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InsiderOnline Blog: July 2005

Call for Highway Bill Veto

Jeff Flake was one of only eight Congressmen who voted against the Highway bill.  He had this to say:

This bill ought to come with the same warning you see on your rear-view mirror - objects are much larger than they appear. Mr. President, please veto this bill.

(via the Club for Growth)

Posted on 07/29/05 03:53 PM by Larry Scholer

Lula's Legacy

The Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users, the highway bill, will provide quite a legacy for its sponsor, Alaska Representative Don Young, and his wife Lula.  Young will have a bridge named after him, and, after House and Senate wrangling, the first syllable of Lula's name will be appended to the bill's final title, "SAFETEA-LU."

The Youngs are not the only winners in the bill.  As the Wall Street Journal opined this morning, everyone seems to get something in the $286.4 billion spending spree.

Democrat Jim Clyburn retained another $25 million for his famous "Bridge to Nowhere," a project in rural South Carolina that has already sucked up $34 million in federal funds. The California delegation secured $1.4 billion for more than 479 projects, including $2.5 million for freeway landscaping. And ranking Transportation Committee Democrat James Oberstar snatched more than $14 million for Duluth, Minnesota, including $3.2 million for an extension of the longest paved recreational path in the nation.

Next to this highway extravagance, the energy bill seems almost a bargain at an estimated $66 billion or so. Minor highlights here include the repeal of a Depression-era law (Puhca) that will open up electricity sector investment; new reliability standards for the national power grid; more federal authority to settle siting disputes over much-needed natural gas terminals; and an inventory of offshore oil and gas resources that may someday encourage more exploration.

We can also say this for the bill: It doesn't pick energy winners or losers. Everyone who produces so much as a kilowatt hour is a winner in this subsidy-fest of tax credits and new federal mandates. There's $550 million for forest biomass, $100 million for hydroelectric production, and $1.8 billion for "clean coal." There are subsidies for wind, solar, nuclear and (despite $60 oil) even for oil and gas.

Most egregious is the gigantic transfer of wealth from car drivers to Midwest corn farmers (and Archer-Daniels-Midland) via a new 7.5-billion-gallon-a-year ethanol mandate, which will raise gas prices by as much as a dime a gallon on the East and West coasts. Oh, and don't forget the $15 billion (a 155% increase) in federal home heating subsidies, $100 million for "fuel cell" school buses, and $6 million for a government program to encourage people to ride their bikes--presumably along Mr. Oberstar's newly paved trail.

Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste, described the bill as a "fiscal car wreck."  CAGW also released this paper on the bill. 

Heritage's Ron Utt had hoped a veto threat would rein in Congress and offered other suggestions.

Posted on 07/29/05 10:55 AM by Larry Scholer

200 Years Ago Today...

If Alexis de Tocqueville were alive today, he'd be celebrating his 200th birthday.

Posted on 07/29/05 09:57 AM by Larry Scholer

Youth Want Reform

Yesterday the President offered encouragement to Students for Saving Social Security, the national organization of college students pushing for personal Social Security accounts.  Secretary of the Treasury John Snow "affirmed the importance of an ownership society for America’s youngest workers."  The President praised the students' perseverance and commitment to reform.

Read the release here.

Posted on 07/28/05 04:00 PM by Larry Scholer

AmeriSave Does Not Address Social Security

The AmeriSave plan, recently proposed by House Democrats, does not ameliorate the failure of Democrats on Social Security reform, David John writes in a Heritage WebMemo.  AmeriSave does not tackle Social Security and deals primarily with retirement savings.  The plan

consists of a modest series of recycled good ideas that would mainly help middle- and upper-class workers to save for retirement. The proposal completely avoids addressing Social Security and is equally silent about how House Democrats would pay for their plan. Given these lapses, the Democrats’ plan would inevitably increase the deficit, raise the public debt, or raise taxes. Of no less concern, the Democrats’ plan is unlikely to significantly aid the low- and moderate-income workers, inner-city and rural residents, and small businesses employees who most need improved retirement security. Even worse, any improvements in retirement income under the plan almost certainly would be consumed by the coming 30-percent cut in Social Security benefits that AmeriSave does nothing to prevent.

 

Posted on 07/28/05 02:23 PM by Larry Scholer

Hello to CAFTA, Goodbye to CAFTA-related Blogging

CAFTA blogging is no longer necessary--and that's a good thing.

With the victory in the House, CAFTA Corner has wrapped up and submitted its final post.

 

Posted on 07/28/05 02:09 PM by Larry Scholer

Toward a more Soprano-like government

From guestblogger Kurt Weber of the State Policy Network:

“I’m going to get somebody to take a sledgehammer to every one of his houses,” Portland, Oregon City Commissioner Randy Leonard said. “We’re going to bust out the Sheetrock and do a full inspection of the wiring, the studs, the fire-stops—all of it.” He remarked, “There’s a no-fly zone around Washington, D.C., right? Planes that fly in to it are threatened with being shot down. The same thing that would happen to that plane is what’s going to happen to [Kirk McCall].” Leonard, a former Democratic state legislator, has directed his wrath at McCall because McCall renovated nine houses without government permits. Look for the new Oregon-based reality TV show, Extreme Home Makeover: City Government Style.

Link.

Posted on 07/28/05 02:02 PM by Larry Scholer

No Compromise on Personal Accounts

In the current issue of the Manhattan Institute's City Journal, Nicole Gelinas explains Bush-style Social Security reform.  Bush's "still vague" proposal calls for the "progressive indexing" of Social Security.  Under progressive indexing, the Social Security benefits of "lower-income people would grow faster over time than would benefits for middle- and higher-income people." Now, Social Security benefits are indexed according to wages.  Under the Bush plan, the benefits of lower-income workers would still be indexed in this way, but the benefits of other workers would be indexed according to prices.

Gelinas writes that progressive indexing when combined with personal accounts will benefit all workers and the Social Security system itself:

...personal accounts, which will make Social Security more relevant to the middle and upper earners, not less, since it will give them the ability to save for a middle-class retirement within Social Security, not despite it.  Reform without personal accounts, or with tiny personal accounts for top earners, isn't real reform.

With the establishment of personal accounts, progressive indexing won't mean a benefit cut for middle and upper earners.  In its entirety, Bush's proposal would simply shift massive future liabilities from the government to the free market.

Gelinas warns that large personal accounts cannot be compromised.  While there are options for ways to reform Social Security, personal accounts have to stay.

The reformers still have plenty of room for compromise as a reform package goes through the legislative process.  But one area where the reformers can't give an inch is the creation of large personal accounts within Social Security.

Posted on 07/27/05 03:11 PM by Larry Scholer

Boy, 10, Wants Social Security Reform

Heritage interns Dominic Rupprecht and Brian Sopp attended a Social Security roundtable discussion this morning in the Capitol.  National Review Senior Editor Ramesh Ponnuru moderated the discussion, which was hosted by the Senate Republican Conference. (Watch the discussion here.)  What follows is their report:

Ponnuru opened by asking the audience, "Would we design a program like Social Security today?"  Throughout the discussion, the panelists answered the question with a resounding "no."

