history of our nation we will not be able to solve the policy problems that confront the nation today. Civic education is necessary for a moral and virtuous republic as well as for implementing sound public policies. This Institute Brief discusses the importance of civic education, insisting that in order to confront the policy challenges of today, citizens must have an understanding of our heritage.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Daren Bakst, John Locke FoundationPolicy Report, 07/12/2011
North Carolina used to decide who was worthy of reproducing and who would be denied this natural and fundamental right. From 1929 to at least the 1970s, the state was involved in eugenics and forcibly sterilized individuals from across the state. This dark chapter in the state’s history should not be forgotten. It is not a remnant from the distant past but something that is recent and still haunts the state today. There are an estimated 2,944 living victims from this atrocity. This report provides background on North Carolina’s eugenics program and makes the case as to why the victims should be compensated for the horrible wrong that was done to them in the name of the greater good.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy Charles Stimson, Maya Noronha, The Heritage FoundationLegal Memorandum, 07/12/2011
Just before Christmas 2009, 11-year-old Sarah Haley Foxwell was brutally raped and murdered by a convicted high-risk sex offender, Thomas J. Leggs. Although Leggs was classified as a high-risk offender in Delaware, because of inconsistencies in sex offender classification between states, Maryland identified Leggs as “compliant.” Congress passed the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) in 2006 to provide minimum registration and notification standards for all jurisdictions. Yet, for several years, jurisdictions have made flimsy excuses—often the product of misinformation—for not implementing SORNA. The time for excuses is past. Not only are the reasons for delaying implementation of SORNA invalid, but the dangers of allowing this nation’s sex offender laws to remain so inconsistent are extraordinary.
Health CareBy Hadley Heath, Independent Women's ForumPolicy Focus, 07/12/2011
Medicare spending increased quickly during recent decades and will soar as 78 million baby boomers retire. Even though the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) cut about $491 billion from Medicare, spending on the program is still expected to double by 2050. To combat Medicare’s rising costs, ObamaCare created a new government entity called the IPAB: The Independent Payment Advisory Board. This 15-member board of presidential appointees is charged with reducing federal spending on Medicare so Medicare’s growth rate matches a lower, target rate each year. To carry out this duty, IPAB will make decisions about Medicare payment policy that will impact access to health care for millions of seniors. Since end-of-life care is typically the most expensive kind of health care, these restrictions will weigh most heavily on the oldest and sickest.
Budget & TaxationBy Stephen Lisauskas, Pioneer Institute for Public Policy ResearchWhite Paper, 07/12/2011
Cities and towns across Massachusetts are struggling to manage budgets in the midst of a recession, local aid cuts, and ever-growing employee benefit liabilities. As a result, many municipal managers are starting to take a closer look at cost-saving measures such as outsourcing, but they simply don’t know where to begin. This report can help steer them in the right direction, as it details the types of services most commonly outsourced across 22 Massachusetts communities, the benefits and challenges many communities face, and key recommendations for successful implementation. From grounds maintenance and solid waste disposal, to financial management and processing workers’ compensation claims, outsourcing can help deliver higher quality services at savings of over 75%; such savings would be welcome relief to the Bay State’s taxpayers.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Andrew Grossman, The Heritage FoundationLegal Memorandum, 07/12/2011
A clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides, “The validity of the public debt of the United States…shall not be questioned.” Far from authorizing the President to incur more debt—a power vested solely in Congress—this clause bars Congress from repudiating debt that it has already incurred. Whether a default would amount to repudiation is an open question, but one that need not be answered at a time when tax revenues are sufficient to service current debt. Not only is the debt limit consistent with the Constitution’s separation of powers, but there is a colorable argument that it, or something like it, is constitutionally mandated.
