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Recent Policy Studies
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Brett Schaefer, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 09/13/2011
Negotiations to sell or otherwise transfer the Robert Moses Playground property in New York City to the United Nations for the construction of a second tower have proceeded quickly over the summer, and a final deal appears to be imminent. Regrettably, these negotiations have not included robust congressional consultation even though the associated costs of the project for the U.S. federal government, which pays 22 percent of the U.N. regular budget, would likely be significant. The Administration and Congress should immediately announce their interest in this issue and request detailed information about the project. Congress should also prohibit the use of any federal funds to support this project until relevant information is provided to the appropriate committees.
Health CareBy James C. Capretta, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 09/13/2011
Rapidly rising Medicare spending is a major cause of the federal government’s budget problems. Proposals to reform Medicare and slow its spending fall into one of two categories: more government micromanagement or empowerment of health care consumers in a functioning marketplace. Those who promote top-down spending controls optimistically assume that federal regulators can accomplish now something that has eluded Medicare’s administrators for more than 40 years. In contrast, the market-based approach to reform would harness the power of financial incentives to encourage health care consumers to choose the best, most efficient means of getting services and would reward providers for finding ways to deliver more for less.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy David Muhlhausen, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 09/13/2011
Government should not provide a public good when the private sector offers identical services with a similar—or as is often the case, greater—level of competence. Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grants are being used to displace the services of private bond agents. Given the nation’s dire financial straits, an even better idea would be for Congress to eliminate funding for the Byrne JAG program altogether.
Health CareBy James C. Capretta, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 09/13/2011
Over the past several years, one small corner of America’s vast entitlement superstructure—the Medicare drug benefit—has been working well, satisfying program participants, and holding cost growth to a bare minimum. This is unheard of in the entitlement arena, where cost overruns are the norm. Naturally, encountering that kind of success, some politicians—especially those who had nothing to do with making sure it was properly designed—now want to change it. The drug benefit was enacted in 2003 amid controversy. It was an expensive new add-on to the Medicare program that increased the government’s already immense unfunded liabilities. Yet, despite the added costs, the drug benefit also broke significant new ground in its design and policy.
Budget & TaxationBy Charles Blahous, e21: Economic Policies for the 21st CenturyAnalysis, 09/08/2011
The recent history of bipartisan negotiations has much to tell us about which tactical approaches might maximize the committee’s chances of success. In particular, we should not anticipate a bipartisan accord on tax policy in the absence of a binding commitment to a hard cap on total federal spending as a percentage of GDP. The recent successful example of bipartisan fiscal negotiations is the Simpson-Bowles commission: 11 of 18 members of that commission voted for an ambitious package of fiscal reforms dealing with politically vexatious issues from fundamental tax reform to Social Security reform. On the unsuccessful side is the recent budget negotiation between the White House and Congress – unsuccessful at least in producing a fiscal “grand bargain.” These discussions did ultimately resolve the debt ceiling standoff, but they failed to produce agreement on fiscal corrections anywhere near the magnitude of the Simpson-Bowles commission.
Budget & TaxationBy James Capretta, e21: Economic Policies for the 21st CenturyAnalysis, 09/08/2011
Some Republican super committee members may feel pressure to accept such a deal to avoid the automatic cuts in the defense budget scheduled to occur in January 2013. There’s no question that a deep reduction in the military’s spending authority in fiscal year 2013 – some estimates put the size of the cut in that year at about 10 percent using current spending projections and assumptions – would be completely irresponsible, especially in time of war, but that’s no reason for the GOP to acquiesce to a terrible deal on taxes and entitlements. If the super committee were to fail to reach an agreement, and the $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts were thus scheduled for implementation, there would still be ample time to undo the defense cuts in 2012 before they actually took effect. Moreover, a stalemate on the budget – and on health care – in the super committee would mean that the voters would get to have their say in 2012 before difficult-to-reverse decisions were made by Congress and the president. In the end, that’s probably the best way to settle a fight over what amounts to fundamentally different governing philosophies.
Budget & TaxationBy William McBride, Tax FoundationSpecial Report, 09/08/2011
A review of actual IRS corporate tax return data shows that while the largest corporations in America (those with assets larger than $2.5 billion) represent a tiny fraction of all corporations, they pay an overwhelming share of all federal corporate income taxes. And while the more sensational reports focus on the low effective tax rates paid by a few companies – at least according to their financial statements – the IRS data shows that the effective U.S. tax rate for all corporations averaged 26 percent between 1994 and 2008.
