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- Acton Institute
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Recent Policy Studies
ImmigrationBy Elizabeth Garvey, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 04/20/2012
Arizona enacted the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act (Senate Bill 1070) in an attempt to reinforce the very federal immigration laws that the Obama Administration has declined to enforce. Senate Bill 1070 was intentionally written not to conflict with federal immigration laws, and in fact, Congress has acknowledged that federal, state, and local law enforcement must work together to combat the influx of illegal immigrants. The Supreme Court should uphold Senate Bill 1070 and give states the green light to engage in cooperative enforcement as contemplated by federal immigration laws.
Economic GrowthBy Terry Miller, Anthony Kim, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 04/20/2012
Dr. Jim Yong Kim, president of Dartmouth College, was elected as the next president of the World Bank. Kim, a physician with a background in public health, prevailed after an unusual race contested by two highly regarded economists from Nigeria and Colombia. Kim’s background raises plenty of questions regarding his suitability for the job and particularly his commitment to the free-market globalization that has so dramatically reduced poverty around the world. He will succeed only if he can rise above the outdated ideology he has espoused in the past and focus on what actually works in fostering economic growth and development.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Herman Belz, The Heritage FoundationFirst Principles, 04/20/2012
The Constitution establishes a federated republic in which government sovereignty is divided between federal and state institutions. From the outset, this division introduced into American politics an element of ambiguity over the proper relation between the federal and state governments. To properly understand the nature of our republic, we turn for guidance to President Abraham Lincoln’s defense of liberty and Union in his First Inaugural Address. Lincoln vindicated the Constitution by proving secession to be lawless rebellion and affirmed the two central principles of the Union: divided sovereignty and equal citizenship based on the natural rights of individuals. Based on the principles of the nation’s political tradition, the Civil War and Reconstruction were a fulfillment and completion of the Constitution, not a revolution against it.
Regulation & DeregulationBy James L. Gattuso, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 04/20/2012
The future of the Postal Service is being determined now. It could continue as an obsolete, politicized institution doomed to extinction. Alternatively, it could become a taxpayer-supported dinosaur existing on billions in taxpayer funding each year. Or will it be allowed to restructure and innovate, giving it a chance to find a place in today’s economy? Congress should support the third of these and give the Postal Service a chance to save itself—and taxpayers—from disaster. That means allowing the Postal Service to adopt reforms, not stopping it.
Economic GrowthBy Diana Furchtgott-Roth, American Enterprise InstituteBook, 04/19/2012
The myth that women make 78 cents on a man’s dollar is a standard refrain in popular media and serves as a rationale for affirmative action for women. Unstated is that for women and men with the same job and work experience, the wage gap practically disappears. In Women’s Figures, Manhattan Institute senior fellow Diana Furchtgott-Roth shatters the myth of the wage gap. Women are continuing to gain ground relative to men, and in some cases, they have even reversed the gender gap. Rather than helping women, preferential policies undermine America’s idea of meritocracy, and call into question the value of women’s hard-earned achievements.
Regulation & DeregulationBy Randall Lutter, Mercatus CenterWorking Paper, 04/19/2012
The president’s directive to measure and improve the actual results of regulatory requirements is a welcome step. Retrospective analysis will have to be targeted and timely and to meet high standards for analysis to offer meaningful information about both the benefits and costs of existing regulations. Unfortunately, key regulatory agencies appear unable to perform such analysis of their own rules. Independent analysis by a congressionally mandated body may be warranted. In addition, retrospective analysis and review should not focus exclusively on individual rules, but rather should include some regulatory programs. Finally, new rules should be supported by better analysis of their likely benefits and costs relative to reasonable alternatives, and they should also be designed to promote measurement and evaluation of actual results of the regulation. Agencies should promote market-based mechanisms like permit trading as well as greater use of surveys of the effectiveness of information disclosure requirements.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Nahid Anaraki, The Heritage FoundationSpecial Report, 04/19/2012
Econometric analysis of Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s interventions in the housing market suggests that their interventions have led to higher housing prices, which may have adversely affected poor and low-income groups. Liquidating Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is more likely to increase homeownership. While such a policy might increase interest rates in the near term, it would also lead to lower median home prices, which in turn would increase the ability of low-income groups to purchase a house. It would also enhance competition among financial institutions, leading to lower interest rates in the medium to long term.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Henry I. Miller, Hoover InstitutionDefining Ideas, 04/19/2012
Earth Day offers an opportunity for reflection about our planet. Because its form of environmentalism rejects science and technology, the occasion ensures a continuation of abject misery for billions of the poorest on the planet.
