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Recent Policy Studies
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Ray Walser, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 04/04/2012
In April 2012 President Obama will participate in the Sixth Summit of the Americas in Colombia. This summit, the Obama Administration believes, offers an opportunity to showcase a policy of accomplishments and innovations. Critics see a distracted Administration that is long on rhetoric and short on achievements, and which lacks a serious strategy for advancing United States interests and values in the region. The upcoming summit is an opportunity to restore confidence among allies and foster cooperation among those who are willing, while giving those who oppose United States interests and values reasons to reflect on the consequences of their actions. President Obama needs to project a United States policy that is neither hegemonic nor negligent, and which highlights the unique and positive role that the United States plays in hemispheric and global affairs.
Health CareBy Robert E. Moffit, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 04/04/2012
Medicare is central to the debate on federal entitlement spending. A failure to reform Medicare, and thus control entitlement spending, will rob Americans of a fleeting opportunity to escape ruinous debt, crushing taxation, or severe austerity measures. Medicare’s long-term unfunded liability is almost $37 trillion, and it is relentlessly generating annual deficits. Medicare’s hospital insurance trust fund faces a shortfall of $31.8 billion in 2012. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that Medicare spending will jump from $560 billion in 2012 to $1.041 trillion in 2022. Each year of delay makes reform that much harder. This Heritage Foundation Backgrounder compares the Heritage reform plan, advanced in Saving the American Dream, with five other reform plans. They differ in detail, but their main features are similar. Congress should build on this powerful consensus and craft a comprehensive reform of the Medicare program.
Budget & TaxationBy David C. John, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 04/04/2012
Serious pension funding issues have no place being hidden in a transportation funding bill. This is especially true if the pension language could cause an even greater taxpayer bailout of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.
Regulation & DeregulationBy Richard J Sexton, Tina L Saitone, American Enterprise InstitutePolicy Study, 04/04/2012
This paper examines the potential impacts of several current initiatives to expand regulation of the food industries with the overall goal of increasing competition and commodity prices farmers receive. However, many of these initiatives will probably have the unintended consequence of raising consumer prices and lowering farmers’ prices while reducing the quality and variety of food products available to consumers.
Health CareBy John R. Graham, Pacific Research InstituteHealth Policy Prescriptions, 04/04/2012
Governor Jerry Brown and California legislators have attempted to get Medi-Cal’s budget under control by charging reasonable co-pays for medical and hospital services, especially emergency rooms. Secretary Sebelius has just quashed the state’s co-pay reform, relying on dubious legal interpretation. This federal overreach cost California taxpayers half a billion dollars last year, and almost as much again this year. Ironically, Governor Brown supports Obamacare, which increases the likelihood of similar abuses of federal power. Governor Brown and all Californians should support alternative reforms that reduce the power of the federal government and give states and individuals more control of health spending.
Budget & TaxationBy Diana Furchtgott-Roth, Manhattan InstituteIssues, 04/04/2012
The soundest way to reduce our deficit is through fundamental tax reform, which generates the economic growth that powers our economy. This means a revenue-neutral plan to get rid of tax expenditures and to lower tax rates, without raising overall levels of taxation. Raising taxes by eliminating tax expenditures, without a commensurate decline in tax rates, will only reduce economic growth.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Diana Schaub, Hoover InstitutionDefining Ideas, 04/04/2012
The United States Constitution is, as Justice Ginsburg recently reminded us, “a rather old constitution.” In her parlance, old does not mean venerable or worthy of imitation. She recently advised constitution-drafting Egyptians to look to newer models. The document Ginsburg praised most highly, the Constitution of South Africa (1996), has become the darling of advanced jurisprudential opinion because it begins with a lengthy enumeration of rights. But South Africa’s Constitution does not represent a forward leap in the art of constitution-making. From a Madisonian perspective, it looks more like a throwback to the early state constitutions—constitutions that Madison judged to be incompetent. To imitate such models, as Justice Ginsburg recommends, would be to forget the hard-won knowledge of the lawgiver’s art, the “new science of politics” inaugurated by Madison and company.
