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Recent Policy Studies
Elections, Transparency, & AccountabilityBy Deborah D. Thornton, Public Interest InstituteInstitute Brief, 01/25/2013
Governor Branstad’s 2012 education reform proposal faced stiff resistance from entrenched factions in the traditional Iowa education establishment, specifically the teachers and government-worker unions. As a powerful, well-funded force in local, state, and national politics – these unions are engaged in a continuous battle to resist educational reform and defend the status quo. And all their money goes to the Democrats.
EducationBy Alison L. Fraser, William Donovan, Pioneer Institute for Public Policy ResearchWhite Paper, 01/25/2013
In Massachusetts, where an average of 10,000 high school students have dropped out of school annually over each of the past 10 years, the state’s vocational-technical high school network has been particularly effective at keeping students in school. This white paper presents case studies, and offers recommendations for state legislators and policymakers.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Nicolas Loris, Brett D. Schaefer, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 01/25/2013
Restricting greenhouse gas emissions, whether unilaterally or multilaterally, would result in significant economic costs for the U.S. economy. This is a serious decision with grave consequences. The U.S. should not unilaterally assume these burdens as a symbolic gesture hoping that other countries might emulate our example—repeated U.N. negotiations demonstrate the small likelihood of that outcome. The U.S. should act prudently by increasing its certainty about the underlying assumptions and resulting predictions of climate change, ensuring that the benefits justify the costs, and undertaking concrete commitments and actions only in the context of an overarching strategy that would actually have an impact on climate change if action is necessary.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Luke Coffey, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 01/25/2013
America’s security interests in the Arctic region will only increase in the years to come. The forthcoming confirmation hearings are an important opportunity for the Senate to pose key questions about the direction of American Arctic security policy under President Obama in his second term. As other nations devote resources and assets in the region to secure their national interests, America cannot afford to fall behind.
LaborBy James Sherk, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 01/25/2013
Congress should bring labor law into the 21st century. Congress should remove the Section 8(a)(2) proscription on employee involvement programs. Congress should also remove unions’ ability to veto individual raises. Some in Congress are trying to do so. Senator Marco Rubio (R–FL) and Representative Todd Rokita (R–IN) introduced the Rewarding Achievement and Incentivizing Successful Employees (RAISE) Act, which would retain union rates as a wage floor while ensuring they never set a maximum on what employees earn. Such reforms would help make federal labor laws relevant to workers in the modern economy. The government should not limit employee voice in the workplace, nor should it prevent employees from getting ahead through hard work.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Diane Katz, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 01/25/2013
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was created in 2010 by the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, and imbued with unparalleled powers over virtually every consumer financial product and service. With rulemaking and enforcement now underway, there is ample evidence that agency operations represent a radical departure from long-standing regulatory standards. The CFPB’s actions are constricting the availability of financial products and services and raising costs—all of which will undermine business investment and consumer credit. Immediate reforms are necessary to impose accountability on the bureau. Ultimately, the CFPB should be eliminated and replaced by coordinated oversight of various enforcement functions among other financial regulators.
WelfareBy Robert Rector, Jennifer A. Marshall, The Heritage FoundationWhite Paper, 01/25/2013
The 1996 welfare reform was enacted even under a Democratic president because the public was clearly behind its basic goals. It was clear that America’s welfare system was terribly dysfunctional and that addressing poverty and dependency would require making welfare beneficiaries work. These same truths are just as evident today; we are just as much in need of a robust reform effort with the strong support of the public. It is time to turn ending “welfare as we know it” from an old slogan into a reality.
EducationBy Nathan Harden, Hillsdale CollegeImprimis, 01/25/2013
The political freedom that makes a liberal arts education possible requires an ongoing and active defense of liberty. Try exercising academic freedom in a place like Tehran or Kabul! Here in the U.S., we take our liberty far too much for granted. To the extent that Yale and schools like it succeed in producing leaders who subscribe to the ideology of moral relativism—and who thus see no moral distinction between America and its enemies—we will likely be disabused of this false sense of security all too soon.
