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Recent Policy Studies
Health CareBy Roger Stark, Washington Policy CenterLegislative Memo, 02/03/2012
Officials in Washington state currently ban citizens from buying health insurance in other states, forcing consumers to choose among a handful of in-state insurers. They also require individual health insurance plans sold in Washington to contain 58 different benefit and provider mandates. Each mandate adds a small incremental cost to the plan, as little as 0.5%, but added together state mandates drive up the cost of health coverage significantly. A total of 58 mandates can increase the price of health insurance by 20 to 25%. Legislation has been introduced that would end Washington’s ban on buying health insurance in other states. Lifting the ban would permit Washington residents to shop for family and individual health coverage across state lines based on price, quality and choice.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Helle Dale, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 02/03/2012
The United States government’s public diplomacy institutions are running on autopilot. While other nations, such as China, are ramping up public diplomacy and soft-power capabilities, the attention of the political leaders in this country is focused elsewhere: the budget deficit, the economy, the presidential election, etc. The effect is that the people who should be advocating for the importance of public diplomacy and think about its strategic role in United States foreign policy are simply not in place, so much-needed leadership in this area is lacking.
Economic GrowthBy Rea Hederman Jr., James Sherk, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 02/03/2012
The January employment report is one of the strongest reports since last spring. Even better news is that there is now a three-month trend of job growth exceeding 150,000 jobs. It looks like the labor market recovery is strengthening. Unfortunately, the recovery is still too weak for where it should be in this business cycle. Congress should make permanent the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts as a way to bolster hiring and economic growth.
Health CareBy Hanns Kuttner, Tevi Troy, Hudson InstitutePolicy Forum, 02/03/2012
A prescription drug benefit became part of Medicare in 2006. With the benefit moving toward maturity, Hudson Institute convened a conference to assess its progress to date. At the center of the discussion was an assessment offered by former Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt, who oversaw its implementation. Following that, a panel addressed the political and practical experiences of implementing the program. This overview provides some background about the new drug benefit, places its origin and form in historical perspective, considers the challenges involved in implementing the program, and lays out lessons thus far for the program’s future from its newest part.
PhilanthropyBy William Schambra, Philanthropy DailyArticle, 02/02/2012
And so the lonely task of conservative philanthropy will go on. Those who practice it do so — in spite of being denounced as plutocratic exploiters of the masses — out of a firm sense that they are engaged in an enduring struggle to restore the Founders’ regime. They are impelled by a large and demanding purpose, along with the realization that its achievement is a long way off, requiring unrelenting combat with some of the most powerful elites in American politics and culture. This kind of grantmaking requires a high tolerance for criticism and abuse, for failures and reversals, for small, immeasurable, delayed indications of progress that may in fact be nothing more than slowing down an unfavorable trend, of which there will be many.
LaborBy Pamela Villarreal, National Center for Policy AnalysisPolicy Brief, 02/02/2012
Minimum wages are politically popular, but distort the labor market and hurt the people they intend to help. Reforming the education system and promoting characteristics that increase individual wages—such as finishing high school and improving skills through college or trade/vocational schools—would do more to lift people out of poverty than mandating wages.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy Clayton E. Cramer, David Burnett, Cato InstituteWhite Paper, 02/02/2012
What would be the effect of depriving ordinary, law-abiding citizens from keeping arms for self-defense? One result seems certain: the law-abiding would be at a distinct disadvantage should criminals acquire guns from underground markets. Outside of criminology circles, relatively few people can reasonably estimate how often people use guns to fend off criminal attacks. If policymakers are truly interested in harm reduction, they should pause to consider how many crimes—murders, rapes, assaults, robberies—are thwarted each year by ordinary persons with guns. The estimates of defensive gun use range between the tens of thousands to as high as two million each year.
Health CareBy Robert Moffit, Rea Hederman Jr., The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 02/02/2012
As a direct result of the “Affordable Care Act,” Medicare “as we know it” has already ended. Medicare patients face reduced access to care, which will be increasingly rationed through relentless payment cuts. Key decisions will be made by an unelected board which will determine specific payments Medicare providers receive and under what circumstances. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation is tasked with shifting traditional Medicare from fee-for-service into new payment and delivery models that are to be imposed in top-down fashion. Meanwhile, the bureaucracy will metastasize, and doctors and hospitals will face more reams of costly rules and red tape. Medicare premium support, long a bipartisan proposal, is the best alternative to this unhappy scenario. Premium support would guarantee better choices and broader access to quality care, faster innovation in care delivery, less waste and fraud in medical transactions, and superior cost control.
