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Recent Policy Studies
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Jay Alan Sekulow, The Heritage FoundationLegal Memorandum, 10/01/2012
Religious freedom is one of the core principles upon which the American system of government is based. And yet religious freedom in America is under assault: Politicians mock the faithful’s claims of religious conscience, while government entities and actors treat religious freedom and expression as obstacles to be overcome rather than as important values to protect. Individuals of all faiths or none, and from all points on the political and ideological spectrum, should be alarmed at the mounting assault on the free exercise of religion and freedom of religious expression. The erosion of one constitutional right—especially one as fundamental as religious liberty and the freedom of speech—may serve as a precedent for the erosion of other rights to the detriment of all Americans.
LaborBy Michael M. Rosen, American Enterprise InstituteThe American, 10/01/2012
In the Golden State, as, alas, in several other states, unions automatically deduct employee wages and funnel them to political campaigns—without the consent of the employee. Although it’s hard to imagine California ever becoming a right-to-work state—given labor’s tremendous clout in Sacramento—a dedicated alliance of good government reformers, fiscal conservatives, and just plain sensible folks are working to make it a right-to-give state.
EducationBy Sara Mead, Andrew Rotherham, Rachael Brown, American Enterprise InstituteSpecial Report, 10/01/2012
New teacher evaluation systems adopted over the past three years have real potential to foster a more performance-oriented public education culture that gives teachers meaningful feedback about the quality and impact of their work. This paper seeks to move the debate beyond ideology and technical issues by highlighting four key tensions that policymakers, advocates, and educators must consider in the development of new teacher evaluations; namely, the issues of (1) flexibility versus control with regards to the issue of school autonomy, (2) the process of evaluation in an educational system which is constantly evolving, (3) the different purposes for implementing these evaluations and the tensions between them, and (4) the evaluation of teachers as professionals, which requires an element of subjective judgments which some new teacher evaluations seek to do. This paper offers a number of policy recommendations in response to these questions.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Szu-yin Ho, American Enterprise InstitutePaper, 10/01/2012
As studies of international diplomatic history have shown, the rise of a great power has always cast a long shadow over the international scene. China is now a rising great power. All of its Asian neighbors—from South Korea to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam), from India to Australia, and even across the Pacific to the United States—must adjust their foreign policies to accommodate China’s rise. Taiwan is no exception, due to its status as the most important territorial and sovereignty issue for China. This paper will briefly describe cross-Strait relations under Taiwan’s Ma administration, and then analyze Taiwan’s military and economic security. It will conclude with speculations on possible future developments across the Taiwan Strait.
Information TechnologyBy Jeffrey A. Eisenach, American Enterprise InstituteThe American, 10/01/2012
Last Thursday, September 20th, the D.C. Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on whether to uphold the Federal Communications Commission’s so-called “data roaming” rules, which would impose new open-access regulations on wireless broadband companies. The issues at bar—including whether imposing such a requirement on an Internet carrier amounts to “common carrier” regulation—are similar to the issues the court will face when it rules on the FCC’s net neutrality regulations next year. The economic issues in the two cases are also closely related: Simply put, will more regulation improve the market for Internet-based communications? The answer is that the Internet marketplace has been working just fine without the FCC’s new rules, and it will continue to do so if the court wisely decides to strike them down.
Information TechnologyBy Jeffrey A. Eisenach, Kevin W. Caves, Cato InstituteRegulation, 10/01/2012
The process of de-monopolization and price liberalization of retail telephone services has been underway in the United States for several decades. In recent years, roughly a dozen states have completed the liberalization process by eliminating price controls on basic telephone service. Opponents of price liberalization have claimed that the removal of price controls would lead to higher (even “unaffordable”) rates. This regression analysis, however, demonstrates that, holding other factors constant, liberalization has led to lower prices. Moreover, looking at several indices of utilization, this study finds no evidence that rates have become less affordable as a result of liberalization. Given the broad consensus that liberalization contributes to innovation and overall economic welfare, and the strong evidence that the removal of price controls on other telephone services has benefited consumers, it can be concluded that liberalizing price controls on basic telephone service will benefit consumers and contribute to economic growth.
