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Recent Policy Studies
National SecurityBy Steven Groves, Theodore Bromund, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 12/16/2011
On November 25 the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) failed to reach an agreement on a new protocol to regulate cluster munitions. The U.S. had backed the new protocol but was defeated by a group of nations that have joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM). The U.S. should not seek to restart the CCW process by offering concessions of any sort, and it should under no circumstances join the CCM, which, military considerations aside, would only reward the nations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that conspired to scuttle the CCW process. Instead, it should calmly stay the course, and demonstrate by its actions that the advocates of the CCM have made a serious error by rejecting the U.S. initiative and that, if they do not adopt a more serious attitude, they will end up with treaties that are good for moral posturing but achieve little or nothing in practice.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Jessica Zuckerman, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 12/16/2011
On December 7, President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper released the “Beyond the Border Action Plan.” Following on a declaration issued by both nations’ leaders in February, the action plan lays out a joint vision to enhance security and accelerate the flow of people and goods between the two nations. By building on existing initiatives and working to foster perimeter-based security, the initiative seeks to enhance joint counterterrorism efforts and facilitate safe and efficient trade and travel. With the economies, societies, and infrastructure of the U.S. and Canada so closely intertwined, a threat to one nation is a threat to the other. The right approach to joint U.S.–Canada security serves to emphasize the two nations’ economic and diplomatic ties and ensure that North America remains free, safe, and prosperous.
Transportation/InfrastructureBy Matthew A. Turner, PERC – The Property and Environment Research CenterPERC Reports, 12/16/2011
First, road and public transit expansions shouldn’t be expected to reduce congestion. Second, traffic levels do not help to predict which cities build roads. Therefore, new roads allocated to metropolitan areas on the basis of current rules are probably not built where they are most needed, which suggests that more careful reviews of highway expansion projects be required. Third, reductions in travel time caused by an average highway expansion are not sufficient to justify the expense of such an expansion. Finally, the demand for vehicle miles traveled is very responsive to price. This suggests that small “time of day” congestion charges will have large impacts on travel behavior. That is, unlike expansion of road or public transit networks, which do not appear to reduce traffic, congestion pricing should be expected to do so.
PhilanthropyBy Martin Morse Wooster, Capital Research CenterFoundation Watch, 12/16/2011
Warren Buffett has a genius for making money but he has some very bad ideas about taxing people who know how to make money. Unfortunately President Obama is listening; having dubbed his tax on the rich and super-rich the “Buffet rule”. Buffet ought to be advocating policies that ensure the creation of more great fortunes instead of trying to punish the successful by calling for higher taxes on their wealth. A smaller government would be less likely to ask the rich for “shared sacrifice.” If he wants to restore America’s prosperity, it’s not too late for him to call for lower taxes and minimal government.
PhilanthropyBy Neil Maghami, Capital Research CenterOrganization Trends, 12/16/2011
In an age when attention spans are short, people like veteran Hollywood producer Robert Greenwald are successfully using online videos to market the Left’s message and build up the their power base using nonprofits funded by foundation grants. The goal of Brave New Films is not to produce an informative leftwing documentary but to do “virtual community organizing”; to comment and petition as an online militia.
Health CareBy Roger Stark, Washington Policy CenterPolicy Note, 12/15/2011
The government has imposed central planning on both the demand and the supply of our health care system, the third-party payment system has created ingrained market distortion and has caused an excessive demand in health care, and for years the government has controlled the number of medical schools, the number of graduates from these schools and their licensure. Supply and demand of health care can only be successfully determined by patients in an open market.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Anthony B. Sanders, Mercatus CenterTestimony, 12/15/2011
Testifying before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Anthony B. Sanders, Distinguished Professor of Real Estate Finance at George Mason University and Senior Scholar at Mercatus Center, said the Eurozone’s structural problems cannot be solved by low interest loans and guarantees from the Fed and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In fact, engaging in a bailout of the Eurozone could jeopardize U.S. taxpayers. The best way to protect U.S. taxpayers is to increase transparency at the Fed, take back the $100 billion line of credit at the IMF, and undertake spending cuts ourselves in order to reduce our deficit and massive debt loan.
