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Recent Policy Studies
Health CareBy Christopher J. Conover, Jerry Ellig, Mercatus CenterMercatus on Policy, 01/11/2012
In general, the health regulations were less transparent than the major proposed rules issued by the Bush and Obama administrations in 2008 and 2009. This means it was difficult for the lay public or even experts to understand how the analysis calculated at least some of its estimates of benefits or costs. In some cases, the rules inadequately assessed the expected benefits or failed to demonstrate how the rule would achieve them. In other cases, the analysis failed to demonstrate that there was some market failure or other systematic problem that could be addressed only through federal government action. Some rules also failed to identify alternative, less expensive approaches to regulation or failed to adequately assess costs and compare these to benefits. In fact, not one of these rules sought to monetize expected benefits, making it unclear why the agency concluded that the rule had benefits that exceeded its costs.
Beware the Rush to Presumption, Part C: A Public Choice Analysis of the Affordable Care Act’s Interim Final RulesBy Christopher J. Conover, Jerry Ellig, Mercatus CenterWorking Paper, 01/11/2012
From a process perspective, it appears that the analysis and review associated with these regulations was less thorough than economically significant regulations typically receive. The result was certainly subpar. The abbreviated regulatory process and low-quality analysis are predictable results of the incentives the regulatory agencies faced. A combination of top-down direction and tight deadlines eliminated the agencies’ ability and incentives to produce high-quality regulatory impact analyses or use the results to make choices. Presidential and congressional decisions, in turn, flowed predictably from the political incentives President Obama and Congress faced in 2010.
Beware the Rush to Presumption, Part B: Substandard Regulatory Analyses for the Affordable Care Act’s Interim Final RulesBy Christopher J. Conover, Jerry Ellig, Mercatus CenterWorking Paper, 01/11/2012
The quality and use of analysis for the Affordable Care Act interim final regulations falls well below the standards set by other agencies and by the Department of Health and Human Services itself in conventional notice-and-comment rulemaking in previous years.
Beware the Rush to Presumption, Part A: Material Omissions in Regulatory Analyses for the Affordable Care Act’s Interim Final RulesBy Christopher J. Conover, Jerry Ellig, Mercatus CenterWorking Paper, 01/11/2012
Regulatory impact analyses for eight major Affordable Care Act rules issued so far were seriously incomplete, often omitting significant benefits, costs, or regulatory alternatives. Analysis of equity was cursory at best. In short, the regulatory analyses for these regulations were insufficient to guide decisions or inform the public. Based on these RIAs, we cannot tell whether the regulations will produce the promised benefits for the projected costs, whether alternative approaches could have produced greater benefits at lower costs, or even whether the regulations satisfy any well-defined concept of fairness.
Budget & TaxationBy E.J. McMahon, Terry O’Neil, Empire Center for New York State PolicyReport, 01/11/2012
New York’s 30-year-old “Triborough Amendment” requires public employers to maintain all contractual perks for unionized public employees, including automatic “step” increases in pay, after the expiration of a collective bargaining agreement. This law gives unions an incentive to resist negotiating structural changes to their contracts, since the status quo will be preserved even if there is no contract. Pay hikes required by the Triborough Amendment cost the state government $140 million a year, despite a “freeze” on base salaries. The Triborough Amendment guarantees pay increases for teachers that add almost $300 million a year to school budgets across the state.
National SecurityBy Bruce Thornton, Hoover InstitutionDefining Ideas, 01/11/2012
As the costs of our misreading the Iranian revolution have become obvious, the same failure of imagination conditions our response to events in the rest of today’s Middle East—namely, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt. Despite the Muslim Brothers’ long record of jihadist theory and violence aimed at creating Islamist regimes founded on illiberal Sharia law, for months we have heard of the “liberal” or “moderate” Muslim Brotherhood. That judgment is based not on what Egyptians say and do, but on what we uncritically assume are the normal aspirations and good intentions of all people regardless of their culture and faith. This is the same error made thirty years ago, when the conventional wisdom thought that the secular nationalists and liberals in Iran would prevail over the clerics and the religious parties.
