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Recent Policy Studies
Health CareBy Jeremy Nighohossian, Andrew J. Rettenmaier, and Zijun Wang, National Center for Policy AnalysisSpecial Report, 03/29/2013
Before moving forward with implementation of the Affordable Care Act, it is important to consider how spending from state to state varies in terms of the health care sector’s size relative to the states’ economies, and to examine how the sizes of the states’ health care sectors have evolved over time.
Budget & TaxationBy Jeff Bergner, Mercatus CenterMercatus on Policy, 03/29/2013
America’s fiscal problems are best addressed by a combination of tax reform and spending cuts to encourage economic growth. The idea of cutting federal spending across-the-board is much maligned in Washington. Such cuts are often referred to as using a “meat ax,” as opposed to more carefully targeted cuts, which are compared to using a “scalpel.” Interest group pressure will weigh in against targeted cuts, however, and especially in our current divided government, across-the-board cuts are the only realistic way to cut spending.
Health CareBy Daniel Sutter, Mercatus CenterWorking Paper, 03/29/2013
Driven by the need to reform unsustainable entitlement programs, policymakers today are looking to the successful example of welfare reform—specifically, to its block grants to states. To inform this discussion, a new study by Daniel Sutter reviews arguments in the debate over block grants versus matching grants for joint federal-state programs, examines the effects of shifting control of welfare programs to the states, and considers how the lessons from welfare reform can inform the current debate about Medicaid block grants.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Iain Murray, National Center for Policy AnalysisPolicy Backgrounder, 03/29/2013
As this study clarifies, the United States would stand to lose from ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST). The direct economic costs would be significant, global welfare could very well suffer, and when combined with the potential for environmental litigation, the total cost could be disastrous. The Treaty’s very structure would reduce the United States to one voice at a noisy dinner table—a voice that could find itself at best paying for the entire meal, and at worst find itself on the menu. All of the proclaimed benefits of LOST can be achieved by other means. In the end, as far as the United States is concerned, the Treaty deserves to be lost at sea.
Transportation/InfrastructureBy Evan Baldwin Carr, National Center for Policy AnalysisIssue Brief, 03/29/2013
With full integration fast approaching, discussion must focus on the civilian, commercial and scientific applications of drones, as well as limits on how this new technology can be used. The Federal Aviation Administration is responsible for establishing a system that ensures safety without hindering development. While the regulatory and technical hurdles may delay the eventual date of full integration, public hostility towards drones will continue as long as transparency issues damage the government’s credibility. With substantial economic growth at stake, proper safeguards must be established to provide protection from overzealous government.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles: Examining the Safety, Security, Privacy and Regulatory Issues of Integration into U.S. AirspaceBy Evan Baldwin Carr, National Center for Policy AnalysisSpecial Report, 03/29/2013
This paper reviews the history of unmanned aerial systems development, considers the uses for unmanned aerial systems technology, examines the safety, insurance, security, privacy and regulatory issues associated with integration into the national airspace, and concludes with some recommendations.
Budget & TaxationBy Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, Oklahoma Council of Public AffairsBudget Solutions, 03/29/2013
The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs' proposed state budget this year focuses on funding core functions of government. This budget provides what many Oklahomans want and need: lower taxes and a more efficient, effective government which dedicates citizens’ hard-earned dollars to the core functions of government. In short, it’s a state budget that respects your family budget.
Health CareBy Sally C. Pipes, Pacific Research InstituteHealth Policy Prescriptions, 03/29/2013
The question for the American people is: who do they want to control their health care decisions—a Health Maintenance Organization bureaucrat, a government bureaucrat, or themselves? Universal choice is the key to universal coverage. Under Obamacare, taxes will go up, the deficit will increase, long waits for treatment, care will be rationed, and the quality of our health care will decline. Where will the best doctors go and where will we as patients go, if legislators do not vote to repeal and replace Obamacare? This is a long-term fight. If not repealed and replaced, America will be on the “Road to Serfdom” and there will be no off-ramp.