Budget & TaxationBy Kevin A. Hassett, American Enterprise InstituteTestimony, 04/18/2012
The high rates of taxation on capital income in the United States stand in marked contrast not only to the policies of our trade partners, but also to the implications of optimal tax theory in the economics literature. Over the past three decades, numerous studies have concluded that an optimal tax system in most cases will not include a tax on capital, because capital taxes introduce a distortion into the return on saving and investment.
Budget & TaxationBy Paul F. Byrne, Show-Me InstitutePolicy Study, 04/18/2012
Tax Increment Financing has become a common economic development tool throughout the United States. Tax Increment Financing takes the new taxes that a development generates and directs a portion of them to repay the costs of the project itself. Missouri is one of many states where Tax Increment Financing is authorized for purposes of combating blight, engaging in conservation efforts, fostering economic development, or a combination of those factors. This study provides an overview of the history and basic structure of Tax Increment Financing. It then analyzes the basic tax components of a Tax Increment Financing plan and compares how various aspects, such as tax capture and tax competition, play out in the standard system. The study then reviews the economic literature, and ends with a direct application of how Tax Increment Financing operates within Missouri.
Budget & TaxationBy J. Scott Moody, Maine Heritage Policy CenterPath to Prosperity, 04/18/2012
In these dark economic times, the siren call of “tax the rich” is hurled at policymakers as the solution to Maine’s budget woes. The accusation is that the rich are just sitting on their money and having government take it from them in order to spend it will get the economy moving again. Of course, this caricature of the rich does not stand up to reality. This study analyzes data from the Internal Revenue Service for 2009 that shows the dramatic differences in the composition of income by various income groups. Simply looking at total income can be misleading if one does not understand the underlying income dynamics because today’s tax code includes a mishmash of personal and business income. This study also provides an illustrative example of how this can happen.
WelfareBy Russell Sykes, Empire Center for New York State PolicyPolicy Brief, 04/18/2012
Low-income working families in New York State receive a significant annual wage supplement through the Earned Income Tax Credit, which is available to eligible filers of federal, state and New York City income tax returns. This paper explores the history and impact of the Earned Income Tax Credit, compares its effectiveness as a poverty-fighting measure to the minimum wage, and identifies a number of areas where the Earned Income Tax Credit could be improved.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Ryan Messmore, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 04/18/2012
At its core, the debate over Obamacare’s anti-conscience mandate is about freedom—freedom of religion and freedom from government coercion of groups and individuals to violate their consciences. This debate is about whether religious charities are free to serve the common good only if they change or disregard their beliefs according to government dictates. The anti-conscience mandate is unprecedented and unconstitutional, and it is only the leading edge of the mandates that are likely to come as Obamacare is fully implemented through the regulatory process. Trampling of liberty is the inevitable result of the federal government’s taking control of personal health decisions. No waiver or exemption will remedy the problem, which is the Obamacare system itself. The only way adequately to protect civil society, liberty in general, and religious liberty in particular is to rescind the mandate and repeal Obamacare. America needs real health care reform that respects religious freedom.
International Trade/FinanceBy Bryan Riley, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 04/18/2012
Government interference in the sugar market hurts consumers and food manufacturers by driving up the price of sugar, threatening competitive farmers and ranchers by jeopardizing export growth, and weakening the United States economy by diverting resources from more competitive uses. This Depression-era program, which was supposed to end in 1940, has outlived its intended lifespan by 72 years. It should be abolished.