Regulation & DeregulationBy Oliver Marc Hartwich, Rebecca Gill, Centre for Independent StudiesMonograph, 02/02/2012
Government influences price levels in more ways than is immediately apparent. Through its direct and indirect interventions in the market, government is one of the most important price drivers in Australia and responsible for the rising cost of living. To make life more affordable, government needs to remove regulatory obstacles.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Adam Creighton, Oliver Marc Hartwich, Robert Carling, Centre for Independent StudiesForum, 02/02/2012
What started as the United States subprime crisis became the global financial crisis and has now developed into the Trans-Atlantic sovereign debt crisis. In 2009, Centre for Independent Studies Research Fellows Robert Carling and Dr Oliver Marc Hartwich predicted sovereign debt troubles on both sides of the Atlantic at an event called ‘Trans-Atlantic Fiscal Follies.’ In August 2011, they were joined by Centre for Independent Studies Research Fellow Adam Creighton to discuss the future for those countries buckling under their sovereign debt obligations. How much worse is it going to get? And does it have to get worse before it gets better? Will the dollar survive as the lead currency? Will the euro survive at all? Will gold continue to rise? And what’s the endgame of government debt?
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Steven Bick, PERC – The Property and Environment Research CenterCase Study, 02/02/2012
Discussions of renewable energy typically focus on technologies such as solar panels, wind power, and geothermal. In one state, however, a different conversation is taking shape—one that is focusing on refining an age-old source of renewable energy: wood. Vermont has taken the lead in using residual material created during forest management (woody biomass) to heat schools and commercial buildings. Vermont schools, public buildings, and private companies have incurred astonishing savings by using woody biomass for heat in comparison to oil, propane, electricity, and natural gas.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Kori Schake, Hoover InstitutionHoover Digest, 02/02/2012
The wars our country has been fighting since 2001 have a common dependence on non-military agencies of our government to translate battlefield gains into broader successes of governance and political stability, economic prosperity, the rule of law, and the fostering of civil society. The United States Department of State leads and guides those civilian efforts. Yet American diplomats have not mastered this task. The problem is not the people of the Foreign Service; they are mostly intelligent and well meaning, and dedicated to the task of diplomacy. But they are trapped in a culture and a set of institutional practices that minimize their potential contributions. To put it bluntly, the State Department fails to do its job better because it doesn’t hire the right people, it keeps them all, and it fails to invest in their training or education.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Mark Harrison, Hoover InstitutionHoover Digest, 02/02/2012
In some respects the world is more peaceful today than for many years. Despite this, the world still has the capacity to surprise and disquiet us. The number of conflicts has been rising on a stable trend; this means that there has been a significant tendency for the year-on-year increase, around 2 percent, to remain the same over the whole period. Two world wars disturb the series between 1914 and 1945. Remarkably, after 1945 the frequency of wars snaps back to the same upward course as before 1913.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Adam Bosiacki, Hoover InstitutionHoover Digest, 02/02/2012
As befits a crime shrouded in so much deception and political intrigue, the so-called Katyn massacre even today is not a closed case. The execution of more than twenty thousand Polish prisoners by Soviet secret police in 1940 is still a thorn in the side of Russian-Polish relations. The Russian nation, the countries of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and the Russian authorities should not, in fact, feel linked with the Stalinist and communist period, treating it somehow as their heritage. The perpetrators are long dead, and any question of compensation could be solved. The remaining questions about Katyn are, in fact, few, and a full accounting of the notorious event is not out of reach. Resolving the unfinished business would improve relations between Poland and Russia and perhaps, after more than seventy years, lay the memory of Katyn to rest.
Information TechnologyBy David Davenport, Hoover InstitutionHoover Digest, 02/02/2012
A major problem with government regulation of business is that it is based on markets and technologies as they exist when the rules are imposed. In announcing recently that the Fairness Doctrine would be wiped off the books, the Federal Communications Commission took one small step into the information age. Characteristically, the commission was decades behind the times, and it left other media regulation still stuck in the industrial age and in serious need of rethinking.
Transportation/InfrastructureBy Alison Acosta Fraser, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 02/02/2012
It is past time for Washington to stop spending money on wasteful projects and to live within its means. This should start with the first major opportunity of the year: reauthorization of the transportation program. Rather than increasing spending and then looking for new sources of revenue to pay for it, Congress should eliminate wasteful transportation programs and reduce spending so that the program lives within its means.
