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Recent Policy Studies
Health CareBy Chuck Donovan, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 08/02/2011
The Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) new preventive services guidelines are a disaster for freedom of conscience and a fresh illustration of the political hammerlock “reproductive rights” organizations have on the Obama Administration. Forcing private insurance plans to pay for morally controversial offerings such as contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients raises obvious questions regarding freedom of conscience. Federal law requires respect for the conscience of health care providers on many of these issues. Unfortunately, the new HHS guidelines show disrespect for freedom of conscience.
LaborBy Patrick J. Reilly, Capital Research CenterLabor Watch, 08/02/2011
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has been in the news recently for siding with Washington machinists’ union members who are angry with Boeing for locating some of its airline production in South Carolina. Less well known – though no less important – is the Board’s push to help unions replace the millions of members they’ve lost in recent decades at the expense of religious freedom. Example: In violation of the First Amendment’s free exercise clause, the NLRB has repeatedly ignored or distorted rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court and a federal appeals court against interfering with religious education. Twice this year, the Board has judged that two Catholic colleges are not sufficiently religious and therefore must submit to its broad authority over labor relations.
Elections, Transparency, & AccountabilityBy Fred Lucas, Capital Research CenterFoundation Watch, 08/02/2011
The George Soros-funded Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) enjoys making lofty pronouncements about its nonpartisan status, but it still attacks Republicans more than Democrats. The left-leaning group also has some odd ideas about public disclosure laws. This report gives an overview of CREW’s board of directors and their record of political contributions should dispel the idea that CREW is a nonpartisan organization purely dedicated to good government.
Economic GrowthBy E.J. McMahon, Robert Scardamalia, Empire Center for New York State PolicyResearch Bulletin, 08/02/2011
New York lost a net 1.6 million residents to other states between 2000 and 2010, according to 2010 Census data. The domestic migration outflow, coupled with a slowdown in foreign immigration, ensured that New York’s share of the nation’s population continued to slide in the first decade of the 21st century. This paper traces the ebb and flow of migration trends to and from New York in the past 50 years. To fill in the gaps in the historical statewide data, it relies on a combination of decennial census records, annual population estimates and state vital statistics dating back to 1960.
EducationBy Larry Sand, Manhattan InstituteCity Journal, 08/02/2011
Teachers like smaller classes, and understandably so. The advantages include fewer papers to grade, students to manage, and parents to deal with. The teachers’ unions like smaller classes, too. Smaller classes mean more teachers—and more union dues. And parents like smaller classes because they believe that their children benefit from more individual attention. Everyone agrees that smaller classes are better, right? In a word: no. Much of the rhetoric supporting small classes is demagogic and runs afoul of the research. For many, the possibility that reducing class sizes may have negative effects on student achievement might at first seem counterintuitive. Considering the fiscal straits in which California finds itself, continuing to insist on smaller classes is foolhardy.
Regulation & DeregulationBy Gregory Conko, Competitive Enterprise InstituteStudies, 08/02/2011
Doctors and their patients both reap tremendous benefits from off-label prescribing; a practice where a physician is able to prescribe a drug or medical device that has been approved by the FDA for a different condition. Unfortunately, FDA’s ban on manufacturer promotion of off-label uses compromises the ability of doctors to learn about important treatment options that can help their patients. And although courts recognize that the government has an interest in protecting public health, the ban on off-label promotion silences the very speakers who have accumulated the most information about the risks, benefits, and various on- and off-label uses of their products. Given the recognized value of open discourse on scientific and health matters, it is far from clear that the blanket restrictions on off-label promotion actually advance the government’s broader interest in promoting public health.
Budget & TaxationBy Josh Barro, Manhattan InstituteCivic Report, 08/02/2011
In light of budget deficits and the need to identify ways to reduce spending in states across the U.S., increasing public discussion has focused on health-care costs for public employees. Much of that discussion has focused on the relatively low share of insurance premiums paid by government workers, when compared with their private-sector counterparts. Although this is a real phenomenon, it is not the only, or even the most important, reason for high health-insurance costs. This report explores the reasons that government-employee benefits cost more, and it makes concrete recommendations for how costs can be brought into line with those of the private sector.
