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InsiderOnline Blog: August 2006

Your Monthly Bulgarian Fix

The latest edition of Economic Policy Review, the monthly publication of Bulgaria's Institute for Market Economics, is now online.  This issue examines the Bulgarian government's economic policies over the last year.

Posted on 08/31/06 04:57 PM by Larry Scholer

School Choice Decreases Segregation, Studies Find

Two new studies from the Friedman Foundation have found that "private schools participating in Cleveland and Milwaukee’s school voucher programs are much less segregated than the public schools counterparts."

Here's the report on Cleveland, and here's Milwaukee.

Posted on 08/31/06 04:48 PM by Larry Scholer

Becoming Stakeholders

The latest edition of the African Executive discusses the need for Africa to become stakeholders in the future of their continent.

As the editors explain,

As Africa enters into the trajectory of united development its people are very clear on the future they want. Nevertheless, there are challenges to be overcome. First and foremost is the need to realize that it is we, the African people, who can bring about the desired future. The global scenario as it prevails today is such that every nation gives priority to its own national and regional preoccupation. Therefore, Africa cannot expect her problems and concerns to be given priority by nations outside the continent.

In an interview in the issue, the Rev. Benjamin Keya, Program Director of the Africa Institute for Contemporary Missions and Research elaborates on the editor's theme:

AE. What is your stake in all this?

Rev. My ultimate worry in all this is, if we Africans don’t begin to set our own priorities but wait for the rich West to do so, we and our governments are in the wrong. We sing MDGs. Who set them? Were they our priority? Somebody on a full stomach prioritizes that we keep forests virgin. What is more important? Accessing farmland or keeping trees? Another one says-this area, thousands and thousands of acres of land- is rangeland. It is owned by animals-yet the surrounding communities are suffering. Most of them are landless. Who is setting the priorities? Why are our governments being bribed to settle for alien priorities? Another one says- Don’t use DDT. He has eradicated mosquitoes using the same but is stopping me from doing so. Can we bear this? When President Museveni of Uganda wants to agree with Joseph Kony to end bloodshed, he is told not to. Who is Uganda’s head? African institutions should set their own priorities and be careful to determine whether available opportunities correspond to their own agendas.

AE. Should we castigate those who are speaking from a position of plenty?

Rev. We will have lost the mark. It is not a vice to have plenty. In fact all Africans should strive to reach such a position. This will eradicate petty politics, ethnic clashes and manipulation. However, we should not allow our predicament to be preyed upon by people out to fulfill their own agenda. Show me how you got wealthy but do not abuse my dignity and individual liberty. Don’t muffle my voice! Don’t swallow me up!

Posted on 08/31/06 02:45 PM by Larry Scholer

The Infrastructure Lesson

The Manhattan Institute's Nicole Gelinas explains why poverty is not to blame for Katrina's destruction. 

Though President Bush declared on Saturday that Hurricane Katrina exposed “deep-seated poverty” in America, the disaster isn’t ultimately a story of poverty or of race, but of the greatest failure of civil engineering in American history. Luckily, while the nation has never been able to solve poverty, it can solve the engineering problem at the heart of southern Louisiana’s potential recovery....

So have Americans and New Orleanians learned Katrina’s main lesson: that investment in physical infrastructure is vital? While it’s too early to tell, Congress has awarded around $6 billion—only 5 percent or so of Gulf Coast reconstruction money—to repair the broken levees and to erect gates at key flood-prone areas. After that money is spent, though, New Orleans’s system won’t be any less of a patchwork. Floodwalls in areas that didn’t bear the brunt of last year’s hurricane, but that still sit in the path of a powerful storm, remain vulnerable to the same erosion that toppled walls during Katrina.

Posted on 08/29/06 10:33 AM by Larry Scholer

Education in the Wake of Katrina

The Alliance for School Choice has produced a one-pager on the success of vouchers in the wake of Katrina.  The Katrina relief legislation provided school choice for 157,000 students.

Posted on 08/29/06 10:30 AM by Larry Scholer

Anti-NEA Video Short Comes to the Internet

The Evergreen Freedom Foundation has produced a short film that calls out the National Education Association.  The video comes just in time for Washington v. WEA (Washington Education Association).  The Supreme Court will decide whether to consider that case shortly.  For more information on the case, click here.  To watch the video, click here.