National SecurityBy James Jay Carafano, Jessica Zuckerman, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 02/02/2012
Congress should rethink the 100 percent cargo security mandate and instead return to a risk-based approach to cargo security centered on analyzing manifest and other data to single out only high-risk cargo for further inspection. Ensuring the security and prosperity of the maritime supply chain is simply too important for Congress not to get this right.
The Right to Work Is Right for Oregon: A Comprehensive Analysis of the Economic Benefits from Enacting a Right-to-Work LawBy Randall Pozdena, Eric Fruits, Cascade Policy InstitutePolicy Report, 02/02/2012
If Oregon enacts right-to-work legislation in 2012, the empirical results indicate that the state would see a permanent boost in employment and income growth. After five years, in 2016, Oregon would have 50,000 more people working as a right-to-work state. By 2021, 110,000 more people would be working in Oregon. By 2016, the state’s personal income would be $4.1 billion higher and wage and salary income would be $2.7 billion higher. By 2021, the state’s personal income would be $10.8 billion higher and wage and salary income would be $7.0 billion higher.
National SecurityBy Michael J. Glennon, Hoover InstitutionPolicy Review, 02/02/2012
Cyber-intrusions have caused and will continue to cause widespread harm. Their danger ought not be underestimated. But with innovative thinking on the part of state policymakers, the effect of those intrusions can be mitigated. States already have led the way with data security laws. There is no reason for them to stop here. With the right combination of far-sighted policies and technological prowess, the states might prove, even in a globalized 21st century, to be the effective dual sovereigns that the framers considered essential to preserving and enhancing the security and well-being of the American people.
ImmigrationBy Peter H. Schuck, Hoover InstitutionPolicy Review, 02/02/2012
Early deportation of immigrant criminals would confer immense benefits on federal and state taxpayers (and on the remaining prisoners) at little or no marginal costs. To garner these fiscal advantages, however, the federal and state governments will have to work hard to dismantle the legal, political, bureaucratic, and diplomatic obstacles that have prevented early deportations. A proposal to send back criminals who are deportable before they enter our prisons is certainly no panacea. But no policy to reduce prison overcrowding is risk-free, and the existing ones are both flawed and plainly inadequate.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Robert H. Nelson, Hoover InstitutionPolicy Review, 02/02/2012
After an initial century of disposal of public lands, and then a second century of federal land retention and direct management, it is time for a new era that will redefine the history of these lands for the 21st century. This will require challenges to longstanding institutions and basic assumptions; such changes are always difficult in government. It is at least a possibility, however, that the current fiscal crisis will prove to be a precipitating event in finally driving a basic rethinking and reorganization of the public lands in the West. Indeed, the public lands will be a good test case of national fiscal resolve. The public lands offer a leading candidate for government cost cutting.
Retirement/Social SecurityBy Ronald W. Dworkin, Hoover InstitutionPolicy Review, 02/02/2012
With work hours lengthening among the employed, and the division of labor intensifying, people’s great hope for salvation lies in early retirement—hence, the drive to retire in one’s fifties or early sixties. But the economic downturn makes this harder to do. People can live with income inequality, and, indeed, many kinds of inequality, but they can’t live knowing that their life will forever be drudgery. On the major budget issue of the day—how to reform entitlements—policy makers face a choice between keeping the age of eligibility the same while means-testing benefits, or raising the age of eligibility while keeping benefits available to all, as they are now. Given the central role of retirement in Western society today as a means to escape the division of labor and to preserve social peace, every effort should be made to keep the age of eligibility the same, even if it requires means-testing benefits.
Economic GrowthBy Christopher Papagianis, Arpit Gupta, Hoover InstitutionPolicy Review, 02/02/2012
Though there has been near universal frustration with housing policy over the past few years, it is important for policymakers to remember that residential real estate will continue to be an important area of the economy going forward. Despite the crisis, homeownership also remains a central part of the American dream and a key aspiration for families. It is time for policymakers to shift some of their focus and energy from devising the next near-term plan to advancing a long-term legislative framework that can make the private housing market work again.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Kori Schake, Hoover InstitutionDefining Ideas, 02/02/2012
The crisis of the European monetary union has unfolded at roughly the same time as the Arab Spring, and their geneses illustrate a striking contrast in those societies’ views of government. Whereas people in the authoritarian countries of the Middle East and North Africa are insisting on governments more accountable to them, the people of Europe are agitating to reduce government sovereignty, replacing it with a commitment among governments. The juxtaposition demonstrates the extent to which nearly all European governments believe they no longer—or should no longer—have the power to act as sovereign governments.