Budget & TaxationBy e-21, e21: Economic Policies for the 21st CenturyCommentary, 07/11/2011
The Obama Administration has insisted that revenue increases must be a part of a “debt-ceiling” compromise that cuts spending. Leaders in the House and many Senators refuse to support any increase in revenues that result in new and higher marginal tax rates. Reducing “tax expenditures”, therefore, appears to be the only mechanism able to satisfy both sides; it offers a way to generate additional revenue while leaving effective marginal tax rates unchanged. But the problem is that no one is sure what a tax expenditure really is. Everyone seems to agree that it is spending that takes place through the tax code through exclusions, deductions, and credits that are tantamount to government outlays. Unfortunately, this general definition does not square with the fact that the one area where actual spending through the tax code occurs is not classified as a tax expenditure.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Dean Cheng, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 07/11/2011
The expansion of the People’s Liberation Army Navy is in many ways a logical and even forgone conclusion. China is the world’s second-largest economy; its heavy dependence on trade inevitably makes the seas of growing importance to national well-being. Yet as China’s maritime ambitions continue to expand, the U.S. is faced with a challenging task: recognizing Chinese interests without acceding to Chinese demands. How America meets this challenge will determine the future of the Asia–Pacific region and whether America’s maritime dominance will continue through the next century. It is ultimately in America’s interest to pursue a consistent policy of maritime strength—a policy that reminds China that while the United States can afford to be a friendly maritime power, America will also be an undefeatable maritime opponent.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Jonathan Macey, Hoover InstitutionDefining Ideas, 07/11/2011
Bills such as Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank are just a few in a long list of oppressive regulations, regulatory burdens, and litigation risk imposed gradually on firms that go public in America. But the regulations and litigation impose costs without offering much, if anything, in the way of less corporate crime or better corporate governance. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is the body that oversees and enforces these regulations, and it is now a vocal part of the problem. The SEC is failing in its mission to protect capital markets. Instead, they are succeeding in undermining their competitiveness, and less competitive markets represent a profound threat to the competitiveness of the broader domestic economy.
EducationBy Terry Stoops, John Locke FoundationSpotlight, 07/11/2011
According to this study by the John Locke Foundation, no standards that state and school districts traditionally use to identify high quality teachers has had a significant effect on their performance. Unfortunately, state licensure policies use the same criteria to determine who can and who cannot teach at virtual schools—a type of instruction that allows qualified instructors to deliver lectures, content, and assessments using internet-based communication tools. Teacher-certification requirements are among the most onerous rules enforced by state education agencies and have the potential seriously to limit the scope, quality, and accessibility of virtual schooling for years to come. This study provides a set of seven policy suggestions that are more open to online education. Some of the suggestions include eliminating traditional certification, a licensure processing fee waiver and minimal paperwork.
Regulation & DeregulationBy William Ruger, Jason Sorens, Mercatus CenterMercatus on Policy, 07/11/2011
This report focuses specifically on the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and how it compares to other states in its fiscal, regulatory, economic, and personal freedom. While freer than many of its neighbors, Pennsylvania still ranks below the median American state on three of the four Mercatus Center’s measures of freedom. In order to become more free, the state should consider reforms such as: liberalizing home schooling by eliminating teacher qualifications and reducing burdensome testing, recordkeeping, and notification requirements; and also rolling back a host of minor taxes that are relatively high by national standards, such as utility, selective sales, and sin taxes.
EducationBy Deborah D. Thornton, Public Interest InstitutePolicy Study, 07/11/2011
Governor Terry Branstad is committed to improving Iowa’s education system. One of the reforms that Governor Branstad has proposed includes converting the statewide voluntary preschool program into a low-income focused voucher program. The program is anticipated to save over $40,000,000 per year, but is strongly opposed by the Iowa teachers’ union. On July 25-26 he will be holding the Iowa Education Summit. Hopefully, the Education Summit can start the process of truly ending the monopoly on government education and allowing parents to choose the best school for their children, whether it is private or public, religious or secular.
Regulation & DeregulationBy William Ruger, Jason Sorens, Mercatus CenterMercatus on Policy, 07/11/2011
This report focuses specifically on the Commonwealth of Virginia, examining how the state compares to other states in its fiscal, regulatory, economic, and personal freedom. Overall, Virginia has much of which to be proud of; the state’s tax burden, government spending, and debt are all well below national averages. However, Virginia could benefit from improving some of its fiscal policies and its policies affecting personal freedom, which include: revising asset-forfeiture laws to make it more difficult for government to seize assets; reducing the number of state and local government employees to levels consistent with the state’s low levels of spending and taxation; and reducing the spirits tax to be consistent with regional and national norms.
ImmigrationBy David North, Center for Immigration StudiesMemorandum, 07/11/2011
When the general public thinks about illegal aliens, it does so in terms of deportation, on one hand, and a “path to citizenship” on the other, and very little about government actions that fall between those two extremes. But in reality there are numerous existing quasi-amnesties for subsets of aliens. This report focuses on four of them: Permanent Resident Under Color of Law, Temporary Protected Status, Employment Authorization Documents, and Qualified Alien. These creeping, partial amnesties indirectly encourage additional migration, including illegal migration. They grant benefits to some aliens who should be benefit-free, such as those facing deportation. As a group, these quasi-amnesties deserve more attention from Congress and from scholars.