National SecurityBy Victor Davis Hanson, Hoover InstitutionDefining Ideas, 01/11/2012
What are we to make of Iran’s serial, but seemingly empty threats of war, so reminiscent of North Korean bluster? Of course, there are plenty of examples in history to remind us that the constant saber rattling of failed states leads nowhere except to temporary tension and convenient rises in commodity and oil prices. But there also are enough other instances of unexpected attacks to suggest that the lunacy of lunatic regimes sometimes should be taken seriously.
Elections, Transparency, & AccountabilityBy Arnold Kling, American Enterprise InstituteThe American, 01/11/2012
The executive branch is a sprawling apparatus that is likely to proceed on autopilot unless there is a drastic shakeup. A re-organization could make it more responsive to democratic priorities and more effective at achieving the taxpayers’ objectives.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Ali Alfoneh, American Enterprise InstituteMiddle Eastern Outlook, 01/11/2012
Esmail Qaani’s battlefield experience, network within the IRGC, and long acquaintance with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei may aid him as Suleimani’s replacement, but there is no doubt that the uncharismatic and less distinguished Qaani would have great difficulties filling Suleimani’s boots. That Qaani directs the IRGC QF’s activities in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and central Asia may also provide an indication that he would focus primarily on Afghanistan as IRGC QF commander. Decision makers planning US military withdrawal from Afghanistan can safely assume that an IRGC QF led by Qaani would engage much more aggressively in Afghanistan and central Asia.
EducationBy Robin Lake, Cheryl Miller, American Enterprise InstituteReport, 01/11/2012
While many charter leaders see civic education as a priority, many admit that, in practice, they cannot give it as much attention as they would like. In addition, charters appear to diverge widely in their basic philosophies and priorities when it comes to defining civic education.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy James Jay Carafano, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 01/11/2012
After three years of the Obama Doctrine, the place of the United States in the world is less secure than when the President came into office. That trend must change. Nor can foreign policy be left on the backburner any longer with Washington only focusing on domestic issues. The White House and Congress ought to make foreign policy a priority, and they ought to return to a policy where politics stops at the water’s edge. Rather than shaping foreign policies through the lens of election politics, Washington ought to protect the nation’s interest first—even though that means admitting that right now the government is doing things more wrong than right and that fixing foreign policy in 2012 requires some bold moves.
Economic GrowthBy Rea Hederman Jr., James Sherk, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 01/11/2012
While the jobs report was encouraging, it will still take years for unemployment to recover at this pace. Economists estimate that the “natural rate of unemployment” in the U.S. economy is 5.2 percent. If employers continue to create 200,000 net jobs per month, then one year from now, the unemployment rate will still stand at 7.9 percent. At that pace, the unemployment rate will not return to normal levels (or 5.2 percent) for four and a half years—not until September 2016.
National SecurityBy Bruce Klingner, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 01/11/2012
President Obama has correctly emphasized that “we have to remember the lessons of history. We can’t afford to repeat the mistakes that have been made in the past—after World War II, after Vietnam—when our military was left ill prepared for the future.” American pundit Will Rogers said in 1933 that “if you want to know when a war is coming, you just watch the U.S. and see when it starts cutting down its defenses. It’s the surest barometer in the world.” Unfortunately, Rogers may again prove prescient.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Ray Walser, James Phillips, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 01/11/2012
On January 8, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad lands in Venezuela to start a brief but highly symbolic Latin American visit. The Iranian leader aims to bolster ties with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and some of the region’s most strident anti-American leaders. For the Obama Administration, the Iranian visit reflects a continuing erosion of U.S. influence in the region and highlights the urgent need for an active policy to safeguard and advance U.S. security and interests in our neighborhood.
Economic GrowthBy Derek Scissors, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 01/11/2012
Chinese investment has become a notable factor in the world economy and will continue to be for the indefinite future. As a whole, Chinese investment is now maturing in both positive and negative senses. As investment has matured, annual growth has slowed, with growth in some markets stagnating entirely. On the other hand, investment is becoming more regularized, and more non-state firms are now participating. Chinese investment in the U.S. continues to underperform relative to the size of the American economy and growth in other major markets, including Canada. This is hardly a threat to the American economy, but it does follow in large part from America’s failure to clarify its policy. Because Chinese investment will be a notable force for years to come, the U.S. needs to improve its response, both at home and around the globe.
