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Recent Policy Studies
EducationBy Lance T. Izumi, Elliott Parisi, Pacific Research InstituteReport, 02/01/2013
The Khan Academy combines straightforward instructional videos and interactive software programs to provide both fundamental learning and also higher order education. Khan believes, “that when it comes to education, technology is not to be feared, but embraced; used wisely and sensitively, computer-based lessons actually allow teachers to become a workshop for mutual helping rather than passive sitting.” With his videos and his basic software, Khan proposed using both within the structure of a so-called “flipped classroom.” The general idea of the flipped classroom is for students to view lecture-like instructional videos on subject matter at home or at some other non-classroom venue, which then allows class time in schools to be used for students working on problems, teachers working with students one-on-one or in small groups, and students working with each other on problems and projects.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy James L. Gattuso, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 01/31/2013
It may be back to the beginning for the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The agency, under the direction of Richard Cordray, had just built up a full head of steam, releasing some 16 regulations in the past year. But a court decision on January 25 may not only stop this train, but send it back to the station. Such a reversal would be good news for consumers, and possibly lead to welcome reform of this ill-considered agency.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Charles L. Hooper, Hoover InstitutionDefining Ideas, 01/31/2013
Climate models assume that atmospheric carbon emissions and other natural events directly and causally determine changes in earth’s climate. However, if we allow that some other variable might be causing the climate to change or if carbon dioxide levels are a result of, rather than the cause of, climate change, then the current climate models are critically deficient and our mystery remains unsolved. Perhaps the earth would have cooled even more had carbon emissions not slowed or reversed the long-term cooling trend. Perhaps the real warming is just starting in earnest. While more research is needed, it is becoming clearer that there is no need to panic and there is no need to put a severe strain on the global economy by drastically restricting carbon emissions. Our planet is in the middle of a warm period, but people should learn to chill out.
ImmigrationBy Jessica Zuckerman, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 01/30/2013
The “Gang of Eight,” a bipartisan group of Senators, has announced what core principles they want to see in the next immigration legislation. These principles, however, do not adequately address the tough issues that have to be tackled to provide lasting and beneficial fixes that strengthen the U.S. economy, security, and civil society. What is needed instead is a problem-solving approach to immigration reform, one that does not try to group all of our nation’s immigration problems together and solve them in one colossal bill, but rather addresses each of the many challenges in their own track. Only by addressing each of these challenges individually can they receive the gravity of attention they deserve and true solutions for our nation’s broken immigration system be forged.
Regulation & DeregulationBy Russell K. Nieli, Encounter BooksBook, 01/30/2013
Racial preference policies came on the national scene as a response to the urban riots of the late 1960s. Many influential policy planners concluded that more had to be done to address the problem of black poverty and alienation than could be achieved through the color-blind theory of justice that had done so much to inspire the earlier Civil Rights Movement. In the more than forty years that preference policies have been with us, however, they continue to provoke resentment and grievance, particularly among poor whites, Asians, and so-called “white ethnics.”
EducationBy Glenn H. Reynolds, Encounter BooksBook, 01/30/2013
Economist Herb Stein famously said that something that can’t go on forever, won’t. For decades now, America has been putting ever-growing amounts of money into its K-12 education system, while getting steadily poorer results. Now parents are losing faith in public schools, new alternatives are appearing, and change is on the way. The K-12 Implosion provides a succinct description of what’s wrong, and where the solutions are likely to appear, along with advice for parents, educators, and taxpayers.
Regulation & DeregulationBy James Simpson, Capital Research CenterFoundation Watch, 01/30/2013
The gun ban lobby includes not just a few groups like the Brady Center but also the mainstream media as a whole. Its preferred tactics are to use misleading terms and to ignore the actual facts of gun control’s failure.
Budget & TaxationBy Elizabeth Malm, Ellen Kant, Tax FoundationFiscal Facts, 01/30/2013
In September, the Census Bureau released its most recent Annual Surveys of State and Local Government Finance data, which provides a comprehensive picture of the funding sources of state and local governments for the 2010 fiscal year. State and local governments obtain income from a variety of sources, and the breakdown changes drastically from state to state. Proportions vary based on the types of taxes and fees administered within state borders, the types of resources within the state, the amount of intergovernmental transfers, and the policy priorities of state and local governments.