Health CareBy Scott W. Atlas, Hoover InstitutionDefining Ideas, 02/02/2012
Instead of following the decrees in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that repeat the mistakes of states, health insurance should follow the precedent of life insurance and automobile liability—that is, the price should hold individuals accountable for voluntary and reckless behavior that worsens health and markedly drives up healthcare usage and costs. It seems both illogical and counterproductive that society, rather than the individuals responsible, should pay for destructive decisions like cigarette smoking and overeating to obesity, lifestyle behaviors that are proven to be the two main drivers of health expense in the United States.
Health CareBy John Hoff, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 02/02/2012
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has issued final regulations for Accountable Care Organizations. The outcome is disappointing: There are marginal changes only; the final regulations retain the same flawed structure set out in the proposed regulations. Accountable Care Organizations remain at the mercy of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ determination of their savings target; its calculation will necessarily contain heavy doses of subjective judgment, leaving the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services with great leeway to favor or disfavor Accountable Care Organizations at its discretion. Accountable Care Organizations—whose creation is mandated by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010—will be a strange hybrid of fee-for-service and managed care, subject to ongoing control by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. This is a recipe neither for success nor for true accountability.
Health CareBy Nina Owcharenko, The Heritage FoundationTestimony, 02/02/2012
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ignores the serious problems facing Medicaid. It will increase federal spending by federal taxpayers, shift unknown costs onto state taxpayers, further challenge already limited access issues, and reinforce a two-tiered health care system, locking more of the poor out of private coverage and into government-run health care. The Heritage Foundation’s Saving the American Dream fiscal plan offers a better future for America, Medicaid, and those who depend on it.
Budget & TaxationBy Eli Lehrer, Julie Drenner, Heartland InstitutePolicy Brief, 02/01/2012
Texas’s margins tax does not work as advertised. It is unfair, produces less revenue than promised, and does not meet any of the objectives its creators set out for it. Hence, the legislature should consider moves that would eliminate it entirely. In doing this, the legislature should look to raise its revenue from areas other than business taxes, keep any taxes it imposes simple, and keep an open mind regarding whether the tax needs to be replaced at all. The margins tax is broken. The Texas legislature can fix it. When it convenes in 2012, efforts to do so should rank among its top priorities.
Economic GrowthBy Edward Glaeser, Jacob Vigdor, Manhattan InstituteCivic Report, 02/01/2012
There is every reason to relish the fact that there is more freedom in housing today than 50 years ago and to applaud those who fought to create that change. Yet we now know that eliminating segregation was not a magic bullet. Residential segregation has declined pervasively, as ghettos depopulate and the nation’s population center shifts toward the less segregated Sun Belt. At the same time, there has been only limited progress in closing achievement and employment gaps between blacks and whites. The difficult lesson of these decades is that society is complicated and single solutions rarely solve everything. While the decline in segregation remains good news, far too many Americans still lack the opportunity to achieve meaningful success.
Budget & TaxationBy Wendell Cox, Ronald D. Utt, Maryland Public Policy InstitutePolicy Study, 02/01/2012
Increasing the gas tax and other motorist-related fees should be the last-resort policy option that the Maryland legislature should consider. Absent any meaningful reforms to the system, or the application of innovative policies proven in other states, an increase in taxes will simply waste more money on existing spending options that have failed to address worsening congestion. The burden of the increase in the fuel tax will also fall disproportionately more on moderate to lower-income households.
Budget & Taxation
Increasing America’s Competitiveness by Lowering the Corporate Tax Rate and Simplifying the Tax CodeBy Jason J. Fichtner, Mercatus CenterTestimony, 02/01/2012
The uncompetitive United States corporate tax system impedes American corporations’ ability to compete in the global marketplace. It also discourages potential domestic investment. If the United States is to be competitive in the future, some level of corporate tax restructuring has to occur. While other nations have been racing over the last 20 years to slash corporate tax rates, the United States has stagnated. At times the government has enacted temporary changes to tax policy, but it has ignored the underlying, fundamental problems that need permanent reform.
