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Recent Policy Studies
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Sébastien Pouliot, American Enterprise InstituteWorking Paper, 04/16/2012
Several food safety incidents have made dramatic headlines over the last six years. These high-profile events substantially raised consumer awareness about food safety issues. As a result, many Americans now perceive the United States food system as vulnerable and call for reforming food safety institutions. Food safety provisions have not been prominent in previous farm bills, which traditionally focus on programs managed by the United States Department of Agriculture. Most food safety regulations do not fall under the Department of Agriculture’s mandate: several other federal agencies have major responsibilities for enforcing food safety regulations. Nonetheless, the Farm Bill, as an omnibus bill, can offer a platform for a reform of food safety policies.
ImmigrationBy Jessica Zuckerman, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 04/16/2012
Last month, the Senate introduced the Jobs Originated through Launching Travel Act, which would seek to foster the greatly overdue expansion of the Visa Waiver Program. However, the legislation would also create misguided priority programs and specialized provisions for different kinds of travelers seeking to visit the United States. With visa wait times excessively high and the United States share of global tourism declining, it is clear that the nation’s visa system is in need of repair. Yet it is also clear that programs that prioritize the entry of different groups are far from the solution. Instead, Congress and the Department of Homeland Security should reduce unnecessary barriers to issuing visas across the board. Congress should also continue to promote the expansion of the Visa Waiver Program separately from other misguided travel promotion efforts and stop placing the program on hold.
EducationBy Evan Sparks, Philanthropy RoundtablePhilanthropy, 04/16/2012
What is the future of today’s start-up colleges? The great universities created a century ago had different purposes, but they had one thing in common: they were launched and sustained by private philanthropy. The majority of private colleges created throughout American history have folded over time. Those that have thrived did so because of dedicated and generous patrons—both at their founding and ever since. The next Stanford probably won’t emerge overnight. But with wise leadership, strong academic programs, and steadfast philanthropic initiative, today’s new colleges may well become tomorrow’s household names.
EducationBy Matthew Riggan, American Enterprise InstituteSpecial Report, 04/16/2012
As the education policy landscape shifts toward a system of outcomes-based accountability, evaluation and research have grown increasingly vital. This is especially true for for-profit education firms, which must overcome skepticism, scrutiny, or even outright hostility in a field that has long been suspicious of the profit motive and where the bottom line is directly influenced by public perceptions of effectiveness. This paper describes how these for-profit organizations view evaluation work, what they choose to focus on and why, the assets and capabilities they bring to the work, and the challenges they face. It also explores the question of how to encourage transparency and rigor in the evaluation practice of private enterprises while allowing them to do what they do best—innovate and attract investment.
Economic GrowthBy Carrie L. Lukas, Independent Women's ForumPolicy Focus, 04/16/2012
This month, feminist groups celebrate Equal Pay Day, a pseudo-holiday based on the idea that women are systematically underpaid, making only about three-quarters of every dollar a man makes for the same work. Women, they claim, have to work until April to make up for last year’s “wage gap.” Americans appropriately recoil from the idea of a sexist economy that short-changes hard-working women. If it were true, it would be outrageous. Fortunately, however, this commonly repeated claim is false. There is no evidence that women are routinely paid a fraction of what men make for the same work, or that discrimination drives statistical differences between men and women’s earnings.
Budget & TaxationBy Jonathan Ingram, Collin Hitt, Illinois Policy InstituteReport, 04/16/2012
Illinois state government owes more than $83 billion to the pension plans it operates for retired employees. Servicing this obligation is crippling the state’s budget – virtually every observer of Illinois government recognizes this fact. But pension debt is only part of the story. Much less publicized are the additional obligations the state has taken on to provide health insurance for government pensioners; the state now has an unfunded liability of more than $54 billion for health insurance and other related benefits given on top of pensions.
Regulation & DeregulationBy Adam J. White, National AffairsNational Affairs, 04/16/2012
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.
Family, Culture & CommunityBy Veronique de Rugy, Reason FoundationReason, 04/16/2012
In the past, women suffered because the state treated them differently than men, out of either a misplaced sense of chivalry or outright misogyny. That’s one reason the women’s movement pushed for equal treatment under the law. Yet many government policies, including some advocated by today’s feminists, continue to treat the choices of women differently than those of men. Such policies tend to be superficially gender-neutral but have a disproportionate effect on women.
