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Recent Policy Studies
Budget & TaxationBy Nicolas Loris, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 03/23/2012
Government spending has been spiraling upward—and spending by nearly all government agencies can, and should, be cut. President Obama has just submitted his 2013 budget request to Congress, providing fertile ground for spending cuts. The Department of Energy, with its many research, development, and grant programs offers many opportunities for savings. While there is an important role for the Department of Energy in energy security and environmental management, many Department of Energy projects fall outside its mission, supporting everything from commercialization of technologies to noncritical research—which can be conducted, usually much more efficiently, by the private sector. This paper provides a common-sense guide to saving $5.5 billion in the fiscal 2013 budget proposal while maintaining funding for the Department of Energy’s real mission of promoting national and economic energy security.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Bruce Klingner, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 03/23/2012
At present, under the terms of a bilateral agreement with the United States, Seoul is precluded from developing any ballistic missile with a range greater than 300 kilometers (186 miles). Seoul’s voluntary self-restriction did not prevent North Korea from developing missiles that can reach all of South Korea. America’s critical ally should be allowed to extend its missile range to 800 kilometers (approximately the length of the Korean Peninsula) so it can have a sufficiently robust indigenous military to deter, defend, and defeat North Korean hostile actions, including a ballistic missile attack. The need is particularly acute given North Korea’s two attacks on South Korea in 2010 and Seoul’s gaining wartime operational command of its military from the United Nations Command in 2015.
National SecurityBy Jessica Zuckerman, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 03/23/2012
In February 2012, President Obama issued his fiscal 2013 budget proposal. His $59 billion request for the Department of Homeland Security is slightly lower than the enacted level for fiscal 2012. The President is to be applauded for continuing strong financial investments in border security and cybersecurity. But his budget falls short in other key areas: Important security and immigration-law-enforcement measures have been cut. The Coast Guard remains in dire need of modernization and recapitalization. And the Transportation Security Administration remains a massive, largely unhelpful, bureaucracy. Too many items in the 2013 budget reflect misplaced priorities. As the Department of Homeland Security approaches its tenth anniversary, it is time for the Administration and Congress to enhance key capabilities within the homeland security enterprise.
Health CareBy Josh D. Archambault, et al, Pioneer Institute for Public Policy ResearchBook, 03/23/2012
The Great Experiment peels back the heated rhetoric over the federal health care law and provides a serious examination of how the relationship between states and the federal government impacts health care policy decisions. The book is about much more than examining a single state experiment, or the immediate questions that may arise during a presidential campaign. Make no mistake about it: The Great Experiment lays out a market-oriented blueprint for the next decade–and seeks to do it with the wisdom and balance that come from observing and analyzing a variety of state and federal policy experiences.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Alison Suthers, Nancy Bryson, Washington Legal FoundationLegal Backgrounder, 03/23/2012
The Northern District of California recently upheld the Department of Agriculture’s deregulation of a type of genetically engineered alfalfa against a legal challenge brought by the Center for Food Safety and other plaintiffs. Before the current decision, the Center for Food Safety, a frequent plaintiff and opponent of genetically engineered foods, had successfully challenged other deregulation decisions involving genetically engineered crops in the Northern District of California using the National Environmental Policy Act. The current decision may therefore finally reflect a turn in the Department of Agriculture’s fortunes in Federal court with respect to genetic engineering. This clarification of regulatory authority could provide the biotechnology industry with additional certainty regarding future regulatory decisions.
Regulation & DeregulationBy Jonathan Klick, Joshua D. Wright, Washington Legal FoundationLegal Backgrounder, 03/23/2012
Any Willing Provider laws at the state and federal level likely lead to less competition and higher prices for consumers while providing no compensating benefits. Selective and exclusive network contracting is a fundamental part of the competitive process which leads to minimizing cost and maximizing consumer welfare. Advocates of Any Willing Provider proposals understandably seek greater consumer choice and competition among health care providers; however, Any Willing Provider laws amount to intervention in a competitive process by prohibiting efficient contracting and will ultimately be counterproductive to those goals.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Sarah Roller, Donnelly L. McDowell, Washington Legal FoundationWorking Paper, 03/23/2012
A front-of-package labeling system modeled after the Energy Star® program would pose substantial First Amendment issues. Any front-of-package labeling program must grant food marketers sufficient freedom to convey truthful information and avoid placing unnecessary restrictions on how that information is conveyed. Additionally, the front-of-package labeling program must avoid compelling speech which is not necessary to consumer use or safety. The front-of-package labeling system has the potential to stigmatize wholesome and nutrient rich products that can be part of a healthy diet, based on a “signal” that highlights solely calories and nutrients that consumers would be encouraged to avoid – added sugars, saturated and trans fats, and sodium.