Transportation/InfrastructureBy Baruch Feigenbaum, Reason FoundationPolicy Brief, 12/15/2011
Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) are an increasingly popular transportation procurement option that provides for an alternate method of designing, building, financing, operating and maintaining infrastructure projects. They have five major advantages in that they: deliver needed transportation infrastructure sooner; are able to raise large new sources of capital; shift risk from taxpayers to investors; provide a business-like approach, and enable innovation. PPPs may, but do not necessarily, include net new investments. They can be utilized in most types of projects and are most successful in states with strong enabling legislation.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & Science
How the IPCC Reports Mislead the Public, Exaggerate the Negative Impacts of Climate Change and Ignore the Benefits of Economic GrowthBy Indur M. Goklany, Julian Morris, Reason FoundationPolicy Study, 12/15/2011
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is inconsistent in the way they assess impacts. They systematically overestimate the negative impact of global warming, while underestimating the positive impact; ignoring any adaptations and new technologies the poor will logically have adopted if the IPCC’s prediction of a doubled GDP per capita by 2100, is correct. Human well-being in all countries including poorer ones is likely to be advanced most effectively by sustained economic development and least by emission reductions. This approach would not only address all of the current problems that might get worse in the future but would also enable humanity to address more effectively any other future problems it encounters, whether climate-related or otherwise.
Budget & Taxation
Hanging by a Thread: Big Payouts and Promises Leave Ohio Pension Plans on the Brink of Collapse—or a Massive BailoutBy Adam Schwiebert, Buckeye Institute for Public Policy SolutionsReport, 12/15/2011
Combined unfunded liabilities from Ohio’s five pension systems have reached over $66 billion in 2010.That is $5,725.82 owed by every Ohioan. A host of factors have brought Ohio’s pension plans to the brink of fiscal collapse: the growing numbers of retirees, increased retiree life expectancy, runaway increases in benefit levels, and weak investment returns. Ohio’s public-pension funds are failing both their retirees and the taxpayers who fund them. While kick-the-can-down-the-road reforms will serve as a stopgap measure, temporarily strengthening the pension funds for the short term, a lack of true comprehensive reform, namely, the introduction of a mandatory defined-contribution system, will nearly guarantee a future taxpayer bailout.
Transportation/InfrastructureBy Jennifer Dirmeyer, National Center for Policy AnalysisBrief Analysis, 12/15/2011
Regulations prevent many cities from competing with government buses or the limited number of taxi companies, by providing jitney transportation services which would be beneficial to low-income families in need of transportation. The following are reforms necessary to permit jitney operators to provide services: Eliminate prohibitions on group riding, eliminate regulations that prohibit commuter vans from picking up passengers without an appointment and from accepting street hails, and eliminate restrictions either on the number of jitneys per route or the number of jitney routes or the ability to deviate from a route. If regulations in these three areas were repealed, jitney markets would be ale to operate legally and would significantly improve the welfare of America’s poor.
Economic GrowthBy Joel Kotkin, Manhattan InstituteCity Journal, 12/15/2011
There has been a remarkable resurgence in American manufacturing but a shortage of skilled workers capable of running increasingly sophisticated, globally competitive factories. The shortage of industrial skills points to a wide gap between the American education system and the demands of the world economy. Many of the skills learned in college are now in oversupply. Shorter educational alternatives, such as vocational school, will become ever more important as industrial workers retire and could spell better times for a country in sore need of jobs.
Economic and Political ThoughtBy Steve Conover, American Enterprise InstituteThe American, 12/14/2011
The distinguishing characteristic of the enemy is not the level of income or wealth; rather, it is whether that income or wealth was earned. The true heroes in our economy are the producers and earners; they can be found all the way up and down the income ladder, and class warfare should defend and reward them instead of targeting them. Conversely, the proper targets are the class that includes cheaters, predators, pirates, and parasites—who can also be found at all income levels.
Economic GrowthBy Stephen Kirchner, Centre for Independent StudiesPolicy Monographs, 12/14/2011
Economists and policymakers need to change the way they think and talk about the role of population growth in driving economic growth by adopting the Minds perspective, which highlights the role of population growth and immigration in generating positive incentives for technological and productivity improvements; the main driver of economic growth and living standards in the long run. This perspective can be augmented by a more conventional ‘gains from trade’ argument for immigration that has also been neglected in contemporary debates. The permanent migration program should be allocated via competitive auction to minimise inefficient non-price competition for permanent migration rights and to enable government to better capture and redistribute the economic rents attached to these rights.
