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Recent Policy Studies
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Chris Prandoni, et al., Capital Research CenterGreen Watch, 01/18/2013
Re-elected and ineligible to run again, President Obama is in a position occupied previously by only five Presidents. He is as independent of the people’s will as any President can be. In the coming years, will he continue his first-term course on energy and the environment, or take the country down a new path? Green Watch asked some top policy analysts for their take on the second term.
Regulation & DeregulationBy Bill Peacock, Josiah Neeley, Texas Public Policy FoundationPolicy Perspective, 01/18/2013
States have an important role to play in antitrust enforcement. But state attorneys general should be mindful that the regulation of interstate commerce is primarily a federal concern. They should be vigilant against the temptation to protect local interests from legitimate competition. And by the same token they should work to protect their residents from anticompetitive conduct by the governments of other states. Courts and enforcement agencies should also continue their modern revision of the antitrust law in keeping with the insights of law and economics. By helping to create a more even playing field with less government intrusion, the recommendations highlighted in this article will provide Texans and all Americans with greater opportunity and prosperity through increased protections of private property and a growing, thriving U.S. economy.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy John Malcolm, Jennifer A. Marshall, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 01/18/2013
In responding to horrific crimes such as the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, individuals, families, civil society, and possibly government must channel their concerns into effective measures that are consistent with the Constitution. As we try to make society safer and stronger, constitutional and complex cultural factors must be taken into consideration, and sound policy must be based on a serious study of the data and other evidence. Policymakers should avoid a rush to judgment on prescriptions that violate first principles, ignore the real root of these complex problems, or disregard careful social science research. Any federal government role must be limited and constrained by constitutional principles. The most important solutions lie at the state and local levels, in the community and within the family.
National SecurityBy Paul Rosenzweig, Jessica Zuckerman, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 01/18/2013
The Department of Homeland Security has come a long way since it was first stood up in 2003. Nevertheless, major issues and challenges remain. DHS does not need a head-to-toe makeover, but it does need to address specific issues that will greatly affect its efficiency, credibility, functioning, and overall reputation on Capitol Hill. By addressing these key reforms, Secretary Napolitano can help build a strong and meaningful strategic vision for DHS in the Administration’s second term.
ImmigrationBy Matthew Spalding, Jessica Zuckerman, James Jay Carafano, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 01/18/2013
With comprehensive legislation everyone loses—our nation’s immigrants, our employers, our citizens. Rather than continuing to play politics with immigration reform, our nation’s leaders should take the responsible path and develop real solutions to address our immigration systems’ core problems.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy James Phillips, The Heritage Foundation01/18/2013
Given the Administration’s feckless record on Middle East policy in its first term, a more realistic and proactive approach is needed to confront hostile regimes in Iran and Syria while helping to protect U.S. allies in the region. Both allies and adversaries are uncertain about the Obama Administration’s goals and resolve. The three nominees must convince the Senate, the American people, allies, and adversaries that they have a realistic understanding of how to protect America’s vital interests in the volatile Middle East.
Regulation & DeregulationBy Sam Batkins, American Action ForumReport, 01/18/2013
During the last ten years, regulators have added tremendous costs to the economy. Despite the common perception that the Environmental Protection Agency is the sole driver of new burdens, efficiency rules routinely top the list. The top two proposed rules in 2012 and the top final rule this year were either energy or fuel conservation rules. This year will be no different, with five conservation rules awaiting approval at the White House. Without a comprehensive accounting of cumulative regulatory burdens, review of independent agencies, or enhanced congressional oversight, the year-in report next year will mimic 2012’s grim regulatory biography.
Transportation/InfrastructureBy Joseph Henchman, Tax FoundationFiscal Facts, 01/18/2013
A key issue for many state legislatures this year is transportation funding. Given that transportation spending exists, states should aim to fund as much of it as possible from user-related taxes and fees. Because subsidizing highway spending from general revenues creates pressure to increase income or sales taxes, this can be unfair to non-users and undermine economic growth for the state as a whole.