It’s Not Personal: The Dangers of Misapplied Privacy Policies to Search, Social Media and Other Web ContentBy Steven Titch, Reason FoundationPolicy Study, 03/29/2013
The government is contemplating sweeping steps that would place legally enforceable restrictions on how websites collect and use consumer information. This would push the U.S. toward a stricter regime akin to the European Union’s Privacy Directive. If adopted, such restrictions could present a host of unintended consequences for consumers, websites, and the overall environment of the Internet. They risk undermining Web commerce, consumer choice, and a growing base of free entertainment and information services and applications, while also damaging U.S competitiveness.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Jack Spencer, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 03/29/2013
Policies that introduce market forces and corporate responsibility are the key that could finally unleash the nuclear renaissance to let nuclear energy succeed (or fail) on its own merits. Connecting waste management to nuclear power providers engages those who have the means and know-how to develop long-term, sustainable solutions to waste management and allows government to focus on doing a better, more efficient job of issuing permits, regulating, and oversight.
National SecurityBy Victor Davis Hanson, Hoover InstitutionDefining Ideas, 03/28/2013
For a risk-averse, budget-cutting United States, seeking to protect itself from radical Islamic terrorists, drones will see even greater use—at least until the collateral toll, hits on more U.S. citizens, or the introduction of enemy counter-technologies renders them militarily, legally, or morally ineffective.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy William Ratliff, Hoover InstitutionDefining Ideas, 03/28/2013
The most interminable and seemingly intractable international island dispute is over the Falkland Islands in the remote South Atlantic. The islands have been under de facto British control continuously since 1833, even before Victoria became Queen of the United Kingdom. Earlier this month some 92 percent of registered voters on the islands cast ballots, with 1,513 voting “yes” to confirm their “wish to retain their current political status as an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom” and three voting “no.” However, this means little to the Argentina’s Ambassador who said to Uruguay that the Falklanders are simply “illegal settlers on Argentine soil.” So what can Britain and the Islanders do to begin to sway public opinion in their favor? This article suggests widely circulating the referendum while making sincere gestures of good will toward Argentina.
Regulation & DeregulationBy Marc Scribner, Competitive Enterprise InstituteIssue Analysis, 03/28/2013
The last few decades have seen tremendous improvements in the U.S. railroad industry. After a century of severe regulation nearly brought the United States railroad industry to ruin, policy makers in the 1970s began a process that ultimately resulted in the Staggers Rail Act of 1980, which largely deregulated the industry. But that has not put an end to the political fight over freight rail.
Regulation & DeregulationBy Bill Peacock, Texas Public Policy FoundationBill Analysis, 03/28/2013
In Texas, municipalities and state regulators have overlapping authority in the rate setting process over investor-owned utilities that sell electricity or natural gas in a monopoly setting. This antiquated system in Texas may have made sense before Texas created the Public Utility Commission (PUC) in the 1970s, but now it only creates an incentive for municipalities to get involved in rate setting even though they have little inherent interest in the process and it does nothing to protect consumers.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Josiah Neeley, Texas Public Policy FoundationPolicy Perspective, 03/28/2013
Ensuring an adequate water supply for Texas’ growing economy and population is vital to maintaining the long term viability of the state. Solving the problem, however, cannot be achieved simply through more spending. It will be achieved, at least in part, by removing the regulatory barriers to the development of viable new water projects. Unless the state addresses the regulatory disincentives that currently exist, sufficient water development for the future will remain uncertain.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy Marc Levin, Texas Public Policy FoundationPolicy Perspective, 03/28/2013
Texas policymakers have an opportunity to build on recent reductions in the state’s crime and incarceration rates by shaping the budget to move from a corrections system that grows when it fails to one that rewards results. We must ensure that low level offenders are not sent to prison even when judges and prosecutors believe a less costly alternative would do as much or more to protect public safety, simply because such alternatives would cost the local jurisdiction more, but the state much less. Forging a more flexible and results-oriented budgetary partnership between the state and local jurisdictions can bring the corrections system as a whole into greater fiscal balance.