Information TechnologyBy Seth L. Cooper, Free State FoundationPerspectives from FSF Scholars, 12/14/2011
Transition from the earlier monopolistic analog communications world to the current competitive digital communications world calls for a pro-competitive policy that places primary emphasis on market forces to incentivize the provision of reliable and innovative services. But the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) rulemaking proposal to subject Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers and broadband Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to network outage reporting requirements is premised on a pro-regulatory approach ill-suited to the 21st Century technological and competitive marketplace. VoIP providers and broadband ISPs should continue to have the marketplace flexibility to pursue network management solutions to ensure network reliability. The outage reporting rules proposed by the FCC would saddle IP-based communications with a slate of costly and burdensome mandates that outweigh any claimed long-term benefits.
Economic and Political ThoughtBy Kim R. Holmes, The Heritage FoundationLecture, 12/14/2011
America shares many traits with other countries, but it also has characteristics that set it apart and give it a role to play and a national identity that no other country has. Most important are the founding ideas of classical liberalism, political democracy, and economic freedom. The battle of ideas going on in America today is not only ideological. It is historical. It is actually about the heart of the nation. It is about whether America will shed its distinction. And it ultimately is about whether America will give up what made it great in the first place.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Tim Congdon, Encounter BooksBook, 12/14/2011
What explains the economic crisis? What are the intellectual origins of the policy mistakes that led to the Great Recession? Which ideas on economic policy have proved right? And which have been wrong? Money in a Free Society contains eighteen provocative essays on these questions from Tim Congdon. Congdon argues that academic economists and policy-makers have betrayed the intellectual legacy of both John Maynard Keynes and Milton Friedman and calls for a return to stable money.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Institute for Energy Research, Institute for Energy ResearchReport, 12/14/2011
The amount of oil that is technically recoverable in the United States is more than 1.4 trillion barrels. There is an estimated 272.5 trillion cubic feet of proved reserves of natural gas in the United States alone and the total amount of natural gas that is recoverable in North America is approximately 4.2 quadrillion cubic feet; enough to last the United States for over 175 years at current rates of consumption. The United States, Canada, and Mexico have over 497 billion short tons of recoverable coal which could provide enough electricity for the United States for about 500 years at current levels of consumption. While the US and North America contain enormous energy wealth, US policies have increasingly made exploration, development, production and consumption of that energy more difficult. Therefore, a scarcity of good policies, not a scarcity of energy, is responsible for US energy insecurity.
EducationBy Ben Wildavsky, American Enterprise InstituteSpecial Report, 12/14/2011
For-profit higher education providers have systematically used innovative practices to give educational opportunities to previously underserved student populations. While there can be heavy pressure for fast growth and profits and an emphasis on enrolling students quickly, they have high motivation to respond quickly to the needs to students and employers in useful ways. They are flexible and quick to innovate. For-profits have a high comfort level with a standardized curriculum and very limited autonomy for instructors. For-profits will certainly need to work hard to prove their worth as they remain in the regulatory and media spotlight for the foreseeable future. But observations suggest that traditional colleges and universities will be badly mistaken if they assume that the travails of for-profits today mean that useful lessons cannot be drawn from their successes to date—and those likely to occur in the future.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy James Phillips, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 12/14/2011
The Obama Administration now seeks to dilute economic sanctions that Congress is considering against Iran. The proposed sanctions would penalize foreign financial institutions that do business with the Central Bank of Iran (CBI), which is a major financier of Iran’s nuclear, ballistic missile, and terrorism efforts. Sanctions can help fuel popular dissatisfaction with Iran’s dictatorship, and that eventually could lead to a change of regime. Such a change would be the best possible outcome not only for American counter-proliferation, counterterrorism, and human rights goals, but also for the Iranian people. Such international sanctions are unlikely without strong American leadership. Regrettably, the Administration’s lethargic approach means that it is not even “leading from behind” on Iran sanctions—but is in danger of being left behind.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy Paul Larkin, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 12/13/2011
Overcriminalization is likely to lead to a variety of problems for a public trying to comply with the law in good faith. While many of these issues have already been discussed, one problem created by the overcriminalization of American life has not been given the same prominence as others: the fact that overcriminalization is a cause for (and a symptom of) some of the collective action problems that beset Congress today. Indeed, Congress is unlikely to serve as a brake on new, unwarranted criminal laws, let alone to jettison broad readings of those laws by the courts. Therefore, the key to curbing overcriminalization is the American public: It is the people who, if made aware of the legislative issues that enable overcriminalization, could begin to head off such laws before the momentum for their passage becomes overwhelming.