Economic GrowthBy Matthew Mitchell, Mercatus CenterTestimony, 02/01/2012
While we may not know how to instantly breathe life back into a sick economy, economists do know a great deal about how government can create an environment which is conducive to growth. There seems to be a lack of consensus among economists on how to create jobs. Almost everything we know about stimulus comes from either theoretical models or from so-called “quasi-natural experiments” in which economists look at somewhat random changes in government spending to draw conclusions about its effects. Instead of implementing a quick fix, we should be creating the conditions that are necessary for long run economic health; we should be enhancing economic freedom. That means permitting citizens choice, free and voluntary interaction, open market competition, and the rule of law.
Budget & TaxationBy William McBride, Tax FoundationPolicy Study, 02/01/2012
Income inequality has completely changed since the Great Recession began in late 2007. The long established upward trend has abruptly reversed itself, such that inequality is back where it was in about 1997. Moreover, inequality over the last decade is characterized by extreme volatility, owing to extreme volatility in capital gains, the stock market, and the economy. It is therefore no longer legitimate—if it ever was—to simply draw a line between two years and claim a trend in income inequality. As a result, it is not evident that the Bush tax cuts in either the top marginal rate or capital gains rate had any long-term effect on inequality. If anything, they appear to have reduced inequality. Therefore, a return to Clinton-era tax rates would not necessarily reduce inequality.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Mario Loyola, Texas Public Policy FoundationPolicy Perspective, 02/01/2012
This administration’s energy policy is driven by considerations other than expanding our energy resources or creating more jobs. The administration targets fossil fuels in order to favor alternative energy, but the one certain result will be to make energy more expensive for America’s working families. No alternative energy source produces nearly as much energy, nearly as reliably, nearly as cheaply, as fossil fuels. America needs a rational energy policy that protects our environment while allowing America’s working families to benefit from the blessings of our natural resources.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy Jeanette Moll, Texas Public Policy FoundationPolicy Perspective, 02/01/2012
Current parole programming has not produced optimal results for Texas juveniles, taxpayers, or the public safety, and the budget has remained constant even while parole populations dropped by half. Intensive reentry programming provides a better transition back to a youth’s home, community, and school, and can reduce recidivism 25-50 percent over traditional parole programming. Slightly shorter lengths of stay for low-risk juveniles do not negatively impact public safety, and can save Texas taxpayers millions.
EducationBy Stuart Butler, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 02/01/2012
The rising cost of college is a barrier to young Americans’ acquiring skills they need to be successful in the United States economy and move up the economic ladder. To tackle this problem, it is necessary to recognize that while federal assistance reduces the costs faced by families that qualify, unfortunately it also reduces the pressure on colleges to restrain tuition. The real antidote to tuition hikes at traditional public and private colleges is emerging competition from colleges that are pioneering new business models, online education, and other technologies that dramatically cut costs. The best way for Washington to foster this competition is to make sure that accreditation requirements and other regulations are loosened. And the best way to ease the student debt problem for future students is through tax reform that encourages saving.
Budget & TaxationBy J.D. Foster, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 02/01/2012
The Congressional Budget Office budget outlook is a very important contribution whatever quirks may arise in its production, and it has re-affirmed the dismal state of the nation’s finances. President Obama has one more opportunity in the upcoming release of his budget proposals to begin to get spending under control and turn the fiscal ship from the waiting shoals. Unfortunately, his State of the Union address offered little hope that the President would lead in this election year, but one can hope.
EducationBy Christian N. Braunlich, Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public PolicyPolicy Study, 02/01/2012
We live in an age with fewer and fewer barriers. Online learning tears down the political barriers existing between school divisions, providing new options for Virginia’s students to learn. And in the 21st century, we can deliver an education that ensures they take their place as productive citizens in the new economy. But for this next generation of Virginia students to enter the world of digital learning and remain competitive in the international community demands a new way of thinking about funding. Policy-makers must recognize that old funding models are ineffective, raise overall costs, and damage the ability of the Commonwealth’s students to learn in a world of online education.
EducationBy Liv Finne, Washington Policy CenterPolicy Note, 02/01/2012
Washington Policy Center’s Public School Accountability Index rates the quality of more than 2,075 public schools across the state. The Index is based on data compiled by the State Board of Education’s 2011 Achievement Index, using results from the 2010–11 school year. The purpose of the Index is to determine whether and to what extent school officials are fulfilling their paramount duty to provide a quality education for every child residing within the borders of the state.
LaborBy Yankee Institute for Public Policy, Yankee Institute for Public PolicyPolicy Brief, 02/01/2012
According to recent news reports, State Rep. Zeke Zalaski will host a press conference today in which he is expected to announce a proposal to increase the state’s minimum wage. Though well intentioned, this policy option is deeply misguided and will impose yet another obstacle to job growth in Connecticut.