National SecurityBy Jessica Zuckerman, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 01/11/2012
On Saturday night, 25-year-old Sami Osmakac was arrested in connection to an alleged Islamist-inspired terrorist plot in Tampa, Florida. Osmakac, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in the former Yugoslavia, is believed to have planned to use vehicle bombs, assault rifles, grenades, and other explosives in an attack on possible targets including night clubs, businesses, and a local sheriff’s office. His arrest was the result of an undercover operation in which the FBI had been monitoring Osmakac for months. Osmakac’s arrest marks the 44th terrorist plot foiled against the U.S. since 9/11 and serves as a strong reminder that the global war against terrorists is not yet won.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy Paul Larkin, The Heritage FoundationLegal Memorandum, 01/11/2012
Are maple syrup felons sufficiently heinous that they should be imprisoned for perhaps as long as 45 years? Some members of the U.S. Senate seem to believe the answer is yes: How else to explain the provisions of the Maple Agriculture Protection and Law Enforcement Act of 2011? This bill, known as the MAPLE Act, would make it a “federal crime…for anyone knowingly and willfully to distribute into interstate commerce a product that is falsely labeled as maple syrup.” While falsely labeling a product should not go unpunished, there are ample criminal laws on the books to deal with the false labeling of maple syrup. The real threat raised by the MAPLE Act is not that of a shadowy syrup syndicate, but a U.S. Congress determined to expand the federal criminal law well beyond its intended limitations—the phenomenon known as overcriminalization.
EducationBy Jason Richwine, Andrew Biggs, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 01/11/2012
A November 2011 Heritage Foundation report—“Assessing the Compensation of Public-School Teachers”—presented data on teacher salaries and benefits in order to inform debates about teacher compensation reform. The report concluded that public-school teacher compensation is far ahead of what comparable private-sector workers enjoy, and that recruiting more effective teachers will be more difficult than simply raising salaries. The debate over the report’s findings has generated substantive inquiries as well as some misconceptions. Here, the report’s authors respond to questions and concerns, in the process showing that certain critical accusations—such as undercounting teachers’ work hours or overestimating retirement benefits—are simply false. The broader implication of the authors’ research is that the current teacher compensation system is not working. The United States needs a more rational system that pays teachers according to their performance.
Family, Culture & CommunityBy Ryan Messmore, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 01/11/2012
As Americans exercise their right to vote in presidential primaries, caucuses, and conventions, candidates face questions from voters on a wide range of issues, including religious faith. When it comes to this issue, what should they be looking for? Which questions about religion are most helpful in selecting a President?
Administrative Reforms Insufficient to Address Flawed White House Immigration and Border Security PoliciesBy Matt Mayer, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 01/11/2012
The latest Administration policy announcement would streamline the wait for those unlawfully present in the United States—with family members here who are U.S. citizens—who have identified themselves to authorities and plan to leave the United States and reenter on a proper visa. The new proposal would let qualifying individuals apply for a provisional waiver in the U.S. before going to their countries for the visa. This change is a reasonable and compassionate administrative reform to speed up a process that was always intended as a means to keep families together. The problem with this policy is that the White House has sold it as another down payment for amnesty and has failed to address immigration and border security in an effective manner in concert with Congress.
Budget & TaxationBy David John, Curtis Dubay, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 01/11/2012
While supporters of the financial transactions tax claim that it would rein in Wall Street speculators, the reality is very different. The tax would not hurt these high-volume traders, who would move their activities offshore to escape the tax. It is average investors who would instead bear the burden of the tax when their portfolios fall in value and suffer from damage to the overall economy.
EducationBy Amanda Griffin-Johnson, Illinois Policy InstituteTax & Budget Brief, 01/05/2012
There are many reforms available to legislators that would improve the state’s fiscal outlook. Future benefits for current employee benefits could be reduced with employees contributing at current levels. Alternatively, employees could contribute more to their retirements to keep the current benefit level. While these changes would be im¬provements, the reform that will fundamentally reduce financial risk to taxpayers in the future is to move government workers to a defined con¬tribution system. A defined contribution system would put state employees in direct control over their retirements and reduce liabilities facing tax¬payers.