Health CareBy Arlene Wohlgemuth, James C. Capretta, John Davidson, Texas Public Policy FoundationReport, 03/28/2013
Texas’ Medicaid program is in need of fundamental reform. The current system leaves enrollees with inadequate access to providers and delivers poor health outcomes. Nearly 70 percent of Texas physicians will not accept new Medicaid patients, who are often forced to seek primary care in hospital emergency rooms. Numerous studies have demonstrated that those on Medicaid have worse outcomes than those with private health insurance. This paper proposes such reform in the context of a federal block grant of Medicaid funds to the state. With a defined contribution of federal funding, along with broad flexibility to redesign its Medicaid program, Texas could implement market-based reforms that would lower costs and improve patient choice.
Regulation & DeregulationBy Bill Peacock, Texas Public Policy FoundationBill Analysis, 03/28/2013
The Texas Sunset Advisory Commission’s Staff Report on the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) made the claim last year that, “PUC Lacks Regulatory Tools Needed to Provide Effective Oversight and Prevent Harm to the Public.” However, the Texas Public Policy Foundation has found that its existing authority is sufficient to handle any problems that might crop up in the market. The added emergency cease and desist authority, which the Staff Report recommends, would decrease competition and reduce reliability in the Texas electricity market.
National SecurityBy Bruce Klingner, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 03/28/2013
The timeframe for North Korea’s next military incursion is uncertain but potentially imminent. As such, both the U.S. and South Korea should devote sufficient forces and budget resources to ensure sufficient deterrent and defense capabilities. The Obama Administration’s reversal of its previous elimination of 14 ground-based missile defense interceptors is a proper, if belated, acknowledgment of the security dangers North Korea poses. Washington should take similar steps to reverse defense budget cuts, particularly to naval and air force procurement plans.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Theodore R. Bromund, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 03/28/2013
One of the most important disputes in the negotiation of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) at the United Nations is the question of whether the treaty should include a customary international law (CIL) criterion. This is a complex question. It is also one fraught with considerable risks for the United States, which should firmly oppose the introduction of such a criterion into the treaty.
ImmigrationBy David S. Addington, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 03/28/2013
America recognizes the importance of lawful immigration. Such immigration provides economic and cultural benefits both to the United States and to the immigrants. In contrast, unlawful immigration challenges America’s ability to protect its borders and preserve its sovereignty. Congress should search for appropriate ways to encourage lawful immigration and prevent unlawful immigration, through careful step-by-step actions to address the wide variety of immigration issues, rather than through one-size-fits-all comprehensive legislation. Congress should not adopt failed policies of the past, such as an amnesty, which discourages respect for the law, treats law-breakers better than law-followers, and encourages future unlawful immigration. When Congress implements step-by-step the proper policies, American will benefit greatly from the resulting lawful immigration.
Elections, Transparency, & AccountabilityBy Hans A. von Spakovsky, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 03/28/2013
There is no question that the U.S. voter registration system could be improved. However, the answer to America’s voter registration problems is not federal mandates or federal interference in election administration. Indeed, the federal government has almost no experience administering elections; states administer elections in the laboratories of democracy. As a result of this exercise in federalism, states are implementing numerous improvements to the voter registration system—and they are doing it at less cost to our treasury, our Constitution, and the integrity of our elections than mandatory universal registration.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy Andrew Kloster, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 03/28/2013
The Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) established a strong federal policy in favor of arbitration. Arbitration is a form of private dispute resolution that utilizes neutral, professional arbitrators in lieu of costly litigation. Both businesses and consumers benefit from the speed, efficiency, and professionalism of recognized arbitration associations. However, arbitration has come under attack in Congress, executive agencies, and the courts. This term, the Supreme Court of the United States will decide two cases concerning the FAA. The Court should continue to craft clear rules that enforce the plain meaning of contracts between the parties. Furthermore, all Americans should be concerned about efforts to limit citizens' arbitration rights, and Congress should resist special-interest, lawyer-friendly amendments that weaken or undermine the purposes of the FAA.