Budget & TaxationBy Joseph Henchman, Scott Drenkard, Tax FoundationFiscal Facts, 01/30/2013
The number of U.S. cell phone subscribers has grown significantly in recent years from 48.7 million in 1997 to 321.7 million in 2012. That period has also seen a fall in landline telephones, with 34 percent of households now only using wireless phones. This trend toward cell phones has not gone unnoticed by state and local governments, many of which have targeted wireless services for higher taxes.
Budget & TaxationBy Joseph Henchman, Scott Drenkard, Tax FoundationPolicy Analysis, 01/30/2013
In fall 2012, the Carolina Business Coalition commissioned us to prepare a review of the North Carolina tax system and recommend possible improvements. We undertook this project as a national organization familiar with tax developments in many states, with the view that tax systems should adhere to sound economic principles, and in the spirit of providing useful information and observations for North Carolina policymakers, journalists, and citizens as they evaluate their state’s tax system.
Budget & TaxationBy Jason J. Fichtner, Veronique de Rugy, Mercatus CenterMercatus on Policy, 01/30/2013
The debt ceiling, or the legal limit the federal government may borrow, is set currently at $16.4 trillion. In his latest report, Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner predicts that the United States will need to increase the debt ceiling sometime between February 15, 2013, and early March 2013. The Congressional Research Service estimates the federal government will have to issue an additional $700 billion in debt above the current statutory limit to finance obligations for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2013. This article explores the different problems and reforms that need to be addressed before raising the next debt ceiling.
Regulation & DeregulationBy Jon Sanders, John Locke FoundationSpotlight, 01/30/2013
North Carolina features over 50 occupational licensing boards, more than most other states. In practice, it protects current members of a profession from competition, while increasing costs to consumers and would-be professionals blocked from the field. Economists studying occupational licensing generally find it restricts the supply of labor and drives up the price of labor and services. Without state licensure, private providers of reviews and certification, internet sites and consumer applications, social media, and competitors and market forces would ensure quality and safety. The government would still enforce safety and quality through the court system.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy Dick M. Carpenter, Lee McGrath, Institute for JusticePolicy Analysis, 01/30/2013
Georgia has some of the worst civil forfeiture laws in the nation, a problem compounded by law enforcement agencies’ routine failure to report forfeiture revenue and expenditures as required by law. But a 2011 Institute for Justice lawsuit forced some agencies to begin filing reports, and a new requirement that agencies post these reports online is starting to take effect. This interim report examines reports made public so far and concludes that forfeiture in reporting in the Peach State is still rotten. Reports filed by 58 law enforcement agencies for the year 2011 reveal $2.76 million in forfeitures under state law. By contrast, federal reports show 147 agencies taking in $32 million in forfeiture revenue in the same year under federal law. Moreover, many state reports that have been filed lack even basic details necessary for proper public oversight. Georgia’s civil forfeiture laws desperately need reform, but they also need greater transparency.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Lawrence S. Powell, Independence InstituteBook, 01/30/2013
Today insurance regulation in the United States is at a crossroads. It used to be a given that the insurance industry would resist efforts to move away from a state-based approach toward regulation—but no more. Some segments of the insurance industry now favor a greater role for the federal government, and although other stakeholders oppose calls to transition to a federal system, the winds of change appear to be on the horizon. But what types of reforms would best serve the interests of consumers? And what lessons can be learned from previous reform efforts?