Transportation/InfrastructureBy Mike Ennis, Washington Policy CenterPolicy Brief, 09/08/2011
In November, voters will have a chance to consider Initiative 1125, known as the “Protect Gas Taxes and Toll Revenues Act – Protect the 18th Amendment to Washington’s Constitution.” I-1125 contains eight provisions that would affect how Washington officials collect and spend revenue from highway tolls. Voters will no doubt answer each of the eight questions in I-1125 differently and most will likely not agree with all eight provisions. Some voters may support protecting toll revenue for highway purposes, but disagree with limiting tolls to capital expenses. Other voters may even assign different weights to each of the questions, finding some provisions more important than others. WPC’s Citizens’ Guide to I-1125 is meant to help voters understand what is being asked and to offer some perspective on what each question means.
Budget & TaxationBy James Quintero, Samantha Soliz, Texas Public Policy FoundationPolicy Brief, 09/08/2011
In 1990, the entire budget for the state of Texas was $23 billion. This level of appropriations sup¬ported all of the major operations of government: administration, health, education, judicial services, legislative activities, and capital projects. Today, the major functions of state government remain largely the same, excluding some minor agency and program consolidations, name changes, and the addition of some new agencies and commissions. What has changed, however, is the cost to provide these goods and services. For the current fiscal year—FY 2012—Texas taxpayers will support $93.9 billion in total state spending, an increase of 308.7 percent since FY 1990.
Economic GrowthBy Saku Aura, Show-Me InstitutePolicy Study, 09/08/2011
The current Aerotropolis bill before the Missouri legislature would grant up to $300 million of subsidies for warehouse-space development and $60 million for freight forwarders who direct air cargo flights from Lambert. The solid economic case for a public-sector subsidy for Aerotropolis has not been made. None of the purported benefits of Aerotropolis seem hard to capture by the private sector.
Health CareBy John Biebelhausen, Amy Lischko, Pioneer Institute for Public Policy ResearchWhite Paper, 09/08/2011
Rather than serve as a quid pro quo for physicians, medical liability reform should bring stakeholders together to generate a more fulfilling tort system. Such a system must ensure patients’ rightful compensation for negligent injury while providing assurances to physicians that allow for practice in a medically sound fashion without the need for excessive care. Unfortunately, the current health care system does not reward transparency or address doctors’ fears of being drawn into long, inefficient litigation. Accordingly, the time for meaningful medical liability reform in Massachusetts is now.
Nine Key Changes at the Bargaining Table: A Policy Handbook for Colorado School Board Reform LeadersBy Benjamin DeGrow, Independence InstituteReport, 09/08/2011
Of Colorado’s 178 school districts, 41 have a formal bargaining relationship with one or more employee unions. Because Colorado has no defined public-sector labor law, the greatest opportunity to reform restrictive policies and interest group privileges comes at the local school board level. Recent bargaining reforms in other states show the fiscal benefits that may be realized from adopting this approach. The few high-quality academic studies of the question all show that restrictive bargaining policies have a negative impact on student learning. The dynamics of union negotiations make it more difficult for school board directors to effect positive change. Persistence and public support are important to achieving reforms through collective bargaining. Board directors are far more likely to succeed in ensuring concessions if they take direct involvement in the process.
The Constitution/Civil Liberties
To Protect and Maintain Individual Rights: A Citizen’s Guide to the Washington Constitution, Article IBy Jonathan Bechtle, Michael J. Reitz, Freedom FoundationBook, 09/08/2011
In To Protect and Maintain Individual Rights, Jonathan Bechtle and Michael Reitz provide a section by section analysis of the Washington Constitution’s Declaration of Rights. The authors review the state’s 1889 constitutional debates, contemporary accounts of the convention, and significant cases that have dealt with the rights guaranteed in the Washington Constitution. The book includes a foreword by Washington Supreme Court Justice Charles Johnson.
Budget & TaxationBy Andrew Biggs, Freedom FoundationReport, 09/08/2011
Current pension accounting rules significantly understate state pension plan liabilities and overstate their funding health. Using accurate accounting, Washington’s combined plans would face a $50.6 billion shortfall. At market value, Washington’s unfunded pension liability equals $20,141 per household. Economists Joshua Rauh of Northwestern and Robert Novy-Marx of Rochester estimate that Washington households would need to pay an extra $1,371 in annual taxes over the next 30 years to fully fund public employee pensions. Lawmakers have habitually missed contributions and increased benefits, putting the plans’ long-term financing at risk. If historical patterns of benefit expansions and underfunding were to continue, unfunded liabilities could grow even larger than reported here. A shift to defined contribution pensions would help address both issues. Defined contribution plans are not subject to the accounting distortions and political manipulation that plague defined benefit pensions.