International Trade/FinanceBy Bryan Riley, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 07/11/2011
Debates about trade and tariffs are a recurring element in U.S. history, and each time they have been resolved in favor of more freedom, Americans have enjoyed long periods of greater prosperity. Legislators should keep this history in mind and advance pending trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea without delay or extraneous conditions. The economies of Colombia, Panama, and South Korea are as large as the combined economies of New Jersey, Arizona, and Massachusetts. Approving pending free trade agreements with no strings attached would boost U.S. GDP by billions of dollars and add a positive chapter to the country’s trade history. Failure to approve them would be a costly missed opportunity.
Birthright Citizenship for Children of Foreign Diplomats? Limiting Language in the 14th Amendment’s Citizenship Clause Has No Practical EffectBy Jon Feere, Center for Immigration StudiesBackgrounder, 07/11/2011
The intended scope of the 14th Amendment’s Citizenship Clause has been hotly debated in the context of children born to illegal immigrants. Amid this debate, however, there is one area of solid agreement among advocates on all sides of the debate: In the least, children born to foreign diplomats are not “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States and are therefore not to be granted U.S. citizenship. But even that low standard is not being met. A lack of direction from Congress has resulted in children born to foreign diplomats on U.S. soil receiving U.S. birth certificates and Social Security numbers—effectively becoming U.S. citizens—despite the limiting language within the Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment.
Budget & TaxationBy Maryland Public Policy Institute, Maryland Public Policy InstituteMaryland Policy Report, 07/11/2011
This paper examines the primary taxpayer subsidies for the initial phase of Baltimore City’s State Center, a project proposed to replace the current state facilities in mid-town Baltimore. Led by a public-private partnership, the project envisions a mixed-use complex containing state and private office space, retail and dining space, mixed-income housing, and a parking garage. Lost in the debate, however, is a careful accounting of the project’s potential cost to the public. Based on the publicly available information regarding the State Center project, this report estimates the total cost of taxpayer subsidies for Phase I amounts to $127 million. Estimates reveal the true cost of the project to taxpayers, a cost that will only increase with additional phases of the project.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Gerry Angevine, Miguel Cervantes, Fraser InstituteSurvey, 07/11/2011
This study reveals the ten least attractive and the ten most attractive jurisdictions for investment in upstream oil and gas exploration and production in various jurisdictions around the globe. This year North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand generally received the best rankings over all. Investors say that they turn away from jurisdictions when confronted with onerous fiscal regimes, political instability, land claims disputes, and corruption. Similarly, investors prefer to avoid jurisdictions with costly, time-consuming and uncertain regulations. Other things being equal, competitive tax and regulatory regimes can attract investment and thus generate substantial economic benefits.
National SecurityBy Patrick Keller, American Enterprise InstituteNational Security Outlook, 07/11/2011
In Europe, some of the most dangerous effects of the 2008 financial and economic crisis have not yet been fully understood. For almost three years, the focus has been on the financial sector, the job market, and the stability of the euro. This Outlook examines the effects of the economic crisis on European defenses, their respective budgets, and how they have responded to the challenges confronting them. Furthermore, it recommends measures in order for Europe to stay relevant in international affairs, including: having the EU produce reports regularly on military strategy, development, and procurement; making better use of best-practice models; and lastly, changing the debate from one that centers on money to one that centers on security.
Economic GrowthBy Diana Furchtgott-Roth, Irwin Stelzer, John Weicher, Hudson InstituteEconomic Review, 07/11/2011
This report illustrates how various demographics and industries fared economically in the month of June. Unfortunately, the job numbers could have hardly been worse. Not only did the unemployment rate rise to 9.2 percent, and the economy create only 18,000 jobs, but the percent of Americans choosing to participate in the labor force declined to 64.1 percent, the same level as in March, 1984. But one surprise is that some sectors of the workforce are doing better—those with the lowest and the highest skills. And women, whose unemployment rates did not decline, are also doing better than men. Their unemployment rate is 8 percent, compared with 9.1 percent for men.