Transportation/InfrastructureBy Charles Chieppo, James Stergios, Pioneer Institute for Public Policy ResearchPolicy Brief, 03/27/2013
Reform is hard work. A massive injection of new money into Massachusetts’ troubled transportation system is no substitute for a serious plan that delineates clear and achievable goals, accountability for results, and provides the money to move forward. With this policy brief, Pioneer Institute attempts to identify goals and objectives, funding sources, and a financial and legislative framework to begin reinvesting in the commonwealth’s transportation network. The goal of new investment should be to improve the safety of the network and the mobility of its customers.
Health CareBy Grace-Marie Turner, Avik Roy, Galen InstituteStudies, 03/27/2013
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam still is undecided about whether to recommend expanding TennCare to families earning up to $30,000 a year, as the Affordable Care Act allows. ” We’re doing the homework on three or four things: The cost to the state, the health impacts on the people who are going to be covered, the financial impacts on the hospitals,” Haslam told reporters. But state legislators are cautious, fearing hidden cost down the road. They are correct to be concerned. Here are twelve reasons Tennessee should not expand its TennCare program and instead should demand from Washington greater control over spending to better fit coverage expansion with the state’s needs, resources, and budget.
Health CareBy Grace-Marie Turner, Galen InstituteStudies, 03/27/2013
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a severe critic of the health overhaul law in the past, has announced his budget would endorse the dramatic expansion of Medicaid, America’s deeply flawed, expensive health program for the poor, allowed by the law. Kasich’s decision has big ramifications for both the politics and policy of the health reform debate. While many who support a larger role for government in the health sector are cheering his decision, expanding Medicaid will further increase premiums for people with private insurance, relegate hundreds of thousands more people to a failing program, and further weaken the financial condition of Ohio’s hospitals.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Forrest Capie, Geoffrey Wood, Institute of Economic AffairsResearch, 03/27/2013
Capital regulation is relatively recent and led to banks trying to game the rules contributing to the complexity that was created in the banking system. An analysis of history demonstrates that capital regulation is not necessary if banks are not underwritten by the state. The principle of many of the reforms to banking law and regulation currently being proposed or implemented is correct. That principle, which should be at the heart of regulatory reform, is that banks should be wound up in an orderly way if they fail. The whole apparatus of bank capital regulation which has done so much to make the banking system more opaque should be abandoned.
Transportation/InfrastructureBy Bonner R. Cohen, James Madison InstitutePolicy Brief, 03/27/2013
A crisis is plaguing underground water and wastewater systems at a time when the federal government is increasingly unable to provide state and local governments with financial aid for this kind of infrastructure, as was common in the past. Investor-owned utilities, with their ability to raise funds from capital markets and apply their business acumen to complex logistical undertakings, have been—and continue to be—well positioned to provide water and wastewater services. To increase the cost-efficiency of these systems, Florida should review outdated regulations that tend to preclude both public and private water utilities from using new products and from taking advantage of recent technological advances in this field.
EducationBy Amanda Clark, Maine Heritage Policy CenterReport, 03/27/2013
Online learning embodies the greatest qualities of customized learning. Through online learning, classmates can progress in courses at their own pace, according to their strengths and weaknesses in different subjects. Teachers, who tirelessly strive to meet the needs and interests of each of her students, can devote more time to tracking and encouraging the progress of their students as unique individuals. The bottom line is leveraging technology maximizes results.
Transportation/InfrastructureBy Wendell Cox, Ronald D. Utt, Maryland Public Policy InstituteStudies, 03/27/2013
Maryland Governor O’Malley has recently proposed an increase in the state’s taxation of motor fuels. Under the O’Malley plan the fuel tax would be reduced by 5 cents, and the gap filled with a sales tax on the wholesale price of gasoline that starts out at 2 percent the first year (6.2 cents per gallon at current wholesale prices), rises to 4 percent the next year, and could rise to 6 percent in 2015 if the U.S. Congress fails to enact legislation that would require all Internet sales to be taxed at each state’s prevailing sales tax rate.