Budget & TaxationBy Joseph Henchman, Tax FoundationTestimony, 03/23/2012
Film tax credits do not pay for themselves. While some benefits accrue to in-state filmmakers and suppliers, on the whole they are a net transfer from taxpayers to out-of-state production company beneficiaries. The sheer magnitude of the amounts that various states are spending to lure productions makes it very difficult for any state to gain a lasting competitive edge over the others. Programs have steadily got more generous as states outbid each other, and it is telling that two of the most generous states (Michigan and New Mexico) recently greatly scaled back their programs. Other states continue to debate film tax credits’ merits. At a minimum, film incentive programs should be required disclose credit amounts awarded by recipient, how much was spent per full-time equivalent job was created, and reviewed periodically for their effectiveness by legislative oversight or independent third parties.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Jack Spencer, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 03/23/2012
Congressman Ed Whitfield (R–KY) has released legislation that would force the Obama Administration to reveal how its environmental regulations impact gasoline prices. Specifically, the Gasoline Regulations Act of 2012 would create a Transportation Fuels Regulatory Committee consisting of officials from the Departments of Energy, Transportation, Commerce, Labor, and Treasury, plus representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency, the International Trade Commission, and the Energy Information Agency. The purpose of the committee would be to report on the full economic impact of a series of Environmental Protection Agency actions on gasoline prices.
Regulation & DeregulationBy South Carolina Policy Council, South Carolina Policy CouncilCommentary, 03/22/2012
It strikes one as naïve to think the reason school districts purchase unhealthy food is because they haven’t been sufficiently “encouraged” to do so, or because officials haven’t been exposed to enough helpful “workshops” on healthy eating and the virtues of locally grown produce. Schools buy processed food because it’s cheaper than unprocessed food. It’s as simple as that. And as long as it stays that way, no government program is going to make them change their minds. There are ways state and federal lawmakers can begin to make locally grown food more affordable. Getting rid of checkoff programs would be a start. We also have to lower schools’ administrative overhead and think about cutting federal dependence. These are small steps, and they’re politically unexciting. But they would at least address the actual problem. Creating yet another unaccountable, expensive program won’t.
National SecurityBy Mackenzie Eaglen, Douglas A. Birkey, American Enterprise InstituteNational Security Outlook, 03/22/2012
Air power stands as a cornerstone of the Obama administration’s recent decision to prioritize defense efforts in the Asia-Pacific region. To make this strategy successful, the administration and Congress must ensure the nation has the necessary capabilities and capacity to secure national interests in an area defined by vast distances, limited basing options, and a pronounced threat to assured access. This means real investments—not budgeting sleights of hand that dilute America’s presence in other vital areas around the globe—and the ability to maintain strength across the national security portfolio. Though the United States currently dominates the skies, this will not continue if resources are spread too thin and are inadequate to meet potential threats. Despite the considerable costs, policymakers must invest in the necessary assets and capabilities to be prepared to effectively defend United States interests in the Asia-Pacific region.
Health CareBy Arlene Wohlgemuth, Spencer Harris, Texas Public Policy FoundationPolicy Perspective, 03/22/2012
Under the health care law, the employer mandate creates such a barrier at the 50 employee threshold that it is unlikely that most businesses will seek expansion to that size after 2014. The rising cost of business driven by compliance, employee coverage, and penalties will force medium size business to either merge with one another to gain economies of scale, sell their business to larger competitors, or shut down completely. The future of Texas business under the health care law is one in which small businesses stay small, large businesses stay large, and growth is muted.
Regulation & DeregulationBy Richard Williams, Mercatus CenterTestimony, 03/22/2012
Every president has struggled to improve his management of agency regulatory authority. For 30 years, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs has served as a gatekeeper with limited authority. Six administrations have supported the use of quality economic analysis to inform regulatory decision-making. Simply restating this principle in executive orders and public statements has not and will not achieve the objective, all good intentions notwithstanding. Without definitive action, we risk doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results, an approach that Albert Einstein logically concluded to be the definition of insanity.