Economic GrowthBy Niels Veldhuis, Charles Lammam, Amela Karagegovic, Fraser InstituteFraser Forum, 01/24/2013
Most Canadians start off with a relatively low income because they are young, new to the workforce, and lack work and life experience. Once they acquire education and job-related skills, their income typically increases until it peaks in middle age and then drops again once they pass their peak earning years and prepare for retirement. The conclusion that Canadian incomes have stagnated and that inequality is on the rise couldn’t be further from the truth and misses one of the great Canadian virtues: We live in a dynamic society where the majority of us experience significant upward (and downward) income mobility over the course of our lives.
Economic GrowthBy Alexander Moens, Nicolas Fleet, Fraser InstituteFraser Forum, 01/24/2013
As America’s biggest trading partner, Canada has a large stake in how both the overall US economy will fare in the next four years and how specific bilateral problems will be addressed. Regarding the former, there is a good deal of legitimate concern that Washington will not be able to make swift progress. In terms of the latter, the main areas of interest to Canada will be how much attention the second Obama administration will give to the Beyond the Border Vision agreed to in 2011 and to what extent trade obstacles in the energy sector such as the Keystone XL pipeline expansion will be addressed.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Donald J. Kochan, Federalist SocietyWhite Paper, 01/23/2013
Recent legislation passed in the State of Utah has demanded that the federal government extinguish title to certain public lands that the federal government currently holds. The State of Utah claims that the federal government made promises to it (at statehood when the federal government obtained the lands) that the federal ownership would be of limited duration and that the bulk of those lands would be timely disposed of by the federal government into private ownership or otherwise returned to the State. This White Paper provides a legal overview of these claims.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy Andrew C. Cook, Federalist SocietyWhite Paper, 01/23/2013
Over the past two years, state legislatures throughout the nation have passed a significant number of substantive tort reforms. This legislation is often controversial and many of the new statutes will undoubtedly be challenged by opponents. Historically the most common tort reforms to be challenged are statutory caps on noneconomic damages in personal injury cases. Litigants challenging the laws have experienced mixed success. Most recently, the Kansas Supreme Court upheld that state’s statutory cap of $250,000 noneconomic damages. Yet just months prior to the Kansas decision, the Supreme Court of Missouri struck down that state’s $350,000 cap for noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases.
EducationBy Jacob Vigdor, Education NextEducation Next, 01/23/2013
America’s lagging mathematics performance reflects a basic failure to understand the benefits of adapting the curriculum to meet the varying instructional needs of students. Recently published results from policies such as Chicago’s “double dose” of algebra, which groups students homogeneously and increases instructional time for lower-skilled math students (see “A Double Dose of Algebra,” research, Winter 2013), support differentiation as the best way to promote higher achievement among all students.
Budget & TaxationBy e-21: Economic Policies for the 21st Century, e21: Economic Policies for the 21st CenturyEditorial, 01/23/2013
Jack Lew is an unfortunate choice for Treasury Secretary. His hard-left policy leanings on entitlements are entirely out-of-step with the current fiscal crisis and his ignorance of finance makes him ill-equipped to deal with a crisis or cross-border banking regulatory reform. It would be difficult to find someone less attuned to the types of reforms necessary to put U.S. public and private finance on sound footing.
Budget & TaxationBy Charles Blahous, James Capretta, David Malpass, e21: Economic Policies for the 21st CenturyEditorial, 01/23/2013
Yesterday the nation paused to celebrate the second inauguration of President Obama and to listen to his second-term plans as laid out in his inaugural address. At the same time, we at e21 believe this is the perfect time for fiscal conservatives to take stock of the challenges over the next four years and beyond facing those who favor lower taxes and spending. With another four years of Obama presidency ahead, the fiscal woes of our country appear to be on a continuing downward path that could result in disastrous financial consequences for the United States and perhaps the world if not addressed quickly. We checked in with three of e21’s best policy minds to get their takes on what issues fiscal conservatives should be worried about and how to address the next four years in order to keep the nation from another fiscal crisis.