Crime, Justice & the LawBy Dick M. Carpenter, Lee McGrath, Angela C. Erickson, Institute for JusticePolicy Analysis, 01/29/2013
This report examines the use of civil forfeiture in Minnesota, a state with unusually detailed forfeiture reporting, and finds that the state’s civil forfeiture system stacks the deck against property owners. Not only do law enforcement agencies receive a cut of the proceeds from property they take, but state law also makes it hard for people to win their property back. From 2003 to 2010, forfeiture revenues in Minnesota jumped by 75 percent, even as crime rates declined. By and large, these revenues did not come from large busts of criminal kingpins: The average value of forfeited property was only about $1,000. Worse, new data from late 2010 show that few forfeitures are reviewed by judges and property owners rarely challenge forfeitures, likely because of the small values involved and the daunting task of bringing a civil lawsuit. This lack of judicial oversight and a strong financial incentive in forfeiture create a situation ripe for abuse.
EducationBy Gregory F. Branch, Eric A. Hanushek, Steven G. Rivkin, Education NextEducation Next, 01/29/2013
This study provides new evidence on the importance of school leadership by estimating individual principals’ contributions to growth in student achievement. Our approach is quite similar to studies that measure teachers’ “value added” to student achievement, except that the calculation is applied to the entire school. Specifically, we measure how average gains in achievement, adjusted for individual student and school characteristics, differ across principals—both in different schools and in the same school at different points in time. From this, we are able to determine how much effectiveness varies from one principal to the next.
EducationBy Matthew M. Chingos, Education NextEducation Next, 01/29/2013
Full-time virtual schools, in which students learn primarily from their own homes, clearly are not for everyone. Even after their recent enrollment growth, only one-half of 1 percent of public-school students in the U.S. attend full-time virtual schools. The key question for policymakers is whether virtual schools should be among the choices available to families deciding how best to educate their children. The National Education Policy Center report argues they should not be, calling for states to “slow or put a moratorium on the growth of full-time virtual schools.” But policymakers only control the growth of enrollment in virtual schools when they decide whether or not to allow them to exist and what cap, if any, to put on their enrollments. Once those decisions are made, enrollment in virtual schools is mostly up to parents.
EducationBy Frederick Hess, Whitney Downs, Education NextEducation Next, 01/29/2013
Reformers are right to fight for policy change, and to offer moral and political support to bold education leaders. At the same time, they’re wrong to imagine that changing policies regarding teacher evaluation, school turnarounds, or school choice will deliver as hoped, absent efforts to help school officials to think differently and then provide the support they need to tackle rules, regulations, and contracts in new ways. Thus, reformers struggle to narrow the scope of collective bargaining, only to see administrators fumble the hard-won opportunities. They enact teacher evaluation and turnaround policies whose efficacy and impact rest entirely on the ability of officials to execute them competently and aggressively in the face of contracts, embedded routines, and recalcitrant cultures.
National SecurityBy Jeremy A. Rabkin, Ariel Rabkin, Hoover InstitutionEssay, 01/29/2013
As cyber attackers grow bolder in menacing a wide variety of targets around the world, our law must evolve to meet these new threats. While we can draw on some of the categories in existing legal norms, cyber attacks are a new phenomenon in the history of conflict that requires new norms as well. Prior to the twentieth century, international law had to cope with many gray areas in a world that was not so neatly ordered as that envisioned by the UN Charter and post-war Geneva Conventions. In the cyber realm, the lines of conflict have again become blurred. We can begin to meet future cyber challenges by adapting old practices and institutions.
EducationBy Richard Vedder, Christopher Denhart, Jonathan Robe, Center for College Affordability and ProductivityPolicy Papers, 01/29/2013
Economists for generations have long accepted the law of diminishing returns—when one adds more and more resources, at some point the marginal contribution to output falls. The law applies to education as to almost everything in life. One manifestation of it in American university life is the underemployment of college graduates; we might be seriously overinvested in higher education. This study adds to that concern, and further suggests the common assumption that increased investment in higher education promotes economic growth is highly questionable.
EducationBy Casey Given, Americans for ProsperityPolicy Papers, 01/29/2013
Although not much has improved in American schools since A Nation at Risk, a study providing educational policy recommendations for reform in 1983, at least the reforms it inspired over the past three decades provide plentiful evidence of what works and what does not in educational reform. The federal government’s standards-based reforms clearly do not, as every major Department of Education initiative has brought little improvement in educational outcomes. Fortunately, the states have started to stand up to Washington’s one-size-fits-all failures, reasserting their constitutional right to run their public education systems by embracing innovative reforms. While not every state-based reform is flawless, school choice initiatives like charters and vouchers have achieved considerable success. Clearly the future of effective educational reform can only take place on this more local level by aligning parents and teachers’ incentives to providing the best education for their student the public can afford.