Budget & TaxationBy Daniel DiSalvo, Manhattan InstituteCivic Report, 03/22/2012
A number of states are currently struggling with controversies over public-sector unions’ impact at the bargaining table on matters such as health-care costs, pensions, performance pay, and worker flexibility. But unions may have more impact on public policy—and the costs of government—through their uniquely powerful tools for electioneering and lobbying. Today’s debates should expand their focus from collective-bargaining issues to take into account these facts about public-sector unions as political actors.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Morgan Lorraine Roach, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 03/22/2012
Boko Haram, a Nigerian Islamist insurgency, is emerging as a threat not only to Nigeria, but also to the African continent and the United States. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has proven unable to address the growing security crisis that has targeted government officials, police forces, and hundreds of innocent civilians. Ongoing instability across the Sahel has also created an atmosphere ripe for tribal conflict, weapons proliferation, and terrorism. The region’s mounting instability is facilitated by a cultural interconnectedness providing Boko Haram with access to terrorist and militant groups. The United States should not overlook the threat Boko Haram poses to United States interests in the region and potentially to the homeland. Boko Haram’s connections to terrorist groups have provided militants with the means to wage deadly attacks against international facilities. The Obama Administration should not wait until a United States target is hit to take action.
Economic GrowthBy Ying Ma, Hoover InstitutionDefining Ideas, 03/22/2012
In light of the mounting hurdles to free enterprise in the American marketplace, China’s eagerness to promote business and create jobs naturally appears quite impressive to the United States business community. This is an unfortunate reality with which American policymakers must wrestle. Meeting the challenge of China’s political and economic rise requires seeing its limitations clearly. But it also demands that America’s political leaders take the necessary steps to make their own economy more competitive, more agile, and friendlier to the free market. In that vein, doing what many American business leaders advocate—fixing the budget, lowering the burden of entitlements, implementing a sound debt-reduction plan, taking away disincentives for businesses to repatriate earnings from overseas, and reducing regulatory red tape—would be a good start.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Ted R. Bromund, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 03/22/2012
The United States should state clearly that it will resist any efforts by other nations to negotiate an Arms Trade Treaty outside the United Nations, just as it will not accept an unsatisfactory Arms Trade Treaty negotiated inside the United Nations. This will not be an easy course to follow, but it has the advantage of not giving United States sanction to an unsatisfactory treaty, no matter where it originates, and in being based on clear and consistently articulated principles that seek to protect United States interests, the rights of its citizens, and the responsible conduct of diplomacy.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Robert Alt, Edmund Haislmaier, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 03/22/2012
Next week, the Supreme Court will hear challenges to Obamacare (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) centered on the constitutionality of the legislation’s individual mandate and Medicaid expansion. From a legal perspective, the Court’s decision will serve as a significant precedent with respect to what limits, if any, still apply to congressional authority—fundamentally, whether the federal government remains one of limited powers. From a health policy perspective, for every possible outcome—including the Supreme Court either upholding or striking down the totality of Obamacare—Congress will have to take some kind of action in response. Congress’s best course is to repeal Obamacare, or what remains after the Court has done its work, and then adopt real, patient-centered reforms like those put forward in The Heritage Foundation’s Saving the American Dream.
Health CareBy Nina Owcharenko, Kathryn Nix, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 03/21/2012
On its second anniversary, Obamacare remains unpopular. The provisions currently in effect have fallen short of expectations and disrupted the market, causing even greater uncertainty for the future. Overall, Obamacare has increased government control of Americans’ health care choices and limited consumer choice. The recent controversy over the preventive care benefit mandates are a good indication of things to come. The fundamental structure of Obamacare is based on centralizing the financing, delivery, and management of health care, and is completely incompatible with patient-centered, market-based reforms.