Budget & TaxationBy Curtis S. Dubay, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 04/04/2012
If President Obama and Congress fail to act this year, an enormous, unprecedented tax increase will fall on American taxpayers starting on January 1, 2013. The Washington Post called the looming tax increase “Taxmageddon,” and Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke called it a “massive fiscal cliff.” This impending tax increase is mostly the result of the expiration of many long-standing policies that all expire at the end of 2012. President Obama and Congress should start working together now to prevent this massive tax increase rather than waiting until the end of the year. That would assure families, businesses, and investors that their taxes will not rise sharply as the economy is still staggering to its feet and show the voters that Washington really can get important things done—even in an election year.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Ray Walser, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 04/03/2012
On April 9, President Obama welcomes Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s first female president, to the White House for an official visit. The White House hopes to showcase a strong, reliable partnership with Brazil. It will focus attention on a broad range of low-cost soft power initiatives aimed at education, technology, energy, research, and economic cooperation, while leaving on the margins tough issues, such as democracy promotion, human rights, and Iran. During the Rousseff visit, President Obama should highlight the growing importance of Brazil as an international power, advance existing initiatives, and outline a roadmap for critical diplomatic and security cooperation.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Todd Myers, Washington Policy CenterPolicy Note, 04/03/2012
We need to start putting the environment above self image and stop worrying about what being trendy and green means to me and make sure we are following the science and economic facts. That is the heart of free-market environmentalism.
Information TechnologyBy Seth L. Cooper, Free State FoundationPerspectives from FSF Scholars, 04/03/2012
Constructing and upgrading thousands of more cell sites will be critical to providing the infrastructure necessary for a competitive 4G wireless marketplace. But the future of wireless technology and its accompanying economic benefits will be hampered to the extent that wireless providers are unable to obtain build or upgrade cell cites due to local zoning delays and permit denials. The Federal Communications Commission should consider additional ways to clear up ambiguities in federal law concerning cell siting. By adding greater certainty to the law – even in limited and measured respects – the Federal Communications Commission could help to alleviate such barriers to new wireless infrastructure facilities and thereby promote a competitive 4G future.
Budget & TaxationBy e21, e21: Economic Policies for the 21st CenturyCommentary, 04/03/2012
Despite the fact that the top 1% is contributing a disproportionate share of tax revenues (however defined) relative to income, the Occupy Wall Street movement believes that increasing tax rates on the “rich” should be a top domestic policy priority. So, why the disconnect? First, it partly reflects a mistaken understanding about the “income share” of the top 1%. The share of income captured by the top 1% is somewhat meaningless because “the 1%” is a different collection of 1.2 million (or so) households each year. Perhaps more significantly, the clamor for higher taxes on the “rich” reflects a paradox of tax policy: the lower the rate, the more income gets reported.
ImmigrationBy Jessica Vaughan, Center for Immigration StudiesTestimony, 04/03/2012
While no reasonable person would be against the humane treatment of detainees, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s new Performance Based Detention Standards go too far and put the interests of removable aliens ahead of the national interest. The initiative undercuts immigration laws passed by Congress by eliminating reasonable deterrents to illegal entry. It is a waste of taxpayer dollars that is motivated not by a genuine need for reform, but as part of a larger strategy to trivialize immigration law enforcement and minimize the consequences of illegal immigration, which imposes enormous fiscal, economic, national security, and public safety burdens on American communities.
Information TechnologyBy Cheryl Chumley, Capital Research CenterLabor Watch, 04/03/2012
In February the United States Postal Service released its five-year budget plan to Congress – and once again, the news is not good. Mail volume has fallen by 20 percent over the last four years, and the downward trend is slated to continue. The Postal Service recorded a $3.3 billion loss in the October-through-December 2011 holiday period when business is supposed to spike. It predicts those losses will rise to $18 billion by 2015 if money-saving measures are not immediately adopted. The Postal Service has a plan to cut costs but finds it hard to accomplish. Why the hold up? The National Association of Letter Carriers and other postal workers unions are working with their allies in Congress to prevent enactment of cost-saving measures.