Health CareBy Rea S. Hederman Jr., The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 09/28/2012
Opponents of Medicare premium support routinely charge that it would cost future retirees $6,400 more annually. In fact, this dollar amount is incorrect, and the charge is erroneous. Such false charges are based on an outdated Congressional Budget Office (CBO) model of House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan’s (R–WI) 2011 budget proposal. Ryan’s 2012 proposal, which was included in the 2013 House budget resolution, included a very different version of Medicare premium support. The policy changes in Ryan’s second proposal and in his subsequent proposal with Senator Ron Wyden (D–OR) are substantial and significant. Curiously, these new changes also expose the methodological shortcomings of the CBO model. CBO director Douglas Elmendorf has publicly acknowledged that his agency does not have the methodological tools to accurately model Medicare premium-support plans and the impact of market competition.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Brett D. Schaefer, James Phillips, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 09/28/2012
The Palestinians have announced their intent to use the United Nations once again to bolster their claims of statehood. Last year, the Obama Administration blocked their bid for full U.N. membership by threatening to use its Security Council veto. Now the Palestinians are seeking “non-member state” permanent observer status, which does not require Security Council approval. The Palestinians could then exploit U.N. recognition to demand membership in U.N. specialized agencies and organizations. President Obama and congressional leaders agree that a unilateral assertion of Palestinian statehood absent a negotiated peace treaty with Israel threatens United States and Israeli interests. The U.S. should make it clear that this effort will have ramifications for Palestinian interests and those international organizations granting them membership by enforcing current financial prohibitions and informing the Palestinians that this path will lead the U.S. to sharply reduce or eliminate funding for the Palestinians and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
Elections, Transparency, & AccountabilityBy Christopher C. Horner, Threshold EditionsBook, 09/28/2012
Revealing explosive new information obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and well-placed sources, bestselling author and attorney Christopher C. Horner exposes the tightly kept secret of liberals running our government and schools: a carefully managed war to undermine the taxpayers’ right to see what their government is up to. During his campaign, Barack Obama promised “the most transparent administration in history.” Not only has this proven to be an empty promise, but he and his liberal allies systematically hide their activities from the public. They use private email accounts and computers, avoid creating records, stonewall information requests, and otherwise delay or deny access to information every taxpayer has a right to know. This eye-opening book exposes the White House tricks, tactics, and “tradecraft” now regularly used to keep Americans in the dark.
National SecurityBy Jessica Zuckerman, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 09/26/2012
Last year, DHS wisely replaced its colorful but ultimately unhelpful and oft-ignored Homeland Security Advisory System in favor of the more specific and useful National Terrorism Advisory System. The NTAS provides actionable and understandable warning when a credible terrorist threat against the United States exists. While this system and other tools (such as the FBI–DHS Joint Intelligence Bulletins) provide actionable intelligence to U.S. law enforcement and the public, there is more work to be done. The U.S should pursue an “all-hazards” alert system, as well as greater information sharing and professional development for homeland security officials, to further enhance risk communication and the nation’s overall preparedness.
Budget & TaxationBy J.D. Foster, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 09/26/2012
This recession is not yet inevitable. Though Congress has recessed until mid-November, President Obama could and should immediately call it back to finish its bare minimum tasks for the year. At no time this year has President Obama made the resolution of Taxmageddon a priority, and in this he has joined with Congress in a conspiracy of inertia. But time remains to change course, to prevent the recessionary job loss and wealth destruction threatening the nation. If a slowdown or even a recession unfolds as CBO predicts, the blame will lie with President Obama.
EducationBy Eric A. Hanushek, Paul E. Peterson, Ludger Woessmann, Education NextEducation Next, 09/26/2012
To find out whether the United States is narrowing the international education gap, this report provides estimates of learning gains over the period between 1995 and 2009 for 49 countries from most of the developed and some of the newly developing parts of the world. It also examines changes in student performance in 41 states within the United States, allowing us to compare these states with each other as well as with the 48 other countries. The report finds that if each U.S. state could increase its educational performance at the same rate as the highest-growth states—Maryland, Florida, Delaware, and Massachusetts—the U.S. improvement rate would be lifted by 1.5 percentage points of a standard deviation annually above the current trend line. Over two decades, this would be enough to bring the United States within the range of, or at least keep pace with, the world’s leaders.
Budget & TaxationBy e-21: Economic Policies for the 21st Century, e21: Economic Policies for the 21st CenturyCommentary, 09/26/2012
Interestingly, in an economy with a gross debt to GDP ratio of more than 100% and exponential expected increases in retirement and health care costs, the economic benefits of both additional tax cuts or government spending is likely to be marginal at best – and very well could be negative. This is why the key economic policy issue today is reducing the size of government over time through spending reductions that cause households and businesses to reduce the size of expected future tax increases. The best course for policymakers today would be to place the budget on a sustainable path, which would aid business planning by making the fiscal adjustment costs explicit, reduce the risk of a public sector financial crisis, and create fresh confidence in the institutions of government.