National SecurityBy Kim R. Holmes, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 08/02/2011
The deep cuts in defense spending envisioned in the just-announced debt ceiling deal raise a fundamental question for Americans: Will we let a deal stand that promises to end American security as we know it? Or will Americans demand that the deal, born of crisis-driven politics in Washington, be abandoned as they come to understand what is at stake? If Congress does not enact a sufficient deficit-reduction plan by this December, the deal calls for an automatic sequestration that would authorize making half of the cuts only in security spending, with the bulk coming out of the Department of Defense. As if that were not enough, there are no automatic cuts in entitlement benefits. We will have to sacrifice the future security of all Americans without actually getting at the cause of the debt crisis—namely, runaway spending on Social Security and the other big social entitlements.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Andrew M. Grossman, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 08/01/2011
The U.S. economy won a temporary reprieve with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) announcement last week that new ozone standards, which had been slated for this summer, will be delayed. The EPA’s “reconsideration” of the ozone standards it set in 2008 and issuance of more stringent standards violate all three of the fundamental values EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson pledged to honor: “science-based policies and programs, adherence to the rule of law, and overwhelming transparency.” This enormously expensive regulation is unsupported by scientific evidence, violates the Clean Air Act , and appears timed to evade ongoing judicial review of the rulemaking process. Congress should make the EPA’s temporary postponement of its new ozone standards a permanent one.
Elections, Transparency, & AccountabilityBy Steven Greenhut, Manhattan InstituteCity Journal, 08/01/2011
A series of bills pending in California’s state legislature would severely curtail the use of voters’ initiatives and referenda. Advocates for reform make some valid points about the problems with the initiative process; it’s certainly the case that legislators and special interests have found ways over the years to abuse it. But those flaws notwithstanding, the current proposals for reform should disturb anyone who wants to keep a check on the legislature’s excesses. The clear goal of the current reform efforts, championed by unions and liberal Democratic politicians, is to remove power from the people—who often vote for such crazy things as tax cuts, immigration reform, and tough-on-crime measures—and shift it back to California’s elected officials. Constraining the initiative process would mean, for example, constraining voters’ power to reform pensions or impose a hard cap on state spending.
EducationBy Heather Mac Donald, Manhattan InstituteCity Journal, 08/01/2011
California’s budget crisis has reduced the University of California to near-penury, claim its spokesmen. “Our campuses and the UC Office of the President already have cut to the bone,” the university system’s vice president for budget and capital resources warned earlier this month. Well, not exactly to the bone. Even as UC campuses jettison entire degree programs and lose prestigious faculty to competing universities, one fiefdom has remained virtually sacrosanct: the diversity machine. Not only have diversity sinecures been protected from budget cuts, their numbers are actually growing. The University of California at San Diego, for example, is creating a new full-time “vice chancellor for equity, diversity, and inclusion.”
Economic and Political ThoughtBy Andrew Stark, Hoover InstitutionPolicy Review, 08/01/2011
American conservatism, where both domestic and foreign policy is a camp, is divided against itself. In domestic affairs, the intramural conservative conflict pits libertarians (or “economic conservatives”) against traditionalists (a.k.a. “social” or “religious” conservatives). Warnings of a conservative crack-up in either foreign or domestic policy have of course long been sounded, and conservatives themselves frankly acknowledge and debate. Is there, perhaps, an intellectual connection between conservatism’s two tensions, the libertarian/social-conservative conflict in domestic affairs, and the neoconservative/realist divide in foreign policy? And if so, does such a connection actually point to a deeper coherence within contemporary American conservatism.