Sen. Jim DeMint highlighted what he sees as the heart of the Social Security debate: freedom.  There are those who "came to Washington to help people and there are those who came here to set people free," he said.  "I came here to set you free."  He argued that private accounts are a step towards freedom and away from dependency on government.

Heritage's Alison Fraser echoed DeMint's concern for freedom while discussing Social Security's effects on women.  "This is a moral argument about freedom--freedom for low-income workers to build wealth, freedom for women, and freedom for young people."

Rep. Adam Putnam (R-FL) warned that "young people are losing money every day."  Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) agreed and said that Social Security reform "is about generational fairness."

Demint and Sen. John Sununu were optimistic about the prospects of action in Congress.  "If a few Democrats support the bill in the House, there will be momentum for action in the Senate," DeMint said.

Sununu was hopeful that legislation on GROW accounts will be brought to the floor by September.

Political wunderkind Noah McCullough provided the youth perspective on reform.  The 10-year-old candidate for the 2032 presidential election is Progress for America's spokesperson for Social Security reform.   McCullough is aware that second term presidents often have trouble getting things done, but he doesn't want Social Security to become a "lame-duck issue." McCullough wants Social Security to be there when he retires. Lastly, "I don't want Social Security to be a mess when I become president," he said.

Posted on 07/26/05 05:35 PM by Larry Scholer

Senator's Club

In his weekly Legislative Lowdown, Heritage's Michael Franc wonders if Harry Reid can maintain the Supreme Court nominee standards he set at the beginning of the summer.

If Judge John Roberts were a senator, he’d be a shoo-in for the U.S. Supreme Court—at least, according to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.).

In June, Reid suggested that the President consider a Republican senator--he recommended Lindsay Graham, Mel Martinez, and Mike Crapo, and Mike DeWine--in the event of a Supreme Court vacancy.  According to Franc,

All the senators have received a 100% rating from the National Right to Life Committee in 2005 and, according to the American Conservative Union, their lifetime ratings range from 79% to 93%. From everything we know of Roberts so far, his ideological leanings place him comfortably within this range.

Posted on 07/26/05 11:03 AM by Larry Scholer

The Federalist Slur

The Federalist Society slur that is being leveled against Supreme Court nominee John Roberts has been described as "foolish."  It is, but it should not be a surprise.  Edith Brown Clement has faced scrutiny over her ties to organization, and back in 2002, Kate O'Beirne predicted that,

Democrats hope to turn "Federalist Society" into two of the dirtiest words in American politics. They will use this phrase to distort the records of judicial nominees, in a concerted effort to derail their nominations.

And as O'Beirne points out, as the stakes get higher, the punches land lower:

Democratic senators will no doubt reserve most of their fire for Federalist Society members who are nominated to lifetime judicial posts. In a speech on the Senate floor last fall, Illinois senator Richard Durbin labeled the Society "far right," with members who "want to turn back the hands of the clock." This assessment followed his discourse on the Dred Scott decision...

Posted on 07/26/05 10:06 AM by Larry Scholer

Don't Forget DHS

Michael Chertoff's Homeland Defense restructuring plan made headlines for a few days, but was quickly overtaken by other news.  His proposal that local authorities take more responsibility for securing public mass transit generated some buzz--usually from aggrieved local authorities wanting more federal money.

The plan is, of course, much more comprehensive, and many of the ideas for reform germinated right here at the Heritage Foundation.  According to US News & World Report,

Some changes were long expected. For months, news reports said Chertoff was fascinated by a report titled DHS 2.0, a series of recommendations for change within DHS authored by James Carafano, a think-tanker with the conservative Heritage Foundation, and David Heyman, director of the homeland security program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"When I met him, he told me our report was the very first thing he read" on the job, Carafano recently told U.S. News. The secretary's choice to eliminate some undersecretary positions in the department—including the undersecretary for border and transportation security—and to create a policy guru that would report directly to the DHS secretary, similar to command structure already in place at the Pentagon, can be directly traced to the report.

Chertoff has pitched his reforms.  Now it's time for Congress to act.

Posted on 07/25/05 04:01 PM by Larry Scholer

Roberts: Good for Growth, Economists say

Free enterprise, pro-growth conservatives like the nomination of John G. Roberts for the Supreme Court.  Last week Lawrence Kudlow wrote,

Judge Roberts could be the first modern economic conservative to ascend to the Court. Roberts of course knows full well that judicial change occurs slowly at the margin. But as someone who seems to believe in the importance of market forces that allow the entrepreneurial creative juices to flow, he is likely to make a huge difference.

Roberts, says Kudlow, "will not assume that business is always guilty until proven innocent."  Accordingly, he likely will take a tough stand on overregulation and tort abuses.

Today, AEI's Kevin Hassett seconds Kudlow's remarks and emphasizes class action reform.  With the passage of the Class Action Fairness Act, which stipulates that "big money class actions now must be brought in federal court," it is likely that trial lawyers may appeal these laws all the way to the Supreme Court.  Hassett writes,

This is why Roberts's nomination is so important. He has worked as an appellate attorney for U.S. corporations. He has seen the unscrupulous tactics of the trial bar up close. He is almost certain to be sensitive to the enormous costs they impose on our economy when their protests reach the high court. By my experience, individuals who have engaged the plaintiffs' bar recognize the gravity of the threat they pose to our nation....

If Roberts can help sustain and even advance the cause of tort reform, the benefits to the U.S. economy will be immeasurable.

 

Posted on 07/25/05 12:02 PM by Larry Scholer

CAFTA's Final Push

Today on NRO Deroy Murdock hammers home the foreign policy case for CAFTA:

But what if the House ignores the Senate’s lead and defeats CAFTA? Foreign-policy specialists warn that doing so could undermine American diplomatic and security interests.

“I consider CAFTA to be as much a security issue as it is an economic issue — for them and for us,” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld wrote in a June 11 Knight-Ridder newspaper column. “By approving CAFTA, the United States will bolster the advocates of freedom and openness in Latin America. Rejection of the agreement, conversely, could seriously undermine the forces of freedom and lead to an era of increased transnational security challenges.”

“The signal that CAFTA’s defeat would send is that the United States is not a reliable partner,” Otto Reich, President Bush’s former special envoy to Latin America, says by phone. “That is a very unfair signal, but that is what our enemies would say. Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro probably have their talking points ready to say: ‘See? That’s what you get for believing in the U.S. You come to us, and we will give you money.’”

The foreign policy points are often used to appease those who worry, misguidedly, about "internationalism" and sovereignty.  Still, opposition to CAFTA is strong--a lone twenty-something, clad in anti-CAFTA merch, was distributing anti-CAFTA literature outside Union Station this morning.  Would theforeign policy case would have persuaded her?