EducationBy Amanda Clark, Maine Heritage Policy CenterMaine Issue Brief, 01/18/2013
Customized learning is a student-focused system where kids enroll in the curriculum which best meets their educational needs. Customized learning is not new and, in fact, is at the heart of Maine’s well-rooted educational history going back to the days of town academies. Unfortunately, customized learning has always been limited – offered only to those without a local public or contracted school and to those who are wealthy enough to afford a private school of their choice. Customized learning already exists in Maine – why not allow every Maine kid the opportunity?
LaborBy Michael J. Reitz, James Madison InstitutePolicy Brief, 01/18/2013
Unions have a right to engage in political activities, but their political power should not be artificially inflated by the ability to extract money from unwilling workers. These same unions often spend their members’ dues money in ways that are unrelated to the purposes for which many union members voluntarily join—to be represented in collective bargaining over pay and working conditions, to help with the adjudication of grievances, and—especially in the case of school teachers—to be assured of legal representation in the event of a lawsuit. Instead, however, inordinate shares of the members’ dues money are spent on behalf of political candidates and causes with which the members may or may not agree. Therefore, to protect union members from having to subsidize such political activities, the Florida Legislature ought to adopt reforms to ensure that union members are free to control how their money is spent.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Jay Lehr, Heartland InstitutePolicy Brief, 01/17/2013
The existence of significant uranium resources in Virginia has been known for several decades. Some concerns about environmental and health effects led state legislators in 1982 to impose a moratorium on uranium mining until a thorough study could be done. Today there is renewed interest in removing the moratorium and allowing development of what has been called Virginia’s largest untapped energy resource, the Coles Hill uranium deposit in Pittsylvania County. This Policy Brief concludes Virginia can take advantage of its uranium resources in a safe and environmentally responsible manner.
Budget & TaxationBy Ryan Murphy, Beacon Hill InstituteBHI Policy Study, 01/17/2013
To fund infrastructure and green energy projects, state and local governments must either raise taxes or increase deficits. If the state or local government raises taxes, total spending is not increased, undermining the correct justification for stimulus. If the governing body engages in deficit spending, it is borrowing at a higher rate than one offered to the Federal government. States and local governments do not have their own printing presses, so they have far less flexibility in dealing with deficits. When state and local government attempt deficit spending, they run the risk of becoming the next Greece.
Budget & TaxationBy John Klingner, Illinois Policy InstitutePolicy Brief, 01/17/2013
Although the tax hike has been in place for 11 months, the state’s economy and fiscal footing has worsened. In fact, a year after the hike, Illinois received the worst credit rating in the national from Moody’s Investors Service. The state still has $6 billion in unpaid vendor bills and $2 billion in unpaid Medicaid bills, and politicians have stalled on passing wholesale fiscal reforms. In August 2012, Standard & Poor’s 500 index downgraded Illinois’ credit rating after the state failed to reform pensions. In short none of the promises Quinn and the legislature made regarding the tax hike came true.
EducationBy E. D. Hirsch Jr., Manhattan InstituteCity Journal, 01/17/2013
It isn’t overstating the case to say that the most secure way to predict whether an educational policy is likely to help restore the middle class is to focus on the question: Is this policy likely to expand the vocabularies of 12th-graders? The physicist Max Planck once said that professors never change their minds. But teachers and principals can, when shown a better way. Educators and policymakers should inform themselves about the critical importance of factual knowledge and about the need for a specific and coherent yearly curriculum to impart that knowledge and language effectively. That won’t just improve students’ vocabularies; it will help restore the Jeffersonian ideal of equality of opportunity.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy Healther MacDonald, Manhattan InstituteCity Journal, 01/17/2013
No police department in the country has come close to achieving what the NYPD has. New York’s crime drop has been twice as deep and has lasted twice as long as the national average since the early 1990s. Today, 10,000 minority males are alive who would have been killed by now had New York’s homicide rate remained at its early-1990s levels. If crime starts climbing again because New York officers can no longer make proactive stops, the increase will—for a while, at least—be just an abstraction for the wealthy attorneys at Shearman & Sterling (and for those at Covington & Burling and Paul, Weiss, who are providing pro bono assistance in the other two stop suits). For people without private doormen and Hamptons retreats, however, any rise in shootings and robberies will be immediate and quite real.