EducationBy Mark Schneider, Lu Michelle Yin, American Enterprise InstituteEducation Outlook, 04/03/2012
An ever-increasing number of individuals are turning to community college for their higher education. However, the majority of students entering community college fail to complete their degrees, and as a result, earn lower wages throughout the course of their lives. If community college retention rates were increased, graduates could become part of a wholly different income bracket, and taxpayers in the nation and the states would likewise experience substantial monetary gains. Cost-cutting and time-saving strategies and resources such as online delivery of classes, competency-based models of higher learning, and for-profit colleges and universities should be employed to increase the number of Americans completing their associate’s degrees.
Budget & TaxationBy Roy Cordato, John Locke FoundationSpotlight, 04/03/2012
A flat rate consumed income tax would reduce tax biases against productive activities, not eliminate them. And of course, this reform should go hand in hand with reforms to other productivity- and employment-reducing taxes. These would include an overhaul of North Carolina’s sales tax to eliminate its double taxation1 of business income and the abolition of the state’s corporate income tax, which is a hidden tax on consumers, workers, and retirees.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Richard A. Epstein, Hoover InstitutionDefining Ideas, 04/03/2012
The claim of an unbroken historical understanding of the Commerce Clause put forward by Obamacare supporters is nothing more than a myth. But to supporters of the Affordable Care Act, it is a necessary myth, which they invoke in order to lend legitimacy to their case for the constitutionality of the law.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Brett D. Schaefer, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 04/02/2012
The 2012–2013 United Nations regular budget is historic because it marks the end of a decade of unprecedented growth of the United Nations budget. However, the budget process suggests that this will likely be an aberration and that irresponsible budget growth will resume shortly. Until the disconnect between financial obligations and influence over the United Nations budget process is overcome, the budget will likely continue to grow unchecked. The United States should seek to adjust the United Nations scale of assessment to more equitably distribute the costs of the organization among the member states, grant large contributors more influence in budgetary decisions, promote United Nations budgetary restraint by coordinating with other large contributors and, whenever necessary, enforce budget restraint by withholding United States contributions.
National SecurityBy James Jay Carafano, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 04/02/2012
The United States Armed Forces are caught between a President who is intent on substantial cuts in investing in defense capabilities and a Congress increasingly intolerant with wasteful spending on defense—all while being saddled with both following a Rube Goldberg set of legislative mandates and having a nation to defend. In today’s topsy-turvy Washington, there is little that the military can do to run this gauntlet without getting bruised and beaten. The only real relief is to adequately fund realistic defense requirements. On this point there is not much the military can do. The Pentagon cannot keep the President and Congress from playing politics with the budget, but it can adopt practices that make it harder for politicians to make military procurement the scapegoat for the bloated federal budget by showing that the Armed Forces are good consumers.
Elections, Transparency, & AccountabilityBy Robert Moffit, The Heritage FoundationHeritage Lecture, 04/02/2012
The triumph of the administrative state has been made possible by the emasculation of the legislative power. Washington’s problem is not merely federal spending and debt; it is the arrogance of centralized power. The time is therefore ripe for a major national discussion not only about the size of government, but also about the processes of government. Americans have a choice: to be governed by the rule of law, as hammered out in open legislative debate carried on by elected representatives who are directly accountable to us, or the rule of administrators who are most certainly not accountable to us. The rule of regulators is arbitrary and unaccountable government—exactly what the Founders wished to prevent in crafting the Federal Constitution.