ImmigrationBy Nick Schulz, American Enterprise InstitutePolicy Study, 02/01/2012
For Americans long accustomed to stable growth and low unemployment rates, the past few years have come as a profound and unsettling shock. As policymakers rattle around their tool kits looking for ways to help the American economy, now is a good time to take a new look at immigration, in particular high-skilled immigration. The late economist Julian Simon was one of the nation’s great growth theorists. He was fond of saying that “the ultimate resource is people, especially skilled, spirited, hopeful young people who will exert their will and imagination for their own benefit and in doing so, will inevitably benefit the rest of us as well.” The United States is rich in many natural resources, but it needs more of that ultimate resource to thrive in the 21st century.
National SecurityBy The Heritage Foundation, The Heritage FoundationFact Sheet, 02/01/2012
Long-term deficits are the result of unsustainable levels of spending on entitlement programs. Rather than tackle them directly, some would cut defense. But even if spending on this crucial national priority was eliminated completely, entitlements would continue to drive deficits to unmanageable levels.
Economic GrowthBy William Beach, The Heritage FoundationHeritage Lecture, 02/01/2012
Robert Lucas’s famous critique of macro modeling focused the attention of modelers on what he called adaptive expectations: What’s happening “now” in a model’s data space is more important than what’s happened in the past. Lucas made us look at the margin, at the cutting edge of economic activity, and at how economic actors altered their economic behavior in the presence of major public policy changes. It is at the margin of economic activity that we find economic change. Models that fail to attend to the margin fail to contain any meaningful economics. Those that do, however, will discover a familiar actor inhabiting that margin, the same one who holds center stage in daily economic life: the creator of new value—the entrepreneur.
Transportation/InfrastructureBy Ronald Utt, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 01/31/2012
President Obama’s Department of Housing and Urban Development is beginning to insidiously intrude in local housing policies in a concerted effort to require racial and economic integration in American communities. Congress should be aware of these plans and be prepared to push back. For starters, Congress should hold hearings on this new policy and the remedies required to determine whether they are within the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s statutory authority and whether existing appropriations can be used to enforce such relocation plans.
National SecurityBy Paul Rosenzweig, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 01/31/2012
The Senate will move early next month to consider a comprehensive cybersecurity bill. The House, likewise, is pledged to consider legislation this year. The Administration has proposed a bill itself, and the political forces seem to be moving toward some form of legislative response to the growing problem of intrusion on the Internet. As is often the case, however, with any bill that has the word comprehensive in its description, conservatives should be cautious in their approach and limited in their expectations. One hopes that as Congress moves forward, the ideas embodied in H.R. 3523—a work product of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and its two chairmen, Mike Rogers (R–MI) and Dutch Ruppersburger (D–MD)—will be given serious consideration.
EducationBy Terry Stoops, John Locke FoundationSpotlight, 01/31/2012
What does North Carolina’s significant investment in public education yield? Not much, according to multiple studies that link North Carolina’s National Assessment of Educational Progress results to Program for International Student Assessment scores. In most cases, North Carolina hovers around the international average in reading and math. In other words, the state falls very short of staying “ahead of international competition.” Public school students in economically competitive European and Asian nations easily outperform students from North Carolina. Overall, the evidence suggests that, despite ample resources, public school students in North Carolina fail to meet or exceed the performance of many of our economic competitors throughout the world. Simply put, the state has failed to “produce globally competitive students,” and that failure is a cause for serious concern.
Elections, Transparency, & AccountabilityBy Thomas M. Johnson Jr., Federalist SocietyWhite Paper, 01/31/2012
This paper reviews the text, structure, and history of the 1947 New Jersey Constitution, as well as case law addressing the nature of public employee benefits in that state. A review of the relevant textual and historical evidence suggests that the drafters may not have intended to extend constitutional protection to judicial benefits. The evidence suggests instead that the drafters entrusted the General Assembly with discretion to adjust benefits as necessary to respond to prevailing economic conditions. The New Jersey Supreme Court should weigh this evidence carefully against the reasons provided by the trial court for invalidating the law as applied to judges.
Elections, Transparency, & AccountabilityBy Malia Hill, Grassroot Institute of HawaiiinPursuit, 01/31/2012
The name “Akaka Bill” is a catch-all term for the various proposals for creation of a separate Native Hawaiian government, most generally along the lines of Native American tribal governments. What many people may not realize is that the creation of a Native Hawaiian government is not simply an “aid” program of sorts for Native Hawaiians. It has the power to cause significant disruption to Hawaii’s economy and permanently change the cultural, social, and political make-up of the State.