Crime, Justice & the Law
The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act: Aggressive Enforcement and Lack of Judicial Review Create Uncertain Terrain for BusinessesBy Paul F. Enzinna, Manhattan InstituteIssue Brief, 01/17/2013
In its current guise, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act has helped generate an essentially unaccountable Department of Justice bureaucracy enforcing business conduct abroad, even among foreign entities. There is a strong case for reforming the FCPA through legislation, in order to continue to uphold the statute’s historical commitment to maintain the integrity of American businesses’ dealings abroad while limiting the ability of federal enforcement agencies to police business conduct worldwide and gain broad, quasi-regulatory powers over global businesses absent judicial oversight. Congress should take up the cause of FCPA reform, clarifying the statute’s reach in the areas in which DOJ and the SEC have aggressively sought its expansion.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Arnold Kling, American Enterprise InstituteThe American, 01/17/2013
Recourse mortgages with significant down payments will help to stabilize the housing market. It will help prevent speculative bubbles from forming. It also will help limit the risk that taxpayers are exposed to by financial institutions operating in the mortgage market. Of course, these proposals will meet a firestorm of opposition from the housing lobby. But I am not running for office. I am simply trying to suggest sensible approaches to policy.
International Trade/FinanceBy Edward Tenner, American Enterprise InstituteThe American, 01/17/2013
Does protectionism work? In the late 19th century, British writers were as concerned about loss of markets and jobs to Germany as many Americans are today about competition from China. The campaign against rising Germany shows that economic nationalism can have unintended consequences.
Regulation & DeregulationBy Lee Harris, American Enterprise InstituteThe American, 01/17/2013
Consider the provision of the law that will make it a criminal misdemeanor in the state of New York for anyone to have in his own home a magazine carriage that contains eight or more bullets. No problem if your magazine contains only seven bullets—that is still permissible within the law. A little reflection demonstrates that this law can serve only two possible purposes. First, it could force the would-be mass shooter to carry one or two more spare magazines along with him as he sets out on his murder spree. It is a regrettable fact that whatever mental problems mass shooters suffer from, these don’t appear to have any negative effect on their ability to plan ahead. So this provision will have virtually no impact on the crazed shooter while it is guaranteed to infuriate those law-abiding citizens of New York who currently own the larger magazines.
EducationBy Daniel K. Lautzenheiser, Andrew P. Kelly, American Enterprise InstituteEducation Outlook, 01/17/2013
This policy brief is the first in a series of in-depth case studies exploring how top-performing charter schools have incorporated civic learning in their school curriculum and school culture.