Retirement/Social SecurityBy Merrill Matthews, National Center for Policy AnalysisBrief Analysis, 04/18/2012
Stock market volatility remains one of the primary objections to switching from the current pay-as-you-go method of funding Social Security benefits to a system of prefunded personal retirement accounts. However, three Texas counties that opted out of Social Security 30 years ago have solved the risk problem.
Economic GrowthBy Joshua C. Hall, Benjamin J. VanMetre, John Pulito, Mercatus CenterWorking Paper, 04/18/2012
This study extends the growing literature on economic freedom as a determinant of entrepreneurship. It employs a new general measure of freedom that encompasses both economic and personal freedoms to test whether general freedom is related to entrepreneurial activity. While this study finds a positive and statistically significant relationship between overall freedom and entrepreneurship, disaggregating overall freedom into personal and economic freedom shows that economic freedom is driving the relationship. This study finds that a one standard-deviation increase in a state’s economic freedom is associated with over 100 new businesses started per 100,000 residents every month.
Economic and Political ThoughtBy Pascal Bruckner, Manhattan InstituteCity Journal, 04/18/2012
Around the turn of the twenty-first century, a paradigm shift in our thinking took place: we decided that the era of revolutions was over and that the era of catastrophes had begun. How did this change happen? Over the last half-century, leftist intellectuals have identified two great scapegoats for the world’s woes. First, Marxism designated capitalism as responsible for human misery. Second, “Third World” ideology, disappointed by the bourgeois indulgences of the working class, targeted the West, supposedly the inventor of slavery, colonialism, and imperialism. The guilty party that environmentalism now accuses—mankind itself, in its will to dominate the planet—is essentially a composite of the previous two, a capitalism invented by a West that oppresses peoples and destroys the earth.
Budget & TaxationBy Steven Malanga, Manhattan InstituteCity Journal, 04/18/2012
Illinois has emerged as a poster child for fiscal irresponsibility: the state’s unpaid bills now top $9 billion. Meantime, Wisconsin’s state and local governments have made substantial strides toward long-term budget stability. The different fiscal outlooks of the neighboring states illustrate a crucial fact in today’s budget wars: you can’t tax your way to a better future.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy Jeanette Moll, Texas Public Policy FoundationPolicy Perspective, 04/17/2012
Local juvenile probation boards have a variety of tools to reduce detention rates within their facilities. Further, targeting detention reduction alternatives on lower risk youths does not create additional risks to the public safety, and ensures a more streamlined local budget relating to juvenile detention and probation. By reducing detention populations, Texas counties can save millions, continue to protect public safety, and achieve better outcomes for Texas juveniles.
Elections, Transparency, & Accountability
Texas vs. Environmental Protection Agency: A Survey of Pending Litigation between the State of Texas and EPABy Josiah Neeley, Texas Public Policy FoundationPolicy Perspective, 04/17/2012
There are currently more than a dozen lawsuits ongoing between the Texas state government and the Environmental Protection Agency. These lawsuits raise profound issues about federalism, due process of law, and the democratic accountability of the Environmental Protection Agency as a government agency. The outcome of Texas’ four challenges to the Environmental Protection Agency’s attempt to regulate greenhouse gases could determine the future course of the nation’s economy.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Johan Norberg, Reason FoundationReason, 04/17/2012
Governments are fighting fire with fire, debt with debt, and the consequences of easy money and government guarantees with even easier money and bigger guarantees. Rather than giving banks freedom to act and the responsibility to sink or swim on their own, governments are doing the opposite: giving banks a helping hand while tying their hands and feet. This is no longer a financial crisis, or even a debt crisis. This is now a political crisis, a crisis of governments. Not just because loose monetary policies, guarantees, and regulation fostered the crisis, or because runaway spending and lack of reform deepened it in Europe. It is a crisis of governments because markets and voters have lost faith in government’s ability to clean up the mess.