ImmigrationBy W.D. Reasoner, Center for Immigration StudiesBackgrounder, 01/23/2013
This paper examines the surprising number of naturalized citizens who have been charged and convicted of serious national security crimes—including terrorism, espionage, and theft of sensitive information and technology—in the last several years. It compares the relative ease with which aliens naturalize with the extreme difficulty in stripping them of citizenship, even when they prove to be national security threats who have gamed the system.
ImmigrationBy David North, Center for Immigration StudiesBackgrounder, 01/23/2013
The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) was a vital part of a genuine bargain, a one-time amnesty to be accompanied by a permanent policy of vigorous immigration law enforcement. But we should never have another broad-brush amnesty. Such programs swell our already over-swollen population with still more low-income, lightly educated people and encourage future legal and illegal immigration, and thus create arguments for future amnesties. If there is to be a limited program, anyway, let it be tied to actual changes in the law, such as eliminating the diversity visas completely and substantially reducing family preference migration.
ImmigrationBy David North, Center for Immigration StudiesBackgrounder, 01/23/2013
The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) is a subset of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which, in turn, is part of the Department of Homeland Security. An educational institution cannot cause the admission of aliens without getting the general authority to do so from SEVP. ICE is also supposed to stop the operations of visa mills, store-front entities that collect tuition from aliens in exchange for visas, but do not, in fact, offer any education. It turns out that SEVP is an immigration enforcement agency that sometimes complains about a lack of funds to do its job, but that consistently refuses to spend money allocated to it, and refuses to raise the fees that would solve its own funding problems. SEVP is not the little engine that could. Is the little engine that will not, and therefore cannot, do its duty.
ImmigrationBy Steven A. Camarota, Center for Immigration StudiesMemorandum, 01/23/2013
It is difficult to overstate the size of the pool of potential workers that now exists in the United States. If through enforcement a large fraction of illegal immigrants returned to their home countries rather than being allowed to stay with legal status, there would seem to be an ample supply of idle workers to replace them, particularly workers who have relatively little education. Of course, employers might have to pay more, and offer better benefits and working conditions in order to attract American citizens. But improving the living standards and bargaining power of the least-educated and poorest American workers can be seen as a desirable social outcome. The contention that there is a general labor shortage that has to be satisfied by giving work authorization and/or citizenship to illegal immigrants and increasing the number of immigrants allowed into the country seems entirely inconsistent with the available evidence.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy David R. Overstreet, Christopher R. Nestor, Washington Legal FoundationLegal Backgrounder, 01/23/2013
In Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (“PennFuture”) v. Ultra Resources, Inc. (“Ultra”), the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania concluded that it has jurisdiction over a citizen suit under the federal Clean Air Act (“CAA”), where PennFuture seeks to collaterally attack final permitting decisions of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future v. Ultra Resources. The District Court also declined to read an exhaustion requirement into the CAA and, although clearly troubled by the inequities of PennFuture’s attempt to end-run the state administrative process, decided not to abstain. These rulings, we suggest, overlook a more fundamental problem with PennFuture’s case which, once identified and addressed, compels dismissal of the case—either for failure to state a claim, if the court is willing to take judicial notice of certain undisputed facts, or upon motion for summary judgment.
Budget & TaxationBy Talmadge Heflin, James Quintero, Texas Public Policy FoundationPolicy Brief, 01/23/2013
It is the Foundation’s recommendation that the Legislature remove from state statute all local retirement systems and devolve authority over these plans back to the respective local community of each. This will serve to help restore local control of these systems, and also allow local government officials and taxpayers to oversee good government reforms to these systems to ensure their stability and sustainability into the future.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Josiah Neeley, Texas Public Policy FoundationPolicy Perspective, 01/23/2013
The current geosciences licensing scheme imposes arbitrary burdens on practicing geoscientists with little to no corresponding benefit to consumers or the public. While the problems with the current system are numerous, this policy perspective focuses on three: 1) the licensing system does not account for the varied academic backgrounds of many geoscientists; 2) licensing geoscientists does not protect consumers or the public; and 3) licensing stifles entrepreneurs and burdens business.