Budget & TaxationBy Diana Furchtgott-Roth, Manhattan InstituteIssues, 04/16/2012
There is good reason to believe that higher rates on capital gains and dividend income would have negative effects on the United States economy by reducing the overall level of United States investment and by driving such investment to overseas markets. Higher tax rates would reduce economic activity and, thus, economic growth, by reducing available financing for private companies, innovators, and small firms just getting started.
Information TechnologyBy Amy Oliver Cooke, Independence InstituteIssue Paper, 04/16/2012
A bipartisan group of Colorado lawmakers have introduced Senate Bill 157, titled the “Telecommunications Modernization Act of 2012.” The 71-page bill deregulates some local phone service and makes new assumptions about public policy. It redefines service providers and eliminates some corporate subsidies. It also repurposes an existing funding mechanism to achieve newly assumed public policy goals, and reshuffles winners and losers in the telecommunications industry. While the deregulation of some local phone service may be tempting and long overdue, the cost of Senate Bill 157 as it is currently written is quite high. This well-meaning bill has some troubling unintended consequences.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Irwin Stelzer, Hudson InstituteEconomic Policy Briefing Paper, 04/16/2012
Facts are the enemy of truth, warned Miguel de Cervantes in a notable book about the danger of windmills. America is indeed a large consumer of world oil, although our share of total global consumption is no greater than our contribution to total global gross domestic product. And we do have about 2% of the world’s proven oil reserves. But comparison of consumption with proven reserves is no indication of America’s ultimate ability to produce the oil it will need to feed its cars and other oil-consuming machines for as far ahead as we can see. In addition to proven reserves there are vast quantities of oil lying under the surface of American lands and coastal waters waiting for the drill bit to establish their presence.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Christopher A. Ford, Hudson InstituteBriefing Paper, 04/13/2012
Even while officials of the United States and North Korea reportedly remain engaged in attempting to work out an arrangement pursuant to which North Korea would return to the long-moribund Six-Party Talks process, there has been no shortage of commentators who feel these negotiations are likely to founder on the rocks of Pyongyang’s unwillingness, under essentially any conditions, to relinquish its nuclear weapons and associated infrastructure. Nevertheless, North Korea claims that it remains genuinely interested in negotiations, making it at least theoretically possible that whatever their outcome, some kind of nuclear negotiations may recommence. This paper attempts to explore some of the issues that would be raised, and the challenges that would be presented, if a serious attempt were made to conclude a “Korean Denuclearization Treaty”.
EducationBy Marcus A. Winters, Manhattan InstituteCivic Report, 04/13/2012
State and municipal policymakers are increasingly addressing the practice of social promotion in schools—moving children along to the next grade whether or not they have mastered the curriculum—by mandating test-based grade promotion. The results of this study demonstrate that a test-based promotion policy structured similar to Florida’s policy should be expected to improve student performance relative to a policy of social promotion. Florida’s system is an example for policy makers across the country to emulate.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy James Huffman, Hoover InstitutionDefining Ideas, 04/13/2012
Living constitution theory, even in the sheep’s clothing of whole constitution theory, runs contrary to the rule of law and constitutional government. For a constitution to serve its purpose as a constituting and constraining document for government, its meaning cannot be adjusted, day by day, by those whose offices it has established and whose acts it is meant to constrain. Like every other law, a constitution must bind the government official, whether judge, legislator, or administrator, to its pre-determined meaning. That is the essence of the rule of law and of constitutional government.
Budget & TaxationBy Douglas Holtz-Eakin, American Action ForumPolicy Study, 04/13/2012
With tax day fast approaching, there is a considerable lack of clarity about what the tax code will look like this time next year. Small businesses and entrepreneurs are especially sensitive to current and expected tax policy given that they must make important, long-term decisions today on investment, hiring, and expansion. Accordingly, the highly uncertain outlook for United States tax policy has high stakes for their growth and survival. Only the House budget option provides an improved climate for growth, expansion, hiring and investment by small businesses and entrepreneurs.