EducationBy Amanda Griffin-Johnson, Illinois Policy InstituteTax & Budget Brief, 01/05/2012
Legislators have mismanaged the state’s public pension funds, while sweetening benefits for retirees and expanding state programs. As it exists now, the pension system is set to cripple state budgets for decades to come. Taxpayers cannot continue to bear the burden of an unsustainable pension system. Instead, the system should be reformed so that politicians are not able to underfund benefits year after year to pay for pet projects or new programs. Retirement benefits should be aligned with private sector practices, and control of individual pension benefits should be in the hands of the employee.
Elections, Transparency, & AccountabilityBy Malia Hill, Grassroot Institute of HawaiiReport, 01/05/2012
This checklist is just a starting point meant to raise questions about the feasibility, enforceability, legality, and desirability of legislation—and nearly any governmental action that is legislative in nature. Please think carefully about this list of 10 points and give us your thoughts on improvement or elaboration. After a period for consideration and input, we plan to make the checklist into a readily-carried card that citizens as well as legislators could use to evaluate pending legislative measures.
Information TechnologyBy Randolph J. May, Seth L. Cooper, Free State FoundationPerspectives from FSF Scholars, 01/05/2012
On November 22, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski proposed a draft order finding AT&T and T-Mobile failed to establish that their proposed merger was in the public interest, and designating the deal for a hearing before an administrative law judge. AT&T and T-Mobile then withdrew their merger applications at the FCC before any vote was taken on the draft order. Despite the FCC’s subsequent dismissal of the merger applications without prejudice, the FCC released a staff analysis and findings that the AT&T/T-Mobile merger was not in the public interest and “would likely lead to a substantial lessening of competition in violation of the Clayton Act.” The FCC’s release of its staff’s analysis and findings regarding the AT&T/T-Mobile merger has raised some questions about administrative and procedural impropriety. Of equal concern, however, is that the staff report employs a static analysis ill-suited to today’s dynamic wireless marketplace.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy Minnesota Department of Corrections, Minnesota Department of CorrectionsStudies, 01/05/2012
This study found that prison visitation significantly decreased the risk of recidivism. The results also showed that visits from siblings, in-laws, fathers, and clergy were the most beneficial in reducing the risk of recidivism, whereas visits from ex-spouses significantly increased the risk. The findings suggest that revising prison visitation policies to make them more “visitor friendly” could yield public safety benefits by helping offenders establish a continuum of social support from prison to the community. It is anticipated, however, that revising existing policies would not likely increase visitation to a significant extent among unvisited inmates, who comprised nearly 40 percent of the sample. Accordingly, it is suggested that correctional systems consider allocating greater resources to increase visitation among inmates with little or no social support.
LaborBy Francis T. Coleman, Capital Research CenterLabor Watch, 01/05/2012
Last June the Obama Labor Department proposed to change the meaning of the “Advice Exemption” of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act. DOL’s new interpretation seeks to impose an unworkable standard that is difficult, if not impossible, to apply in practice and will have the effect of deterring employers from seeking to obtain legitimate information and guidance in developing and administering their labor and personnel programs and policies. In addition to these undesirable results, this new interpretation will impose broad ranged and burdensome reporting and filing requirements on employers at a time when they should be concentrating their energies and resources on creating jobs. There is no justification for abandoning the DOL’s longstanding interpretation of the advice exemption and substituting an interpretation which practically removes it from the statute, thus burdening employers and benefiting unions.
LaborBy James Sherk, Capital Research CenterLabor Watch, 01/05/2012
What unions do has hardly changed since the end of World War II. They still try to organize workers and win pay increases and benefits for their members by controlling the supply of jobs at a company or in an industry. But while the union movement insists on using traditional methods to organize workers and negotiate with employers, the American economy and workforce is undergoing very dramatic changes. New technologies and expanding global trade are weakening union attempts to maintain job cartels. Unions are driving investment and jobs away from the industries and states where they predominate. The union movement has to develop a new model for doing business. If it can’t or won’t, the answer to the question “What do unions do?” will soon be: “Not much.”