Posted on 08/29/06 10:14 AM by Larry Scholer

Claremont at APSA

The annual meeting of the American Political Science Association happens over the approaching Labor Day weekend.  As usual, the Claremont Institute will be hosting a number of panels during the event.  Here's a complete list of the panels and speakers.

Posted on 08/28/06 11:49 AM by Larry Scholer

Moving Vans as Economic Indicators

"America has prospered because Americans are free to abandon jurisdictions whose rulers believe the people are nothing but a captive dairy herd to be milked and milked," the Las Vegas Review-Journal editorial board recently wrote.

On the Club for Growth blog, Andy Roth points out that it's much cheaper to rent a U-Haul from Nevada (where taxes are low) to New Jersey (where taxes are high) than to rent from New Jersey to Nevada..

In a recent column, Michael LaFaive of the Mackinac Institute also uses the moving vans example to highlight Michigan's economic malaise.  He writes,

There is probably no single metric for measuring quality-of-life issues better than migration patterns. This has profound implications for Michigan because our people are leaving and, according to United Van Lines, doing so at an increasing percentage rate. In 2003, 2004 and 2005, Michigan’s outbound rate increased by about 0.4 percentage points, 2.8 percentage points and 3.0 percentage points respectively....

According to United Van Lines, states with leading in-migration are in the West and South: Oregon, North Carolina, Nevada and South Carolina round out the top four. United Van Lines data is something of a leading economic opportunity indicator, effectively highlighting the attractiveness of other states over Michigan.

Posted on 08/28/06 11:48 AM by Larry Scholer

Anti-Kyoto in Denmark

The Copenhagen Institute, a free market think tank in Denmark, has launched a new website that exposes the harmful consequences of the Kyoto Protocol.  Click here for Kyoto Kritik.

Posted on 08/24/06 11:16 AM by Larry Scholer

Regaining Dignity

Anthony Bradley of the Acton Institute reflects on the tenth anniversary of welfare reform:

When our society provides incentives encouraging work, marriage, family, and accountability—which are central to human dignity—we see people thought to be helpless rise to the occasion.

However, after a decade of good results, there is still more work to be done. There is still the wrong assumption that poor people need to be controlled by the surrogate decisions of government bureaucrats. Poor parents should have the freedom to put their kids in good schools; states should not be allowed to economically enable those who refuse to work, which creates poverty cycles; fatherhood and marriage should be encouraged structurally; and as a nation we must commit ourselves to helping the poor of all races build wealth. The principles of entrepreneurship, homeownership, family, saving and investing, and commitment to community will not only lift families out of poverty but empower them to enjoy lives of dignity for generations to come.

Posted on 08/24/06 11:12 AM by Larry Scholer

To Read

The latest edition of the New Atlantis is on newsstands and online.  In this issue, read about the decline of tool use, organ transplantation, the myth of Thomas Szasz, and more!

Posted on 08/24/06 11:08 AM by Larry Scholer

New Security Blog

Heritage's Peter Brookes is now contributing some of his thoughts to a blog on  Check it out here.

Posted on 08/22/06 02:47 PM by Larry Scholer

Responsible Spending

In a column back in May, the Buckeye Institute's Marc Kilmer wrote on Ohio's $700 million surplus.  The money is a result of the 1996 welfare reform, which recently notched its 10th anniversary.

Ohio has this $700 million surplus because of the 1996 law reforming welfare. When the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) law was passed, it ended the decades-old entitlement to welfare and replaced it with a system providing a yearly lump sum to states which they use to provide cash assistance to individuals in poverty. If the state does not use all of the federal funds for direct cash payments, it has a surplus. On the other hand, if its payments are in excess of the money a state receives from the federal government, it must make up the deficit.

Regulations allow the state to either save this money for two years or spend it for activities moving people into work (unfortunately, federal rules do not see the connection between lower taxes and more jobs, so no tax cuts are allowed). Saving part of the money is a good idea, since the state can use it to help make up any future TANF payment deficit. There is no situation, however, where the entire $700 million will be needed to make up such a deficit, so the rest must be spent....