Health CareBy Arlene Wohlgemuth, Mario Loyola, John Davidson, Texas Public Policy FoundationPolicy Perspective, 01/23/2013
It is unconstitutional for the federal government to command the states—the Supreme Court has been clear on that point. Yet the federal government can accomplish much the same “commandeering” of the states through the practice of “cooperative federalism:” the intermingling of finances and regulatory activities among the federal and state governments. These arrangements are supposed to be voluntary. But they force the state to choose between (a) obeying the federal government on matters of purely state prerogative, or (b) suffering a major financial or regulatory penalty. Both of these are painful choices for the states. But in both cases, the long-term costs of bending to the federal will are simply too great. The federal government should be forced to pay for, implement, and be accountable for its own policies. The states have challenges enough without being drawn deeper still into the dysfunction of the federal government.
Transportation/InfrastructureBy David Levinson, Reason FoundationPolicy Study, 01/23/2013
Most roads in the United States are owned and managed directly by government, with funding for construction and maintenance derived primarily from taxes on gas. For many decades, this system worked well enough, despite widespread problems with congestion and road quality. Recently, however, rising maintenance costs and falling fuel tax receipts have begun to call into question the sustainability of this model. This paper argues that roads should be managed by independent enterprises, with a clear mission of providing service to customers. One way to achieve this, while maintaining overarching political control—and thereby prevent abuses of monopoly power—is to convert existing government operated road management organizations (such as the state Departments of Transportation) into regulated public utilities.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & Science
The Looming Rate Bomb: The 33 Percent Renewable Electricity Mandate and Electricity Prices in CaliforniaBy Benjamin Zycher, Pacific Research InstitutePapers and Studies, 01/23/2013
The state of California has mandated that by 2020, 33 percent of its electricity supplies be obtained from such nonhydroelectric “renewable” sources as wind, solar, and geothermal technologies. Current estimates of the cost of this requirement are too low by a substantial amount, largely because of underestimated costs for transmission, backup capacity, and generation. This paper provides a far more realistic estimate of the cost of the California renewables requirement.
EducationBy Joy Pullmann, Heartland InstitutePolicy Brief, 01/22/2013
In 2010, every state but Alaska, Nebraska, Texas, and Virginia adopted one set of requirements for what K-12 children should know in each grade in math and English language arts. Approximately 80 percent of the public does not know about the Common Core education standards, which comprise one of the most comprehensive K-12 reform efforts in the nation. This lack of knowledge is troubling because public dialogue on the Common Core is necessary to ensure high quality. Debate sharpens results. Parents whose children will be subject to these new requirements and citizens who will pay for the standards, associated tests, and myriad related initiatives deserve to know what they contain and to have a say in whether states adopt them. This paper examines some of the weaknesses of the Common Core, a subject that has received less attention than it should.
Budget & TaxationBy Nick Dranias, Byron Schlomach, Stephen Slivinski, Goldwater InstitutePolicy Report, 01/22/2013
To help prevent union strong-arming that fleeces taxpayers, we should know precisely what public union officials are demanding and what government employers are offering in any collective negotiation about employment terms and conditions. Although union groups and their political allies have opposed collective bargaining transparency as “union busting,” it is difficult to see how shining a light on the bargaining table will “bust” unions unless they have something to hide. No principled policymaker could possibly argue that there is a public benefit to the secretive use of bare-knuckled political pressure and monopoly power by unions to extract above-market compensation. Requiring total transparency in collective bargaining is simply the right thing to do to ensure public accountability. Government employees, city managers, and elected officials work for the public; and the public is entitled to know what their employees are doing on their dime.
Health CareBy Georgia Public Policy Foundation, Georgia Public Policy FoundationIssue Analysis, 01/22/2013
The state should not go to the trouble and expense of establishing health insurance exchanges that may or may not last if the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) were to be significantly altered or entirely repealed. The better course, if such exchanges must be established, is to let the federal government establish them while the state waits to see whether the PPACA will survive as it is currently constituted. The state should also not participate in the massive and costly expansion of the Medicaid program, as contemplated under the PPACA. Although the federal government would bear most of the costs during the startup phases of the expansion, the costs would ultimately fall to the state. Moreover, as in other states, the Medicaid program already is devouring an inordinate share of the state’s revenue.