Budget & TaxationBy Veronique de Rugy, Reason FoundationReason, 04/17/2012
Americans often tout the contrast between the bloated, tax-funded welfare states of the Old World and our leaner, cheaper government. But the data reveal that the United States may be closer to Europe than we think. Contrary to common belief, the American tax system is more progressive than those of most industrialized democracies.
EducationBy Raymond Flynn, Pioneer Institute for Public Policy ResearchTranscript, 04/17/2012
The problems Catholic schools in Massachusetts face are exacerbated by the existence of so-called anti-aid, Know-Nothing or Blaine amendments to the state’s constitution. The 1854 Know-Nothing amendment is a relic of the anti-Catholic bigotry that arose in the mid-19th century after the Irish potato famine brought a wave of immigration to our shores. In brief, it prohibits state funds from being directed to sectarian schools, closing off one of the options for helping Catholic schools carry out their mission of providing needy students with a quality education.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Ali Alfoneh, Will Fulton, American Enterprise InstituteMiddle Eastern Outlook, 04/17/2012
The United States Department of the Treasury has designated Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force Brigadier General Gholamreza Baghbani, current chief of the Quds Force office in Zahedan, a narcotics trafficker. The Department of the Treasury does not provide evidence proving this designation, nor does a survey of the Persian language open-source material on Baghbani. A review of Baghbani’s career, however, can provide insight into the ongoing generational change within the Quds Force—as the older generation of Quds Force field operatives is retiring from operational positions, they are actively attempting to infiltrate politics, exemplified by Baghbani’s candidacy for Iran’s ninth parliamentary election.
Budget & TaxationBy William McBride, Tax FoundationFiscal Facts, 04/17/2012
While Tax Freedom Day is just around the corner, on April 17 this year, try to enjoy it. If Congress fails to act, “Taxmageddon”—the roughly $500 billion tax increase scheduled to occur January 1, 2013—could push Tax Freedom Day to the end of April or beyond.
Elections, Transparency, & AccountabilityBy Richard A. Epstein, Hoover InstitutionDefining Ideas, 04/17/2012
In Federalist No, 78, Alexander Hamilton famously argued that the federal courts were “the least dangerous” branch of government. What he did not understand was that they also proved, over time, to be the worst constructed. It’s time to reform the Courts and the administrative agencies.
International Trade/FinanceBy Bryan Riley, The Heritage FoundationSpecial Report, 04/17/2012
North Carolina has a long record of support for open markets, and recent trade agreements have benefited its citizens. Foreign trade—exports and imports—is responsible for more jobs in the state than the textile, apparel, and furniture industries combined. Despite these facts, North Carolina’s congressional delegation seems to be rejecting its free-trade heritage. (In 2011, all but one member of the state’s congressional delegation voted against the United States–South Korea Free Trade Agreement.) Primarily, this is due to the influence of the state’s large textile and apparel industry seeking protection from lower-cost imports. Every Member of Congress who is facing a vote on trade-related legislation should consider the impact of that legislation on every worker and family in his state, not just on a limited sector. Everyone benefits from less-expensive goods and more jobs. North Carolina can best represent the interests of its citizens by rejecting protectionist policies and returning to its free-trade roots.
EducationBy Lindsey Burke, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 04/17/2012
For four and a half decades, the federal role in education has been growing. Costly in terms of taxpayer dollars spent and local control of education lost, this expanding federal control has failed to improve outcomes for America’s children. National standards will further expand Washington’s role—and will remove parents from decisions about the content taught in their children’s schools. Yet the Obama Administration is intent on nationalizing the content taught in every public school across America. Without congressional approval, the Administration has used a combination of carrots and sticks to spur states to sign on to the Common Core State Standards Initiative. Common Core includes costly and questionable national standards for English and math, and federally funded national assessments have been crafted to align with the standards. State leaders who believe in limited government and liberty should resist the imposition of national standards and tests in their states.
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.