Elections, Transparency, & AccountabilityBy Dina V. Krylova, Alexander Settles, Center for International Private EnterpriseArticle, 07/11/2011
Government procurement, once an opaque realm rarely discussed with much vigor in policy circles in Russia, is now the subject of sustained scrutiny; it has been costing Russia an estimated $35 billion annually. Since the 2008 financial crisis, procurement reform has been driven by a desire to increase the efficiency of public purchasing and to rein in public expenditures. This article delves into both the overall approach that Russia has taken toward procurement reform, as well as some of the technical nuances of the proposed reforms that are at the heart of the ongoing debate. In order for the new procurement regulations to be effective, they must increase transparency and accountability in government agencies’ acquisition of goods and services, and change the process for qualifying and selecting suppliers.
Elections, Transparency, & AccountabilityBy Aleksandr Shkolnikov, Center for International Private EnterpriseArticle, 07/11/2011
There is a real danger that the search for a benevolent dictator may become a development mantra in many countries. The rise in interest of having a strong leader, often with unchecked power, rather than a democratic government is partly driven by the continued rapid economic growth of Asian countries among the stagnation of economies in Western Europe and the United States. However, it is democratic governance that is essential for economic growth to be sustainable in the long term. Strong, robust democratic institutions—not strong leaders—are key necessities for prosperity.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Richard S. Williamson, American Enterprise InstituteThe American, 07/11/2011
On July 9th Southern Sudan became the world’s newest independent country. This is a considerable achievement for Sudan’s southern black Africans—long marginalized, victimized, and brutalized by the ruling Arab regime in Khartoum. Still, violence in Sudan is increasing, and the Obama Administration has not done enough to advance peace and a just outcome for the long-suffering southern Sudanese.The United States should be taking practical steps to increase the costs for north Sudan’s misbehavior, which include: increasing the menu of sanctions on senior members of the Khartoum regime and their families; and leading an international consortium to help the newly independent Southern Sudan develop education, good governance, and economic growth.
Economic GrowthBy Rea Hederman, James Sherk, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 07/11/2011
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today that the June unemployment rate stands at 9.2 percent and that the economy created only 18,000 jobs last month. This is the second straight month in which job creation has been essentially flat. Job creation as reported by the payroll survey in the second quarter of 2011 was 101,000 as compared to 165,000 in the first quarter. Labor market recovery once again has not happened this summer. Bad public policy choices are among the many factors that explain the worsening labor situation, and these choices continue to hamstring the economy. Policymakers should not agree to a debt limit deal by focusing on tax increases instead of fundamental changes in the welfare state.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy The Heritage Foundation , The Heritage FoundationFact Sheet, 07/11/2011
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) established a comprehensive legal regime for navigation and international management of oceanic resources, including the deep seabed. Shortly after it was adopted years ago in 1982, President Reagan refused to sign it, and to this day the U.S. has little to gain if it were to join, which include that: UNCLOS is another international bureaucracy that’s insulated from accountability; provisions would require the U.S. to redistribute royalties to corrupt and despotic regimes; and the U.S. would be forced to engage in mandatory dispute resolution for any claim brought against it by another member of UNCLOS, regardless of how superficial or misleading that claim may be.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy The Heritage Foundation, The Heritage FoundationFact Sheet, 07/11/2011
The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) seeks to outlaw explosive tests of nuclear weapons, and vital national security interests would be jeopardized if the U.S. were to ratify it. Specifically, the U.S.’ nuclear deterrent would be undermined since a testing prohibition in the treaty would prevent the U.S. from taking the necessary steps to modernize its nuclear arsenal. Furthermore, ratifying CTBT ignores the new security environment and assumes that there will never be any circumstance in which the United States would need to assign new missions to its nuclear weapons, or develop new capabilities. Fortunately, the U.S. Senate rejected the CTBT in 1999 by a vote of 51–48. It now needs to return the treaty to the executive branch, which would effectively terminate any further consideration of the treaty by the Senate.
EducationBy Nate Johnson, American Enterprise InstituteWorking Paper, 07/11/2011
With the costs of college rising, policymakers and institutional leaders have struggled to cut spending while improving student-success rates. Author Nate Johnson—a former executive director of higher education—provides a step-by-step guide to different approaches for calculating costs, highlights the tremendous variability in cost across programs within institutions, and documents some of the “hidden costs” of higher education. Rather than cut budgets across the board, as many cash-strapped schools have done, officials should make budget decisions based on clear and reliable data that prioritize performance and productivity.