Posted on 07/25/05 11:42 AM by Larry Scholer

Don't Tread on the Granite State

Shortly after the Kelo decision, Logan Darrow Clements generated some buzz when he proposed the construction of a hotel on property owned by David Souter.  The Weare, NH site is the Souter family home. 

Now the Washington Post has taken notice and finds that many locals don't look to favorably on the ruling of their native son.

In a state where people fiercely protect their right to local control over land and government, many said the hotel gambit is Souter's just deserts.

Robin Ilsley, who makes syrup on a family farm about two miles from Souter's place, said the justice brought the controversy on himself. "It was a pretty stupid ruling," she said.

Her mother watched Souter grow up but is unsympathetic. "I like David very much, but I don't like his ideas," said Winnie Ilsley, 77, who runs a doll museum at her farm. "I just don't think it's fair," she said of the court's "takings" decision.

A recent University of New Hampshire poll found that 93 percent of state residents agree with her.

Souter, however, does have at least one supporter in the "Live Free or Die" state: his sixth grade teacher.

Posted on 07/25/05 11:18 AM by Larry Scholer

Harry Reid's Selective Memory

Yesterday's Pittsburgh Tribune-Review calls out Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid for describing the "Stop the Raid" Social Security proposals as "political gimmicks."  According to the Tribune-Review,

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid says a GOP plan to force the government to spend Social Security taxes on Social Security programs amounts to "political gimmicks." But when late Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan once proposed an even more "radical" plan -- cutting Social Security taxes to make sure Congress didn't pilfer them -- Mr. Reid praised the idea and referred to the mythical Social Security "trust fund" as the "slush fund." Harry's a hypocrite.

Heritage's Michael Franc gives more detail.  The Moynihan plan was, according to Franc, "more generous" than the "Stop the Raid" proposal.

Moynihan lost on a procedural motion, but he nevertheless won the support of 54 senators, including 42 Democrats. Among those voting to bring the proposal to an up-or-down vote were several current party leaders, including Sen. John Kerry (Mass.), ranking Senate Finance Committee Democrat Max Baucus (Mont.), ranking Senate Budget Committee Democrat Kent Conrad (N.D.) and moderate Sen. Joe Lieberman (Conn.).

They were joined by a junior senator from Nevada who spoke glowingly of the Moynihan plan: Harry Reid. Yes, the same Harry Reid, now Senate minority leader, who last month denounced the DeMint plan and its House counterpart as “nothing more than political gimmicks” that “would make matters worse.”

This despite the fact that Moynihan’s proposal was more generous. Under Moynihan, not only would workers receive back their portion of surplus Social Security taxes, they would be allowed to use them any way they desired. The DeMint plan, by contrast, would severely limit the use of the surplus, requiring workers to invest them in personal accounts comprised solely of government-issued securities.

Be sure to read Reid's extended remarks.

 

Posted on 07/22/05 11:19 AM by Larry Scholer

It won't always be this cordial

Progress for America has launched JudgeRoberts.com, a site urging the confirmation of John Roberts.  Particularly helpful are the statements from his colleagues and from legislators, many of whom do not share his views.  Laurence Tribe remarked of Roberts, "I think he's brilliant."  Leon Panetta described the choice as a "fine appointment."  Senate Dems have also spoken well of Roberts' qualifications.

Remarks that Roberts is well-qualified hardly assure a smooth confirmation process.  Even Durbin and Schumer have come out in support of Roberts' credentials--they, of course, were on the losing side of the 16-3 vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee back when Roberts was up for the DC Circuit job.  Roberts' credentials are basically fact--it would be hard to argue that he is unqualified for the job--but qualifications don't mean automatic confirmation.

Posted on 07/22/05 09:57 AM by Larry Scholer

Rock the Vote Bullies Opposition

Students for Saving Social Security, a student group pushing for personal accounts, has been banned from the College Democrat National Convention.  The group, which has 180 chapters on college campuses across the country, initially believed that they would be included in convention festivities.  Rock the Vote, however, stepped in and told organizers that Students for Saving Social Security was not welcome.  Rock the Vote considers SSSS an opponent and offered some unintentional praise, calling it a "worthy adversary."

Students for Saving Social Security is a necessary counter to Rock the Vote.  Rock the Vote ignores the two out of three young adults favoring personal while SSSS gives a voice to those who want to change the status quo.

Read the entire release here.

Posted on 07/22/05 09:12 AM by Larry Scholer

CAFTA Blogging

The CAFTA Corner is in top form.

Posted on 07/21/05 05:48 PM by Larry Scholer

Life at the Bottom

First, he has to leave England and go to France which, despite any shortcomings, he considered more civilized than Brittania.  Now, Theodore Dalrymple has been deemed too old to review books.

Posted on 07/21/05 03:15 PM by Larry Scholer

Marx Wins

A recent online poll conducted by the BBC asked participants to vote for the "Greatest Philosopher."  The inanity of such an exercise aside, the results are interesting.  Karl Marx dominated the field and received nearly 28% of the vote.  Runner-up David Hume received 13% of the vote.  Wittgenstein, Nietzsche, and Plato rounded out the top five.

 

Posted on 07/21/05 01:00 PM by Larry Scholer

Is Swearing a Priority?

Daniel Drezner asks how Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko is doing and finds that Ukraine still has its problems.  He wonder, however, whether Yushchenko is directing his focus toward the proper issues.  Yushchenko, according to a BBC report that Drezner cites, wants to eliminate swearing.  From the BBC:

Mr Yushchenko, who came to power in January after the disputed presidential elections and Orange Revolution, is also trying to stamp out swearing.

Interfax reports that he told law enforcement officials: "Let's agree: you should leave foul language at home.

"Actually, it would be better if you didn't use it at home either. You are servants of the state. Try to talk without swearing. If anyone can't learn to do this, then write a letter of resignation."

Heritage's Ariel Cohen has recently looked into more serious matters concerning the Ukraine.

Despite time lost since the beginning of this year, it is not too late to relaunch the effort to put Ukraine on the road to economic reform, increased domestic and foreign investment, and prosperity. This effort will require bold leadership, commit­ment to economic freedom, and qualitative improvement in the rule of law and protection of property rights. If done right, U.S.–Ukrainian cooperation on economic policy will greatly benefit the peoples of both countries.

The Yushchenko Administration needs to start speaking with one voice and taking the necessary steps to make Ukraine as competitive and attractive as its Central European and Baltic neighbors. Any­thing less will be a huge disservice to the people of Ukraine who won and celebrated their freedom in Independence Square at the end of 2004. They deserve not just political liberty, but also economic freedom. The U.S. should continue to help and support Ukraine in this quest.

Posted on 07/21/05 12:41 PM by Larry Scholer

But how will the President say it?

If the buzz around the blogosphere is at all credible, this should prove helpful.

Posted on 07/19/05 05:50 PM by Larry Scholer

Out of Control Regulation

The 2004 Federal Register, the compendium of federal rules and regulations, broke the 75,000 page mark.  That's up from 71, 269 in 2003.  The cost of these regulations is estimated to be around $900 billion.  Now, a new report from the Competitive Enterprise Institute wades through these regulations.