EducationBy John E. Chubb, Hoover InstitutionHoover Digest, 01/29/2013
There is no material reason why the United States cannot have the best teachers in the world. More than anything, it requires a willingness to let go of an approach, rooted in prescription and regulation, that has outlived its usefulness. This will not be easy politically. But nothing fundamental ever is. In the final analysis, if the nation wants an educational profession that is home to the best and the brightest, it will need to trust the profession and hold the profession strictly accountable for doing the right things.
Economic GrowthBy Derek Scissors, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 01/29/2013
Caution and secrecy are often needed in national security, but foreign investment is first and foremost an economic activity. As such, transparency and timeliness are ideal and secrecy a drawback. Operational freedom for CFIUS is important, but the U.S. should also work to improve the environment for foreign investors. Further, the current informality of the congressional role breeds random political interference and is self-defeating. The U.S. can do better.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Bruce Klingner, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 01/29/2013
The U.S. is losing ground in its efforts against the North Korean threat. Last month’s successful North Korean rocket launch was a huge leap forward in its decades-long quest to threaten the U.S. with a nuclear weapon. North Korean officials privately claim that Pyongyang already has the capability to reach the U.S. with nuclear-tipped missiles. After examining the recovered North Korean missile, Seoul estimated that it could have reached the West Coast of the U.S. The Obama Administration should overcome its reluctance to impose more extensive punitive measures against Pyongyang as well as the foreign entities that assist its nuclear and missile programs. It should also make clear to the new Chinese leadership that continued sheltering of its recalcitrant ally only increases the potential for a crisis on the Korean Peninsula.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy William Yeatman, Competitive Enterprise InstitutePolicy Note, 01/29/2013
Before Bill Ritter became Governor of Colorado, state regulators required utilities to deliver power to ratepayers at the least possible cost. Ritter’s New Energy Economy changed the rules so that clean energy took priority above affordable energy. In fact, it seemed not to matter whether the electricity generated by these “new energy technologies” was even needed. The bill is now coming due, and it is not pretty. In 2012 alone, Colorado ratepayers spent almost half a billion dollars on New Energy Economy policies, in return for unneeded electricity.
Economic GrowthBy Thomas A. Hemphill, Waheeda Lillevik, Mark J. Perry, American Enterprise InstituteThe American, 01/28/2013
Although there are some differences in estimates of the magnitude of the current skilled worker shortage in manufacturing, there is general consensus that a skills gap exists and that it will likely worsen in the near future. Fortunately, the issue of the skills gap is generating a fair amount of national media and industry attention, which is bringing some well-deserved debate to an important topic that is crucial to a key sector of the U.S. economy. The future of America’s advanced manufacturing sector looks very promising overall, especially if the reshoring/insourcing trend continues and manufacturers can find skilled workers for the factory floor of the 21st century. Now that the manufacturing sector and the education establishment are working together to confront the advanced manufacturing skills gap and train skilled workers for advanced manufacturing, we are hopefully on a path toward resolving the current skilled worker shortage.
LaborBy Steven J. Allen, Capital Research CenterLabor Watch, 01/28/2013
Michigan, the home of the United Auto Workers, now has a law guaranteeing a worker’s right to choose whether to join, or pay dues to, a labor union. The law was passed after the failure of a union-backed constitutional amendment that would have given unions unprecedented power. Some are calling that amendment, known as Prop 2, “the unions’ Afghanistan.”
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy James Simpson, Capital Research CenterOrganization Trends, 01/28/2013
The Left’s long love affair with global government continues, as does its hostility to the interests of America and America’s closest ally in the Middle East. Radical donors like George Soros and activists like Code Pink’s Jodie Evans will continue to press this agenda in the new year, especially with a president who no longer must face American voters.