Transportation/InfrastructureBy Bonner R. Cohen, Competitive Enterprise InstituteIssue Analysis, 04/13/2012
America’s population is expected to grow by 100 million by the middle of the 21st century, thereby putting enormous strains on the nation’s vast underground water networks. Over the next 20 years, upgrading the nation’s water and wastewater systems is expected to cost between $3 and $5 trillion. Building and replacing water and sewage lines alone will cost some $660 billion to $1.1 trillion over the same time period. These projected expenditures are coming at a time when governments at all levels are facing substantial budget shortfalls. Yet modernizing the nation’s underground water infrastructure is absolutely essential. By doing something as simple and sensible as opening up municipal procurement processes to fair competition, the products of our most creative minds can be put to the service of ensuring Americans access to clean, reliable, and affordable water in their homes, schools, and businesses for generations to come.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Bruce Klingner, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 04/13/2012
Despite the failure of North Korea’s attempted missile launch, it remains a violation of several United Nations resolutions. Washington should not let Pyongyang’s less than stellar missile performance hinder taking the issue to the United Nations. Failing to do so would undermine international attempts to moderate North Korean behavior. The United States must ensure that it maintains sufficiently robust military forces in Asia to deter and defend against the multifaceted North Korean security threat. Washington should also continue contingency planning with its allies for potential instability in North Korea. Although the missile failure by itself will not imperil Kim Jong-un’s hold on power, additional missteps could eventually lead other members of the leadership elite to question whether the new North Korean leader is up to the task.
EducationBy Lindsey Burke, Rachel Sheffield, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 04/13/2012
President Obama’s fiscal 2013 budget request includes another major spending increase for the Department of Education—2.5 percent more than last year—to nearly $70 billion. American taxpayers are calling for spending restraint in Washington, yet President Obama’s proposals would exacerbate the existing bureaucratic maze of federal programs and further remove educational decision-making authority from state and local policymakers. Decades of increased federal spending have done little to benefit American students. Continuing to pour more taxpayer dollars into failed programs is unlikely to improve educational outcomes. Rather, it will lead to more federal involvement in state and local education systems. Reforms that roll back spending and reduce the federal role will help restore educational authority to state and local leaders where it rightly belongs.
Economic GrowthBy Arthur B. Laffer, Stephen Moore, Jonathan Williams, American Legislative Exchange CouncilReport, 04/12/2012
Amidst climbing national debt and a dismally slow economic recovery, it’s evident that the solution to our economic woes lies outside of the federal government. Many states have taken the lead in identifying and implementing the policies that lead to prosperity, and those states have suffered less as a result of their pro-growth policies. In this fifth edition of Rich States, Poor States, Arthur B. Laffer, Stephen Moore, and Jonathan Williams identify the states that experience prosperity and those that continue to struggle, highlighting the policies that contribute to economic well-being in the 50 states. The authors also provide the 2012 ALEC-Laffer State Economic Competitiveness Index, based on state economic policies.
International Trade/FinanceBy Walter Lohman, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 04/12/2012
The Save Our Industries Act, introduced by Representative Jim McDermott and supported by 20 cosponsors in the House and by Senator Daniel Inouye and three cosponsors in the Senate, would grant duty-free treatment to apparel assembled in the Philippines from American-made fabrics. It is a win-win for the United States–Philippines Alliance.
ImmigrationBy Jessica Zuckerman, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 04/12/2012
Member expansion is not the only thing that is on hold when it comes to the Visa Waiver Program. Since 2007, partner nations have been required to enter into three information-sharing agreements with the United States as a stipulation of membership. Through these agreements, member nations share data with the United States on known or suspected terrorists and other criminals, as well as information on lost or stolen passports. Yet as of March 2012, the Department of Homeland Security reported that only approximately half of the 36 member countries had fully complied. The period for timely compliance has clearly come and gone. It is time for the Department of Homeland Security to make partner nations understand that these information-sharing agreements are a central tenet of the program and mandatory for continued membership.
Health CareBy Kathryn Nix, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 04/12/2012
One element of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is the advancement of “comparative effectiveness research”. Intended to compare available treatment options, comparative effectiveness research can benefit patients if used for informational purposes only, but it could also be harmful in practice. The expansion of the Medicare bureaucracy under the Affordable Care Act will allow the use of comparative effectiveness research for more government micromanagement of personal medical decision making—hurting patients, doctors, and the practice of medicine.