Budget & TaxationBy Alison Acosta Fraser, Patrick Louis Knudsen, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 03/21/2012
Paul Ryan’s budget takes strong strides in the right direction. It cuts spending, in the budget year and into the future—from both discretionary and mandatory accounts—provides substantive entitlement reforms, and avoids tax hikes. It also outlines a tax reform that would strengthen the economy and by implication further strengthen government finances through stronger economic growth. There is a great deal more work to do, as the Heritage plan Saving the American Dream reflects. Nevertheless, the Ryan budget represents real progress toward tackling the nation’s fiscal and economic challenges. But this progress will become reality only if Congress follows through with legislation that delivers these kinds of strong policy changes.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Lisa Curtis, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 03/21/2012
The Pakistani parliament’s efforts to reframe the relationship could be helpful in restoring United States–Pakistan ties. However, Pakistani leaders must appreciate that the United States has certain red lines when it comes to fighting terrorism and will insist on action to further degrade the terrorist sanctuary in Pakistan’s tribal border areas. While there is an opportunity to improve relations, Pakistani officials should not overplay their hand but should recognize that United States officials are equally frustrated with the relationship.
EducationBy David J. Deming, Education NextEducation Next, 03/21/2012
This study of North Carolina finds that winning a lottery for admission to the school of choice greatly reduces criminal activity, and that the greatest reduction occurs among youth at the highest risk for committing crimes. The impacts persist beyond the initial years of school enrollment, seven years after the school-choice lottery was held. These findings suggest that schools may be an opportune setting for the prevention of future crime.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Robert Zubrin, Encounter BooksBook, 03/21/2012
There was a time when humanity looked in the mirror and saw something precious, worth protecting and fighting for—indeed, worth liberating. But now we are beset on all sides by propaganda promoting a radically different viewpoint. According to this idea, human beings are a cancer upon the Earth, a species whose aspirations and appetites are endangering the natural order. This is the core of antihumanism. Combining riveting tales from history with powerful policy arguments, Merchants of Despair provides scientific refutations to antihumanism’s major pseudo-scientific claims, including its modern tirades against nuclear power, pesticides, population growth, biotech foods, resource depletion, industrial development, and, most recently, fear-mongering about global warming.
Economic and Political ThoughtBy Jeffrey Bell, Encounter BooksBook, 03/21/2012
In The Case for Polarized Politics, Jeffrey Bell asserts that social conservatism is not only unlikely to collapse, but that it is has become an increasingly unified and coherent movement, one that reflects the dearly held beliefs of millions of Americans. The resulting polarization, unpleasant as it may be, is preferable to the alternative which is being played out in the declining societies of Western Europe and Japan, countries where there is no resistance to the left’s agenda of relentless cultural and social transformation. In the United States, by contrast, polarization reigns because social conservatives have proven impossible to marginalize. Social conservatives may be far from prevailing, but the battle over social issues continues to drive the national debate and its issues will always play a huge role in voters’ decisions. Both the left, and more importantly the right, attempt to marginalize it at their own peril.
Elections, Transparency, & AccountabilityBy William Mattox, James Madison InstitutePolicy Brief, 03/21/2012
Florida continues to be a national leader in government transparency, and many citizens have reason to be pleased with the priority that their public officials are giving to proactive disclosure of government information. At the same time, the Sunshine State still has much room for improvement. Jackson County’s jump in the annual rankings of government transparency ought to serve notice to other jurisdictions around Florida—perhaps especially those in similarly-remote areas. For whether one’s population is large or small, government transparency is increasingly important (and increasingly easy) in our digital age.
Economic GrowthBy Peter Wehner, Robert P. Beschel Jr., National AffairsArticle, 03/21/2012
Income inequality as such is not the problem with our country today; an overly narrow focus on wealth gaps therefore distracts us from the very real challenges that do need to be met. Indeed, embracing policies aimed explicitly at leveling incomes is almost certain to harm both the rich and the poor—and it is not at all clear how such a universal reduction in prosperity would serve the cause of justice or benefit the nation. But as the rhetoric about inequality in this year’s election season makes clear, America still has a long way to go before it appreciates the dangers inherent in our fixation on income gaps. Only by framing the issue properly can conservatives refocus the country’s attention where it belongs, and thereby truly help the poor—by restoring their access to the opportunity that really constitutes, to borrow President Obama’s phrase, “the promise that’s at the very heart of America.”
Information TechnologyBy Timothy B. Lee, National AffairsArticle, 03/21/2012
It would be wonderful if the structure of the telecommunications industry were governed by ordinary market forces. In the meantime, however, entry into the broadband market is controlled by governments, and governments have a responsibility to prevent rent-seeking by firms granted privileged access to the market. The simplest and least intrusive way to do this is by preserving the internet’s division of labor between network providers and content providers. And the key to preserving that division is taking a few carefully considered steps now to prevent broadband consolidation—a trend that threatens the internet’s decentralized architecture, and so threatens the engine of innovation and productivity that has done so much to advance American prosperity.