Transportation/InfrastructureBy Roger Scruton, American Enterprise InstituteSociety and Culture Outlook, 04/02/2012
Our culture is a culture of cities. No environmental problem is more important, therefore, than that posed by the degradation of our cities, and we must reflect on the factors that might prevent or reverse the decay that we are witnessing. To fight the blight, some policymakers have embraced urban planning. Although some successful examples of planned cities exist, such planning has often failed to produce city centers where people want to live or spend leisure time. To plan or not to plan is a false choice. Instead, civic leaders should think in terms of fostering beauty through the use of aesthetic constraints. These constraints may help reduce sprawl and make American city centers attractive homes—in the vein of great European cities such as Paris and Florence—rather than deserted eyesores.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Benjamin Zycher, American Enterprise InstituteTestimony, 04/02/2012
Renewable power provides only a small proportion of electric power in the United States, and official projections are for slow growth at most. This market resistance to investment in renewable generation capacity can be explained by the problems intrinsic to renewable power—that is, the inherent limitations on its competitiveness—that public policies can circumvent or neutralize only at very substantial expense. These problems uniformly yield high costs and low reliability for renewable power.
Health CareBy Roger Bate, American Enterprise InstituteBook, 04/02/2012
Phake: The Deadly World of Falsified and Substandard Medicines explores the underground trade in illegal medicines that kills over 100,000 people per year and supplants billions of dollars of real products. Roger Bate provides a fascinating firsthand account of the illegal industry and an incisive academic and policy analysis, unraveling a complex web of criminal traders, corrupt officials and an inattentive international community. Part investigative journalism and part academic research into the legal, economic, and scientific underpinnings of the fake drug market, Phake provides the fullest picture to date of this odious trade and outlines how we can defeat it.
Budget & TaxationBy William McBride, Tax FoundationSpecial Report, 04/02/2012
Tax Freedom Day® 2012 arrives on April 17 this year, four days later than last year due to higher federal income and corporate tax collections. That means Americans will work 107 days into the year, from January 1 to April 17, to earn enough money to pay this year’s combined 29.2% federal, state, and local tax bill.
Economic GrowthBy Rand Simberg, Competitive Enterprise InstituteIssue Analysis, 04/02/2012
While new space transportation companies are driving down the cost of accessing space, development of the space frontier will continue to be held back, as it has for decades, by the lack of clear off-planet property rights. Without them, it is difficult to raise funds for extraterrestrial ventures, despite the abundant resources on the Moon and on asteroids, including metals with high value on Earth.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Kurt Volker, Hoover InstitutionPolicy Review, 04/02/2012
Robert Kagan’s fundamental conclusion also remains the right one for today. The United States and Europe share common values, and need to work together to protect and advance those values in the world. We need to understand our differences, which do exist, but we must also get beyond them to make the world a better and safer place.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Justin Vaïsse, Hoover InstitutionPolicy Review, 04/02/2012
When Robert Kagan was writing about the threat posed by the use of American power to “Europe’s new sense of mission,” he was reflecting the image of a European Union on the rise. And for a few years after “Power and Weakness,” that confidence only grew: Europe, according to some analysts, would simply “run the 21st century”. The Eurozone crisis, however, dealt a massive blow to that self-assurance. It led to strong internal tensions and a creeping renationalization of foreign policy, and it undermined Europe’s soft power. It also started undermining its ability to project power. The true danger, in these conditions, is not European illusions of inhabiting a paradisiacal world and fighting the United States over the contours of the international system. It is the fading of Europe as a meaningful partner alongside the United States on an increasingly multipolar international scene.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Hoover, Policy Review, Hoover InstitutionPolicy Review, 04/02/2012
Ten years ago, the ideological battle line for transatlantic relations ran between the guns of hard power (America) and the butter of soft power (Europe). But it was never fundamentally in doubt that either side had quasi-unlimited stocks to wield of its weapon of choice, given productive econo¬mies and sophisticated governmen¬tal structures. Nor, despite repeated fallings-out over which kind of power trumps the other, was it ever questioned that both sides of the Atlantic formed a commu¬nity of values and interests. Today, however, the problem of both America and Europe is the diffusion and erosion of their own power, as well as the dwindling of their own sense of legitimacy—one might even call it a crisis of conviction. The challenge of the 21st century is not the weak¬ness of others, but the weakness of the West.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Mary Elise Sarotte, Hoover InstitutionPolicy Review, 04/02/2012
Robert Kagan’s article “Power and Weakness” fascinated Washington and European capitals when it appeared ten years ago. Its most famous line—”Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus”—provided a succinct means of understanding transatlantic tensions. Ten years on, how does this argument stand up? This article will attempt to bring a historical perspective.