PhilanthropyBy Kevin Mooney, Capital Research CenterFoundation Watch, 01/05/2012
Netroots Nation is the annual labor-backed gathering of left-wing bloggers, and it has come a long way since its first confab in 2006 to protest the policies of George W. Bush. The group still operates on a shoestring budget, and an observer might conclude that it speaks only for radical fringe elements in left-wing politics. But its organizational skill, passion and mastery of online strategy has made Netroots Nation a key force in liberal Democratic politics. The big nonprofiit Washington, D.C. special interest groups and labor unions still dictate the Democrats’ policy ideas and political strategies. But they pay close attention to the left-wing blogosphere which each year makes its physical presence felt at Netroots Nation.
Regulation & DeregulationBy Patrick Reilly, Capital Research CenterOrganization Trends, 01/05/2012
The Bush administration encouraged more government support for faith-based charities. But the Obama administration thinks that as the federal government becomes more involved with religious charities, hospitals, and schools it should make the decision about whether they are religious or not. Religious nonprofits are right to be very worried.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy John Gizzi, Capital Research CenterOrganization Trends, 01/05/2012
Like other ex-presidents, Jimmy Carter wants to have a continuing impact on public affairs, and he has created the Carter Center to carry out his agenda. Much of the Carter Center’s work is deserving of high praise. Unfortunately, its achievements are undermined by its founder’s penchant for personal diplomacy and loose cannon advice.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Cheryl Chumley, Capital Research CenterGreen Watch, 01/05/2012
America’s economy can’t stand much more of groups like Carbonfund.org. By attracting support from so many businesses, churches, nonprofits and government agencies, Carbonfund.org is building a cadre of organizations dedicated to the illusory quest to cut “carbon emissions,” to achieve “carbon neutrality” in everyday activities. Some day we will look back in wonder at the creation of this fantasyland.
Economic and Political ThoughtBy Marc DeVos, National AffairsNational Affairs, 01/05/2012
All available research shows that lasting happiness depends primarily on personal temperament, marriage, social relationships, employment, perceived health, religion, and the quality of government. The state can contribute to some of these, and can help to sustain an environment friendly to others, but it cannot directly provide any of them except the last. To best promote happiness, therefore, government should get its own house in order, allowing its citizens to have confidence in rulers and rules alike. And it should pursue a thriving economy capable of providing employment opportunities. It can consider various means of helping people obtain health care, or of supporting family life, thriving communities, and the freedom of religion. But it cannot do any of this by imposing a narrow and constricting vision of happiness upon the public.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy William Schambra, National AffairsNational Affairs, 01/05/2012
Although the Tea Party has drawn scorn for its alleged anti-intellectualism and ahistoricism, its understanding of the Constitution — as an instrument that can limit democracy while at the same time being fully democratic — reflects an intellectually respectable and historically grounded view of the American founding. If the Tea Party’s reverence for the founders’ Constitution also kindles in Americans an appreciation for the men who, in the summer of 1912, defended that Constitution in one of its moments of greatest peril, so much the better.
Elections, Transparency, & AccountabilityBy John O. McGinnis, National AffairsNational Affairs, 01/05/2012
Despite the immense exertions of American government in recent decades, with massive public programs spending huge amounts of money to achieve social ends, we know little about how well such exertions really work and what we should expect of various alternatives. New technologies offer the power to narrow that knowledge gap. We should not overestimate their potential, of course: Politics and policy will always be highly controversial, and competing claims — some far less responsible and well grounded than others — will always continue to fly. Bias, and even outright falsehoods, will always be part of the process. But by employing some of the tools made possible by information technology, policymakers and policy experts can at least alleviate some of our ignorance about what our government does — and thereby help us perform the task of self-government that much better.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Charles W. Calomiris, National AffairsNational Affairs, 01/05/2012
A proper understanding of the dynamics of the recent crisis — of how rules interacted with incentives to make excessive risk far too attractive and to give bankers no reason to behave responsibly — can point us toward a set of rules that offer far better protection at relatively low cost to all involved. It is time to recognize at last that rules that fail to account for financial incentives are bound to fail, and that harnessing the disciplining power of markets — rather than replacing it with the supposed cleverness of regulators — is the only way to prudently keep our banks in check while also enabling economic growth.