A Reaganite Entrepreneur’s Flawed Philanthropy: An Engineering Genius Didn’t Design his Foundation to Honor his Donor IntentBy Martin Morse Wooster, Capital Research CenterFoundation Watch, 01/28/2013
This co-founder of a pioneering high-tech firm was a conservative Republican who spent years supporting politicians and public intellectuals on the Right. But the eminent engineer wasn’t careful when designing his own multibillion-dollar foundation, which now follows only those threads of his donor intent that can be woven into fashionable leftism.
Retirement/Social SecurityBy Stephen Kirchner, Centre for Independent StudiesPolicy Monographs, 01/28/2013
Australia’s approach to retirement incomes policy has three pillars: the means-tested age pension; compulsory superannuation; and voluntary saving, including saving via superannuation over and above that mandated by the superannuation guarantee. This paper examines the economic case for compulsory superannuation contributions and questions whether compulsory super is the most effective way of promoting household and national saving and reducing future demands on the federal budget from an ageing population when compared to alternative policy options. Most of the economic arguments for compulsory superannuation are second-best arguments made on the assumption that first-best outcomes are unattainable.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Sierra Crane-Murdoch, PERC – The Property and Environment Research CenterCase Study, 01/28/2013
Fort Berthold Indian Reservation sits at the center of the Bakken Oil Field in North Dakota. Since 2010, hundreds of reservation wells have generated more than 30 million barrels of oil, earning the tribal nation more than $500 million. But capitalizing on the boom has not been easy. All Indian minerals are managed in trust by the U.S. Department of Interior, a task largely delegated to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. To drill on Indian land, companies must endure a slow and costly bureaucratic gauntlet; many avoid it altogether. By 2009, impatient to open the reservation to oil development, tribal leaders pushed the BIA to lease nearly all of Fort Berthold’s trust land—both allottee and tribal—for drilling. But while mineral owners off the reservation were earning thousands of dollars for each acre leased, most allottees within reservation boundaries saw only a few hundred.
EducationBy Timothy Knowles, American Enterprise InstituteSpecial Report, 01/28/2013
The demand to improve teacher quality is not going away. To truly transform teaching, we must also transform schooling, and all stakeholders must take unfamiliar steps to make schools better places to work and learn. This includes organized labor, which must become a self-regulating entity—ever vigilant about improving the quality of the teacher workforce—or face growing existential threats.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Michael Rubin, American Enterprise InstituteMiddle Eastern Outlook, 01/28/2013
Iran’s political structure is complex and might appear mysterious: the presidency is more about style than substance, and it is the supreme leader who wields dictatorial power. As the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has grown more powerful, the Islamic Republic has renewed its drive to export its revolutionary ideology abroad in an attempt to expand its influence and strategically position itself to counter rivals like the United States and Israel. Iran claims defense of Shi’ism as an excuse to propagate its radical influence in nations that pose a growing threat all over the world. The United States and its allies must understand the sources of influence on Iranian political and military strategy and ways Tehran crafts its strategy and be willing to establish red lines on issues such as Iran’s nuclear program if they are to counter the threats posed by an increasingly bold Tehran.
EducationBy Lindsey M. Burke, et al., The Heritage FoundationSpecial Report, 01/28/2013
As shown in this article, when children are placed in educational environments of their parents’ choice, they succeed and their parents become active and involved. It changes their lives dramatically when their children are doing well in educational environments. It is because of expanded educational options for the families who have had no choice, we see happy endings—not only for the children, but also for their families and their communities.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Lisa Curtis, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 01/28/2013
Tensions between India and Pakistan are heating up along the Line of Control (LoC) that divides Kashmir. And while the U.S. needs to urge restraint on both sides to prevent escalation between the nuclear-armed neighbors, the onus is on Pakistan to demonstrate that it is cracking down on militants on its side of the border. The U.S. should pay close attention to developments along the Indo–Pakistani border in order to help prevent a breakout of hostilities, but it should resist any temptation to try to directly mediate between the historical foes.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Brett D. Schaefer, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 01/28/2013
The U.N. General Assembly has approved its “scale of assessments” for 2013–2015, determining the share of U.N. budgets that each member state is expected to pay. A decade ago, the U.N. committed to lowering the U.S. peacekeeping assessment to 25 percent, and by 2009, the U.S. share had fallen to less than 26 percent. In 2010, however, the U.S. assessment rose sharply, costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. The U.S. share of the peacekeeping budget has now risen again to above 28.36 percent over the next three years, which will lead to yet more costs to U.S. taxpayers. Congress and the Obama Administration encouraged these reversals through amendments to U.S. law allowing payments above 25 percent. The U.S. should resume pressure on the U.N. to fulfill its commitment to lower the U.S. peacekeeping assessment to 25 percent.