Elections, Transparency, & AccountabilityBy John J. Pitney Jr. , Manhattan InstituteCity Journal, 08/01/2011
Earlier this month, California’s legislature passed Assembly Bill 459, which would adopt the National Popular Vote compact. Under this scheme, the state’s Electoral College slate would go to the presidential candidate with the most popular votes nationwide, whether or not that candidate won California. The compact would take effect only after it gained approval from states with a combined 270 electoral votes, the minimum necessary to elect a president. So far, seven states and the District of Columbia have joined the compact, for a total of 77 electoral votes. Governor Jerry Brown’s signature would add California’s 55. But it’s a terrible idea. If the national popular vote decided the presidency, the losing side in a tight race would challenge election results everywhere it could, even in states where the margin was large.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Leif Eckholm, Hoover InstitutionPolicy Review, 08/01/2011
Given the current conditions of political and military fatigue, a U.S. invasion of Iran seems unlikely. However, the Iranian regime’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and its fierce anti-Americanism create the imperative to consider a future where diplomatic and economic coercion is exhausted, and no options remain other than military action. Should a war become necessary, lessons learned during the Coalition occupation of Iraq can be instructional for conjecture on a post-invasion Iran. The similarities are many: repressive leadership, a brutal security apparatus, and a society in search of opportunity, social mobility, and political inclusion. Ethnicity and sectarianism play key roles both in public and in private life. These key similarities and distinctions between government, society, and security in Iraq and Iran, in light of Iraq’s immediate pre- and post-war environment, can illuminate the major challenges of shaping the peace in a post-war Iran.
EducationBy Caitlin Hartsell, Show-Me InstituteCase Study, 08/01/2011
In recent years, federal, state, and local governments have spent increasing amounts of taxpayer money on Missouri’s public schools. Analysis of Missouri spending and test data, however, finds no relationship between increases in per-pupil expenditures and increases in student achievement. For students whose educational choices are limited by certain factors, a new approach is necessary to give them the benefits of educational competition and course diversity. Research has shown that virtual education can be at least as effective as a traditional classroom education, if not more effective. Furthermore, virtual education could allow students in all corners of the state the opportunity to take classes currently unavailable in all but the largest school districts. Virtual education also addresses the needs of many students who struggle with the traditional classroom experience.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Peter Berkowitz, Hoover InstitutionPolicy Review, 08/01/2011
On May 31, 2010, in defense of a naval blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip, Israel seized control of the Mavi Marmara in international waters, detained the passengers, and towed the ship to the Israeli port city of Ashdod. The international outcry in response to Israel’s raid was immediate. The focus was on the accusation that Israel had acted unlawfully. Many nations promptly condemned Israel and some presumed its guilt that day. Even the UN Security Council indicated that there was sufficient evidence to be concerned that serious breaches of international law had occurred. But, these accusers twist well-settled concepts, distort basic categories, overlook or obscure crucial facts, misread critical cases, and ignore fundamental legal principles. International law of war is clear: Fighting forces that operate among civilians remain legitimate military targets, and fighters who use civilian areas and structures for military purposes cause them to lose their immunity.
EducationBy Mississippi Center for Public Policy, Mississippi Center for Public PolicyReport, 08/01/2011
How well is Mississippi educating its children? An evaluation by the Mississippi Center for Public Policy reveals a dire need to change the way the state provides public education. The politically popular methods for increasing the quality of schools are these: provide more money, hire more teachers, pay higher salaries, and implement programs to educate children at a younger age. This report, which evaluates the changes in education expenditures and test scores over the last 30 years, shows that those politically popular sentiments provide sub-par results. If competition in education were allowed, schools would have to do as other service providers do: attract and keep clients by constantly improving their services and showing real results.
Budget & TaxationBy Bruce Yandle, Jody Lipford, Mercatus CenterWorking Paper, 08/01/2011
As public concern over rising U.S. budget deficits and debt mounts, policymakers propose numerous explanations and policy changes. One explanation dates back to political theorists John C. Calhoun and James Madison, who wondered about the consequences for the republic if the citizenry became divided into classes of taxpayers and tax beneficiaries or spenders. This paper argues that the Sixteenth Amendment, which established the income tax, nullified the prior constitutional restraint on the size of government and enabled one group of citizens to vote themselves benefits at the expense of another. Furthermore, a rising percentage of citizens pay few or no federal taxes, so that a smaller share of the citizenry increasingly bears the tax burden. That being said, this paper also illustrates that when the tax-price of government services is zero, more will always be demanded.