Health CareBy Commonwealth Foundation, Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy AlternativesPolicy Points, 09/26/2012
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—often dubbed “Obamacare”—will cost Americans $1.2 trillion from 2012 to 2022 according to the Congressional Budget Office. These projections do not account for the additional costs to state governments or the higher costs for private health insurance. This Policy Points guide offers a breakdown of these costs, as well as a number of suggestions aimed towards policymakers for lowering the cost of health care and giving patients more control.
Economic GrowthBy Katrina M. Currie, Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy AlternativesTestimony, 09/26/2012
The Made in Pennsylvania bills attempt to alleviate Pennsylvania’s enormous corporate tax burden and make the state a more attractive place for businesses investment. These tax credits benefit a select group of manufacturers, tourism providers and renewable energy companies, but they fail to improve the economic climate for thousands of existing businesses, large and small, or for companies or entrepreneurs in other fields looking to start or expand in the commonwealth. Targeted tax breaks and corporate welfare subsidies prevent across-the-board tax rate reductions that would benefit all Pennsylvanians—thereby attracting new businesses from all sectors, and allowing existing businesses to expand in Pennsylvania. The elimination of targeted economic development programs and reduction in overall tax rates would do more to encourage job growth and investment in the Keystone State than the proposed bills before the committee today.
Budget & TaxationBy Nathan A. Benefield, Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy AlternativesTestimony, 09/26/2012
Property taxes are high, have been rising and will continue to rise. Property taxes are the single largest source of state and local government tax revenue in Pennsylvania, at more than $15.5 billion, according to the latest U.S. Census data. Over the most recent 10-year period, school district property taxes alone grew 66 percent, during a period when inflation was less than 30 percent. The questions are whether there is a better system for financing government, and how should the drivers of high property taxes be addressed. This testimony will provide principles for effective tax reform and provide policy solutions to solve the underlying problem—the rapid growth of property taxes.
Visa Mills, Diploma Mills, and Other For-Profit Colleges: Sorting Out Some of the Controversies in Higher EducationBy David North, Center for Immigration StudiesMemorandum, 09/26/2012
The three controversies of interest here are: 1) the interactions of higher education and immigration; 2) the quality of education provided; and 3) the levels of student debt, usually meaning resident student debt, not that of international students. To an extent perhaps not appreciated by the casual observer these are three quite separate controversies, and the criticized entities tend to specialize in their very own kind of behavior, or misbehavior.
Economic GrowthBy Doug Holtz-Eakin, Andrew Winkler, American Action ForumReport, 09/26/2012
While housing markets across California were hit hard by the housing bubble and bust, certain parts of the state are improving. The unevenness of the housing recovery across the country is reflected in the unevenness of the economic recovery in California. The key to sustained growth is to eschew heavy-handed interventions like using eminent domain to seize mortgages and instead pursue an agenda of employment and income growth. Unemployment is highly elevated in parts of California and the state has taken measures that will likely delay the clearing of foreclosures in the future. While the benefits of strong growth and the timely clearing of distressed properties has been evident in cities like Phoenix, Arizona, California faces significant roadblocks, many of them self-induced, before an accelerated path to recovery can be consistently achieved around the state.
Regulation & DeregulationBy Thomas A. Hemphill, American Action ForumArticle, 09/26/2012
Naturally, the benefits of federal regulations, such as cleaner air and water, improvements in energy efficiency, or the safety of employees, need to be balanced against these regulatory costs. The rigorous applications of benefit-cost analysis, where the benefits exceed the costs of regulation, are paramount to keeping the U.S. manufacturing sector globally competitive. The MAPI study’s recommendations on regulatory stewardship should be embraced by both the executive and legislative branches of the federal government if the recent revival of the U.S. manufacturing sector is to be sustained, namely: 1) revisiting and revising existing regulations; 2) slowing the growth of new regulations; and 3) ensuring any new regulations mesh as well as possible with existing regulations rather than being duplicative or unnecessary.
Economic GrowthBy Tom Gray, Robert Scardamalia , Manhattan InstituteCivic Report, 09/26/2012
For decades after World War II, California was a destination for Americans in search of a better life. They voted with their feet, and California grew spectacularly (its population increased by 137 percent between 1960 and 2010). However, this golden age of migration into the state is over. For the past two decades, California has been sending more people to other American states than it receives from them. Since 1990, the state has lost nearly 3.4 million residents through this migration. This study describes the great ongoing California exodus. It maps in detail where in California the migrants come from, and where they go when they leave the state. It then analyzes the data to determine the likely causes of California’s decline and the lessons that its decline holds for other states.