EducationBy Vance H. Freid, The Heritage FoundationCenter for Policy Innovation Discussion Paper, 03/27/2013
College in America will look very different in just a few years, thanks to remarkable innovations taking place in technology and business models in higher education. The advance of Online 2.0 will trigger structural changes in what we mean by a “college education.” Students in the future will be more likely to pursue their studies in an “unbundled” system in which different institutions provide different parts of a student’s higher education experience. Students will be more likely to learn through a blend of online coursework and a residential experience and will likely assemble a guided and rounded transcript of courses and experiences that are independently credentialed, allowing future employers to have a better measure of their skills.
Budget & TaxationBy Jennifer L. Crull, Public Interest InstitutePolicy Study, 03/26/2013
Currently in the state of Iowa we have over 2,000 “taxing authorities” when it comes to property taxes. While property taxes are an issue that many entities have a very vested interest in, we need to work to decrease the burden that has been placed on all property owners. The only way we can do this is with bold thinking and the Iowa House and Senate working together. With both parties stating that they want to see property tax reform happen this year, both sides need to work to come to the solution that is best for everyone in Iowa.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy Trey Moore, Scott Sumner, Beacon Center of TennesseePolicy Brief, 03/26/2013
The right to private property is a bedrock of our nation’s founding. But Tennessee’s civil asset forfeiture laws have created a climate ripe for corruption. These laws, by allowing and incentivizing law enforcement agencies to profit directly from property seizures, have caused an unsavory shift in agency priorities.
Budget & TaxationBy Jason Mercier, Washington Policy CenterLegislative Memo, 03/26/2013
A long-standing Washington Policy Center recommendation is that the state transition from costly defined-benefit pension plans to a stable defined-contribution retirement plan for new state employees. A defined-benefit plan promises workers they will receive a certain dollar benefit level every month after they retire, while a defined-contribution plan provides workers a stable contribution toward the pension during their working life, along with tax-free employee contributions, which the worker can draw from during retirement.
EducationBy Liv Finne, Washington Policy CenterPolicy Brief, 03/26/2013
In November 2012, voters passed Initiative 1240 allowing charter schools in Washington state. The law provides that eight charter schools may open each year, for a total of 40 schools over five years. This Policy Brief presents the timeline for the opening of the first charter schools, describes the steps in the application process and summarizes the information that successful charter school applications must contain.
Regulation & DeregulationBy Erin Shannon, Washington Policy CenterLegislative Memo, 03/26/2013
Longstanding Washington Policy Center recommendations for improving the state’s regulatory climate include: streamlining regulations, improving how regulatory information is communicated to the public, providing a centralized means by which businesses transact with government, and instilling accountability into agency rulemaking by requiring the Governor’s signature. This Legislative Memo provides an overview and analysis of four bills: SB 5679, SB 5680, SB 5718 and SB 5641. Three of the bills have companion bills in the House. These proposals would significantly reform and simplify our state’s regulatory policy and improve the state’s business climate.
Health CareBy M. Todd Henderson, Cato InstituteRegulation, 03/26/2013
The big question is whether birth control should be paid for via health insurance or some other means. Insurance seems like an odd fit for a small, predictable recurring expense like birth control. Insurance is usually thought of as a risk-sharing mechanism for unforeseeable expenses. I insure my car against loss, but not the costs I incur to refill it with fuel each week.
Retirement/Social SecurityBy Jeffrey S. Wolfe, David W. Engel, Cato InstituteRegulation, 03/26/2013
President Bill Clinton once observed that “the price of doing the same old thing is far higher than the price of change.” It is no less so in the present condition of the Social Security disability program. Recent hearings before the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations and the House Subcommittee on Social Security portend deficit spending for disability benefits by 2016. It is time for creative, meaningful change. It will take courage to make the needed legislative changes, and change will be politically difficult. But to do nothing—to continue sailing the current course—would mean an even greater hardship.