Health CareBy Regina Meena, Wyoming Liberty GroupLiberty Brief, 04/12/2012
Americans know we cannot continue to operate our health care system as we do currently. This Brief lays out a five-step systematic process to guide health care reform. The steps are: limit federal and state government involvement in health care; return health insurance to the private market and individual; reform the structure and funding of Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP; perpetuate the free-market solutions; and secure and protect health care reforms.
PhilanthropyBy Richard Tren, Gerard Alexander, Philanthropy RoundtablePhilanthropy, 04/12/2012
Disaster assistance, even when given with the best of intentions, can have unintended consequences. Donors are often moved by disasters that have the highest casualty rates, yet some of the worst catastrophes—those with the most damage and the longest-lasting consequences—have few fatalities. Substantial amounts of aid may never get to its intended beneficiaries. Even when doing the short-term good of relieving suffering, it can inadvertently entrench dysfunctional regimes. But disaster aid can also work. When it provides basic medical care, clean water, food, and temporary shelter—the staples of any emergency response—it can massively alleviate human suffering. When the right resources are provided to the right organizations, it can even save thousands of lives. As with any kind of disaster preparation, the key is to plan ahead. For donors who might be interested in funding emergency relief efforts, here are six things to start thinking about right now.
Budget & TaxationBy Scott Drenkard, Tax FoundationBook, 04/12/2012
How do taxes in your state compare nationally? This convenient booklet compares the 50 states on 37 different measures of taxing and spending, including individual and corporate income tax rates, business tax climates, excise taxes, tax burdens and state spending.
Budget & TaxationBy Jason Clemens, Milagros Palacios, Niels Veldhuis, Fraser InstituteBook, 04/12/2012
Learning from the Past provides a historical overview that identifies parallels between the fiscal challenges facing Canadian governments in the 1990s and those facing governments in 2011. It highlights how the federal government, as well as various provincial governments in the 1980s, failed to balance their budgets when they attempted to slow the growth in program spending and wait for revenues to rebound strongly enough to close the gap between spending and resources. But it wasn’t until the spending reductions of the 1990s that both the federal government and the provinces returned to fiscal balance and achieved declining debt and interest costs. The authors conclude that wishing for revenue growth will not balance the budget, but real spending reductions, based on the successes of the 1990s, will.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Rael Jean Isaac, Heartland InstituteBook, 04/12/2012
Environmentalism is one of the biggest and most successful social movements of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Fear that human activities are disrupting the planet’s climate – global warming – is one of the movement’s best-known tropes, often accompanied by predictions of frightening environmental disasters of apocalyptic proportions. But is it true? Rael Jean Isaac finds the global warming movement, far from being based on scientific facts or consensus, is basically irrational, ideological, and profoundly anti-science.
ImmigrationBy Janice Kephart, Center for Immigration StudiesBackgrounder, 04/12/2012
This report is an attempt to provide a comprehensive assessment of how well states are doing in improving driver’s license issuance standards of the REAL ID Act. The Act was designed to protect identities and driver’s license and identification cards while eliminating fraud and improving the customer experience.
EducationBy Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, Friedman Foundation for Educational ChoiceBook, 04/12/2012
The new ABCs of School Choice is a must-have for anyone interested in learning about the issue of school choice. And the 2012 version contains more information than any before, from a basic primer on school choice to specific, detailed updates on all 34 school choice programs in the country. The 2012 ABCs also includes graphic, simple-to-read and -understand illustrations of all the data on choice programs, as well as public opinion.