Elections, Transparency, & AccountabilityBy Andrew G. Biggs, et al., Taxpayers Protection AllianceIssue Brief, 08/01/2011
Citizens across the country are struggling to make ends meet. They are frustrated with the failure of their elected representatives in Congress to address pressing national problems to make things better for all Americans. Compounding their frustration is the fact that members of Congress receive pay and benefits far in excess of what average working Americans receive. In addition to a salary of $174,000 per year, members of Congress receive more generous fringe benefits than typical American employees. In fact, congressional compensation including benefits totals around $285,000 per year. Immediate steps need to be taken to cut Congressional salaries and benefits and reassure Americans that sacrifices made during this economic downturn are being widely shared.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Todd J. Zywicki, Ilya Somin, Federalist SocietyEngage, 08/01/2011
The 17th Amendment, ratified in 1913, replaced the election of U.S. senators by state legislators with the current system of direct election by the people. In this article, Professors Todd Zywicki and Ilya Somin of George Mason University School of Law debate whether repealing the 17th Amendment would restore the principles of federalism to the constitutional system by increasing state power, or whether repeal would have little if any effect on the respective powers of the federal government and the states.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Kevin Dowd, et al., Cato InstitutePolicy Analysis, 08/01/2011
The Basel regime is an international system of capital adequacy regulation designed to strengthen banks’ financial health and the safety and soundness of the financial system as a whole. This paper provides a reassessment of the Basel regime while focusing on its most ambitious feature: the principle of “risk-based regulation.” The Basel system suffers from three fundamental weaknesses: First, financial risk modeling provides the flimsiest basis for any system of regulatory capital requirements. The second weakness consists of the incentives it creates for regulatory arbitrage, and the third weakness is regulatory capture. The Basel system provides a textbook example of the dangers of regulatory empire building and regulatory capture, and the underlying problem it addresses—how to strengthen the banking system—can only be solved by restoring appropriate incentives for those involved.
Budget & TaxationBy Vincent R. Reinhart, American Enterprise InstituteThe American, 08/01/2011
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner presumably will go to great lengths to avoid missing a payment of interest or principal on the debt. But, to honor that constitutional precedent, he may have to break (or, more charitably, to interpret generously) some laws. For example, even if the U.S. Treasury cannot borrow from markets or the Fed, it controls two entities that can. The government sponsored housing enterprises, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, are under conservatorship. They could lend to the Treasury or use their large balance sheets to hold illiquid government assets in a swap for much-needed liquidity for the Treasury. Such an option, and many more that government lawyers can gin up, are unpalatable, set bad precedent, and probably break a few laws. By opting for one of them, the Treasury secretary opens himself up to a hostile Congress for censure or impeachment.
Economic and Political ThoughtBy James V. Delong, American Enterprise InstituteThe American, 08/01/2011
A basic moral and political dilemma, which is at the core of not only the healthcare issue but of other dilemmas of public policy, is the extent to which our reluctance to let people bear the consequences of their acts justifies and indeed requires ever-expanding and intrusive government control. The more sensitive we become, the more we are empowered to intervene in people’s choices, not really to help them but to prevent ourselves from being offended. Because the overall level of national compassion is rising like a thousand-year flood, the result is a relentless upward ratchet in the imperative of control.
Health CareBy William J. Dennis Jr, National Federation of Independent BusinessReport, 07/29/2011
There is a steady decline in the numbers of small businesses offering employee health insurance as they continue to absorb hefty insurance premium increases. Right now, 42 percent of small employers offer employee health insurance. In the last 12 months, 1 percent of offering small employers added health insurance as an employee benefit while 4 percent of non-offering employers dropped it. Not surprisingly, ObamaCare’s heavy-handed regulations on small businesses will only further limit their ability to provide care to employees. Some reports expect that 30 percent of employers will soon find it in their economic interest to drop their health insurance, despite paying a penalty.