The exact cost of federal regulations can never be fully known. Firms generally pass along to consumers some of the costs of the taxes they are required to pay. Similarly, some regulatory costs, although generally imposed on businesses, get passed on to consumers. But governmental and private data exist on scores of regulations and the agencies that issue them, as well as on regulatory costs and benefits, some of which can be compiled in a way that makes the regulatory state more comprehensible to the public. That is the purpose of the annual Ten Thousand Commandments report, some highlights of which appear below.

Posted on 07/19/05 11:08 AM by Larry Scholer

Searching for Community in the District

A heartwarming hypothetical today courtesy of the Christian Science Monitor:

In a city where an intern for the conservative Heritage Foundation may share a summer sublet with a Green party staffer from Vermont, everyone needs something to agree on.

The article is about the Washington Nationals and the supposed sense of community the team has brought to this much maligned--not always unwarranted--city.  The CSM characterizes DC as "once identified with crack-addict mayors, housing projects, and bureaucrats."

Of course, Heritage interns, as the NY Times has reported, likely do not share apartments with Greens.

Posted on 07/19/05 09:25 AM by Larry Scholer

Fish on the Constitution

Literary theorist Stanley Fish has a piece in today's New York Times on constitutional interpretation.

The Wall Street Journal calls for an end to "judicial legislating" on the Supreme Court:

But the larger goal should be to pick someone who has the intellectual conviction and firepower to help restore the High Court to its more restrained historical role. In a phrase, this means putting an end at last to the judicial legislating that was unleashed in the Warren era and that has slowed only on occasion ever since.

Posted on 07/19/05 09:07 AM by Larry Scholer

Rein in Spending

AEI economist Kevin Hassett has some harsh words for the Bush administration today when he calls for the return of Clintonian spending habits.

While the Bush administration is celebrating the growing economy and pointing to its tax cuts as the reason for last week's news about a smaller budget deficit, there is this one glaring reality: Spending growth under George W. Bush has been almost four times as high as it was during the same period of Bill Clinton's presidency.

While not quite asking for a return of Bill Clinton, Heritage's Brian Reidl and Rea Hederman call for fiscal restraint in a recent paper.

The only way to restrain long-term tax rates and budget deficits is to restrain long-term spending. The danger is that lawmakers may use the reduced budget deficit as an excuse to continue expanding the federal government. Federal spending has already jumped 33 percent since 2001, to a peacetime record of $22,000 per household. Over the next decade, as the first baby boomers retire, Medicare is projected to grow by 9 percent per year, Medicaid by 8 percent per year, and Social Security by 6 percent per year. Defense, homeland security, and other discretionary spending priorities will also force upward pressure on spending. No economic boom will provide enough tax revenue to keep up with this runaway spending. Unfortunately, lawmakers are preparing to spend this unprojected tax revenue as fast as it comes in—for example, by enacting a budget-busting highway bill.

Instead, lawmakers must recognize that sustained long-term spending increases will eventually require long-term tax increases that would reduce economic growth and kill jobs.

 

Posted on 07/18/05 04:08 PM by Larry Scholer

Another Category in Conservative Taxonomy

Writing in Friday's San Francisco Chronicle, Hoover Institution research fellow David Davenport wonders what kind of conservative Bush will nominate for the Supreme Court.  He's hoping for a constitutional conservative:

If, as expected, President Bush appoints some kind of conservative to the court, which type will he choose? That is devilishly difficult to predict, because President Bush's policies seem to draw from all these varieties of conservatism. His neoconservative advisers and tendencies take him into expansive foreign policies and federalized education programs that traditional conservatives oppose. His social-conservative roots and supporters seem to guide his thinking on the right to life and the role of religion in government policy. The president's history of lower court appointments and his own statements -- that he has no "litmus test" and seeks judges who will "faithfully interpret the Constitution" -- suggest he is a constitutional conservative in the judicial appointment arena.

If the nominee is a constitutional conservative, his or her views on that most divisive of all topics, abortion, may not even be known. And if President Bush is serious that there is no litmus test, "don't ask, don't tell" might be the order of the day on such matters. Happily, a constitutional conservative judge might have any other kind of personal political views -- neoconservative, social conservative or even liberal -- so long as personal politics would be set aside in favor of interpreting and defending constitutional processes.

Posted on 07/18/05 03:45 PM by Larry Scholer

Rare Books

Lynne Cheney's 1981 novel, now out of print, sells for $500.

(via ALDaily)

Posted on 07/18/05 10:57 AM by Larry Scholer

Massachusetts Strikes Down Alumni Health Plan

We're a bit late getting to this, but, unless you're an avid consumer of the Boston Globe, you may not have seen this.  Last Wednesday the Globe reported that Massachusetts will not allow a health insurance association program for college graduates.  The program, created by Tufts University, would allow alumni to purchase health insurance at group rates.

Tufts Health Plan wanted to give college students a chance to buy health insurance for the first year following graduation at discounted group rates, but the Division of Insurance says uninsured college graduates do not meet legal requirements for a group.

In a letter last April, the chief lawyer for the Division of Insurance said the loose relationship between a college and its graduates is unlike the closer relationship between an employer and its employees. Under state law, the program, called GradCare, could only qualify as a plan for individuals.
Under the Tufts program, students would have paid $245 each month, roughly half what a student would pay under an individual plan.
 
The President has long touted association health plans as a remedy for the uninsured.  This policy analysis explains the advantages of AHPs.

 

Posted on 07/18/05 10:03 AM by Larry Scholer

Social Security Sound-bite

The Cato Institute's Project for Social Security Choice provides a succinct analysis of the Social Security raid:

Congress has increased government spending by reaching over to Social Security whenever it runs low on funds. That’s a bit like meeting your mortgage payment by raiding your savings and then convincing yourself that your savings is still there.

From the Social Security Choice weekly newsletter.

Posted on 07/15/05 04:17 PM by Larry Scholer

All Things Scruton

Apropos of nothing, I've decided to post this article by conservative philosopher Roger Scruton from the Guardian.  It's an excerpt from a new book, Scruton's autobiography Gentle Regrets.  From the looks of it, the book should appeal to those who wish to know all things Scruton.

I was a timid child, who keenly felt the double injury of red hair and a sissy name. The critical moment came aged 10, during the last year at primary school. A large boy called Herman, whose misfortune was also contained in a name, and who, therefore, became the school bully by way of compelling us to respect him, kicked me as I sat down for morning assembly, launching into a diatribe against red hair with every word of which I fully concurred. I gave him to understand that, had it been possible to vote for the abolition of red hair, I would have been first to raise my hand. To my dismay, however, Herman was not satisfied with this general apology for my condition, and indicated that I must meet him in the playground during break, so that my head could be bashed in and the problem of red hair solved for good and all.