Regulation & DeregulationBy Commonwealth Foundation, Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy AlternativesPolicy Points, 09/08/2011
The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) is the exclusive wholesaler and retailer of wine and spirits in the commonwealth. A current proposal would get the government out of the business of selling alcohol, allowing the state to concentrate on its enforcement role, permitting private stores to sell wine and liquor and allowing consumers to choose brands for themselves.
Family, Culture & Community
From Family Collapse to America’s Decline: The Educational, Economic, and Social Costs of Family FragmentationBy Mitch Pearlstein, Rowman & LittlefieldBook, 09/08/2011
Very high rates of family fragmentation in the United States are subtracting from what very large numbers of students are learning in school and forever holding them back in many other ways. This in turn is damaging the country economically by making us less primed for innovation while also making millions of Americans less competitive in an increasingly demanding worldwide marketplace. All of which is leading to deepening class divisions in a nation which has never viewed itself or operated in such splintered ways. What can be done to reverse these severely destructive trends, starting with reducing the enormous number of children forced to grow up with only one parent living under the same roof? What educational reforms are most likely to help under such demanding circumstances?
Budget & Taxation
Taxpayers on the Hook: Taxpayer Contribution Rates for Ohio Government Pensions Outpace National AveragesBy Adam Schwiebert, Buckeye Institute for Public Policy SolutionsReport, 09/08/2011
While Ohio has made recent progress in relieving the tax burden on its citizens, a key area of weakness remains: the cost of government worker retirements. As compared with the other 50 states, Ohio’s taxpayers contribute a significantly higher percentage toward government worker retirements than do taxpayers of the other states.
Budget & TaxationBy Laurence Kotlikoff, National Center for Policy AnalysisIssue Brief, 09/08/2011
Our country is in far worse fiscal shape than its $14 trillion—and rapidly growing—official debt suggests. Indeed, that figure measures just a small portion of the government’s total liabilities. It leaves out, for example, the obligation to pay hundreds of trillions of dollars in Social Security and Medicare benefits to today’s and tomorrow’s elderly. Why is that? If the unofficial obligations, such as Social Security and Medicare, are as real as the official ones, why are they not also called official debt?
Economic GrowthBy Bruce Yandle, Mercatus CenterReport, 09/08/2011
We have a structural unemployment problem that is linked to the great housing contraction, and only time and slow growth will deal with it. The result is seen in a growing number of job openings that are not being filled, even though the count of unemployed stands at a high level.
National SecurityBy Judith Miller, Manhattan InstituteCity Journal, 09/08/2011
Perhaps the greatest challenge to the NYPD’s efforts, however, is the way we think about terrorism. “Americans like to see conflicts as finite, with a beginning and an end,” says Jenkins. “But that will not be the case in the struggle against terrorism. This challenge adapts and morphs and is constantly evolving. It won’t end. It’s hard for any individual or government agency to accept that.” Even in New York.
EducationBy Marcus Winters, Manhattan InstituteCity Journal, 09/08/2011
Over the last two decades, we have learned two important lessons about public school teachers: teacher quality varies dramatically; and almost nothing we know about a teacher before he or she enters the classroom accurately predicts how successful that teacher will be. Now heavily documented through empirical research, these findings should point us toward a fundamental transformation of our system for evaluating public school teachers.
National SecurityBy John Rizzo, Hoover InstitutionDefining Ideas, 09/08/2011
In the decade that has passed since that ghastly sunny September morning, our country—and the CIA—has become a much different place. There are a number of lessons that the CIA learned in the course of that unprecedented period of our history. Regrettably, the lessons are mostly painful, as valuable lessons usually are.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Kori Schake, Hoover InstitutionDefining Ideas, 09/08/2011
If further proof of the State Department’s inadequacy were needed, it is that major swathes of activity that are civilian in nature continue to migrate to the military. The militarization of American foreign policy does not reflect an ambition by the military; it reflects the vacuum left by inadequate civilian power. Work needs doing, and the Department of State remains incapable of doing it. The most recent example would be governance issues in Afghanistan: small unit military leaders rather than diplomats are working to create local councils throughout the country, and the military command has just established a high-level anti-corruption task force—two activities that should have been carried out by civilians. But despite an embassy of over a thousand civilians in Kabul, those tasks remain in the hands of the military.