Health CareBy Peter J. Nelson, Center of the American ExperimentAnalysis, 01/17/2013
Last week the Minnesota House and Senate introduced legislation to establish a state-based health insurance exchange that meets the requirements of the federal health care law—the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The exchange is meant to be a new online marketplace to facilitate the purchase of health coverage, especially for people and small employers who qualify for federal subsidies. The Dayton administration has already spent millions of federal dollars developing an exchange. Unfortunately, after reviewing the legislation, it appears the legislature is moving in the wrong direction. As many feared, the legislature is creating a new layer of government bureaucracy, which will mean higher costs, less choice, and little to no accountability to consumers.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Marc A. Levin, Vikrant P. Reddy, Texas Public Policy FoundationPolicy Perspective, 01/17/2013
“Ground zero” for state-level overcriminalization may well be the United States Gulf Coast. Five U.S. states border the Gulf of Mexico—Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida—and between them, they have passed nearly 1,000 laws criminalizing activity along the coast. Criminal sanctions are of course appropriately applied to an individual who intentionally contaminates another person’s property. Too often, however, the activity that is governed by these myriad laws is non-blameworthy, ordinary business activity. This report provides an overview of these “crimes,” explains why the overcriminalization along the coast is detrimental to economic liberty and growth, and finally, proposes solutions for reining in the overcriminalization problem.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Todd J. Zywicki, Mercatus CenterWorking Paper, 01/17/2013
Given the regulatory havoc wreaked on the debit and credit card systems during the past several years, prepaid cards have increasingly become a final resort for many consumers unable to gain other access to the functionality of electronic payments. In light of this reality, regulators should move exceedingly cautiously before taking steps that could critically harm this dynamic and evolving market that provides value and choice to millions of Americans.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Hester Peirce, Robert Greene, Mercatus CenterMercatus on Policy, 01/17/2013
The Volcker Rule, although rooted in legitimate concerns about taxpayer-funded risk-taking, relies on clumsy regulatory constraints on bank activities and unworkable regulatory monitoring to address those concerns. Its goals could be achieved by strong measures designed both to limit the risk that taxpayers bear and to force shareholders and creditors to take responsibility for the risks undertaken by banking entities. Options include a lower cap on federal deposit insurance, a reconfiguration of deposit insurance, increased public transparency about banks, and greater shareholder and creditor exposure to the downside of bank risk-taking.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Todd Zywicki, Robert Sarvis, Mercatus CenterMercatus on Policy, 01/17/2013
Government actors seeking to regulate consumer finance offerings no doubt intend to help the individuals and families who use them, but the economic reality of consumers’ desire for credit often results in unintended consequences from new regulations that leave consumers worse off, not better. We cannot simply ignore or wish away consumers’ need for credit, and we ought not to ignore the majority of consumers who use these products responsibly. Politicians and bureaucrats need to understand the important and legitimate roles various forms of consumer credit play in the financial lives of consumers, both poor and non-poor, and to acknowledge the appropriate role that fees, interest rates, and other terms of credit play in regulating its availability.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Alice L. Miller, Hoover InstitutionChina Leadership Monitor, 01/17/2013
The processes of generational turnover of China’s leadership at the Chinese Communist Party’s 18th National Congress extended patterns of formal politics that trace their roots to Deng Xiaoping’s political reforms of the 1980s, that advanced in the Jiang Zemin era in the 1990s, and that matured under outgoing General Secretary Hu Jintao in the 2000s. As such, the transition in the party leadership at the 18th Congress marked another step forward in the institutionalization of Chinese leadership politics.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Barry Naughton, Hoover InstitutionChina Leadership Monitor, 01/17/2013
Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang are now the two top leaders in China. Both have moved quickly to break with the Hu-Wen administration and signal their support for dramatic new economic reforms. The structure of the new Politburo Standing Committee appears to support their aspirations. Neither Xi nor Li has yet committed to specific reform measures, and the obstacles to reform are formidable. However, both Xi and Li have committed to a process that will lead to the creation of a reform program by late 2013.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy James Mulvenon, Hoover InstitutionChina Leadership Monitor, 01/17/2013
The advent of the 18th Party Congress in early November 2012 marked a large-scale turnover of senior military personnel in the People’s Liberation Army, including eight out of the ten uniformed members of the leading Central Military Commission. Moreover, the Party’s new general-secretary Xi Jinping also replaced Hu Jintao as CMC chairman, defying expectations that the latter would stay on for an additional two years. This article examines the reasons for Xi’s “early” promotion and profiles the new members, exploring their backgrounds and possible clues to their preferences and outlooks.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Alan D. Romberg, Hoover InstitutionChina Leadership Monitor, 01/17/2013
The 18th Party Congress laid out a “steady on course” approach to cross-Strait relations, continuing to emphasize economic, cultural, and educational exchanges in the near term while seeking to lay a foundation of political trust for future political and security dialogues, including a peace accord. In a Taipei conference with both Kuomintang and Democratic Progressive Party representatives in mid-December, People’s Republic of China officials reiterated this patient approach while also calling for step-by-step progress. DPP participants, however, challenged the sincerity of PRC assertions of patience, charging that Beijing was shifting the agenda toward political issues to step up the pace and narrow the options to one: unification.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Michael D. Swaine, Hoover InstitutionChina Leadership Monitor, 01/17/2013
Foreign policy issues have never played a major role in party congresses, at least during the reform era, for understandable reasons. A party congress is mainly about domestic political power and domestic policies, and even then is primarily an exercise in tedious sloganeering, pumping up the party faithful, and presenting the new leadership lineup. Nonetheless, congresses can be important as indicators of future policy direction and power structure, including in the foreign policy arena. This essay examines the foreign policy aspects of both the congress work report delivered by then Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Hu Jintao and the official membership roster of the new CCP Central Committee, Politburo, and Politburo Standing Committee.