Elections, Transparency, & AccountabilityBy Adam J. White, National AffairsArticle, 03/21/2012
The excessive deference given by presidents of both parties to independent executive agencies in the post-war period needs to come to an end. If our elected president wants to put into effect a course of policy, he should stand behind it and take responsibility. Our constitutional order demands no less of the president, and the laws and judicial precedents governing the independent agencies do not preclude the president from doing his job.
Health CareBy James C. Capretta, Robert E. Moffit, National AffairsArticle, 03/21/2012
History suggests that, now that Obamacare is with us, the law cannot be reversed without a credible proposal for what should take its place. Those reforms must account for both the strengths and the weaknesses of our health-care system, and must solve the problems that contributed to the demand for Obamacare in the first place. There is room for debate about the particulars of these reforms, and different components of our health-care system will call for different kinds of fixes. What any effective solution must involve, however, is the creation of a true market in health coverage—one that drives efficiency through competition, and places health-care decisions in the hands of consumers and taxpayers, where they belong.
Information TechnologyBy T. Randolph Beard, et al, Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal and Economic Public Policy StudiesPolicy Bulletin, 03/21/2012
One of the most vexing issues of late is how to develop an effective yet socially–acceptable policy response to stop the rampant and expanding theft of intellectual property using the Internet. Theft of intellectual property reduces social well-being, even if we count the benefits to the thief and assume theft requires no resources. In effect, theft acts as a distortionary tax on sellers, and this distortion is not remedied by merely returning the proceeds of the theft as a lump sum transfer to consumers. As such, as the debate moves forward on how to develop effective mechanisms to prevent intellectual property theft, we may set aside the argument that on-line theft of intellectual property causes no real economic harm and therefore no foul.
Budget & TaxationBy Arthur B. Laffer, Wayne H. Winegarden, Beacon Center of TennesseePolicy Study, 03/21/2012
A full repeal of death and gift taxes would not only boost Tennessee’s economy, but also bring much-needed tax revenue to state and local coffers. While the taxes have brought in less than $1 billion over the past decade, their imposition has cost state and local governments as much as $7.3 billion in revenue from other sources such as sales, property, and business taxes.
Budget & TaxationBy Texas Public Policy Foundation, Texas Public Policy FoundationPolicy Report, 03/21/2012
Texans must rethink how we fund and operate Texas state and local governments in order to reduce dependence on the government, foster economic growth, and deliver improved, streamlined services to Texans. In other words, Texas government must learn to live within its means so that all Texans will continue to enjoy the nation’s top job-producing economy.
EducationBy Pam Benigno, Ben DeGrow, Independence InstituteIssue Backgrounder, 03/21/2012
Nearly 50 Colorado online education leaders and policy experts gathered Monday, January 23, 2012, to help craft a roadmap of digital learning policy priorities for the state. Participants worked together to help identify Colorado’s leading digital learning policy priorities in three major categories: Access and Eligibility, Funding, and Assessment and Accountability. A considerable number of insightful comments were shared, and a remarkable degree of consensus was achieved on many priorities.
Health CareBy Henry I. Miller, Jeff Stier, Hoover InstitutionDefining Ideas, 03/21/2012
Cigarette smoking is one of the major preventable scourges of human health. Public health experts and regulators—and yes, even smokers—know it. But by being politically correct and focusing on unproven or misguided approaches, the Food and Drug Administration is passing up a historic opportunity to mitigate the health effects of cigarette smoking. Specifically, Food and Drug Administration officials are struggling to reconcile science and politics in applying their new powers to regulate tobacco. They aren’t succeeding.