Budget & TaxationBy Arthur P. Hall, Kansas Policy InstituteStudies, 12/13/2011
If revenues and all other spending keep pace with their recent averages, Kansas Public Employees Retirement System (KPERS) is funded at a presumed 6% rate of return instead of its presently assumed rate of 8% and ObamaCare, is not implemented, General Fund deficits will total $275 million between 2013 and 2023. If ObamaCare is implemented but KPERS funding remains based on an 8% rate of return, deficits will total $1.7 billion. With ObamaCare and a lower rate of return assumed for KPERS, deficits soar to $5.0 billion. Kansas needs a consistent set of pro-growth economic policies to contribute to improved economic growth and need to reform Medicaid and KPERS to keep the Kansas budget from driving over a cliff.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Theodore Bromund, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 12/13/2011
There are legitimate reasons to be concerned about the potential domestic effects of the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). The broad scope of the treaty is unrealistic and dangerous, hunting and related weapons have not been excluded, the treaty requires undefined controls on internal transfers and transits, it proposes intrusive record-keeping and reporting provisions, and has broad implications for international trade. The flaws of the ATT are much broader than the possible domestic effects. The U.S. decision to support the negotiation of the ATT was an error, and it should withdraw from the negotiations.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Brett Schaefer, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 12/13/2011
On October 31 the Palestinians gained membership in the U.N. Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). As required by law, the U.S. has now ended all funding for UNESCO. Although the U.S. veto blocks Palestinian membership in the U.N., the Palestinians may try to gain elevated status in the U.N. General Assembly, or membership in other U.N. specialized agencies that, like UNESCO, allow non-U.N. member states to become full members. The U.S. should oppose these attempts and continue to enforce U.S. laws that prohibit contributions to organizations that grant membership to the Palestinians. If the U.S. eliminates or weakens these laws, it would encourage these organizations to admit the Palestinians, thereby undermining U.S. and Israeli interests and gravely damaging long-term prospects for a negotiated Israeli–Palestinian peace.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy Edwin Meese III, The Heritage FoundationTestimony, 12/13/2011
Edwin Meese III, Chairman of the Center for Legal & Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation, recently testified before the House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, on recodifying federal criminal laws into Title 18 of the United States Code. He believes the federal criminal laws should be consolidated into a single Title of the U.S. Code, the federal criminal code needs to be shorn of redundant, superfluous, and unnecessary criminal laws, offense definition should be a task for the Congress, not for agency officials, because only Congress is accountable to the people, and the federal criminal code should be revised to ensure that the mens rea or “guilty mind” elements of federal crimes capture only blameworthy conduct.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Nicolas Loris, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 12/13/2011
The Obama Administration has announced that it will delay the decision to approve or reject construction of the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline until after the presidential elections in 2012. The pipeline would carry oil from Canada to U.S. refineries on the Gulf Coast—creating jobs, supplying energy from a secure and friendly source, and spurring much-needed economic growth. The State Department has thoroughly studied potential environmental impacts of the Keystone pipeline, and found minimal risk to soil, water, air, and animal life. Still, environmentalists oppose construction of the pipeline in force. Congress should reject unrealistic claims and authorize construction of the pipeline.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Jack Spencer, Romina Boccia, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 12/13/2011
The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed H.R. 2360, the Providing for Our Workforce and Energy Resources (POWER) Act which would “close a loophole in existing law that allows offshore renewable energy resources to be installed and serviced by foreign workers.” The POWER Act would increase the cost of renewable energy, result in less domestic energy, perpetuate subsidies, and result in fewer jobs and less economic productivity. The Senate could fix these loopholes by repealing the Jones Act altogether and allow the American maritime and offshore renewable energy industry to compete internationally.