While we at the Buckeye Institute rarely advocate for government spending, if government must spend money, it should do so in a way that is centered on the individual and helps transition that individual away from government dependence. The state of Ohio has a unique opportunity to do that with its TANF surplus. Let’s hope they make the best use of it.

Posted on 08/22/06 02:40 PM by Larry Scholer

Facts on the Digital Economy

The Progress and Freedom Foundation has released its eighth "Digital Economy Factbook."

This Eighth Edition of The Digital Economy Fact Book is dedicated to providing a factual basis from which analysis of the digital economy can begin. It seeks to sort out the myths from the realities, the hyperbolic hopes from the sober projections. In seven key sections, it presents the best available information on:

  • The Growth of the Internet
  • The Hardware Sector
  • The Communications Sector
  • Digital Media
  • Electronic Commerce
  • Threats to the Digital Economy
  • The Digital Economy

Posted on 08/22/06 02:20 PM by Larry Scholer

Social Entrepreneurship Awards

The Manhattan Institute has announced the winners of its 2006 Social Entrepreneurship Awards.  The awards recognize "honors non-profit leaders who have found innovative, private solutions for America’s most pressing social problems."  Click here for more.

Posted on 08/22/06 02:15 PM by Larry Scholer

To Be in Canada...

On September 28, the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada is holding its first Family Policy Conference.  It's in Ottawa.

Take a look at the agenda here.

Posted on 08/17/06 02:59 PM by Larry Scholer

Mark Your Calendars

The Leadership Institute has set the dates for its 2007 International Leadership Training Seminars.  Here's what you need to know:

When: January 21 – 28, 2007 or April 16 – 21, 2007. Registration will open as of September 15.  Space will be limited.

Where: The Leadership Institute, 1101 N. Highland Street, Arlington, Virginia, USA 

        Dormitory space is included in registration cost on a first-come, first-served basis.

Cost:  For the whole week, USD $310.00 and includes 3 meals a day. You pay for your own travel.

Who:  Friends of liberty and defenders of traditional values are welcome. 

           English proficiency is a pre-requisite.

  What Will You Learn? 

  • How the political right in the United States went from defeat to victory.
  • The real nature of politics.
  • The difference between strategy and tactics, and how to design a strategy.
  • How to raise money.
  • How to recruit and retain volunteers.
  • How to work with the media – even if they don’t agree with you.
  • How to utilize effective television techniques, in an actual TV studio.
  • How to develop a message, and stay with it.
  • How to build an independent organization and why you need to.
  • The nature of coalitions, and how to build and maintain them.
  • Understanding how legislatures work, and how to lobby them.
  • How to organize young people. 
  • How to win elections: campaign strategy and tactics, poll security, voter identification and turnout. 
  • and more!

Posted on 08/17/06 02:14 PM by Larry Scholer

Campaign To Wipe Out Malaria

The Acton Institute has launched the "Impact Malaria" campaign.  According to Acton,

Malaria is a disease spread by mosquitoes that kills 2.7 million people in developing southern nations each year. This is equal to the number of deaths cause by AIDS. But, unlike AIDS, malaria can be inexpensively wiped out. We have a safe, powerful and available weapon to fight malaria — but we're not using it.

That "safe, powerful and available weapon" is, of course, DDT. Click here to see the ad for the campaign.

Posted on 08/17/06 01:55 PM by Larry Scholer

Push for TABOR in Michigan

TABOR advocate, Claremont Institute fellow, and former president of the Colorado state senate John Andrews is barnstorming across America as an advocate for solid tax expenditure limits.  He recently took to the pages of the Lansing State Journal.

As a taxpayer advocate who was born in Michigan and held office in Colorado, I want my native state to have the kind of thriving economy that my adopted state has. The news that your state may pass SOS, the Stop OverSpending amendment, delights me even more than seeing the Tigers in first place.

The SOS plan to slow the runaway growth of government can help restore healthy growth to Michigan's hurting economy....

Want clinching proof of Colorado's attractiveness with fiscal discipline in place? Consider our booming population growth since 1992.