National SecurityBy Anna Moore, Adam Smith InstituteArticle, 07/29/2011
Are Private Military Contractors (PMCs) the villains of modern warfare? In this extended piece, Anna Moore argues that PMCs can play a vital – and valuable – role in making armies more flexible and streamlined, if properly used by governments. As in so many areas, private contractors can give states better results in key areas of public goods – if governments can avoid the oversight failures that have blighted PMCs’ operations so far and strive for competition and transparency.
Family, Culture & CommunityBy Thomas Messner, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 07/29/2011
Proponents of religious freedom have firmly established that same-sex marriage threatens religious freedom in a number of ways. In response, some have argued that certain threats to religious freedom discussed in this context have more to do with nondiscrimination laws than with the legal status of same-sex marriage. This argument reflects certain realities. Conflicts between same-sex marriage and religious freedom will often involve some type of previously adopted nondiscrimination law or policy, and nondiscrimination laws can impose burdens on religious freedom even in jurisdictions that do not legally recognize homosexual unions as marriages. But neither point diminishes the threat that same-sex marriage poses to religious freedom. Same-sex marriage is likely to trigger a number of conflicts between nondiscrimination laws and religious freedom that otherwise would not exist, and threats to religious freedom are no less troubling because they involve nondiscrimination laws and same-sex marriage, not just same-sex marriage.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Tim Ambler, Adam Smith InstituteBriefing Paper, 07/29/2011
The British financial crash of 2008 was mainly caused by British banks, while the Bank of England, regulators and the government looked the other way. The crisis prompted a review of banking regulation, and the new rules, known as Basel III, were signed off by the 27 leading banking countries in September 2010. The rules are to be phased in between 2013 and 2019. This analysis of Basel III indicates that banks will not be adversely affected. However, small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) will be damaged. Unfortunately it is this SME sector that drives economic growth in most developed countries and especially the UK. With minimal impact on bottom lines elsewhere, the net effect of Basel III is likely to be negative for the British economy and perhaps even small businesses globally.
Regulation & Deregulation
Streets of Dreams: How Cities Can Create Economic Opportunity by Knocking Down Protectionist Barriers to Street VendingBy Erin Norman, et al., Institute for JusticeResearch Study, 07/29/2011
Street vending is, and always has been, a part of the American economy and a fixture of urban life. Thanks to low start-up costs, the trade has offered countless entrepreneurs opportunities for self-sufficiency and upward mobility. Unfortunately, complicated webs of regulations in cities nationwide tie up would-be vendors, making it needlessly difficult or even impossible to set up shop in many cities. This report examines five common types of vending regulations in the 50 largest U.S. cities. The arguments for such protectionist regulations—”unfair” competition, health and safety risks and increased sidewalk congestion—fail to stand up to scrutiny. Instead of supporting economic protectionism, cities can and should encourage vibrant vending cultures by drafting clear, simple and modern rules that are narrowly tailored to address real health and safety issues.
Budget & TaxationBy David S. Logan, Tax FoundationFiscal Facts, 07/29/2011
There have been recent press accounts about the taxes paid by large corporations. These stories have reignited an ongoing debate over the different ways in which a company’s profits and tax liability are presented to shareholders on financial statements and what is reported to the IRS on a company’s tax return. But it is entirely reasonable that there be considerable differences between book and tax accounting. After all, corporate accounting standards are typically set by the independent Financial Accounting Standards Board, while the Internal Revenue Code is a product of the political process between Congress and the While House.