ImmigrationBy David North, Center for Immigration StudiesBackgrounder, 01/31/2012
EB-5 (the fifth class of Employment-Based immigration programs) is a program that is failing, and richly deserves to fail. Despite massive promotional efforts, there are comparatively few takers, and only a fraction of them complete the process and get green cards. No one seems to be getting much out of the program; many of the investments turn out to be bad ones, some scandalous; and other immigrant-receiving nations run much more rational programs than we do, while securing more significant investments, proportionately, from aliens.
EducationBy Andrew Gillen, Center for College Affordability and ProductivityPolicy Study, 01/31/2012
In higher education, three generally recognized rationales for federal involvement in financial aid exist: promoting equality of opportunity, credit market imperfections, and social benefits (positive externalities). To various degrees, virtually every federal financial aid program in the country is pushed to advance all three goals, and that is the problem. It is fiendishly difficult to promote any one goal efficiently and effectively, and yet, rhetorically at least, we try to make every financial aid program promote all three simultaneously. This is a recipe for disappointment, confusion, and wasted money. This paper proposes to remedy many of these problems by restructuring federal financial aid, establishing separate programs focused exclusively on each goal.
EducationBy Matthew Ladner, Dan Lips, American Legislative Exchange CouncilReport, 01/31/2012
American Legislative Exchange Council’s 17th edition of the Report Card on American Education contains a comprehensive overview of educational achievement levels (performance and gains for low-income students) for the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The Report Card details what education policies states currently have in place and provides a roadmap for legislators to follow to bring about educational excellence in their state.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Roger F. Noriega, Commentary MagazineArticle, 01/31/2012
Merely monitoring Iran’s foray into Latin America is not enough. The United States must find its way toward adopting new forward-leaning policies that will frustrate Tehran’s plans to threaten United States security and interests close to home.
Health CareBy Roger Bate, Africa Fighting MalariaArticle, 01/30/2012
Demand for narcotics continues, and so does the cost and violence that accompanies its trade. Rather than waiting for World Heath Organization to act, Europe has moved ahead with its own Medicrime treaty. There needs to be an international treaty against potentially lethal, falsified and substandard medicine.
EducationBy Alabama Policy Institute, Alabama Policy InstitutePolicy Study, 01/30/2012
Alabama has the opportunity to learn from other states’ experiences and proven best practices to create strong charter school legislation that brings high quality education options to children who need them. A new Legislature, committed charter school advocates, supportive parents and businesses give charter school legislation more than just a fighting chance. With thoughtful crafting, a charter school law can create vibrant schools and exceptional students who will be equipped to compete in a dynamic 21st century global marketplace.
Transportation/InfrastructureBy Robert Poole, Daryl Fleming, Reason FoundationPolicy Study, 01/30/2012
The 2011 Florida legislative session saw several proposals that would have consolidated some or all of the local toll authorities into the Florida Turnpike Enterprise. Later that year, a Work Group of the Government Efficiency Taskforce produced a report calling for most of the functions of the local toll authorities of Orlando and Tampa to be consolidated with Florida Turnpike Enterprise. The purpose of this study is to assess the arguments for and against the consolidation of toll agencies in Florida.
Budget & TaxationBy Arduin Laffer and Moore Econometrics, Oklahoma Council of Public AffairsPolicy Study, 01/30/2012
Oklahoma has the opportunity to establish itself as America’s premier destination for economic freedom, through a complete phaseout of the state’s personal income tax. This would create a long-lasting economic boom, benefiting generations to come. A phaseout of Oklahoma’s personal income tax would result in Oklahoma having the lowest tax burden of any state except Alaska.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Diane Katz, The Heritage FoundationWebMemo, 01/30/2012
Within hours of Richard Cordray assuming the role of director at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, agency officials began exercising their newly expanded powers. Their immediate target is all manner of “nonbank” financial services used by millions of households. While proponents contend that the new regulations will benefit consumers, the structure of the bureau—its unparalleled power magnified by an absence of accountability—bodes ill for most Americans. Absent structural reform of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, consumers will begin to experience all too soon the consequences of this unchecked regulatory agency: fewer choices among financial products and services and higher costs for those that are available.