WelfareBy David J. Armor, Sonia Sousa, National AffairsNational Affairs, 09/25/2012
The key to controlling our swiftly growing welfare programs is to think in terms of the purpose and not just the size of government. The idea that anti-poverty programs should help those who are poor is so obvious as to be a tautology. And yet—as the data above illustrate clearly—this is not at all how our federal anti-poverty programs work today. By bringing these programs into line with their original, stated aim—providing a safety net for people who are actually poor or who have serious disabilities—enormous budget savings can be realized. And because our massive debts put all federal programs in danger, making the reasonable reductions outlined above will actually put our welfare programs on more sustainable long-term footing. In so doing, it will also preserve a true safety net for Americans in need.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Joshua D. Hawley, National AffairsNational Affairs, 09/25/2012
The federal judiciary is in many respects the nation’s best-functioning branch of government. It does justice in thousands of cases every day. It defends and enforces Americans’ liberties; it is a model of efficiency, professionalism, and excellence. As for the Supreme Court, it too has done the country much good. But for all its proud history, it has proved to be a dangerous institution—the most dangerous, in fact, of any branch of government. The Court’s very design makes it a threat to the vital separation of constitutional law and politics. And the Court’s praxis over the past half-century has turned that threat into very real harm. If conservatives want to make the Court safe for democracy, they should focus less on getting it to reach the right constitutional results—and should focus instead on having it reach far fewer constitutional results in the first place.
EducationBy Marcus A. Winters, National AffairsNational Affairs, 09/25/2012
Given what is at stake, it seems obvious that the nation’s public-school system should want to do everything in its power to make sure that children are instructed by the best teachers possible—using pay, tenure, and other incentives to reward quality, not simply longevity. But such reforms are not possible without a reliable, empirical measure of teacher quality—one rigorous and objective enough to withstand the opposition of teachers concerned primarily with their own comfort and job security. Fortunately, value-added analysis offers just such a measure. While not perfect, the value-added approach does provide important information that is missed by the current system and can be used to identify our best- and worst-performing public-school teachers. And reforming that system—which is now so stacked in the teachers’ favor as to be completely ineffective—is the first step toward the ultimate aim of ensuring that all public-school students receive a quality education.
Health CareBy Kip Hagopian, Dana Goldman, National AffairsNational Affairs, 09/25/2012
The approach to health insurance described here would have several important advantages over both the health-care system which has long-reigned in America and the reforms sought by the Affordable Care Act. The purpose of this sketch is to suggest a conceptual approach to health insurance that could make the system more efficient and, at the same time, also provide real insurance coverage for all Americans at a reasonable cost. Pursuing universal catastrophic health insurance would allow us to overcome many of the obstacles that have stood in the way of a rational health-care system for decades. And it could offer a market-friendly and practical path to universal coverage—without breaking the bank.
Health CareBy David P. Kessler, National AffairsNational Affairs, 09/25/2012
Medicare’s out-of-control spending is the natural result of its centralized, politicized structure. The creation of a centralized board of cost controllers—all political appointees—is thus not the way to address it. Premium support, in contrast, would deal with Medicare’s fundamental problems far better. It would commit the program to a structure more resistant to lobbying by interest groups and meddling by Congress. It would create incentives for insurers and beneficiaries to avoid low-value care and invest appropriately in controlling fraud and abuse. And its market mechanisms would allow Medicare to make greater use of prices in order to transmit information about the real costs of treatment decisions and insurance-policy design. All of these factors would make Medicare better at delivering good value and controlling spending. Premium support does carry risks, but when compared against the idea’s advantages—and against the vastly greater danger of national fiscal collapse—those risks are worth taking.