Budget & TaxationBy Robert Carling, Stephen Kirchner, Centre for Independent StudiesPolicy Monographs, 04/12/2012
This paper considers the arguments for and against greater use of a sovereign wealth fund in Australia. It argues that the existing Future Fund is unnecessary and that greater use of a sovereign wealth fund would harm Australia’s future prosperity.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Reed Watson, PERC – The Property and Environment Research CenterPERC Reports, 04/12/2012
What distinguishes enviropreneurs from other environmentalists? One answer is their vision; enviropreneurs see the world in a unique way. They see the prospect for cooperation where others see unsolvable conflict. They see unwritten contracts where others see unwritten regulations. They see new frontiers for free market environmentalism where others see only market failures.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy James Workman, PERC – The Property and Environment Research CenterPERC Reports, 04/12/2012
When scientists are free to do what they love, they do what they love to do: analyze the complex dynamics of indigenous plants and beasties. But scientists are typically lousy at what they have to do: interact with people who pay them for their analysis and recommendations. Nature wonks are rarely social animals; most would rather avoid people altogether if they could. So Kent Carter saw how he could step in as the middle man, link his marketing skills to their know-how, and package the overarching venture as a server/provider with reliable, clear, and timely reports to investment funds that need to make sound and informed decisions. Carter represents a savvy new breed of capitalist, one who is planning to make green by going green, squeezing profits from the ragged margins of both spreadsheets and landscapes.
LaborBy Rick Harper, James Madison InstituteBackgrounder, 04/12/2012
At a time when employment growth is a top priority, it seems counterproductive to saddle workers and businesses with an inability to enter into voluntary contracts. Moreover, for Florida, where the hospitality industry is a mainstay of the economy, the job-destroying impact of the inordinate cumulative increases in the minimum wage for tipped employees defies common sense.
EducationBy William Mattox, James Madison InstitutePolicy Brief, 04/12/2012
Digital education is not a passing fad. It’s an educational “game changer.” And as more and more students take advantage of digital’s possibilities, the underlying assumptions behind the way we structure education in our society will increasingly reflect digital’s anytime, anywhere, any pace nature. For Florida to remain among the leaders in digital learning, it will need to continue to adopt innovative strategies that take advantage of digital learning’s creative potential.
Retirement/Social SecurityBy Andrew J. Rettenmaier, Thomas R. Saving, Private Enterprise Research CenterPERCspectives on Policy, 04/12/2012
The philosophical argument for post-retirement social insurance is focused on taking care of members who experience unanticipated bad outcomes that make them unable to maintain a reasonable lifestyle. We don’t want the elderly to live out their remaining years of life in extreme poverty. However, ever-rising replacement rates and the associated growing taxpayer burden is also not a reasonable alternative. In thinking about acceptable substitutes for Social Security and Medicare, therefore, our goal should not be to find alternatives that replace in total what has been deemed unaffordable by folks on both sides of the ideological spectrum. Instead, we should focus on identifying alternatives that achieve an acceptable level of retirement benefits while not burdening the working population with taxation levels that discourage work and therefore the long-run well being of the country in general.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Brendan O’Neill, et al., Centre for Independent StudiesSpeech, 04/12/2012
This collection of four speeches warns against the increasing restrictions on free speech in a world being taken over by political correctness. Ostensibly a tool for civility and respect, political correctness is effectively muzzling the foundation of a free society: open and robust debate in a free exchange of ideas.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Fred Lucas, Capital Research CenterFoundation Watch, 04/12/2012
You’ve read about Solyndra. It’s a failed solar panel company that the Obama White House kept promoting despite warnings that it was going bankrupt. Now the federal government has to make good on $535 million in loan guarantees to be paid with “stimulus” money that is supposed to revive the economy. Evidence for the misappropriation points to partisan political influence-peddling involving White House involvement with an Oklahoma billionaire named George Kaiser. Here’s the rest of the story.
PhilanthropyBy Sean Higgins, Capital Research CenterOrganization Trends, 04/12/2012
Philanthropy in support of breast cancer awareness and treatment has gone mainstream and big-time. But what does it accomplish? The “Race for the Cure” activities sponsored by the charity that honors Susan G. Komen raise some disquieting questions about philanthropy that relies on cause-related marketing.
ImmigrationBy Cara Daniel, Capital Research CenterGreen Watch, 04/12/2012
The federal government has set aside hundreds of millions of acres of public land for ranching and forestry, national parks and wilderness areas, and it tasks various agencies to monitor and regulate land conservation and use. Because over 20 million acres of these federally-protected lands can be entered from across the United States border, the Department of Homeland Security is required to patrol often difficult and hard-to-reach terrain. The job performed by the United States Border Patrol is made even harder by restrictions that require border security projects to abide by a myriad of environmental protection laws. Recently a bill in Congress, the National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act, was introduced to immunize the Department of Homeland Security from many of these federal restrictions. Green groups are up in arms. They fear that the Department of Homeland Security enforcement will hurt the environment and trample on individual rights. But many Americans living along the increasingly crime-ridden borderlands disagree.