(via ALDaily)

Posted on 07/15/05 02:45 PM by Larry Scholer

Child Labor Research

In today's New York Times, Virginia Postrel highlights some research on child labor that suggests child labor is a result of poverty.  She points to an interesting example from Vietnam:

During this same period, Vietnam repealed its policy against exporting rice. That opened a big new market for Vietnamese farmers - the country went from almost no exports to being one of the world's top rice exporters - and significantly raised the price of rice.

This change, along with the family survey data, allowed Professors Edmonds and Pavcnik to examine what happens when household incomes rise but children's labor also becomes more valuable. Their paper, "The Effect of Trade Liberalization on Child Labor," was published in the March 2005 Journal of International Economics.

In the interview, Professor Edmonds said he expected that the booming market for rice would lead more children to work in agriculture, if only on their own families' farms, because the value of their labor had risen substantially. But that was not what happened.

"Instead, it looks like what households did was, with rising income, they purchased substitutes for child labor. They used more fertilizers. There was more mechanization, more purchasing of tools," he said, adding, "It was the opposite of what I expected to find coming in."

This research won't be received well by opponents of CAFTA who charge that it contains weak child labor protections.  The best child labor protection--indeed, one that will reduce child labor--may be trade liberalization.

Posted on 07/14/05 02:13 PM by Larry Scholer

Hatch talks tough

Sen. Orrin Hatch says that Democrats want to make up their own rules on NRO today.

[The Democrats'] scheme aims at forcing the president who did win the election to nominate someone acceptable to his opponents who did not. It seeks to turn consultation into co-nomination. Not content to exercise the role the Constitution does assign to the Senate by vigorously debating and then voting on a nominee, these senators and their left-wing enablers want to create a role the Constitution does not assign to the Senate, by manipulating the president's choice of a nominee.

This invented arrangement may serve their political agenda, but it is radically different from what the Constitution prescribes. Especially where the judicial branch is concerned, we should prefer the Constitution over politics. And the Constitution allows the President to decide how best to fulfill his constitutional responsibility of nomination.

Posted on 07/14/05 01:29 PM by Larry Scholer

Progressive Indexing Explained

A paper from the National Center for Policy Analysis clears up misconceptions about "Bush-style" Social Security reform.

Critics of President Bush's proposal to reform Social Security argue that it will result in benefit cuts. But that is because they are focused on a different proposal. With the plan favored by the White House, however, a Bush-style Social Security system would provide benefits equal to or greater than what the current system promises.

Read the paper here.

Posted on 07/13/05 05:40 PM by Larry Scholer

Remembrance of Supreme Courts Past

In an editorial in the New York Sun, Seth Lipsky looks back at a Supreme Court controversy in 1916.  In that year, Woodrow Wilson nominated Louis Brandeis to the high court, and Brandeis was roundly denounced by, as the New York Times put it, "the American Bar Association, business interests and former President Taft."  The media, the NYT included, also opposed the nomination.

Two decades passed, and, when Brandeis retired in 1939, he was elevated to the "place like that reserved for Justice Holmes..." the NYT wrote.  The NYT, who upon Brandeis' nomination had opined that the Court must be conservative,

 now praised Brandeis for being aware that the Court "is not an abstraction but a vital force which gives direction to the pace and range of economic forces." At the heart of its editorial was this sentence: "The Constitution is a living law."

Of course, the idea that the Constitution is "living" is anathema to conservatives now, and so Lipsky unearths "one of the twists that history has managed to put in the blindfold of justice:"

And so we have come full circle on a Mobius strip. Now we have a Republican president often derided as a Wilsonian in foreign affairs considering the possibility, when the opening comes, of elevating to chief justice of the United States a man, in Associate Justice Scalia, who speaks of the virtues of the "dead," or immutable, Constitution - and a Times afraid that Justice Scalia and other conservative justices will be, precisely, all too prepared to let the Legislature decide the social and transitory issues that the court had taken on in the decades after Brandeis.

Posted on 07/12/05 04:33 PM by Larry Scholer

A 'New' Take on the Takings Coalition

Steven Malanga of the Manhattan Institute has a new book out. (Actually, it's about a month and a half old.)  It's called The New New Left: How American Politics Works Today.

Malanga described the New New Left in a column for the NY Daily News:

This coalition, which I call the New New Left, consists of powerful unions representing public employees, social service advocates whose programs live off government funding and health care workers and hospital administrators whose institutions rely more and more on government to pay the bills. The power of this coalition has reached a tipping point in some places, where public sector political forces have seized control from taxpayers.

A reviewer in the NY Sun described the distinction between the New Left and New New Left in this way:

The original New Left was a movement of the 1960s and 1970s characterized by a strident anti-Americanism and an infatuation with various socialist or anti-capitalist ideologies supposed to be superior to the free market economics practiced in the West. After a series of fruitless "movements," demonstrations, protests, and temptations toward violence, the New Left faded swiftly from historical memory. It left almost no positive legacy, with the possible and unintended exception that from it emerged neoconservatism and a newly energized conservative movement.

The New New Left that Mr. Malanga describes is the heir to its predecessor. Still ideological, its proponents have softened their beliefs in class warfare and anti-Americanism and have become more comfortable influencing or wielding the levers of political power. Instead of calling for an overthrow of capitalism, this newer left has adopted the language of social justice. Its members are strong supporters of increased taxes, expansive social services, and various forms of political correctness.

There's an interview with Malanga on the book here.

Posted on 07/12/05 02:00 PM by Larry Scholer

A Tale of Two Tax Cuts

Today the Wall Street Journal frets (sub. required) that "many Republicans don't seem to recognize their tax-cutting policy success."  The Journal is referring to President Bush's 2003 tax cuts, which aimed at boosting business investment.  The result was a "strong stock marget recovery" and "a return of venture capital funding for start-ups."  The 2003 tax cuts contrast the unsuccessful 2001 cuts, which aimed at increasing consumer spending.  The Journal concludes,

One lesson in all of this is that not all tax cuts are created equal.  Tax rebates and other temporary measures aimed at stimulating consumer demand don't work.  Consumers aren't irrelevant, but prosperity is created on the supply side of the economy with the incentives to produce goods or services people want to consume.

About a month ago, Heritage's Dan Mitchell wrote a WebMemo about the "Supply Side Success Story" of the 2003 tax cuts.

 

Posted on 07/12/05 11:23 AM by Larry Scholer

Earth Day Founding Dispute?

A little more than a week ago, we read that Gaylord Nelson, a former governor of Wisconsin, died in Maryland.  Nelson is known as the founder of Earth Day, as all of his obits made clear.

Today in Canada's National Post, Colby Cosh writes that Nelson's founding claim may not be without dispute.

In 1969, a newspaper article about anti-war "teach-ins" on campuses gave [Nelson] the idea of staging a huge collective teach-in in defence of nature. Hence the first Earth Day -- April 22, 1970.

Unless, of course, you count the other Earth Day.