National SecurityBy Steven P. Bucci, Paul Rosenzweig, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 01/17/2013
The Senate confirmation process gives the U.S. Senate and the American public an opportunity to learn more about these candidates, what they believe, and how they propose to design the national structure of the U.S. going forward. As the U.S. becomes weaker and the world continues to become more dangerous in both the cyber and tangible worlds, the Senate should ask difficult questions and provide much-needed advice to help steer U.S. policy toward greater security and freedom.
WelfareBy Bruce Thornton, Hoover InstitutionDefining Ideas, 01/16/2013
With the rise of entitlements, we are not only experiencing a crisis of finances, but also a crisis of character. The welfare trends Eberstadt documents in this indispensible book are clearly unsustainable. But as Eberstadt cautions, the enormous wealth of America and the privileged global role of its currency mean this state of affairs can continue for a long time, as the destigmatization of dependence and the demonization of success insidiously eat away at both our massive wealth and our moral capital. As Adam Smith once said, “There is a lot of ruin in a nation.” But sooner or later, the bill will come due, and Americans will no longer be the people who created the richest and most powerful nation in history. They will be just another “nation of takers.”
Regulation & DeregulationBy Henry I. Miller, Drew l. Kershen, Hoover InstitutionDefining Ideas, 01/16/2013
This article offers three examples of genetically engineered crops currently or potentially available thanks to some attributes of open source access: virus-resistant papaya, pod borer-resistant cowpea, and vitamin A-enhanced rice (“Golden Rice”). Although all of them have benefited from open access to biotech discoveries, to be sure, all also offer cautionary tales about the irrelevance of intellectual property rights in the face of gratuitous regulatory obstacles. The bottom line is that intellectual property protection verges on the inconsequential when agricultural biotechnology regulation is, to borrow a phrase from the novelist J.K. Rowling, a “twitching pile of catastrophe.”
National SecurityBy Baker Spring, Michaela Bendikova, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 01/16/2013
The forthcoming confirmation hearings are an important opportunity for the Senate to pose key questions about the direction of American foreign policy under President Obama in his second term. After the first four years of the Obama presidency, the U.S. has grown weaker while the world has become even more dangerous. Investments into strategic capabilities such as nuclear weapons and missile defense will help to protect the country and its allies in the future.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Nicolas Loris, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 01/16/2013
In order to end the current inefficient system of picking winners and losers in the energy sector, government policies intervening in the economy should be removed. Removing the targeted tax credits for all energy sources and broadly lowering the tax rate, as Congressman Pompeo’s Energy Freedom and Economic Prosperity Act does, would allow for a more market-based energy economy that benefits economically viable producers and, ultimately, consumers with reliable, affordable energy.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Diane Katz, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 01/16/2013
The remittance regulations constitute rulemaking at its worst: protracted uncertainty, overly broad strictures that reflect a misunderstanding of the targeted market, and fewer, more costly consumer options. Dozens of experts in the finance industry attempted to warn the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau about the flaws before the rules were finalized. Reflecting no small amount of regulatory arrogance, the agency ignored the input—only to reverse course. Unfortunately, the remittance rules saga is not isolated. Dozens of other Dodd–Frank provisions remain unwritten or stuck in regulatory or judicial limbo, leaving financial institutions and their customers uncertain about their investment and credit options. It is a sorry reminder of how poorly crafted legislation and ill-considered rulemaking have costly consequences.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Romina Boccia, Jack Spencer, Robert Gordon, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 01/16/2013