Economic and Political ThoughtBy Michael Patrick Leahy, Broadside BooksBook, 03/21/2012
Today’s political class-in both parties and at all levels of government-shows a blatant disregard for both the letter and spirit of the United States Constitution. More and more Americans are fed up, and from this sweeping sense of discontent and anger the Tea Party movement has emerged, revitalizing the spirit of constitutionalist activism in the conservative world. According to author and Tea Party activist Michael Patrick Leahy, a similar lack of accountability ignited our nation’s Founding Fathers, and they were motivated by the same ideological desires: to constitutionally limit government, ensure fiscal responsibility, and defend individual liberty. These imperatives were at the heart of what he calls a “covenant of liberty,” which undergirds our written Constitution.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Ray Walser, Marc Wachtenheim, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 03/20/2012
The Cuban people, living within the constricted space permitted by the 53-year-old Cuban Revolution, have not benefited from the remarkable leap forward in communication technology over the past few decades. Havana’s repressive regime wishes to shift censorship’s traditional fault lines to the electronic sphere, severely restricting its population’s ability to chart its own destiny and violating its most basic human rights. The regime’s strategy is to channel, filter, censor, and under-invest in modern technologies to preserve political dominance on the island. Congress and the Obama Administration should explore and implement innovative and pro-active counter-strategies to promote online freedom that empower the Cuban people while circumventing the regime of informational dominance exercised by the Castro government.
National SecurityBy Jessica Zuckerman, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 03/20/2012
In his fiscal year 2013 budget proposal for the Department of Homeland Security, President Obama called for a 50 percent cut in funding for the Federal Flight Deck Officer program. Often seen as the last line of defense against the threat of terrorist hijackings and other air piracy, this low-cost program offers an important additional layer of deterrence against terrorism. The President’s decision to decrease the program’s funding drastically, therefore, makes little sense. As the budget process continues, Congress should be careful to fully examine the benefits of the Federal Flight Deck Officer program and seek to continue the program in full funding.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Charles Stimson, Elizabeth Garvey, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 03/20/2012
On Tuesday, March 20, the Supreme Court hears oral argument in two cases involving the constitutionality of sentences of life without parole for teenage murderers. The real issue before the Court is this: Will the Court again “find” or “invent” a heretofore undiscovered constitutional prohibition and thus strike an entire category of sentences for the most violent teenagers, or will it defer to the carefully considered judgment of the vast majority of the states (39) and federal government that have decided to authorize the sentence in appropriate cases?
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Edward J. Pinto, American Enterprise InstituteTestimony, 03/20/2012
Here are four steps that could be taken today to help promote a housing recovery. 1) End the needless delays in foreclosures that are slowing a recovery and driving up the cost of taxpayer bailouts of the government-sponsored enterprises. 2) Repeal the two biggest job killers – ObamaCare and Dodd-Frank and act on dozens of other sound ideas that have been suggested, but ignored. 3) Promote the conversion to rental of properties resulting from short sales, real estate ownership and foreclosures by expanding the government-sponsored enterprises’ individual investor loan limit. 4) Help underwater borrowers who have done the right thing and made loan payments for the last 5 plus years get the benefit of a lower rate but have them keep the same monthly payment. This way the loan would amortize much faster, helping the homeowner get himself out from under water. This would replace a reliance on refinances as an extremely weak for of stimulus.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Alex J. Pollock, American Enterprise InstitutePolicy Study, 03/20/2012
History shows us that sovereign governments often default on their loans, particularly in times of war or economic upheaval. Europe finds itself in this situation now and would do well to examine past sovereign debt crises—particularly, the European sovereign debt crisis of the 1920s—for lessons.
Health CareBy Jeffrey A. Singer, Reason FoundationReason, 03/20/2012
In a few years, almost all doctors will be employees of hospitals and will be ordered to practice medicine according to federally prescribed guidelines—guidelines that put the best interests of the state ahead of the interests of individual patients. The medical profession must decide—and soon—which ethical doctrine to follow: Are doctors to be agents of their patients or agents of the state?
LaborBy James Sherk, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 03/20/2012
Labor unions should serve the interest of employees—not the other way around, as often happens. Legislation introduced in Congress would go a long way toward making this a reality. The Employee Rights Act guarantees workers a private, informed, uncoerced vote on unionizing. The bill also enables employees to re-elect (or unelect) their bargaining representatives every three years. The Employee Rights Act further protects workers from union pressure and extortion. It requires unions to obtain workers’ permission before spending their dues on matters unrelated to collective bargaining. It also gives employees the right to vote on accepting a contract or before going on strike. These reforms would shift the balance of power in the workplace from unions to workers.