National SecurityBy Daniel Goure, The Heritage FoundationSpecial Report, 01/28/2013
How much military force does a global superpower require? Answering this question has challenged U.S. leaders and defense planners for more than 20 years. In the immediate aftermath of the first Gulf War, U.S. leaders decided to use the requirement to conduct two major regional conventional contingencies (MRCs) at the same time as the basis for sizing the U.S. military. Every subsequent review of U.S. defense policy and programs has reaffirmed the two-war standard. In fact, every Administration for the past two decades found that a force sized to fight two wars was essential for meeting the ongoing demands for forward presence, crisis response, regional deterrence, humanitarian assistance, building partnership capacity, homeland defense, and support to civil authorities.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy John C. Eastman, The Heritage FoundationLegal Memorandum, 01/28/2013
In United States v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perry, the Supreme Court will consider the constitutionality of government policies that reflect traditional marriage—that is, marriage as a union between one man and one woman. If the Court does not dismiss these cases on jurisdictional grounds, it should act to uphold traditional marriage. Nothing in the Court’s jurisprudence suggests that the right of same-sex couples to have their relationships recognized as marriages is so fundamental as to be protected by the Constitution’s Due Process Clause. Nor does the Equal Protection Clause require that result, given the societal purpose and value of marriage as furthering procreation and child-rearing. Because the Constitution does not speak to this question, it is one that is left to ordinary political processes, not to judicial fiat.
Budget & TaxationBy Chris Cargill, Jason Mercier, Washington Policy CenterPolicy Note, 01/28/2013
The tax limitation policy set forth under Proposition 2 goes no further than what Spokane voters have already approved five times at the state level, and it does not go as far as tax limitation requirements in other states. By passing the charter change, Spokane voters will be clearly framing the city’s budget debate and sending a strong message to state legislators that rising state costs should not be shifted to local taxpayers.
Retirement/Social SecurityBy John S. Howe, Show-Me InstitutePolicy Study, 01/28/2013
State and local employees in Missouri typically are eligible to receive pension benefits upon retirement; the particular pension each worker is eligible for depends on the employer and the position. In this paper, we examine the return performance of five Missouri pensions.
Budget & TaxationBy David Stokes, Show-Me InstituteCase Study, 01/28/2013
There are a substantial number of government programs to stimulate economic investment in Missouri. There are 36 different state economic development tax credit programs, each with their own requirements and rules. But do these programs work? Do they accomplish their various goals, which have many different angles but all fall eventually into the categories of economic growth and job creation? These programs may not be as intense as a Soviet Five-Year Plan, but they are centralized economic planning nonetheless. Any time the government takes tax dollars and directs them to other areas of a market economy, it is engaged in central planning. Some planning is essential, but has this type of economic planning benefitted our state or our local communities?
EducationBy James V. Shuls, Show-Me InstitutePolicy Study, 01/28/2013
During the 2006-07 school year, Missouri implemented a new method to fund K-12 public schools. The new foundation formula was the Missouri Legislature’s response to legal challenges brought against the previous formula regarding equity and adequacy. The new foundation formula sought to rectify those problems by elevating funding to adequate levels in all school districts and by leveling the playing field between property-rich and property-poor districts. Though the entire formula is detailed in chapter 163 of Missouri’s revised statutes, it can be very difficult to understand. This primer has been written to help Missourians better understand how their schools are funded.