ImmigrationBy Jon Feere, Center for Immigration StudiesMemorandum, 04/11/2012
A high-immigration group called the National Foundation for American Policy has released a new report on the alleged costs of ending the current application of the 14th Amendment’s Citizenship Clause. The Center for Immigration Studies has published a number of reports on birthright citizenship and it is clear that neither Congress nor the Supreme Court has ever mandated that children born to illegal and temporary aliens must be considered United States citizens under the Constitution. Rather, the permissive policy is the result of agency policymaking.
EducationBy Alabama Policy Institute, Alabama Policy InstitutePolicy Report, 04/11/2012
Distance learning has the potential to change the lives of students and communities. Alabama Connecting Classrooms, Educators, & Students Statewide (ACCESS) has already made tremendous progress in creating a world-class distance learning program. The Alabama State Department of Education must continue to ensure that parents across Alabama are aware of opportunities available to their children. As parents, teachers, and legislators look for answers to improve education in Alabama, expanding and improving distance learning should be an integral part of the solution.
Budget & TaxationBy Kevin Duncan, Alex Raut, Scott Drenkard, Tax FoundationFiscal Facts, 04/11/2012
Sales taxes in the United States are levied not only by state governments but also by city, county, Native American, and special district governments. In many cases these local sales taxes can have a profound impact on the total rate that consumers see at the check-out register. Several private firms maintain databases of the sales tax rates in the 9,600 local jurisdictions in the United States that levy them. The Tax Foundation has listed the combined state and local sales tax rates in major U.S. cities, defined as all U.S. Census-designated incorporated places with a population over 200,000.
Economic GrowthBy Art Laffer, Pacific Research InstituteBook, 04/11/2012
Eureka! surveys California’s economic history and fiscal policies beginning with Governor Ronald Reagan. Dr. Art Laffer shows the results of public policies that have powered extraordinary growth for the state, and those that produced economic decline. In Eureka!, he examines the economic performance of all 50 states by comparing tax policies–including personal income tax rates as well as corporate, estate, and sales taxes; the economic performance of right-to-work states versus forced-union states; Californians’ Form 1040s over a 15-year period to evaluate the migration patterns of Californians at various income levels; the root causes of California’s housing booms and busts; and the power of the unions, bureaucrats, and other special interests that have held back the state from overcoming its fiscal problems.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Adam Peshek, Reason FoundationPolicy Brief, 04/11/2012
“Boiler MACT” is the name given to national emission standards being promulgated by the Environmental Protection Agency in an effort to curb emissions of hazardous air pollutants from industrial boilers and process heaters. These emission standards are an example of a regulation that could be amended in simple, appropriate ways to adhere to the spirit of President Obama’s Executive Order 13563. This policy brief explains how.
Transportation/InfrastructureBy Robert W. Poole Jr., Reason FoundationPolicy Study, 04/11/2012
Conventional approaches toward implementing congestion pricing on freeways have made little headway. Besides not being able to overcome the political resistance from highway users (motorists and truckers), conventional pricing proposals are likely to create more losers than winners. Research suggests that social welfare would be maximized not with a single price for all freeway users but with several choices of price and service level for various categories of user.
Health CareBy Linda Gorman, Independence InstituteIssue Paper, 04/11/2012
Governments at all levels are facing severe fiscal stress, and Medicaid is the largest and fastest growing publicly-funded health program in the United States. State and federal authorities have had little success in controlling Medicaid expenditures with conventional reforms, and changing it from an entitlement program to a block grant program is now under discussion. This Issue Paper explores how transforming Medicaid into a block grant program offers the promise of improving patient care and restraining the growth in program costs.
WelfareBy Julian M. Alston, American Enterprise InstitutePolicy Study, 04/11/2012
The Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933 introduced many of the Farm Bill provisions that continue to the present day, including precursors to the current food and nutrition programs. The original United States food and nutrition policy served multiple purposes, including the enduring purpose of enhanced food security and improved nutrition for the nonfarm poor. Today, the widespread prevalence of obesity, especially among the poor, raises questions about the design and effectiveness of food and nutrition programs.