My grown children all live in Colorado; my Fennville cousins have all left Michigan.

The Dr. Phil question comes to mind: "How's that working for you?"

Posted on 08/17/06 01:39 PM by Larry Scholer

Needed: A Dose of the Free Market

In yesterday's OpinionJournal, Sally Pipes of the Pacific Research Institute writes on Gov. Schwarzenegger's plan to terminate free market principles when it comes to prescription drugs.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is promoting his new discount drug plan as a "voluntary" agreement between pharmaceutical companies and the State of California. But it's more like a raw deal.

The California Prescription Drug Initiative calls upon drug manufacturers to offer five million low-income Californians huge discounts on prescription medications--up to 40% on brand-name drugs and a whopping 60% on generics.

Presumably, drug companies should offer these discounts out of the goodness in their hearts. But if they don't comply? Well, then they'll be coerced by the Terminator.

Posted on 08/17/06 01:34 PM by Larry Scholer

TEL It to the Judge

It's possible that a TABOR-style tax expenditure limit will be on the ballot in eight states this November.  In Texas, there's a (weak) TEL, but citizens sued because the state has not properly implemented it.  A judge threw out their case.

The Texas Public Policy Foundation's Byron Schlomach has more:

Only time will tell if the Texas Supreme Court will side with taxpayers or big spenders in deciding whether taxpayers can enforce the protections for which they voted.

Whichever side the court takes, Texans need a new “Texas Tax Relief Act,” one that does not require legislative action to implement it, one that applies to local as well as state government, one based on population growth and inflation, and one that requires taxpayer permission before the limit can be violated.

Posted on 08/17/06 01:26 PM by Larry Scholer

Be There: The American Dream Conference

The annual American Dream Conference is coming up on September 15 in Atlanta, GA.  This year the conference promises three days of exciting discussions of and events on Smart Growth, land use, homeownership and transportation. 

Click here for the agenda.  This page has more, including registration info.

Posted on 08/17/06 11:31 AM by Larry Scholer

Pork Database Round-up

This morning the D.C. Examiner introduced its readers to the effort to build a database of the pork in the Labor/Health and Human Services appropriations bill.

Something new is happening today as The Examiner invites readers to help uncover which members of Congress sponsored the 1,867 secret spending earmarks worth more than $500 million in the Labor-Health and Human Services appropriation bill now before Congress.

These earmarks average more than $268,000 each. To our knowledge, The Examiner is the first-ever daily newspaper to join with readers, citizen activists from across the political spectrum and bloggers in this manner to uncover the facts behind government spending.

The Examiner — in cooperation with the Sunlight Foundation, and Citizens Against Government Waste — is making the Labor-HHS earmarks database public. You can see all of the Labor-HHS earmarks at

The Sunlight Foundation has more.

A number of bloggers are also getting into the mix.

The Club for Growth's Andy Roth:

In an unprecedented move, we then proceeded to transcribe those pork projects into a massive database that illustrated what the project was, the dollar amount, and the city and state where it was located (but even that wasn't always possible since these projects are sometimes vaguely described).

What we also couldn't do was readily identify the lawmakers who requested each project. Because earmark reform has, not surprisingly, stalled in Congress, politicians can still get away with allocating millions of dollars without any accountability.

The Heritage Foundation Policy blog:

What America needs is a viral network of analysts, interacting and competing with each other to shed light on federal spending. Such a network could find expertise in all of the darkest areas of the budget, allowing taxpayers to get better comprehension of all the ways our tax dollars disappear. Even better, these analysts could help us connect the dots between the power brokers, the people who support them, and the connections of federal dollars that bind them together.

The viral network has arrived. The Sunlight Foundation, Heritage Foundation, Club For Growth, and bloggers from across the political spectrum have banded together to start attacking pork-barrel spending and waste in the federal budget. The initial efforts can be found at Sunlight and The Truth Laid Bear for the Exposing Earmarks Project.

Other blogs highlighting the database include

Posted on 08/15/06 05:56 PM by Larry Scholer

Going Buck Wild

This afternoon the Cato Institute held a book forum for Stephen Slivinski's new book, Buck Wild: How Republicans Broke the Bank and Became the Party of Big Government.  Slivinski is the Director of Budget Studies at Cato.