Every year, the United Nations observes its own Earth Day on the first day of spring. This Earth Day was devised by a West Coast oddball and pacifist named John McConnell, who proposed the idea at a UN conference in San Francisco in 1969. That city proclaimed its own Earth Day on March 21, 1970, one month before Nelson's.

The Earth Day controversy rages still, with loyalists in both the Marchist and Aprilist camps.  Cosh goes on to explain the substantive differences between the groups and notes that, while the Aprilists have remained above the fray, the Marchists have defended the March date (on the equinox) as "inherently global."

Posted on 07/12/05 09:53 AM by Larry Scholer

Booyakasha!

Today, the Guardian reports that working-class British teens are increasingly at risk of dropping out of school due to social and peer pressure.

Pupils are put off staying on at school and applying to university because they are anxious to get a job and earn money to feed their "bling bling" lifestyles, the researchers found.

Additionally, girls are emulating pop icon and Pepsi spokesmodel Beyoncé and are "finding themselves in trouble with their schools for being too confrontational or 'mouthy.'"

Digby Anderson has written on the low-culture tendencies of Middle England for the Social Affairs Unit in All Oiks Now: The Unnoticed Surrender of Middle England. The SAU is a public policy research centre that "addresses social, economic and cultural issues with an emphasis on the value of personal responsibility."

The SAU also has a blog.

Posted on 07/12/05 09:26 AM by Larry Scholer

Three Strikes for Steroids?

With the All-Star Game approaching, perhaps it is a good time to revisit one of the biggest stories of the baseball season--the steriod controversy.  In the summer issue of Cato's Regulation, UConn law professor Lewis Kurlantzick looks at the steroid controversy and finds that it is much more complicated than grandstanding lawmakers might think.

Kurlantzick looks at three rationales for banning steriods--two of which fail to justify a ban.  The first is the justification that steroids are "unnatural," but

A difficulty lies in articulating a convincing distinction between "acceptable" enhancers and steroids.  If the claimed difference is rooted in a notion of "naturalness," we presently have no convincing explanation of why some substances, including synthetic vitamins, are considered "natural" and others, including naturally occurring hormones, are considered "unnatural."

The second justification takes an athlete's health into consideration, but, according to Kurlantzick, this is paternalistic.

The athlete is in the position to make a decision about what behavior is in his best interest, to weigh the risks and benefits according to his own values.

If using a performance-enhancing drug increases an athlete's ability in such a way that increases his value, possible health risks become less important.  Would, for instance, an extra $1 million each year outweigh a chance of adverse health? Moreover, many of the banned substances may not be particularly harmful, especially compared with the risk that participating in a sport may carry.

The final justification is "more promising," writes Kurlantzick.  It is also the most nuanced.

This justification is rooted in a concern for a form of "coercion" in the athlete's decision-making and his inability to coordinate a response without outside intervention.  If one athlete is perceived to have an advantage in using a drug, other athletes may feel compelled to use it in an effort to try to stay even.

But this justification, while perhaps valid, does not necessitate public intervention, according to Kurlantzick.

Posted on 07/11/05 03:48 PM by Larry Scholer

Because life is good – for the birds

From guestblogger Kurt Weber of the State Policy Network:

Electricity-generating windmills are green sources of energy – a good thing. But, birds are sliced-and-diced by jujitsu knife turbine blades if they get too close. What’s an environmentalist to do? In California’s Alameda County, the Board of Supervisors voted to shut down 750 of 1,500 Altamont Pass windmills in winter to ensure safe passage for many migrating birds; the Supervisors also adopted other pro-bird measures. Jeff Miller of the Center for Biological Diversity told the San Francisco Chronicle, “This measure does not go far enough – they are still killing way too many birds.” In this few-years-ago-rolling-black-out state, the attorney general and some environmental groups wanted to shut down all the windmills each winter. According to the Chronicle, the Altamont Pass generates enough pollution-free electricity annually to power 120,000 homes. Interestingly, the Center for Biological Diversity’s motto is, “Because life is good”. Good for the birds, not people?

Posted on 07/11/05 02:48 PM by Larry Scholer

This Week's Summaries

These summaries have been added to the Insider's Online Database this week:

Controlling Unconstitutional Class Actions: A Blueprint for Future Lawsuit Reform: Class action lawsuits device requires aggressive reform, not what Congress has offered.

The New Neuromorality: Steven Pinker and others consider the intersection of policy and neuroscience.

Crime: Economic Incentives and Social Networks: Paul Ormerod explores the relation between crime and social interaction.

Simple Justice: Charles Murray writes that Britain has gone soft on crime.

Keep the Cap: Why a Tax Increase Will Not Save Social Security: Cato's Michael Tanner concludes that increasing cap on income would damage the economy and not fix Social Security's woes.

Backfire at the Border: Current US immigration policy has not worked, and it's time to adopt a policy that is functional and beneficial to the economy.

Vote Early, Vote Often: The Role of Schools in Creating Civic Norms: Young people don't vote, and they're not just lazy. They have lost their sense of civic duty.

Sound and Unsound Options for Reform: Chester Finn reviews and evaluates school reform strategies.

Posted on 07/08/05 05:39 PM by Larry Scholer

Culture Change at the CIA?

A new report from the Foreign Policy Research Institute contends that “some of the [CIA]’s culture does have to change: a few features that were always counterproductive have now become intolerable.”  Among the areas that need reform are the Directorate of Intelligence  [DI] and the Directorate of Operations [DO].

Currently, many DI reports simply summarize publicly available information while others provide numerous answers to a question.  And still others use imprecise language such as “likely” and “possibly” to describe the probability of events.  Intelligence reports are supposed to give policymakers expertise information upon which they can base policy decisions, and  to accomplish this goal, reports must provide new information and expert opinion using quantifiable language.

The DO, plagued by a politicized promotion process, also needs reform.  Those who are recommended for promotion by component chiefs are given promotions before those who are equally qualified.  This fosters “more of the same” in department management style.  When a mistake occurs, a report should be written and sent out to the department.  The agency is not learning from its mistakes.  Lastly, in recent years, the worldwide presence of intelligence agents has been scaled back and replaced with a system where the agency will “surge” into a region when needed.  This approach is that it “throws money and personnel at a problem,” rather than relying on intelligence which takes years to gather. 

No intelligence agency wants to tell the public about its weaknesses, but the alternative could be “a loss of public trust and a subsequent crippling of the CIA and the intelligence community.

                                                                             --Heritage Intern Brian Sopp

Posted on 07/08/05 02:00 PM by Larry Scholer

Class Action Alert

A California Senate bill proposes "to allow individual employees to sue their employers on behalf of current and former employees in minimum wage and overtime compensation recovery cases."

The Pacific Research Institution has more.