EducationBy Melissa Junge, Sheara Krvaric, American Enterprise InstituteEducation Outlook, 07/29/2011
While the federal government spends billions of dollars every year on federal education programs, federal policymakers and education advocates often lament that these programs do not achieve their intended results—specifically, increasing student academic achievement. To address this problem, policymakers and advocates typically debate the merits and drawbacks of broad federal education policies and various educational approaches, without examining the underlying federal compliance framework that directly impacts whether and how these policies can be carried out by states and school districts. Reforming little-known and little-understood federal compliance rules could lead to far better educational outcomes than broad changes in federal policy alone. Addressing these rules will improve conditions so schools and school districts can successfully implement programs that will raise student achievement.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & Science
A Scientific Reply to Specific Claims and Statements in EPA'S Proposed NESHAP Rule, Focusing on Mercury Emission IssuesBy Willie Soon, Science and Public Policy InstituteResearch, 07/29/2011
For months, the Environmental Protection Agency has actively promoted much more stringent controls for mercury and other emissions from electricity generating facilities. The new rules are based on an EPA study which suggests that coal-fired power plants are a major source of mercury in America’s atmosphere, streams, lakes and ocean waters potentially cost companies billions of dollars. Dr. Willie Soon—a natural scientist—finds that the EPA failed to describe the scientific reality of natural processes and multi-factorial controls that govern the cycling of mercury. The study raises serious questions about the EPA’s claims regarding the other pollutants covered by this proposed rulemaking, and the alleged health benefits of regulating them more stringently than they already are.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Amy Zegart, Hoover InstitutionDefining Ideas, 07/29/2011
Ten years after 9/11, the least reformed part of America’s intelligence system is not the Central Intelligence Agency or the Federal Bureau of Investigation, but the United States Congress. Two institutional weaknesses are paramount: rules, procedures, and practices that have hindered the development of legislative expertise in intelligence; and committee jurisdictions and policies that have fragmented Congress’s budgetary power over executive branch intelligence agencies. These two weaknesses did not arise by accident. They were self-inflicted. In both areas, electoral incentives and internal congressional turf battles have led Congress to limit its own oversight capabilities even when the problems are well known and the national security stakes are high.
ImmigrationBy Jason Richwine, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 07/29/2011
The House Judiciary Committee recently approved H.R. 704, a bill that would abolish a provision of U.S. immigration law called the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, or “diversity lottery” for short. The diversity lottery has been an unwise policy since its inception in 1986. It does not bolster the skills of the American workforce, nor does it reunite families or serve any humanitarian function. Its only purpose is to increase ethnic and cultural heterogeneity in the U.S.—a dubious goal that weakens the social ties within communities. Ending the diversity lottery would be a welcome reform.
EducationBy Herbert J. Walberg, Center on Innovation and ImprovementReport, 07/28/2011
Forty-six states and many municipalities face financial deficits that total more than $130 billion. The deficits are likely to continue threatening and diminishing school spending. In an era of financial stringency and demands for better school performance, it is useful to think about ways to increase learning effectiveness without increasing costs, reducing costs without diminishing effectiveness, or best of all, increasing effectiveness while simultaneously reducing costs. This report summarizes research on ways to significantly increase learning productivity while simultaneously reducing spending by schools, districts, and states. It is intended for officials in schools, districts, and states in the U.S. as well as concerned citizens and taxpayers and researchers in school reform and state finances.
Elections, Transparency, & AccountabilityBy Andrew Norton, Centre for Independent StudiesPolicy Monographs, 07/28/2011
The rules of Australian politics are in the process of being rewritten. New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland have imposed radical new restrictions on political campaign donations and expenditure, with even more to come in NSW. The stated goals of campaign finance reform are to restrict the ‘undue influence’ of private money on political and policy outcomes, and to prevent the loud voices of wealthy organizations and individuals drowning out other views. But the actual effects of campaign finance reform are to protect those in power from criticism and accountability, and make political activity so complex and bureaucratic that it poses significant risks for ordinary citizens. Australia should preserve a liberal democratic system of open political competition.