Health CareBy Richard Tren, et al., Africa Fighting MalariaPolicy Papers, 09/08/2011
The Affordable Medicines Facility for malaria is still in its early stages. The price of artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) has fallen in the private sector, and hence demand has probably increased considerably for these products. Yet our survey and the publicly available data show that it is already disrupting procurement for ACTs in the public sector and could potentially be severely undermining malaria treatment programs in several countries.
Budget & TaxationBy Alan D. Viard, Alex Brill, American Enterprise InstituteBook, 09/08/2011
Citizens rightfully bear the responsibility to contribute to the existence of just government through the rendering of taxes. Because tax policy is also a reflection of values, citizens in a democratic society should be concerned with how taxes are collected and spent. Using the fundamental concept of “excess burden” as their guide, in The Real Tax Burden: More Than Dollars and Cents, Alex Brill and Alan Viard illustrate how taxes work and their affect on such things as wages, savings, and economic growth. The authors describe past and present forms of taxation, discuss our current income and corporate tax policy, and critique various options for fundamental tax reform.
International Trade/FinanceBy Philip I. Levy, Claude Barfield, American Enterprise InstituteBook, 09/08/2011
The advancement of human civilization hinges on trade. As we swap our goods and our ideas with one another, we are propelled into ever-increasing prosperity. Historically, trade has required physical routes of connection between societies, but technological advances have ushered in a new epoch of globalization and granted us unprecedented access to one another. Do the basic principles of trade still apply in a world of such complexity? How do policies such as trade agreements and tariffs affect trade? What should we know about the “fair trade” and “buy local” movements? In Swap: How Trade Works, Philip I. Levy and Claude Barfield answer these and other questions, starting with the basics and providing a vision for trade that continues to enhance human flourishing.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Kenneth P. Green, American Enterprise InstituteBook, 09/08/2011
Human beings depend on energy. From burning wood to harnessing the atom, we have relied on the consumption of natural resources. As civilization grows and the demand for energy increases, we must ask ourselves how to best meet our energy needs while responsibly stewarding our resources. In Abundant Energy: The Fuel of Human Flourishing, Kenneth P. Green provides a brief history of our dependence on different sources of energy, explores the viability of both current and potential future sources, and offers a vision for the task of fueling human prosperity in the twenty-first century.
Retirement/Social SecurityBy Andrew G. Biggs, American Enterprise InstituteBook, 09/08/2011
In a time of record-setting deficits and concern over burgeoning debt, perhaps no single issue is more hotly debated than how to fix Social Security, a program long called the “third rail” of American politics because it killed the political career of anyone who touched it. But the immediacy of America’s fiscal problems presents an opportunity to reform and renew one of the largest expenditures in the federal budget. Fixing Social Security requires us to understand the purpose of the program, how it was designed to work, and why it is going broke. In Social Security: The Story of Its Past and a Vision for Its Future, Andrew G. Biggs retraces the history of Franklin Roosevelt’s plan to provide for retirees, explains why the current system is unsustainable, and offers a plan to pay back “legacy debt” and create a sound Social Security system for the future.
Family, Culture & CommunityBy Lawrence M. Mead, American Enterprise InstituteBook, 09/08/2011
How to help the poor is a question central to American life, rooted deeply in our nation’s Judeo-Christian heritage. We believe we possess enough wealth to provide a basic standard of living for all and genuinely desire to help the least among us. We are the most generous nation on earth, spending hundreds of billions of dollars annually through private giving, corporate philanthropy, government aid, and other forms of charity. Yet, despite these efforts, international and domestic poverty persist. In From Prophecy to Charity: How to Help the Poor, Lawrence M. Mead critiques the moral presuppositions of past and current endeavors to alleviate poverty and provides a framework for future efforts based on an approach proven to actually help those in need: charity rooted in love.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Jon Entine, American Enterprise InstituteThe American, 09/08/2011
In a sidestep around the science, activists are aggressively turning up the heat on legislators around the world. The latest uproar involves the presence of miniscule amounts of BPA on thermal paper receipts printed at supermarkets or ATMs, and on the money that comes in contact with them. The brouhaha has touched off a swirl of recent media coverage, much of it just plain wrong. This is a classic case of unintended consequences. Businesses that adopt an alternative are replacing an inexpensive, well-tested substance that has limited but identifiable risk (BPA) with a more expensive and untested chemical that has other, yet unidentified, health and environmental impacts. They are throwing the toxic dice in order to appear green and avoid controversy. This is not a scientific-based response to consumer safety concerns but short-term thinking—cynical tactics in reaction to simplistic advocacy campaigns buttressed by lemming reporters.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Matthew Jensen, American Enterprise InstituteThe American, 09/08/2011
European regulators succumbed to temptation and extended the short selling bans in a quixotic attempt to fix the markets. It was a grave mistake, and it is imperative that they do not retain these bans into perpetuity. The European economy is struggling, and their contagion is largely driving recent volatility in U.S. markets. Short-selling bans breed inefficiency and will exacerbate the problem. Markets across the world will suffer if these European countries continue to compound their mistakes before they begin to regret them.