Click here for video and audio of the event; here for Slivinski's comments on the Rush Limbaugh show; and here for Slivinski's Cato podcast.

Here's a review of the book in the NY Post.

Posted on 08/15/06 05:05 PM by Larry Scholer

Sell That Tiger

In the New York Times, Barun Mitra of India's Liberty Institute makes the case for "using the power of commerce to save the tiger."

At present there is no incentive for forest dwellers to protect tigers, and so poachers, traffickers and unscrupulous traders prevail. The temptation of high profits, in turn, attracts organized crime; this is what happens when government regulations subvert the law of supply and demand.

But tiger-breeding facilities will ensure a supply of wildlife at an affordable price, and so eliminate the incentive for poachers and, consequently, the danger for those tigers left in the wild. With selective breeding and the development of reintroduction techniques, it might be possible to return the tiger to some of its remaining natural habitats. And by recognizing the rights of the local villagers to earn legitimate revenue from wildlife sources, the tiger could stage a comeback.

Posted on 08/15/06 02:13 PM by Larry Scholer

Classical Liberalism Now!

On TCS Daily, Tim Worstall reviews Reviving the Invisible Hand: The Case for Classical Liberalism in the Twenty-First Century by Deepak Lal.  According to Worstall,

[T]his book can and should be a rallying point for those of us who are indeed liberal, radical and progressive. Liberal in that we believe in the maximum amount of freedom consistent with the avoidance of anarchy (it was, after all, a British Liberal Prime Minister who campaigned on the idea that "The man who is governed best is the man who is governed least"); progressive in that we can make the world a better place; and radical in that this is not going to be achieved by tinkering at the margins. No, rather, what we need to do is roll back the accretions of power by the State over the past century, those things that actually cause so many of our current problems, perform radical surgery on the special interests that have hijacked our political process.

Posted on 08/15/06 02:04 PM by Larry Scholer

If It Ain't Broke...

According to polls, many Americans today believe that the economy is in bad shape. Brian Wesbury and Bill Mulvill explain why this misconception could cause harm.

The biggest danger facing the US economy today is that so many people think there is something wrong.  It's dangerous because when people think there is something wrong, they try to fix it.  Very often, these good intentions have bad consequences.

 If one can't suppress the compulsion to act, "slow the growth in government spending and make certain that Fed policy does not create inflation," they write.

Posted on 08/15/06 11:36 AM by Larry Scholer

Conservative Movies

Are you a conservative filmmaker who makes conservative movies?

If so, the Liberty Film Festival is accepting submissions.  According to organizers,

The festival is seeking documentary and narrative films on subjects such as: the Iraq War and the War on Terror, Israel and the current mid-east conflict, free speech, illegal immigration, democracy and free markets in the developing world, preservation of traditional cultures and art-forms, and the struggle for religious freedom against totalitarian systems. This year's festival will also take a historic look at anti-Communism in Hollywood.

Here's what made the cut last year.

Posted on 08/14/06 03:48 PM by Larry Scholer

The Peace of Prosperity

In the New York Times Magazine this weekend, Princeton's Gary Bass looks at some recent research on civil war and finds that, contrary to what you might think, "multiethnic countries are actually no more prone to civil war than other countries."  Bass writes,

[James D. Fearon and David D. Laitin] found that regardless of how ethnically mixed a country is, the likelihood of a civil war decreases as countries get richer. The richest states are almost impervious to civil strife, no matter how multiethnic they might be — think for instance of Belgium, where Flemings and Walloons show almost no inclination to fight it out. And while the poorest countries have the most civil wars, Fearon and Laitin discovered that, oddly enough, it is actually the more homogeneous ones among them that are most likely to descend into violence.

Posted on 08/14/06 02:50 PM by Larry Scholer

Culture Shock

In yesterday's New York Times, David Brooks wonders (sub. req'd.) why Swedish diplomats don't commit parking violations, but Kuwaiti diplomats do.  It turns out that countries where corruption is a problem breed diplomats who often park illegally.  In countries were corruption is not a problem, diplomats park by the book. 