National SecurityBy Baker Spring, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 04/02/2012
The National Academy of Sciences has released a report that is already starting to be described as having resolved all of the technical issues surrounding the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Descriptions of the study by Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty advocates are certain to be overstatements. There are disagreements among technically knowledgeable people regarding these issues. Further, there is an array of narrower technical questions that surround the debate over the value of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. It is worth examining some of these questions, most of which are raised in the National Academy of Sciences study.
Budget & TaxationBy Joseph Henchman, Alex Raut, Kevin Duncan, Tax FoundationFiscal Facts, 03/30/2012
With the Mega Millions jackpot reaching a record $540 million, Americans in 43 states and the District of Columbia are lining up to buy tickets for Friday’s drawing. Everyone knows that winners must choose between a lump sum payment and installment payments, but where you purchase your winning ticket also matters, due to state income and withholding taxes.
Budget & TaxationBy Scott A. Hodge, Tax FoundationFiscal Facts, 03/30/2012
It’s official. After eight years of having the second-highest corporate tax rate among industrialized countries, the United States has now assumed the top spot following Japan’s scheduled corporate rate cut on April 1, 2012.
The Constitution/Civil Liberties
Beyond Congress’s Power to Tax: Constitutional Questions Surrounding the Health Care Law’s Individual MandateBy Joseph Henchman, Tax FoundationTestimony, 03/30/2012
A meaningful distinction between “tax” and “penalty” is vital to give operation to numerous federal and state provisions relating to tax policy. If the United States Supreme Court held that a tax is any government collection of revenue, then government revenue collection efforts across the country would be imperiled, as many revenue sources are not subjected to the heightened restrictions that “taxes” are. To collect fees or impose criminal fines, states for the first time would see these charges subjected to supermajority, multiple reading, and other requirements. While some states may choose to extend such procedural requirements to non-tax revenue sources, this should be done explicitly through the legislative process, not by announcing a new definition of “tax” not comprehended at the time these provisions were adopted.
PhilanthropyBy Carol Adelman, Kacie Marano, Yulya Spantchak, Hudson InstituteReport, 03/30/2012
A new philosophy has taken hold in the world of international development and is succeeding in rewriting the rules of the game on how to achieve sustainable reductions in poverty. Key to this philosophy are robust private financial flows of all types—investment capital, philanthropy and remittances—to the developing world. These flows have proven to be sustainable even in the face of global recession. In fact, recent data suggest that long-lasting structural changes in economic engagement with the developing world are making inroads against poverty. New figures from the World Bank found a broad reduction in poverty around the world and confirmed that contrary to predictions by the Word Bank itself, the global recession did not increase poverty in developing countries.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Charles A. Kupchan, Hoover InstitutionPolicy Review, 03/30/2012
The Atlantic partnership faces an uncertain and unsettling era in global politics as power shifts from the West to emerging powers. The disruptions that will inevitably accompany this tectonic change can be most effectively managed by coherent teamwork between the United States and Europe. Preparation for this task starts at home; the United States and Europe need to restore economic and political solvency if they are to have the power and purpose to anchor the coming transition. The Atlantic partners have more than enough common ground and common cause. What remains to be seen is whether they have the common wherewithal to act on their shared interests and values.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Ivan Krastev, Hoover InstitutionPolicy Review, 03/30/2012