Health CareBy Roger Bate, Richard Tren, American Enterprise InstituteThe American, 09/08/2011
Most of the financial support to fight malaria comes via the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, a UN-backed multi-billion dollar initiative funded largely by U.S. taxpayers. The Fund has been highly successful in getting life-saving medicines and other commodities into poor countries. However, the Fund has crept away from its core mission of funding commodities for the public sector and toward the more complex task of building health systems, which should be the purview of other, more competent organizations. The Fund is now throwing money at a speculative financing mechanism that amounts to an expensive experiment. By trying to do too much, the Fund has run into problems with stolen money and drugs.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Peter J. Wallison, American Enterprise InstituteFinancial Services Outlook, 09/08/2011
The 2008 financial crisis was caused by the mortgage meltdown. This scenario is known to scholars as a “common shock”—a sudden decline in the value of a widely held asset—which causes instability or insolvency among many financial institutions. In this light, the principal elements of Dodd-Frank turn out to be useless as a defense against a future crisis. Lehman’s bankruptcy shows that in the absence of a common shock that weakens all or most financial institutions, the bankruptcy of one or a few firms would not cause a crisis; on the other hand, given a similarly severe common shock in the future, subjecting a few financial institutions to the act’s orderly resolution process will not prevent a crisis. Moreover, the orderly resolution process in the act impairs the current insolvency system and will raise the cost of credit for all financial institutions.
Economic GrowthBy Rea Hederman Jr., James Sherk, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 09/08/2011
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in August, United States employers added no net new jobs, and the unemployment rate stayed the same at 9.1 percent. Overall, the private sector added 17,000 jobs, but that was totally offset by declines in public-sector employment. This troubling report also contains downward revisions to previous jobs estimates this year and declines in other measures of labor utilization, such as the number of hours worked. Everyone who cares about the future of this economy will spend some of their Labor Day weekend asking why it is that this great engine of prosperity has now apparently ground to a near standstill. The answer, however, is increasingly clear: New government regulations and massive growth of unproductive government programs have made it harder for the labor market to recover.
Economic GrowthBy J.D. Foster, Patrick Louis Knudsen, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 09/08/2011
The delay in releasing the Mid-Session Review may be due in part to the fact that the economy is slowing markedly, as the August report of zero net jobs created painfully attests. The MSR attempts to reflect this by taking the unusual step of producing a second, newer economic forecast. Though the budget figures presented are somewhat more encouraging than those released in the budget in February, this story is overshadowed and indeed tainted by the weakening economy. At this point, yet another recession is a distinct possibility, while an extended period of slow or no growth may be optimistic. The President’s policies that he began to roll out more than two years ago have failed.
Budget & TaxationBy Curtis Dubay, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 09/08/2011
Despite evidence to the contrary, President Obama and his supporters insist that a tax increase will not impede economic recovery. They claim that the Clinton tax hikes spurred the boom of the 1990s and that the subsequent Bush tax cuts hurt the economy. Members of Congress must reject this faulty notion—and reject the President’s call for burdening Americans with higher taxes and an even slower economy.
Economic GrowthBy J.D. Foster, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 09/08/2011
For the economy to create jobs, the President must restore confidence and reduce uncertainty emanating from Washington, pursuing a “do less harm” philosophy of economic recovery. The true pro-growth path President Obama should announce when he gives his big jobs speech requires him to choose job growth over ideology. It requires opting for smaller, less intrusive government over a philosophy that says government should seek to address every problem afflicting the economy and society.