Transportation/InfrastructureBy Chris Edwards, Cato InstituteTax & Budget Bulletin, 01/22/2013
Despite huge and ongoing budget deficits, some policymakers are proposing to increase federal spending on infrastructure. President Obama, for example, has called for passage of a $50 billion plan for new infrastructure investment. The president and other leaders believe that more federal spending on roads, rail, and other assets would boost growth and create jobs. But instead of increasing federal infrastructure spending—as some policymakers are proposing—we should begin devolving federal infrastructure activities to the states. The states should then unleash businesses and entrepreneurs to help America solve its mobility and congestion challenges.
Budget & TaxationBy Arnold Kling, American Enterprise InstituteThe American, 01/22/2013
I do not much care which balanced budget amendment is passed. Any amendment will be imperfect, and Congress can probably find a way around any amendment if it wants to. But having an amendment in the Constitution would send a strong signal that the public expects the budget to be balanced. This signal itself would provide the best mechanism for enforcement. Keynesian economists will insist that a balanced budget amendment will prevent the government from achieving an ideal countercyclical fiscal policy. But the reality has been far from ideal. As the old song goes, after 16 tons of Keynesian economics, all we have to show for it is that we are deeper in debt.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Nicolas Loris, Katie Tubb, Jack Spencer, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 01/22/2013
President Barack Obama’s energy policy during his first term runs counter to his campaign promise to expand energy production and create jobs during his second term. During his first term, he delayed, restricted, and regulated some energy sources while subsidizing, mandating, and giving special tax treatment to others. To keep his promise to increase energy production and create jobs, the President should shift from the paternalistic—and failed—energy policy of “Washington always knows best” to a free-market energy policy in which energy producers and consumers decide what works best. Such a policy would also relieve taxpayers of the burden of subsidizing the energy sector.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Morgan Lorraine Roach, Brett D. Schaefer, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 01/22/2013
African nations are facing unprecedented challenges and opportunities. Regrettably, in his first term, President Obama did little to follow through on his promise of partnership with Africa and has instead adopted a caretaker approach. Moving forward, it is important that the individuals who are confirmed in the upcoming hearings seek to empower African countries rather than attempt to fix their problems for them.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Dean Cheng, Bruce Klingner, Walter Lohman, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 01/22/2013
President Obama will be confronted by a growing set of challenges in East Asia in his second term. The forthcoming confirmation hearings are a vital opportunity for the Senate to pose key questions about how the Administration, and especially key advisors, see those problems and potential solutions. Given both the importance of the region to the U.S., as well as American capabilities to regional stability, there is a clear need for strong leadership from Washington to help the region weather this period of potential instability. Congress should strive to ensure that the Administration will advance ties with its key allies and friends in Asia while supporting economic freedom and national sovereignty across the Pacific.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy James M. Roberts, Ray Walser, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 01/22/2013
The U.S. requires an active strategy that defends our national interests and advances democratic values in the Americas while promoting economic opportunity for all and defending the security of the Western Hemisphere. U.S. policy success will be measured by the readiness of the second Obama Administration’s leadership to expend political capital and win bipartisan support for issues conducive to strong and successful relations in the Western Hemisphere.
International Trade/FinanceBy Derek Scissors, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 01/22/2013
The first question regarding China’s newly released economic numbers is not how fast the People’s Republic of China grew last year. Rather, it is whether stars are aligned for the State Statistical Bureau (SSB) to provide accurate information about GDP and more useful measures, such as household consumption. Answer: to some extent. The Chinese economy is undergoing a cyclical recovery and the SSB can honestly report a noticeable improvement.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Ariel Cohen, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 01/22/2013
President Barack Obama’s new foreign policy team is facing Senate approval: Senator John Kerry (D–MA) for Secretary of State, former Senator Chuck Hagel (R–NE) for Secretary of Defense, and White House chief counterterrorism advisor John Brennan for director of the CIA. All three will confront a truculent Russia. However, their past statements and support of the Administration’s failed “reset” approach to Moscow suggest that their perceptions of the Kremlin’s policies are unrealistic. The Senate needs to ascertain whether the attitudes of these candidates toward Russia make them fit to serve and lay down baselines by which it can judge the future performance of their departments and agencies.