The paradox of the new world order emerging out of the ongoing recession is that the global spread of democracy and capitalism, instead of signaling “the end of history,” marked “the end of the West” as a political actor constructed in the days of the Cold War. In the decades to come the nature of the political regimes will be an unreliable predictor for the geopolitical alliances to emerge; and it is the blurring borders between democracies and authoritarian capitalism, rather than the triumph of democracy or the resurgence of authoritarianism, that defines the global political landscape.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Hoover InstitutionPolicy Review, 03/30/2012
Slowly, ever so slowly, we are realizing, or at least should be, that the fundamental reordering of Europe that began with the crumbling collapse of an overextended and unsustainable communist glacis in the late 1980s has had far greater and far-reaching reverberations than we then would or could have predicted.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Konstantin von Eggert, Hoover InstitutionPolicy Review, 03/30/2012
In Russia, today’s pro-democracy movement takes off where the previous one stopped. “Dignity” is again the buzzword. Active and spirited Russians, a minority, no doubt, but not an insignificant one, are trying to reclaim their roles in managing the affairs of the country—or, as some may say, claim them seriously for the first time. Their search for new ideas logically leads to the quest for moral vision and leadership. In the end modern Russia’s most acute existential problem lies in the absence of a moral compass. The quest for it, with or without outstanding, larger-than-life public figures, will continue. For Russian society, finding this compass will mean real empowerment to deal with its post-Soviet weaknesses and, ultimately, the only chance of making its long and hard way to a true revival.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Daniel W. Drezner, Hoover InstitutionPolicy Review, 03/30/2012
Robert Kagan seemed to crystallize the growing transatlantic rift when he wrote “Power and Weakness” ten years ago. However, time has revealed some hidden flaws in his logic. Kagan underestimated the policy arenas where Europe has mattered to the United States. Just as Europe has thrived under the security umbrella of the United States, Washington has benefited from the support of Brussels’ economic power. Second, in discussing the strategic cultures of Europe and America, Kagan obscured the gap between public attitudes and policy elites—particularly on this side of the Atlantic. In doing so, he failed to note the ways in which these strategic cultures diverged from the attitudes of the mass public.
Budget & TaxationBy Jason Delisle, Christopher Papagianis, e21: Economic Policies for the 21st CenturyCommentary, 03/29/2012
Some lawmakers have questioned whether the Export-Import Bank should still be wading so heavily into private markets – effectively picking winners and losers with its loans and loan guarantees. Defenders of the bank argue that the programs simultaneously help create domestic jobs and level the playing field with international competitors. Another key argument for supporters is that not only does the bank serve those ends at no cost to taxpayers, but it actually earns a profit. The problem with that last claim – which lawmakers to date have not focused in on – is that the Export-Import Bank’s profits are almost surely an accounting illusion. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has cautioned policymakers that the government’s official accounting rules effectively force budget analysts to understate the cost of loan programs like those managed by the Export-Import Bank.
Economic GrowthBy Proxy Monitor, Manhattan InstituteProxy Monitor, 03/29/2012
In 2011, the Manhattan Institute launched its ProxyMonitor.org database, which catalogs shareholder proposals at America’s largest companies. Drawing upon information from the database, the Manhattan Institute has been examining a growing trend in shareholder activism wherein investors attempt to influence management and corporate practices through the shareholder voting process, sometimes in ways not directly related to maintaining or increasing shareholder value.