Health CareBy Charles Blahous, Mercatus CenterResearch Papers, 04/11/2012
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will significantly worsen the federal government’s fiscal position relative to previous law. Supporters argued that this comprehensive health care reform would deliver a much-needed correction to the government’s unsustainable fiscal outlook and would benefit the country’s overall fiscal situation. However, between now and 2021, the Affordable Care Act is expected to add as much as $530 billion to federal deficits while increasing spending by more than $1.15 trillion. Despite the fondest hopes from its supporters, the passage of the Affordable Care Act unambiguously darkens a dim fiscal picture.
Economic and Political ThoughtBy Richard A. Epstein, Hoover InstitutionDefining Ideas, 04/11/2012
In dealing with the proposed budget of Representative Paul Ryan, President Obama sought to discredit nineteenth-century laissez-faire economics by linking that movement to Social Darwinism. The president’s well-crafted reference to the term ushered in a fierce political dispute between his supporters and detractors. In the midst of the din, no one has undertaken the essential task of sorting out the theoretical differences between Social Darwinism and laissez-faire economics.
Economic GrowthBy John H. Makin, American Enterprise InstituteEconomic Outlook, 04/11/2012
With problems in the manufacturing, housing, and export sectors in China, we will likely see slower gross domestic product growth for the world’s second largest economy in 2012. China’s leadership is changing for the first time in a decade, and its new leaders have suggested that significant shifts in economic and currency policy are unlikely to occur during the transition. However, should China’s leadership remain content with slower growth, the global economy will suffer. If China’s growth loses momentum in 2012 and is coupled with similar losses in the United States and Europe, the recovery disappointment could well exceed that which appeared in 2010 and 2011. Despite these challenges, China has a unique opportunity to demonstrate its maturity as a player in the global economy. Through stimulus measures to its own economy, China could push for a bigger global economic pie rather than increase its share of a shrinking pie and in the process influence global economic growth in 2012.
WelfareBy Michael D. Tanner, Cato InstitutePolicy Analysis, 04/11/2012
On January 8, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson delivered a State of the Union address to Congress in which he declared an “unconditional war on poverty in America.” At the time, the poverty rate in America was around 19 percent and falling rapidly. This year, it is reported that the poverty rate is expected to be roughly 15.1 percent and climbing. Between then and now, the federal government spent roughly $12 trillion fighting poverty, and state and local governments added another $3 trillion. Yet the poverty rate never fell below 10.5 percent and is now at the highest level in nearly a decade. Clearly, we have been doing something wrong. Throwing money at the problem has neither reduced poverty nor made the poor self-sufficient. It is time to reevaluate our approach to fighting poverty. We should focus less on making poverty more comfortable and more on creating the prosperity that will get people out of poverty.
Foreign Policy/International Affairs
Uncertainties over North Korea’s Leadership Transition: Broader Contingency Planning Is Essential for Regional StabilityBy Bruce Klingner, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 04/11/2012
An inexperienced young man—Kim Jong-un—is, at least for the moment, in control of North Korea, the world’s most volatile nuclear power. While this scenario might sound like the plot line of a Hollywood blockbuster, for America and her allies, the challenges of Jong-un’s ascension are proving all too real. Although North Korea’s dynastic succession is well underway, continuity of leadership does not guarantee regional stability—a fact underlined by Pyongyang’s recent announcement that next month it will conduct a long-range missile test. If North Korea chooses to continue its policy of repression and foreign aggression, Washington and its allies should be prepared to enact a list of policies—ranging from negotiations to missile defense—designed to neutralize and ultimately diminish the North Korean threat.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Ariel Cohen, et al., The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 04/11/2012
If an “Arab Spring” uprising completely disrupted Saudi oil production, the United States and the global economy would face a massive economic and strategic crisis. Russia and Iran as oil-producing states would likely exploit the crisis to increase their power around the world while undermining United States influence, especially in the Middle East. To guard against the economic and strategic dangers, the United States should prepare emergency measures before such a crisis. Releasing strategic petroleum reserves in coordination with other countries, tapping the North American energy resources, and reducing domestic energy consumption would limit the impact of the crisis and facilitate recovery. However, it is also in the United States interest to use its influence and resources to assist allies and friends during the crisis.