Health CareBy Arthur B. Laffer, Pacific Research InstituteReport, 09/25/2012
This study, which covered 100% of all Texas Medicaid dental patients in fiscal year 2011, finds that DSOs are doing just what Congress hoped they would do. DSOs are providing dental care to some of the poorest, most underserved segments of society. DSOs are not only providing much needed care, but they are providing that care expeditiously and relatively inexpensively when compared to non-DSO affiliated dentists. Rather than being vilified, DSOs should be applauded as a win-win-win solution.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy David A. Wilson, Washington Legal FoundationLegal Opinion Letter, 09/25/2012
Over the last decade or so, the implementation of Sarbanes-Oxley, the incentives in the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, and other factors have elevated the need for rigorous corporate compliance programs. Strong compliance program can prevent and deter violations of the law, and can at least partially mitigate penalties if a violation is found. But an unanticipated pitfall may exist in a gray area at the intersection of compliance programs and supervisory liability under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. A recent case in the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which subjected the general counsel of a broker-dealer to a five-year investigation for failing to supervise a broker, highlights the uncertainty and risk that those charged with compliance responsibilities in the investment advisory business may face.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy Nicholas Vari, Washington Legal FoundationLegal Opinion Letter, 09/25/2012
In deciding that protective respirators fall outside the scope of its prior Braaten decision, the Washington Supreme Court provided limited guidance in defining the products that fall within the realm of Braaten. Nevertheless, in affirming Braaten and its progeny, this court left no doubt that Braaten remains in full force, and that suppliers of valves and pumps to the United States Navy are not legally responsible for asbestos-containing materials that the Navy chose to use with the steam systems on its ships. Moreover, the Court continued the trend of considering the element of control of a particular use to be the guiding principle in deciding whether a product manufacturer can be liable for harms caused directly by materials made and sold by others.
Economic and Political ThoughtBy Jean M. Yarbrough, The Heritage FoundationArticle, 09/25/2012
Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States (1901–1909), was the youngest and arguably most energetic man ever to fill that office. Growing up in the Gilded Age, he regarded commercial ideals as “mean and sordid” and brought these sensibilities with him into public life. A firm believer in what he called the manly virtues, he urged his countrymen to fight for the right. As President, he pushed executive powers to new limits, arguing that the rise of industrial capitalism had rendered limited government obsolete.
Budget & TaxationBy Curtis Dubay, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 09/25/2012
The Tax Policy Center (TPC) recently released a report that erroneously concludes that Governor Mitt Romney’s tax reform plan would necessarily cut taxes for the rich and raise them for middle-income and low-income taxpayers. However, despite the authors’ claims, their analysis is far from definitive. Instead, their conclusion is the result of a series of carefully made choices. These choices, not the underlying nature of the Romney plan, cause them to arrive at their selected result. This finding is harming the debate on tax reform.
Budget & TaxationBy Duanjie Chen, Jack Mintz, Cato InstituteTax & Budget Bulletin, 09/25/2012
This bulletin presents new estimates of marginal effective tax rates (METRs) on corporate investment for 90 countries. These tax rates take into account statutory rates plus tax-base items that affect taxes paid on new investment, such as deductions for capital depreciation, inventory costs, and interest expenses. This bulletin ignores temporary incentives because they do not support sustained capital investment, but instead shift investment from the future to the present year. It finds that the U.S. effective tax rate on new corporate investment is 35.6 percent in 2012, which is almost twice the average rate for the 90 countries studied, and it is also the highest rate among the major industrial nations. These results underscore the need for U.S. policymakers to tackle corporate tax reform.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Bruce Klingner, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 09/25/2012
Greater military and political cooperation between South Korea and Japan would protect South Korean, Japanese, and U.S. national interests in Asia. The growing North Korean and Chinese security threats to the region have motivated South Korea and Japan to cooperate more, but historical animosities and recent diplomatic missteps have constrained bilateral cooperation. The U.S. can best facilitate increased South Korean–Japanese cooperation by creating opportunities for more robust trilateral cooperation and by continuing to maintain the stabilizing force of a robust forward-deployed U.S. military presence in the region.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Renato De Castro, Walter Lohman, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 09/25/2012
The recent standoff at Scarborough Shoal between the Philippines and China demonstrates how Beijing is targeting Manila in its strategy of maritime brinkmanship. Manila’s weakness stems from the Philippine Air Force’s (PAF) lack of air-defense system and air-surveillance capabilities to patrol and protect Philippine airspace and maritime territory. The PAF’s deplorable state is attributed to the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ single-minded focus on internal security since 2001. Currently, the Aquino administration is undertaking a major reform to shift the PAF from its focus on counterinsurgency to its original role of air defense, an effort hindered by the perennial lack of funds. It is imperative for the U.S.— Philippines’ alliance—to assist the PAF in developing the air power and skills to spread its wings and protect the country’s territory.
National SecurityBy The Heritage Foundation, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 09/25/2012
The Heritage Foundation has recently published a number of Issue Briefs and blog posts analyzing the Obama Administration’s policies and congressional proposals on cybersecurity. These writings cover the President’s recent draft executive order, legislation, and whether the government is better able than the private sector to protect against cyber attacks.