National SecurityBy Sally McNamara, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 09/08/2011
The EU–U.S. passenger name record (PNR) agreement—implemented in the wake of 9/11—is an information-sharing program requiring that key pieces of data on travelers to the U.S. be provided to American authorities prior to their arrival in the U.S. The agreement has been a robust counterterrorism tool, and U.S. authorities used PNR data more than 3,000 times in 2008 and 2009 to thwart several high-profile terrorist plots. Despite the PNR’s proven record of success in frustrating terrorist plots in the U.S. and Europe, the European Parliament continues to challenge the EU–U.S. PNR deal on the basis of unfounded concerns about U.S. data protection standards.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Brett Schaefer, Morgan Roach, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 09/08/2011
News reports have revealed that the disbursement of Somali aid has fallen victim to massive fraud and theft. Some reports indicate that half—or possibly more—of the famine assistance going to Somalia has been diverted from the intended recipients. This situation was entirely predictable, as previous aid efforts had similarly been plagued. With millions in U.S. taxpayer dollars at risk, Congress should investigate why the U.S. failed to demand or the U.N. failed to implement appropriate safeguards and oversight for this aid, when experience clearly indicated that past controls proved inadequate.
Economic GrowthBy Patrick Louis Knudsen, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 09/08/2011
Defenders of Keynesian-style policies can offer highly sophisticated reasons about why they will work and elaborate rationalizations when they fail. In this respect, they often sound much like an astrologer trying to explain a string of faulty predictions. Nevertheless, the President’s huge and costly 2009 stimulus experiment may have one benefit: It has shown that this economic dogma and its specific elements do not work; they only increase spending and debt. This time, policymakers should abandon both. Regrettably, the President probably won’t.
National SecurityBy James Jay Carafano, Jessica Zuckerman, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 09/08/2011
In 2007, The Heritage Foundation became the first and only organization tracking thwarted terrorist attacks against the United States. That year, Heritage reported that at least 19 publicly known terrorist attacks against the United States had been foiled since 9/11. Today, that number stands at 40. The fact that the United States has not suffered a large-scale attack since 9/11 truly speaks to the country’s counterterrorism successes. However, simply applauding the achievement and taking only a forward-looking approach is not nearly enough to prevent the next attack. Reviewing the terrorist plots that have been foiled since 9/11 can provide valuable information for understanding the nature of the threat, as well as best practices for preventing the next attack.
WelfareBy James Sherk, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 09/08/2011
There is no such thing as a free lunch. Congress wants to help the unemployed, but extending the duration of unemployment insurance benefits slightly harms the economy. Raising benefits to 99 weeks has increased the unemployment rate by 0.5 to 1.5 percentage points. Extending unemployment benefits again will not stimulate the economy. The only sound arguments for extended unemployment benefits are humanitarian. If Congress decides that these humanitarian benefits outweigh the economic costs, then Congress should pay for this spending with cuts to less important programs.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Nicolas Loris, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 09/08/2011
Gas prices are above $3.60 per gallon nationally, the unemployment rate is hovering at 9 percent, and the country is $14 trillion in debt. Although it is not the be-all and end-all, there is a solution that would help lower energy prices, create jobs, and bring revenue into the financially strapped government: Increase access to America’s energy. Congress should require the government to provide a timely permitting process, as well as environmental and judicial review, and it should stop the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulatory train wreck by placing a freeze on new environmental regulations.
Budget & TaxationBy J.D. Foster, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 09/08/2011
The August jobs report showing exactly zero net job creation and an unemployment rate hovering above 9 percent have reinforced the imperative among Washington policymakers to focus on job creation policies in the waning months of 2011. The focus is certainly right, but most of the policies under consideration would produce the same results as President Obama’s jobs policies to date: no additional employment. No policies under consideration today offer a greater assurance of failure than the proposal to extend the existing payroll tax holiday—or to double down by extending that holiday to the so-called employer’s share of the tax.
Transportation/InfrastructureBy The Heritage Foundation, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 09/08/2011
Hurricane Irene and the East Coast earthquake put national attention once again on America’s disaster response system, especially the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). And once again, the problems that The Heritage Foundation has been pointing out for years—the federalization of routine disasters, FEMA’s funding issues, and the condition of capabilities at all levels of government—were exposed. The East Coast earthquake lasted a few seconds in Washington, D.C., and did little damage, yet the response to it was chaotic, uncoordinated, and over the top. In this case, the response itself created a disaster—a traffic and commuting disaster. With Hurricane Irene, the relative weakness of the hurricane as it approached land resulted in wind and rain, but nothing that was unpredictable. The weakness evident in Vermont’s capabilities and the relative powerlessness of FEMA to help much shows why the current fed-centric model needs to be abandoned.