As Brooks writes,

 All cultures have value because they provide coherence, but some cultures foster development while others retard it. Some cultures check corruption, while others permit it. Some cultures focus on the future, while others focus on the past. Some cultures encourage the belief that individuals can control their own destinies, while others encourage fatalism.

Posted on 08/14/06 02:33 PM by Larry Scholer

I'll Trade You My Water For...

The American Enterprise Institute's Roger Bate explains water trading in the Australian Financial Review.  Water trading not only makes sense; it's the moral thing to do.

In countries where rights have been defined and traded, water for the rural poor has increased in volume and lowered in price. Australia's trading system along the Murray Darling Basin is the most sophisticated and effective example of water trading and could be adapted to improve the lives of huge numbers of people around the world. Aside from making economic sense, there is also a moral imperative for such a reform: better quality water reduces disease and death.

Posted on 08/10/06 04:33 PM by Larry Scholer

Ayn Rand Goes to India

The Delhi-based Liberty Institute, in association with the German political foundation, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, will celebrate the book release of Ayn Rand at 100 in three Indian cities next week. 

 The events will take place in Delhi, Mumbai, and Chennai during August 16-18.  Ayn Rand at 100 is edited by Tibor Machan, R. C. Hoiles Professor of Business Ethics at the Argyros School of Business & Economics in California.  In the book, ten scholars from around the world comment on different dimensions of Ayn Rand’s ideas and discuss their relevance in the contemporary world.  The book marks last year’s centenary of Ayn Rand’s birth in 1905. 

 Liberty Institute is an independent think tank dedicated to empowering the people by harnessing the power of the market.  For more information, see and

Posted on 08/10/06 03:41 PM by Larry Scholer

Room for Hope

Thomas Sowell thinks that people are coming to their senses on the minimum wage:

Minimum wage laws play Russian roulette with people who need jobs and the work experience that will enable them to rise to higher pay levels. There is now a glimmer of hope that more people are beginning to understand this, despite political demagoguery.

...except in Congress.

Posted on 08/10/06 02:21 PM by Larry Scholer

Metro: 'Excess Express'

In the Baltimore Sun, Heritage's Ron Utt and the Maryland Public Policy Institute's Christopher Summers opine on the proposed federal subsidy to Washington Metro.  They write,

A proposed federal subsidy for the Washington Metro would top Alaska's Bridge to Nowhere and Mississippi's Train to Nowhere for excess. And if enacted, it would require the two Maryland counties where Metro operates to come up with a "dedicated funding match" - in other words, a tax increase.

Rep. Tom Davis, a Virginia Republican, got the House of Representatives to pass an amendment to a bill that would divert $1.5 billion of federal revenues from offshore drilling to subsidize the deeply troubled Metro transit system that serves the nation's Capital, his Northern Virginia district and other Washington suburbs.

If enacted, the amended bill would be one of the largest pork-barrel earmarks in history. And it would compel Montgomery and Prince George's counties - which account for 40 percent of Metro's riders - to contribute about $55 million a year to the system, most likely through dedicated taxes.


Posted on 08/10/06 11:57 AM by Larry Scholer

Don't Panic

The Washington Post's Robert Samuelson on competitiveness:

In 2005 the United States ranked third in raw steel production. Its output (95 million metric tons) was behind Japan's (113 million tons) and less than a third of China's (349 million). So?

We are experiencing another competitiveness panic. These occur every 15 or 20 years. There's an outpouring of worried reports and articles. After Sputnik in 1957 -- the first artificial Earth satellite -- we were supposedly doomed to be overtaken by the Soviet Union. In the late 1970s and 1980s, it was Germany and then Japan. Lately, China and India have been the threats. Through it all, the United States has remained the dominant global economy, representing about one-fifth of the world's total output.

One problem with these debates is that competitiveness is a vague term. What does it mean?