Information TechnologyBy Eli Dourado, Mercatus CenterWorking Paper, 01/30/2012
Policy makers should be careful not to interfere with economic activity unless there is clear evidence of market failure. Inappropriate regulation, whether it is too stringent or just misapplied, can lead to large welfare costs that are as significant and as real as those that result from market failure. The risk of “government failure” is often overlooked by policy analysts, but it is severe. Consequently, the burden of proof should be on those who wish to intervene in the Internet economy to provide (1) clear evidence of the existence of actual market failure, not just observable externalities, and (2) a regulatory solution that is likely to do more good than harm. These are substantial burdens that do not appear to have been met.
Budget & TaxationBy Matthew Mitchell, Thomas Stratmann, Mercatus CenterWorking Paper, 01/30/2012
Mobile phone services seem to be singled out for particularly heavy taxation. The tax rates that apply to these services are significantly higher than those that apply to most goods. There is no strong normative justification for picking cell phones for above-average taxation. One plausible explanation for these above-average rates is what is known as the tragedy of the anticommons. When numerous interests are allowed to tax a single base, each does so without regard to the effect of its tax on the others. Successfully addressing this issue may require an institutional solution. For example, states might consider enacting statutes prohibiting the imposition of multiple taxes on a single base. Because the problem is exacerbated by multiple, overlapping jurisdictions, federal action may also be warranted. For example, legislation might prohibit federal taxation of goods that are also commonly taxed at the state and local level.
EducationBy Mitch Pearlstein, Center of the American ExperimentPolicy Study, 01/30/2012
When it comes to government’s essential role in funding education, the holiest of grails is significantly improving quality while simultaneously constraining costs. No level of government, in or out of Minnesota, can point to many successes in melding and achieving these two imperatives in elementary and secondary schools. Yet without indulging in the kind of exaggerated expectations and claims frequently voiced in K-12 circles, the case to be made is that of all reforms on the educational table, taking greater advantage of online learning does, in fact, promise to help children learn measurably more without forcing taxpayers to spend measurably more. Education can be customized as never before because of ongoing technological advances. This is a very big deal given how boys and girls have different types of intelligence and learning styles, as well as different starting points and pace.
Opening the Schoolhouse Doors: Indiana’s Choice Scholarship Program Extends Long History of Choice-Based AidBy Angela C. Erickson, Institute for JusticePolicy Study, 01/30/2012
Choice-based aid for kindergarten through post-secondary students—including those at religious schools—has been part of the educational landscape in Indiana since at least the 1970s and has never, until now, been challenged on constitutional grounds. Only now that Choice Scholarships open the door to more educational options for more children do opponents see a problem. Yet a ruling against choice would not only jeopardize these new opportunities, it would put similar decades-old textbook, transportation, scholarship and grant programs at risk.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Reza Jan, American Enterprise InstitutePolicy Study, 01/30/2012
News reports in the beginning of January rang alarm bells about a ground-breaking agreement between militant groups in northwest Pakistan initiated by Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Omar, brokered by the Haqqani Network, and encouraged by the Pakistani government. These reports suggested that the Taliban has formed a united front that has pledged to stop fighting amongst itself, desist from attacks on innocents and the practice of kidnapping-for-ransom, end attacks on the Pakistani state and instead focus all its efforts on fighting coalition forces in Afghanistan. The real import of this agreement, however, is far from clear. Despite grand announcements, gestures, and claims of reconciliation among warring Taliban factions, little is likely to change on the ground with respect to Taliban operations in Pakistan, and it is too soon to assess what effect, if any, the agreement will have on United States operations in Afghanistan.
Budget & TaxationBy Andrew G. Biggs, American Enterprise InstituteTestimony, 01/30/2012
It is unlikely that increases in federal employee pension contributions or reductions in pension benefits for future federal retirees would lower total compensation below federal workers’ reservation wage, which represents the minimum pay at which a worker will accept a particular type of job. As a result, a less-generous federal retirement package is unlikely to significantly affect the federal government’s ability to attract and retain employees.
National SecurityBy Baker Spring, Michaela Bendikova, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 01/30/2012
The United States nuclear triad of heavy bombers, intercontinental-range ballistic missiles, and submarine-launched ballistic missiles is aging. The nuclear testing moratorium, which has reached nearly two decades, and the required reductions under New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty are magnifying questions about the United States nuclear arsenal’s reliability. These growing questions will eventually undermine the credibility of the United States nuclear deterrent to both allies and potential enemies. Reversing this atrophy will require significant investments in modernizing the United States nuclear weapons arsenal.