EducationBy Stuart M. Butler, National AffairsNational Affairs, 01/05/2012
For a growing number of Americans, a college degree is something obtained only through enormous sacrifice and indebtedness on their part or their parents’, or a dream that is entirely out of reach. Meanwhile, most college leaders live in a bubble in which the costs of ever more elaborate facilities, expanding administrative bureaucracies, and high-profile professors with light teaching loads can simply be passed on to customers in the form of higher tuition. But those days are about to end. Underneath the surface, upstart institutions are perfecting radically new education technologies and business plans at the same time that young people and their parents are becoming more frustrated with the traditional higher-ed model, and more open-minded about alternatives.
Economic GrowthBy Scott Winship, National AffairsNational Affairs, 01/05/2012
The scale of the financial crisis and the subsequent recession, the weakness of the recovery, the persistence of high unemployment, and the possibility of yet another shock — this time originating in Europe — have left Americans feeling deeply insecure about their economic prospects. Unfortunately, too many politicians, activists, analysts, and journalists seem determined to feed that insecurity in order to advance an economic agenda badly suited to our actual circumstances. They argue not that a financial crisis pulled the rug out from under our enviably comfortable lives, but rather that our lives were not all that comfortable to begin with. A signal feature of our economy in recent decades, they contend, has been pervasive economic risk — a function not of the ups and downs of the business cycle, but of the very structure of our economic system. Compelling though this narrative may be, it is fundamentally wrong.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Aaron Smith, American Enterprise InstituteThe American, 01/05/2012
Deficit hawks, environmentalists, and food processors are celebrating the expiration of the ethanol tax credit. This corporate handout gave $0.45 to ethanol producers for every gallon they produced and cost taxpayers $6 billion in 2011. So why did the powerful corn ethanol lobby let it expire without an apparent fight? The answer lies in legislation known as the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which creates government-guaranteed demand that keeps corn prices high and generates massive farm profits. Removing the tax credit but keeping the RFS is like scraping a little frosting from the ethanol-boondoggle cake.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Richard S. Williamson, American Enterprise InstituteThe American, 01/05/2012
America cannot tolerate the sacking of legitimate non-governmental organizations. America cannot be quiet as the space for civil society is crowded out in Egypt. It is time for America to stop giving the Egyptian authorities a blank check. President Obama must speak out clearly in condemnation of this outrageous escalation of repression in Egypt. We must put appropriate conditions on our continuing aid to the Egyptian military, including the condition that the military stop its repressive actions against the people of Egypt and against NGOs, and that it transfers power consistent with the will of the Egyptian people.
Health CareBy Jeffrey A. Singer, Reason FoundationReason, 01/05/2012
It is widely believed that Medicaid is a voluntary program. While this may have once been true, it is no longer the case. Today, states confront the dilemma of having to choose between joining Medicaid or being forced to sacrifice any health care “safety net” for their indigent populations. This is all because of a law enacted by Congress in 1986 called the Emergency Treatment and Labor Act.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Stephen Baskerville, Independent InstituteThe Independent Review, 01/05/2012
Something disturbing is taking place in the politics of human rights. At one time, human rights were seen as a matter of putting international pressure on authoritarian regimes to stop repressing their people. With little discussion or scrutiny, however, the term human rights has evolved into something much more expansive. It is little exaggeration to say that it has become a free-for-all, a grab bag into which one can toss almost any political agenda, however distantly connected to the term’s original understanding. In the name of human rights, we now undertake campaigns to legislate contentious social policies and claim the authority to instruct other countries on their welfare programs and spending priorities. Recent innovations allow the criminalization of not only government officials but also private citizens for “human rights” violations. The term human rights is astoundingly used even to rationalize suspension of due-process protections and incarcerations without trial.