Economic and Political ThoughtBy Peter J. Boettke, Independent InstituteBook, 03/29/2012
This lively book illuminates how economics affects all walks of life, whether in the marketplace, voting booth, church, family, or any human activity. Boettke believes that economics is not merely a game to be played by clever professionals, but a discipline that touches on the most pressing practical issues at any historical juncture. The wealth and poverty of nations are at stake; the length and quality of life turns on the economic conditions individuals find themselves living with. So teaching and learning economics are high stakes ventures. Along the way he introduces us to major thinkers: from Smith, Say, and Bastiat of the Classical School, to Neoclassical and Austrian scholars (Menger, Mises, Hayek, Kirzner, and Rothbard) on to New Institutional economists (Alchian, Coase, Demsetz, North, Ostrom and Williamson) and Public Choice theorists (Buchanan, Tullock, and others). This engaging and reasoned book is a must-read for economists, students, and everyone else who wishes to better understand economics.
Economic and Political ThoughtBy Daniel Hannan, The Heritage FoundationHeritage Lecture, 03/29/2012
The United States was born out of a popular revolt against a distant and autocratic government, and its model has always been based around the maximum decentralization and democratization of power. Now that model is being abandoned. The policies currently being pursued amount to a comprehensive program of Europeanization—European welfare, health care, taxes, carbon levies, unemployment rates, and foreign policy. The community of free English-speaking democracies is the standing, permanent coalition of the willing, but it depends on America’s commitment and America’s keeping true to the Anglo–American common law heritage of freedom, parliamentary rule, and personal liberty without which America is made less exceptional, poorer and darker.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Thomas Berg, The Heritage FoundationFirst Principles, 03/29/2012
Freedom of religion is at the heart of the American understanding of liberty. Under our constitutional order, the free exercise of religion is not a mere matter of toleration but an inalienable natural right. As George Washington explained in his famous letter to the Hebrew Congregation at Newport: “All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights.” There are, of course, some limits to the free exercise of religion. Citizens cannot invoke the First Amendment to break general laws (although exemptions may be granted). But within the confines of the law, all citizens have the same right of conscience.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy David Muhlhausen, Christina Villegas, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 03/29/2012
Despite the fact that each state has statutes that punish domestic violence, the federal government intervened in 1994 with the Violence Against Women Act. The Senate is now expected to consider the newest reauthorization of the act—S. 1925—which includes radical changes that greatly alter the original purpose of the law, already problematic in its own right. Using federal agencies to fund the routine operations of domestic violence programs that state and local governments could provide is a misuse of federal resources and a distraction from concerns that truly are the province of the federal government. Simply expanding the Violence Against Women Act framework with extensive new provisions and programs that have been inadequately assessed is sure to facilitate waste, fraud, and abuse and will not better protect women or victims of violence generally.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy W. Kip Viscusi, Cato InstituteRegulation, 03/29/2012
The report card on the performance of product liability law is mixed. In some instances tort liability does serve a potentially risk-reducing role by fostering new safety measures. However, the safety-enhancing role of liability fails to be realized in general because of fundamental deficiencies in product liability law and the way such cases are handled by the courts. In particular, courts make excessive and unpredictable awards and stumble when faced with uncertainties. New products posing uncertain risks are especially hard hit so that product liability often serves as a barrier to innovations that would reduce accidents.
WelfareBy Jeffrey S. Wolfe, Dale D. Glendening, Cato InstituteRegulation, 03/29/2012
The Social Security Act and the outdated jurisprudence underlying the current hearings and appeals system demand change—change that must be a result of both agency and congressional initiative.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Andrew A. Schwart, Cato InstituteRegulation, 03/29/2012
Section 301 of the Credit CARD Act, which denies credit cards to those age 18–20, should be repealed. After much discussion in the 1960s and 1970s, our society rejected the ancient common-law rule that one is an infant until age 21, and coalesced around the view that legal adulthood begins at 18. That consensus has not changed. Hence, by raising the age of contractual capacity to 21, section 301 contradicts the well-established preferences of the public as well as the strong public policy favoring entrepreneurship. Just as 18-year-olds are deemed by the law to be sufficiently mature to enter into any other contract—and mature enough to be drafted, vote, serve as a juror, and be sentenced to death—then, a fortiori, they are mature enough to hold a credit card.