National SecurityBy James Jay Carafano, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 07/28/2011
Last Friday, tragedy struck Oslo, Norway, as homegrown terrorist Anders Behring Breivik detonated a car bomb in the heart of the city and then traveled to a nearby island and opened fire on a youth camp. In a mere 90 minutes, one gunman took the lives of 76 people, many of them only teenagers. Details of the attack and the response continue to unfold. This incident is a stark reminder that armed assaults have become the new Improvised Explosive Device (also used in the Oslo attacks), the latest innovation in spreading terror. There is no excuse not to prepare now for this kind of threat. Protecting the nation against potential attacks requires the capabilities to halt attacks before they occur. It is unrealistic to expect that the United States can thwart every attack every time; however, an “all-hazards” approach to security and effective counterterrorism, intelligence, and information-sharing programs offer the best defense.
Budget & TaxationBy Dean Stansel, Anthony Randazzo, Reason FoundationPolicy Study, 07/28/2011
The deduction of mortgage interest from federal income taxes subsidizes homeownership, thus making it more affordable to become a homeowner. It is a highly popular tax break. But despite its popularity among voters, the mortgage interest deduction has long been a target for elimination. In order to understand the potential impact of closing this loophole, this study examines specifically who benefits from the mortgage interest deduction and how much they benefit. It also provides an estimate of how much tax rates could be reduced if the deduction were eliminated but revenues were held constant as well as a discussion of other possible changes to the mortgage interest deduction.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Paul Chesser, Mark Newgent, Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy AlternativesPolicy Brief, 07/28/2011
The development and growth of the Marcellus Shale natural gas industry is a major boom for Pennsylvania’s economy. The industry has directly and indirectly created tens of thousands of new jobs, with tens of thousands more to come if natural gas is allowed to continue in a safe and responsible manner; paid out billions in royalty and lease payment to landowners; and contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to state and local government tax coffers. Yet the development of this economic opportunity has become extremely controversial, with many politicians and advocates calling for new taxes and fees on gas drillers and even an outright ban on all drilling in the commonwealth. This policy brief identifies some of the top foes or obstructionists of an industry that has brought tens of thousands of jobs to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Budget & TaxationBy Liv Finne, Washington Policy CenterPolicy Note, 07/28/2011
One of the main news items reported at the end of this year’s legislative session in Olympia was that lawmakers had sharply cut K-12 education funding. Education was “cut,” however, only in relation to future spending. Not surprisingly, one of the greatest cost drivers in education is the collective bargaining process between the local teachers’ union and the school district. This report describes how secret collective bargaining negotiations and mandatory union dues divert education funding from public schools. The amount of money that is directed to union accounts from select school districts across the state is taken from the Form 990 that union executives file each year with the IRS.
EducationBy Lance T. Izumi, Vicki Alger, Rio Grande FoundationPaper, 07/28/2011
Expanding virtual learning opportunities is a critically important step toward transforming the delivery of education throughout New Mexico. Promoting a diverse online learning landscape is an especially important public policy concern given the many advantages of virtual education, including greater efficiency along with improved student achievement and graduation rates. Yet the expansion of some online learning opportunities in New Mexico looks bleak. It will be important for policy makers to monitor this state of affairs to ensure high-quality full time, multi-district online schools and virtual charter schools are not being denied an opportunity to serve students who would benefit from these virtual learning opportunities. State policymakers should also draw from five of the most promising practices from other states including: Fund for Success, Implement Expansive Enrollment Policies, Eliminate Rigid Teacher Certification Mandates, Remove Anachronistic Mandates, and Protect Parents’ Rights as Educators.
ImmigrationBy James Jay Carafano, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 07/27/2011
Recently, Senator Robert Menendez (D–NJ) introduced the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2011, which would grant legal permanent residence status to the nearly 11 million illegal immigrants present in the U.S. Additionally, the bill’s language also fully incorporates the DREAM Act and the AgJobs Act, providing two further avenues to amnesty for illegal immigrants within the U.S. The strategy for addressing the issue of unlawful presence in the U.S. embodied in this legislation has been rejected repeatedly by both the Congress and the American people. It would do little to solve the problem. In fact, it would do the opposite. The legislation’s triple amnesty offer would encourage further illegal border crossing, unlawful presence, and undermine efforts to establish respect for the rule of law, institute meaningful reforms, and help get employers the employees they need when they need them to help the U.S. economy grow and prosper.