Economic GrowthBy George Bragues, Independent InstituteThe Independent Review, 01/05/2012
Portugal’s plight is a warning to other Western industrialized nations, all of which have welfare states of one extent or another to finance. The graying of the population, portending relatively fewer workers to pay escalating pension and health-care benefits, combined with the additional debt amassed by governments in dealing with the recent financial crisis, poses a monumental challenge to governments faced with the expenses of maintaining their respective welfare states. Portugal is among the first to succumb to this challenge only because it expanded its social democracy relatively quickly and had a smaller capital accumulation from which to draw resources for the delivery of public services.
LaborBy Richard A. Epstein, Hoover InstitutionDefining Ideas, 01/05/2012
The great danger of the living wage proposal is that it need not be tied solely to grants received from the government. Under the Fair Wages bill, it will also be tied to permission for real estate development that is given by local planning authorities, as is likely to happen under New York City’s fair wages bill. At this point, it joins the long list of “exactions” that local authorities can attach to permissions to build. The wish lists are very large, and in some cases, the champions of the conditions would rather see the project go down in flames than be accepted without the conditions. Why? In part because unions have a strong anti-competitive urge to stop the development of new shopping centers that could compete with union dominated shops. And so the living wage, which starts out as a compassionate policy, ends up as a tool to suppress competition by non-union labor.
Information TechnologyBy James Gattuso, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 01/05/2012
The federal government needs to protect intellectual property rights. But it should do so in a way that does not disrupt the growth of technology, does not weaken Internet security, respects free speech rights, and solves the problem of rogue sites. Congress should carefully consider the consequences of and alternatives to the legislation before moving forward.
National SecurityBy Baker Spring, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 01/05/2012
Following the enactment of the Budget Control Act earlier this year, the budget for the core defense program is already operating under stringent spending caps. At the same time, per capita expenditures for paying military personnel and operating the force are high and growing rapidly. Under these circumstances, funding for the procurement of new weapons and equipment and for research and development on new defense technologies will be squeezed to a dangerous degree.
Health CareBy Karen McKeown, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 01/05/2012
The current trend of rapidly rising health care costs is unsustainable. Many proposed reforms to curb spending rely on some type of rationing imposed by an unaccountable government body. A better alternative would be to allow individual consumers to make their own decisions about care, including the self-rationing of medical services, based on cost and their own desires. Such a policy is compatible with American values of limited government and individual liberty and responsibility. State and federal policymakers should adopt measures to facilitate personal control of health care decisions.
National SecurityBy James Jay Carafano, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 01/05/2012
By the end of 2011, at least 43 terrorist plots aimed at the United States since 9/11 had been thwarted. The frequency of attempts against the U.S. homeland has increased over the past three years. These numbers are reminders enough that the White House and Congress cannot be complacent—even in a presidential election year, when everything typically is postponed until after the next inauguration. To more effectively combat terrorism and accomplish all the other missions related to homeland security, government needs to recast its priorities and use its resources more efficiently.
National SecurityBy James Jay Carafano, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 01/05/2012
Iran is rattling sabers. Iraq may be falling apart. In North Korea, one of the world’s most inexperienced and unpredictable leaders has his thumb on the country’s nuclear button. Talks with the Taliban look like an instant replay of the Paris peace negotiations with Hanoi. The Arab Spring has turned into a long winter of discontent. Now is not the time to be gutting defense. Yet the Secretary of Defense is poised to announce a new strategy that will rubber stamp massive military cuts, pulling the safety net out from a global security architecture that has protected U.S. vital interests worldwide since 1945. The Obama Administration’s strategy by wishful thinking will not be sufficient to keep the nation safe, free, and prosperous in the year ahead. Rather, Congress and the White House should be making bold moves to restore America’s capacity to protect itself.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Sally McNamara, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 01/05/2012
The policies of the United States and the European Union should encourage and support Russian civil society and Russia’s democratic modernizers. And, if Russia continues to abrogate its international commitments to basic freedoms and human rights, the U.S. and the EU must stand up for democratic values and make it clear that Russian aggression will not be tolerated. President Obama’s Russia “reset” policy achieves the opposite. Just as the U.S. reset has shaped European thinking, overly lenient signals from the EU to Russia will have a negative effect on U.S. interests, including support of democracy and promotion of economic freedom. The U.S. should collaborate with individual European allies as well as the European Union to set an agenda that better defends transatlantic interests from Russian aggression.