Budget & TaxationBy J.D. Foster, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 12/13/2011
The current tax system discourages saving, investment, and entrepreneurship. It causes decision makers to misallocate the nation’s resources, limiting productivity gains, wage gains, and the nation’s overall level of international competitiveness. And, it is far, far too complicated. The New Flat Tax is the remedy. It replaces every major tax collected by the federal government. For non-seniors, it is as easy as one, two, three—one rate, two credits, three deductions. For seniors on Medicare, one of the two credits—for health insurance—is replaced by an extra deduction. The New Flat Tax is simple, revenue-neutral, and will allow America to achieve its full economic potential.
WelfareBy Hadley Heath, Independent Women's ForumPolicy Focus, 12/13/2011
Advocates of expanding the welfare state equate bigger government with charity. But many programs do more harm than good by creating counter-productive incentives and reducing economic growth and opportunity, which sadly keeps today’s poor people poor. The real solution to poverty is economic freedom and opportunity. By removing regulations that discourage job creation, lowering tax rates so that people and companies have more resources to hire workers and invest, and making work pay, we can help reduce poverty by giving individuals the opportunity to earn and provide for themselves. Streamlining our nation’s welfare system would benefit taxpayers by reducing their burden and improve our general economic conditions by reducing our deficits and debt. It would restore the right incentives toward hard work and productivity. But most importantly, it would allow poor people to become self-sufficient, thereby restoring their personal dignity and giving them greater freedom.
Health CareBy Devon Herrick, National Center for Policy AnalysisIssue Brief, 12/13/2011
Shortages of certain drugs reoccur due to a lack of competition, manufacturing problems, and more importantly due to government pricing policies. Attempts to solve drug shortages with more regulations could actually worsen the problem. The only way to alleviate the drug shortage is to make generic drugs more profitable. Congress should reward new investments in the manufacturing process. Limiting price increases for Part B drugs to increases in the Consumer Price Index often means that it is unprofitable to upgrade older production facilities. The federal government cannot expect firms to make necessary upgrades if profit margins do not cover costs. Finally, regulation of production processes should be more flexible. Drug makers that want to boost production are often delayed by the approval process.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Lee Lane, Hudson InstituteEconomic Policy Briefing Paper, 12/13/2011
Instead of demanding rigorous climate policy analysis, U.S. political leaders tend to cling to the dogmas of either the right or the left. Such rigorous analysis would probe the forces that have defeated or, worse, perverted, greenhouse gas (GHG) controls. It would explore other ways of lessening the risks of climate change and examine how the factors that have brought GHG control efforts to naught would affect these other strategies. Finally, it would scrutinize how major global trends might affect both climate change and the measures intended to counter it. Climate change does pose risks, yet those risks do not imply that massive social engineering for GHG control is either possible or desirable. As awareness of this reality sinks in among public intellectuals, a more serious policy discourse is likely to emerge.
Health CareBy Christopher J. Conover, American Enterprise InstituteBook, 12/12/2011
American Health Economy Illustrated sifts through nearly a century of data to examine—and debunk—the most common myths about the U.S. health care system. With an unbiased, just-the-facts approach and hundreds of color illustrations, Christopher J. Conover assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the current system and evaluates whether current health cost trends are sustainable.
EducationBy Paul T. Hill, Thomas B. Fordham FoundationWorking Paper, 12/12/2011
The appropriate education-funding system would make promising breakthroughs, especially in the digital realm, much more likely. A technology-friendly funding system would need to fund education, not institutions, would move money as students move, pay for unconventional forms of instruction, withhold funding for ineffective programs without chilling innovation, and provide space and incentives for online providers to bring their products to the marketplace.
EducationBy Bryan C. Hassel, Emily Ayscue Hassel, Thomas B. Fordham FoundationWorking Paper, 12/12/2011
As digital tools proliferate and improve, the elements of excellent teaching that are most difficult for technology to replace will increasingly differentiate student out-comes. As a result, teacher effectiveness may matter even more than it does today, as the selectivity and prevalence of the teachers-in-charge who will leverage technology—and be leveraged by it—will be the distinguisher of learning outcomes among schools and nations. Employing digital technology to transform the teaching profession in ways that benefit students holds enormous promise but may go un-realized without significant changes in public policies and management systems, in the allocations of funds, in the technology infrastructure, and perhaps most importantly, in the level of will and demand for better student outcomes.