Posted on 07/08/05 01:24 PM by Larry Scholer

Canada's Big Government

A recent report released by the Fraser Institute and the National Center for Policy Analysis shows that by and large, U.S. states outperform Canadian provinces on various measures of economic freedom. While the very concept of economic freedom proves inevitably difficult to measure, especially at the subnational level, researchers examined ten variables divided into three categories to formulate an index thereof. Because several categories of the world index, including legal system stability, banking policies, and trade policies, vary little among states and provinces, researchers eliminated them from this analysis and focused primarily upon variances in size of government, takings and discriminatory taxation, and labor market freedom.

Ultimately, the report finds that Canada’s fiscal federalism nullifies any improvements in economic freedom that do occur within Canadian provinces, and this phenomenon helps to explain economic disparities between most American states and their northern neighbors:

…if a [Canadian] province increases economic freedom, for example by reducing taxes, and its economy grows, the result is an increased outflow of government revenues to other jurisdictions and a heavier tax burden, given the progressivity of Canadian taxes, which in turn suppresses increases in economic freedom and economic growth. In other words, fiscal federalism mutes the effect of economic freedom in Canada.

This “economic drain” phenomenon proves notably absent among U.S. states. Indeed, although most states have maintained high degrees of economic freedom over time, a few have failed to do so. However, these few states, whose GDP’s and real-term growth rates have consistently fallen below national averages for more than two decades, have yet to impact wealthier ones. Contrary to the expectation that “richer states should grow more slowly than poorer states due to the convergence effect,” those states with particularly high economic freedom scores have maintained such scores for the last two decades. The absence of fiscal federalism, then, largely explains why “a one-point improvement in economic freedom…increases per-capita GDP by $5,907 for U.S. states and by [only] $2,975…for Canadian provinces,” while a “1.00% increase in the growth rate of economic freedom…will induce an increase of 1.05% in the growth rate of per-capita GDP for U.S. states and an increase of 0.54% in the growth rate of per-capita GDP for Canadian provinces.” 

However, despite the high performance of most U.S. states, the repeated subordinance of several states (West Virginia, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Rhode Island) brings about the question of how to improve their economic conditions without damaging the economies of their more prosperous neighbors, and further, why their failing performances persist in the first place. Indeed, repeated inferior economic freedom scores prove “particularly remarkable because poorer states under normal conditions will grow faster than rich states due to the well-known and empirically verified ‘convergence’ effect.”

Unfortunately, this convergence effect has already occurred across the border; eight of the ten Canadian provinces scored in the bottom fifth of the economic freedom index devised for this study. The states and provinces in this quintile have an average per-capita GDP of just $21,936, while the average of the top quintile proves nearly twice as large at $38,305, plainly demonstrating that “economic freedom is a powerful driver of growth and prosperity and those provinces and states that have low levels of economic freedom continue to leave their citizens poorer than they need or should be.” 

The Fraser/NCPA report ultimately concludes that

Canadian provinces are poorly positioned to take advantage of economic opportunity. The provinces are clustered near the bottom of the rankings in all three areas, indicating that their governments have consumed and transferred more resources, imposed higher tax rates, and created more rigid labor markets than the governments of US states.

The central government of Canada, through its taxation policies that, in effect, distribute revenues from wealthy provinces to poor provinces, hinders any economic growth.  As the report explains, a province that cuts taxes to spur growth will have the effects of that cut negated because the federal government will use that added revenue to assist poorer provinces. 

Canada’s policies and the results show that the best way to spur growth in underperforming states or provinces is for the federal government to leave them alone.  A policy the distributes funds from, as the report calls them, “have” entities to “have-not” entities kills any competitiveness that will drive growth and create wealth.

Posted on 07/08/05 11:03 AM by Larry Scholer

Rethinking Aid at Home and Abroad

At the Market Center Blog, Heritage's Dan Mitchell finds that, even with the best of intentions, "foreign aid hinders growth."  He writes,

Politicians and rock stars enjoy friendly headlines when they advocate sending other people's money to Africa and other impoverished areas. But good intentions are not enough. Even the I.M.F. now admits that foreign aid can backfire, as a Washington Post column discusses:

Raghuram Rajan, chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, has co-authored two papers on aid with Arvind Subramanian, an IMF colleague. Their view? There's no strong evidence that aid boosts economic growth and hence no reason to suppose that aid reduces poverty either. ...A failed aid project is not merely neutral for poverty reduction; it exacerbates the problem. Inconsistent donors who finance the construction of six hospitals but then don't follow up with the resources to make any of them function saddle poor countries with the worst of both worlds: bad health and bad growth rates.

Now Europeans are also rethinking their aid strategy.  A July 4 article in Der Spiegel reports,

Money is, for the Europeans, the solution to all of Africa's problems. But despite yearly payments of, at last count, some $26 billion, the majority of the continent resembles something approaching one big emergency military hospital.

Already today there are increasing numbers of Africans who call for an end to this sort of support. They believe that it simply benefits a paternalistic economy, supports corruption, weakens trade and places Africans into the degrading position of having to accept charity. "Just stop this terrible aid," says the Kenyan economic expert James Shikwati.

Moreover,

Between 1970 and 2002 the countries south of the Sahara received a total of $294 billion in loans. In the same period of time they paid back $268 billion, and accumulated, after interest, a mountain of debt amounting to $210 billion. Why is it that the billions, which both the West and the East poured into Africa during the Cold War, have been so useless? The suspicion is hard to avoid that aid, sometimes, paralyzes.

Posted on 07/08/05 09:57 AM by Larry Scholer

Court Confusion

The Sandra Day O'Connor retirement from the Supreme Court has led to ad nauseam speculation and bloviating over a possible Alberto Gonzales nomination. Over at the Volokh Conspiracy Todd Zywicki unearths this seminal story about another embattled Hispanic judge, Miguel Estrada.

[A pollster] said that, based on listening to some of the poll interviews, it was clear many of those who supported Mr. Estrada were also confusing him with actor Erik Estrada, who was on the 1977-1983 television police drama "CHiPS" and is now a popular Spanish-language soap-opera star. 

"Many of them think President Bush nominated Erik Estrada — I'd say a good third think that way," Mr. Bendixen said, adding that he heard one person say Mr. Estrada should be confirmed because he did such a good job playing a policeman on "CHiPS."

(via Volokh via Galley Slaves)

Posted on 07/08/05 09:26 AM by Larry Scholer

African Free Marketers To Gather

Heritage held its 28th annual Resource Bank meeting in Miami a few months ago.  In November the Africa Resource Bank will convene for its third annual meeting in Nakuru, Kenya.

The Africa resource bank is a network of organizations and individuals with a purpose of promoting concepts that will enhance economic freedom and wealth creation in Africa. The concepts include: sound business environment, rule of law, respect of property, individual liberty and market economics/free enterprise.

You can read about last year's conference here.

Posted on 07/07/05 05:17 PM by Larry Scholer

A Canadian Coulter...But with a Troubled Past

While Canada is hardly renowned for its conservatism, it has, of late, produced some fine conservative writers--namely, Mark Steyn and David Frum.  But Canada's latest conservative on the scene has some conservatives worried. The July 11 Western Standard has an interesting piece on "Canada's hottest young conservative pundit," Rachel Marsden, who in same sentence is also described as "a serial stalker, convict and fraud artist."