Posted on 08/10/06 11:49 AM by Larry Scholer

Threat to Free Speech on the Internet

On the Free State Foundation's blog, Randolph May writes on the Stevens telecom bill wending its way through the Senate.  May explains that the bill has some First Amendment issues:

Although not yet much appreciated, Senator Stevens' draft bill, along with all of the other similar bills, tramples on the real Bill of the Rights, the one containing the First Amendment. That's the First Amendment that says rather plainly: "Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press...." Yet the bill mandates that each service provider shall allow each subscriber to "post any lawful content of that subscriber's choosing...." Of course, it goes on to mandate that each service provider must allow each subscriber to access any content of the subscriber's choosing. Simply put, unless all of these ISPs are common carriers, which they have not been declared to be and should not be, it is a violation of the ISPs' free speech rights to be required to post any message of any subscriber's choosing or to be prohibited from selecting content which subscribers will not be allowed to access.

Posted on 08/10/06 11:34 AM by Larry Scholer

Playing Near You

Thanks to the magic of the Internet, Milton and Rose Friedman's "Free to Choose" series is now available in video online.  Click here to watch the first installment.

Posted on 08/10/06 11:22 AM by Larry Scholer

Taxpayer $ for Woodpeckers

From Heritage intern Jonathan Lindsey:

An email update from the office of Senator Tom Coburn regarding activity on the Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information and International Security exposes some examples of government waste.

The Census bureau, despite its inability to explain what it spends current funds on, has requested an increase in funding by $1 billion for the 2010 census.  Senator Coburn has expressed his unwillingness to permit such a spending increase without justification in a letter to Louis Kincannon, the director of the U.S. Census Bureau.  Coburn is also quoted on the subcommittee website saying, “It is the height of arrogance for the Census Bureau to threaten Congress with huge cost increases when it is unable to explain how it uses the money it already has. Until Census makes a stronger case for why it needs more money, I will do everything I can to make sure the budget cuts in the House and Senate stand.”

Another letter from the Senator, this one to the U.S. Department of Treasury, requests accountability for money being given to the World Bank for a malaria program that uses obsolete drugs, fails to use proven prevention methods, and is in financial disarray.  More information is on the subcommittee website.  

Changing the tone to some good news, the update points out that four Coburn amendments to the Department of Defense spending bill passed, requiring transparency in DoD spending, decreasing spending on travel by setting a cap, and improving the serious problem of payment errors being made at DoD.

The last item of the update is the “Outrage of the Week,” which explains how NASA is using taxpayer money to search for woodpeckers in Arkansas.  

Posted on 08/09/06 04:56 PM by Larry Scholer

Department of Education Study Schooled

A study from the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard has found that private schools do offer an advantage to students.  A recent study from the Department of Education had concluded that there was no advantage offered by attending private school instead of public school.  Find the Harvard paper here.

Posted on 08/03/06 07:32 PM by Larry Scholer

New Think Tank on the Scene

Richard Vedder, author of Going Broke by Degree, has started the Center for College Affordability and Productivity.  According to the Center, it "is dedicated to research on the issues of rising costs and stagnant efficiency in higher education, with special emphasis on the United States."

The Center also has a blog.

(via Cato-at-Liberty)

Posted on 08/03/06 07:20 PM by Larry Scholer

Not by the Books

This morning USA Today reported on the accounting methods of the United States.

The federal government keeps two sets of books.

The set the government promotes to the public has a healthier bottom line: a $318 billion deficit in 2005.

The set the government doesn't talk about is the audited financial statement produced by the government's accountants following standard accounting rules. It reports a more ominous financial picture: a $760 billion deficit for 2005. If Social Security and Medicare were included — as the board that sets accounting rules is considering — the federal deficit would have been $3.5 trillion.

It makes a strong case for accrual accounting.

Posted on 08/03/06 07:15 PM by Larry Scholer

NED Opportunity

The National Endowment for Democracy is accepting applications for its Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellows program.  Here's the scoop:

The program offers five-month fellowships for practitioners to improve strategies and techniques for building democracy abroad and five- to ten-month fellowships for scholars to conduct original research for publication. Practitioners may include activists, lawyers, journalists, and other civil society professionals; scholars may include professors, research analysts, and other writers. Projects may focus on the political, social, economic, legal, and cultural aspects of democratic development and include a range of methodologies and approaches.

More here.