America’s primary environmental goal should be a cleaner, healthier, and safer environment for current and future generations. Yet, governing environmental laws have strayed far from intended purposes, and their implementations are imposing immense costs on Americans with few benefits in return. Too often they impose mandates, empower and enlarge ineffective bureaucracies, and cripple the efforts of free people to more effectively steward America’s environment and natural resources. The Heritage Foundation’s Environmental Conservation: Eight Principles of the American Conservation Ethic offers specific reforms for today’s challenges and principles to guide future policy decisions.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Diane Katz, David C. John, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 01/16/2013
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and its allies characterize the new mortgage rules as much-needed protection for vulnerable consumers imperiled by unscrupulous lenders. In reality, many borrowers were irresponsible in assuming more debt than they could possibly repay. Rather than protect unwitting homebuyers, the new rules will foreclose loan options and raise mortgage costs.
Budget & TaxationBy Emily Goff, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 01/16/2013
A fiscally prudent farm bill would have reformed the $85.2 billion food stamps program and eliminated or at least reduced commodity and crop insurance subsidies. The current extension, however, is preferable to the two traditional five-year bills passed by the Senate and reported out of the House Agriculture Committee, which would lock in nearly $1 trillion in taxpayer spending over 10 years. The extension continues many long-standing agriculture programs, including direct payments and dairy subsidies, which amount to a raw deal for taxpayers and consumers. Both waste money, distort crop prices, and increase food costs. In the coming months, Congress should focus on reforms essential to reining in spending and commodity price distortions while also decoupling food stamps and other nutrition programs from farm subsidies and returning food stamps to pre-recession levels.
Budget & TaxationBy John L. Ligon, David B. Muhlhausen, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 01/16/2013
The estimated results in recent Heritage studies provide additional insight and evidence that government-sponsored enterprises should not be part of the path to a new mortgage market. Eliminating Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could save billions of taxpayer dollars in the U.S. mortgage market through eliminating the subsidy that has induced U.S. households to take on more debt-related consumption, ending up underwater. Indeed, many households were never in a position to handle such debt; therefore, subsidizing them to become homeowners is not only inconsequential in raising homeownership but also detrimental to the financial market. More important, the results of our studies suggest that the effects of removing these subsidies would be minimal and predictable both on the U.S. housing market and on the overall economy.
EducationBy Lindsey Burke, David B. Muhlhausen, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 01/15/2013
President Obama has pledged to use only one test when determining which education programs to fund: “It’s not whether an idea is liberal or conservative,” Obama stated, “but whether it works.” HHS’s third-grade follow-up evaluation makes it unequivocally clear that Head Start fails that test. HHS has released definitive evidence that the federal government’s 48-year experiment with Head Start has failed children and left taxpayers a tab of more than $180 billion. In the interest of children and taxpayers, it’s time for this nearly half-century experiment to come to an end. If the federal government continues to fund Head Start, policymakers should allow states to make their Head Start dollars portable, following children to a private preschool provider of choice.
Budget & TaxationBy Patrick Louis Knudsen, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 01/15/2013
The fiscal cliff agreement has a few benefits and many flaws. One trait it does not suffer, however, is “balance”: The agreement allowed for large tax hikes with no spending reductions. Indeed, the measure yields a small but real net spending increase. Today’s trillion-dollar deficits and rising debt are the product of excessive spending. Until Congress and the President take substantial steps toward reining in spending, especially in the government’s entitlement programs, debt will be a constant drain on the country’s prosperity. Having squandered this opportunity, lawmakers need to focus on substantive spending reductions in forthcoming budget debates.