Regulation & DeregulationBy David R. Henderson, Hoover InstitutionDefining Ideas, 07/27/2011
When it comes to the key pharmaceutical issue of off-label drug use, it’s clear the federal government is confused. One arm of the government actively denounces off-label drug use, going so far as to turn the promotion of off-label use by drug companies into a crime, while other arms of the government actively promote it. The implications of the suppression of off-label promotion are scary, not just for drug company shareholders and executives, but also for patients. Americans are suffering real, and sometimes catastrophic, harms as a result of the FDA’s single-minded policy on off-label promotion.
Economic GrowthBy Arnold Kling, Nick Schulz, American Enterprise InstituteThe American, 07/27/2011
It is increasingly clear that Keynesian stimulus has failed to get the economy where it needs to be. So what exactly needs to be done in a post-stimulus world? Interestingly, the fields of education and healthcare hold the greatest potential for job creation. Imagine what might happen, for example, if government involvement in education were restricted to giving school vouchers to households below the median income. Entrepreneurs would be free to actually redesign education completely. However, entrepreneurs today are stifled by the top-down model through which government approaches these sectors. To revitalize these sectors and revive the American job market, policymakers must open up these industries to competition and entrepreneurial reform.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Sebastian Gorka, Foundation for Defense of DemocraciesTestimony, 07/27/2011
This past June, Dr. Sebastian Gorka of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies testified before the House Armed Services Committee on the evolution of the terrorist threat since 9/11. In his testimony, Dr. Gorka states that America still does not fully understand the nature of the enemy. He insists that even after the last ten years fighting the War on Terror, the US continues to fail to understand the enemy’s Threat Doctrine. By encouraging an atmosphere within government that is devoid of politically motivated sensitivities, the US will be able produce a comprehensive understanding of the enemy Threat Doctrine that is Global Jihadism.
Budget & TaxationBy Richard A. Epstein, Hoover InstitutionDefining Ideas, 07/27/2011
The negotiations over raising the U.S. debt limit have centered on tax policy. If Congress could settle on a flat tax policy it will benefit everyone. A flat tax is more rigorous since it taxes everything from the first to the last dollar at the same rate. That rate is chosen politically, and it should be set to bring revenues and expenditures into balance. A progressive tax, like the one we have now, is far harder to administer than any flat tax. It depends on the person who earns the income and the year in which that income is received. Given the taxing difference between high and low brackets, high net-worth taxpayers have strong incentives to shift their taxable income to their low income relatives, artificial tax entities, into low income periods, or all three.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Nicolas Loris, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 07/27/2011
Are Americans energy dependent? Yes—dependent on government energy subsidies. In 2007, American taxpayers subsidized government-preferred energy sources to the tune of nearly $17 billion. Increasingly, it is politicians in Washington who decide how Americans produce and consume energy. But subsidies for special interests stifle competition, raise energy prices, and decrease economic opportunities. It is time for Washington to eliminate all government subsidies and special policy treatments that benefit certain industries at the expense of others. Energy companies should rely on innovation and efficiency, not American taxpayers, to thrive in a system of free enterprise.
Health CareBy Stuart Butler, The Heritage FoundationCenter for Policy Innovation Lecture, 07/27/2011
Imagine that the 2010 health reform legislation goes into effect as planned. If the skeptics are correct and it fails to control long-term federal health spending, what could a future Congress do to modify it? There are three approaches. Congress could (1) clamp down harder on prices and payments in a probably fruitless effort, (2) sharply expand the powers of the Independent Payment Advisory Board to ratchet back payments to providers of limited care, or (3) set a real and capped budget for federal health spending. If it took the third course, Congress would be faced with another choice: how to distribute the budget. Should it allocate funds to health care providers, as in Canada or the United Kingdom, which is the essence of rationing, or provide funds to households for them to decide how the funds will be spent?