Posted on 08/03/06 03:55 PM by Larry Scholer

The Rising Tax Burden

If the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire, America's tax burden will rise to unprecedented heights. (View the chart here.)

And if the tax cuts are made permanent? The same.

In What Is Really Happening to Government Revenues: Long-Run Forecasts Show Sharp Rise in Tax Burden, Dan Mitchell and Stuart Butler explains that, despite all the political rhetoric, it is spending that's behind today's deficits and America's long-run fiscal problems, not taxes. In fact, "The Bush tax policies will only slightly moderate the sharp rise in the tax burden that began in the late 1990s" and would shave only 1 percentage point of GDP off government revenues if made permanent.

Low taxes have been key to America's economic success. Rising spending is a major threat to our prosperity.

Posted on 08/03/06 03:00 PM by Larry Scholer

Around the Think Tanks

A number of scholars from around think tank community have weighed in on the current situation in Cuba.  Heritage's Stephen Johnson commented hereHere's the American Enterprise Institute's Mark Falcoff.  Alvara Vargas Llosa of the Independence Institute had this to say.

Posted on 08/03/06 02:54 PM by Larry Scholer

State Think Tank Gets Libertarian Celeb

Maryland's free-market think tank, the Free State Foundation, has named Richard Epstein an adjunct fellow.  Epstein is a professor of law at the University of Chicago and the recent author of How Progressives Rewrote the Constitution.

Posted on 08/03/06 02:30 PM by Larry Scholer

New Look for Atlas

The Atlas Foundation has revamped their website.  Here's a description of the new features.  Click here to check out the new look.

Posted on 08/03/06 02:19 PM by Larry Scholer

Paulson Talks Tough

Newly minted Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson warned of growing protectionist sentiment in a recent speech. 

The world is facing a “disturbing wave of protectionism” that threatens open markets and could undermine global prosperity, Hank Paulson, the new US treasury secretary, warned on Tuesday in his first major speech since taking the job.

“I am very concerned about the anti-trade rhetoric that I have heard coming from some quarters here [in the US] and around the world,” he said.

The Financial Times has more.

On the Heritage Policy Blog, Ed Morrissey looks at what Paulson has been saying on the spending front.

Posted on 08/03/06 02:13 PM by Larry Scholer

Emerging Issue Forum Alert

If you're going to be in Chicago on October 5, you may want to stop by the Newberry Library for the Heartland Institute's "Emerging Issues Forum."  The day-long conference will focus on issues such as taxes, budget, environmental policy, and health policy.

Find more information here.

Posted on 08/03/06 01:58 PM by Larry Scholer

Big Wind Bluster

From Heritage intern Jonathan Lindsey:

The term “big oil” has become popular in describing an industry that is often demonized for supplying our nation with vital energy resources.  John McClaughry of the Ethan Allen Institute inverts this colloquial phrase, using it against “Big Wind” in his commentary "Big Money from Big Wind."

McClaughry outlines how competition in the energy market has been destroyed by governmental assistance for alternative energy, such as wind power.  Producers of wind power in Vermont benefit from tax exemptions, direct credits paid per kilowatt-hour produced, and the ability to sell their power as “green power,” which allows them to rip off customers who are being forced to buy green power by the government.

 The Vermont legislature, in its zealous promotion of renewable energy and disregard for efficiency, underwrites projects to affirm the benefits of wind energy, while at the same time diverting funds from efficient nuclear energy production.  This is a classic story of government intervention in the market artificially bolstering an industry that can’t stand on its own--in short, it’s a recipe for disaster.

Posted on 08/03/06 01:50 PM by Larry Scholer

Tax Policy Podcast

The Tax Foundation has released another installment of its weekly podcast series.  This week the special guest is former congressman Bill Archer.  Listen here or do it the old-fashioned way and read the transcript.

Posted on 08/01/06 01:35 PM by Larry Scholer

Everything You Need to Know about Minimum Wage

Ohio's Buckeye Institute has done a public service by creating a web page listing research on the minimum wage.

It's an impressive resource--one that provides a comprehensive view of the work on minimum wage that has been done over the years.

Posted on 08/01/06 09:55 AM by Larry Scholer

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