Elections, Transparency, & AccountabilityBy Hans A. von Spakovsky, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 03/20/2012
The latest data compiled by the Secretary of State of Georgia, Brian Kemp, about the state’s experience with voter identification once again shows that the claims by opponents of voter identification are wrong. Contrary to their assertions that there are large numbers of American voters without a government-issued photo identification, Georgia has had to issue a remarkably small number of identifications to individuals who did not already have one. The state’s specific turnout data on racial minorities also shows that the claim that voter identification will “suppress” their vote lacks any foundation in facts.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Morgan Lorraine Roach, Luke Coffey, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 03/19/2012
In May, North Atlantic Treaty Organization leaders will meet for the annual heads of state and government summit in Chicago. Absent from the summit’s agenda is the issue of enlargement—a pillar of the alliance. Since taking office, President Obama has done little to support the membership of qualified candidates. This year’s summit provides an opportunity to correct this. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s “open door policy” is critical to mobilizing Europe and its allies around a collective transatlantic defense. According to Article 10 of the North Atlantic Treaty, any European state that fulfills the requirements of the treaty and demonstrates the competency to contribute to the alliance’s security is eligible for membership. The United States should take steps to make sure that the open door policy is not stifled.
Information TechnologyBy Adam Thierer, Mercatus CenterWorking Paper, 03/19/2012
Are social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter “information monopolies” that should be regulated as public utilities? While calls for social networking regulation are on the rise, there are good reasons why policymaker should avoid the rush and rethink classifying them as “public utilities.” Public utility regulation has traditionally been the arch-enemy of innovation, and this could have lasting effects on such a dynamic industry. Treating today’s leading social media providers as essential facilities threatens to convert predictions of “natural monopoly” into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Budget & TaxationBy Curtis Dubay, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 03/19/2012
The current tax code is an enormous burden on the economy, preventing it from reaching its full potential. Tax reform is long overdue. After initial reluctance, President Obama now agrees that the economy needs tax reform. He frames the numerous tax increases in his fiscal 2013 budget request as tax reform. In reality, they would be the opposite of reform. If Congress made the mistake of passing President Obama’s false tax reform plan, it would damage the economy and set back the movement toward true tax reform. As it has done with the President’s previous budgets, Congress should ignore his new tax plan and focus on crafting a true tax reform plan along the lines of the Heritage Foundation’s New Flat Tax.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Nathaniel Stewart, The Heritage FoundationLegal Memorandum, 03/19/2012
The heart of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, popularly known as “Obamacare,” is an unprecedented mandate that individuals purchase health insurance. The briefs of the parties challenging Obamacare and their supporting amici argue persuasively that, if the Supreme Court hews to the original understanding of the Constitution, it will have no choice but to strike down the mandate. The Commerce Clause empowers Congress only to “regulate” commercial activity, not to coerce it into existence. And the mandate is by no means a “Law...for carrying into execution” the Commerce Clause power, and so finds no support in the Necessary and Proper Clause. The Framers would have considered the individual mandate far beyond the powers accorded to Congress. On that basis, it must be rejected.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Dean Cheng, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 03/19/2012
While most sessions of China’s National People’s Congress have been little-noticed affairs, the same will not be said of the 2012 session. As this year’s session came to a close, outgoing Premier Wen Jiabao warned of the potential for chaos and cited the Cultural Revolution of 1966–1976. A day later, Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai was ousted from his position. The turmoil in China’s political succession should temper expectations for the United States–China relationship and lessen the leverage the Administration has allowed the Chinese by virtue of its extensive schedule of bilateral consultations. The story surrounding Bo’s downfall is also an opportunity for the Administration to examine its policy on Chinese defectors so as to be prepared when it is presented with access to high-level sources of intelligence.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Bruce Klingner, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 03/19/2012
North Korea has a proclivity for taking provocative actions precisely when Washington and its allies have begun diplomatic attempts at engagement. Secret negotiations in March 2010 to prepare for resuming the Six-Party Talks were undermined by Pyongyang’s attack on a South Korean naval vessel later that month. Secret inter-Korean talks in November 2010, including South Korean offers of food aid, did not prevent North Korea from shelling a South Korean island weeks later. While a combination of punitive measures and diplomacy may provide a path for achieving North Korean denuclearization, Pyongyang’s repeated violations, attacks, and abhorrent behavior have destroyed attempts at engagement. Washington and its allies must therefore take all necessary measures to guard against nuclear, missile, and conventional force attacks by North Korea.