Marsden, a "thirtysomething brunette with the TV movie good looks," has attempted to portray herself as Canada's Ann Coulter and the gambit has worked well.  She writes two columns a week for Canada's National Post, has appeared on the O'Reilly Factor and Dennis Miller Live, and has written for the Washington Times and the UPI.  Still, many Canadians--conservatives and liberals alike--wish "she would just go away."

Her rise to the top is surprising.  Marsden's work history included resume padding--in fact, the National Post "ran an expose on Marsden only a couple of years" before the paper hired her.

Her personal life has also troubled Canadians, as have the "near-pornographic images" formerly on her website.  (She also posted photos of "Julia Roberts with [her] face digitally superimposed over the star's.)  She's also on probation.

In 2002, Marsden was arrested and charged with criminal harassment for repeatedly phoning and e-mailing a former lover....She also harassed his former girlfriend and her daughter.  Just last year, Marsden pled guilty.  A B.C. judge ordered her to stay out of trouble and sentenced her to 12 months probation, which she is still serving.

Canadian conservatives, who feel that their countrymen may be ready to shift rightward, worry than Marsden may not be the best ambassador.  Marsden, however, seems adamant about maintaining her high profile and brash manner, lest she become another George Will, that "esoteric pontificator [who] is drier than a mouthful of volcanic ash."

Posted on 07/07/05 12:27 PM by Larry Scholer

1000 Protest Kelo Decision in New London

Photos, audio, and video from the July 5 protest against the Kelo decision in New London, Connecticut.

(via Instapundit)

Posted on 07/07/05 09:12 AM by Larry Scholer

Property Rights Spur Innovation and Economic Development

The International Policy Network alerts us to a recent conference in Geneva on intellectual property rights is the developing world.

Outlining the benefits of private property rights that have spurred a rate of innovation in wealthy countries, [Leon Louw of the South African Free Market Foundation] stated that, because low-income countries are at such a lower level of economic development, laws on property rights have to be enforced at a greater rate “in order to encourage more research and development being geared towards areas of direct concern to the world’s poorest people.”

IP and development work conjunctly, he says, as it is in “the direct interest of those who have rights-protected products and services for poorer people to become wealthier.” The South African argues that the respect for the rule of law in poorer countries is a “fundamental” aspect of promoting the conditions that spur creativity, innovation, technological advancements.

Posted on 07/06/05 03:44 PM by Larry Scholer

School Choice: Midyear Progress Report

The Alliance for School Choice reports that 2005 is "the best legislative year yet for the national school choice movement."

Targeted K-12 school choice bills passed 16 legislative houses in 10 states this year. Four states – Arizona, Florida, Ohio and Utah – enacted new or expanded school choice programs and Arizona, Minnesota and Pennsylvania are still in serious legislative play. This year, more than 84,000 children from low-income families exercised the power of school choice. Next year the number of scholarships available is projected to increase by 25% to more than 105,000.

Posted on 07/06/05 03:30 PM by Larry Scholer

NTU's CAFTA Facts

The National Taxpayers Union lists What Taxpayers Need To Know About CAFTA.

Of course, there's always plenty of CAFTA news at the CAFTA Corner.

Posted on 07/06/05 09:07 AM by Larry Scholer

Hitchens: More Partisan Rhetoric

From Bloomberg:

Republican and Democratic senators urged people and interest groups to resist partisan rhetoric while waiting for U.S. President George W. Bush to select a replacement for retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

``It would be very useful for the country if the rhetoric were to be toned down,'' Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said on NBC's ``Meet the Press.''

In the Fall 2004 edition of the Wilson Quarterly, Christopher Hitchens addressed the issue of "partisan rhetoric" and bipartisanship.  The "drink-sodden ex-Trotskyist popinjay" wants us to "bring on the mud:"

By definition, politics is, or ought to be, division. It expresses, or at least reflects, or at the very least emulates, the inevitable difference of worldview that originates, for modern purposes, with Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine. This difference can be muddied, especially in a highly disparate society, but it cannot be absolutely obscured. So given the inevitable tendency of the quotidian, the corrupt, and the self-interested to muddy differences and make sinuous appeals to all sides, might we not place a higher value on those who seek to make the differences plainer and sharper?

Posted on 07/05/05 02:18 PM by Larry Scholer

Rally in New London

Later today the Institute for Justice will hold a rally in New London, Connecticut.

Now is the time to stop eminent domain abuse in New London! On July 5 when the City Council meets for the first time after the decision, we MUST send them a clear message: let these people stay in their homes! The City does not need their property for new development projects.

The rally begins a 6 P.M. outside New London City Hall.

Posted on 07/05/05 01:00 PM by Larry Scholer

On the Shelf: Wolfe, Brooks, Gibbon

The Claremont Institute offers some suggestions for summer reading.  While the advice is undoubtedly preferable to this nation's go-to girl for reading material--Oprah--I fear that Claremont may be slightly ambitious.

Tom Karako, Director of National Security Programs, begins his list sensibly and suggests beach-read I am Charlotte Simmons, which, despite its shortcomings, is "required cultural reading for this year."  Karako, however, concludes his list with the ponderous The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, a tome that rarely finds itself poolside.  It is, Karako notes, "An excellent book, which may also be listened to on tape."

Posted on 07/05/05 11:29 AM by Larry Scholer

Private Post Office in Japan

The BBC reports that Japan's lower house of parliament has voted to privatize the nation's postal system.  The measure, which passed by five votes, would "split [Japan Post] into four entities in 2007 in the hope of stimulating competition. Its savings and insurance arms would have to be sold by 2017." Japan Post controls $3.2 trillion in insurance and savings funds.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has long championed privatization and he "regards Japan Post as a symbol of public-sector inefficiency."

While Japan's postal service extends its reach far beyond the mail, bureaucratic bloat and inefficiency have plagued out postal system here in the U.S.  In 2003 Heritage Research Fellow in Regulatory Policy James Gattuso called for "comprehensive reform of the U.S. Postal Service, including elimination of its monopoly on letter mail, forcing it to engage in market competition and to operate like a private-sector firm."

Posted on 07/05/05 11:00 AM by Larry Scholer

Fast Money

Last night the Goldwater Institute and the Arizona Free Enterprise Club initiated the "Arizona Spending Watch" to track how quickly the state burns through its estimated $23.4 billion budget during the 2006 fiscal year.  As I write this, the Arizona government has spent over $30 million--that's $742 per second.

Watch the spending here.

Posted on 07/01/05 11:23 AM by Larry Scholer

Tips for a Great Weekend

For the past few months, Americans for Tax Reform has issued a daily Social Security fact.  Now, in time for the July 4 weekend and cookouts, all the facts, from February through June, are available in a single document.

Posted on 07/01/05 11:07 AM by Larry Scholer

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