Retirement/Social SecurityBy Jagadeesh Gokhale, Cato InstituteRegulation, 03/26/2013
The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program—a growing component of the U.S. Social Security system—is facing insolvency in just three years. The program’s benefit expenditures already exceed its total income, and its trustees expect its trust fund to be exhausted by the year 2016. We have, however, yet to see any stirring among members of Congress on this issue. This article takes a broader look at the program’s incentive effects on people currently working and people already on the program’s rolls but who appear to possess significant work abilities. It also surveys some of the literature on reform options for SSDI.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Timothy Sandefur, Cato InstituteRegulation, 03/26/2013
The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech. It doesn’t differentiate between categories of speech, giving preference to some types over others. But for decades, the U.S. Supreme Court has employed the doctrine of “commercial speech” to allow legislatures and regulatory agencies to limit the expressive rights of business owners in ways that would never be tolerated with regard to political or religious expression. A petition recently filed with the Supreme Court provides a stark example of the problems created by the inconsistent and confusing body of “commercial speech” law.
Regulation & DeregulationBy Sam Batkins, Ike Brannon, Cato InstituteRegulation, 03/26/2013
Many denizens of the regulatory community favor some sort of overhaul of how we propose, analyze, and implement the thousands of rules issued by government agencies each year. Could Congress and the White House work together to create an improved regulatory process that is more transparent, produces objective analysis, and lessens the role of politics in the regulatory process? Several scholars and recent Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) administrators have proposed three reform options to achieve just that, each of which takes a markedly different route to improving the current process.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Richard L. Gordon, Cato InstituteRegulation, 03/26/2013
The minimum complaint with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is that defects in environmental legislation denounced by economists for decades continue to produce bad results. Environmental statutes set impossibly ambitious pollution standards. The resulting policies are expensive to implement. Those policies lead to EPA and industry delay, which then leads to environmentalists’ use of lawsuits to enforce the ambitious standards. Accordingly, interminable delay becomes inevitable.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Jonathan A. Lesser, Cato InstituteRegulation, 03/26/2013
Many arguments have been made against subsidies for energy production, and against subsidies in general. By their very nature, subsidies distort markets and are economically inefficient, driving out legitimate competitors and leading to higher prices in the long run. They reduce incentives to innovate and improve operating efficiency. Subsidies are also inequitable because their costs are borne by the many while their benefits accrue to the—often politically connected—few.
Regulation & DeregulationBy Omri Ben-Shahar, Kyle D. Logue, Cato InstituteRegulation, 03/26/2013
Through private contracting, insurers monitor safety in ways that legal commands cannot. Insurers regulate risk in various ways. From mandating specific investments in risk reduction, to offering premium discounts for favorable claims experience, to selling cost-containment expertise to policyholders, and even to the design of safety technologies and codes, insurers perform many of the same regulatory functions that government regulators and courts perform. However, in many (though obviously not all) situations, private insurers, because of their inherent informational comparative advantage, should be expected to do the job of regulation better than public regulators and courts.
Budget & TaxationBy Steve Conover, American Enterprise InstituteThe American, 03/25/2013
The Senate and House budgets agree that this economy needs more growth and both predict the same growth levels—yet the Senate budget proposes higher spending, taxes, and debt than the House budget. Therein lies an opportunity for the GOP.
EducationBy Reuven Brenner, American Enterprise InstituteThe American, 03/25/2013
Political discussion today is dominated by a pessimistic tone about government deficits, taxes, and our aging population. But, surprising as it may seem, a drastic overhaul of the nation’s education system could fix many of our problems. Such changes would create a variety of benefits: decreased government spending; more sustainable entitlement programs; greater equality; and a better-disciplined younger generation; not to mention an end to the mumbo jumbo that dominates academia and policy debates today.
Family, Culture & CommunityBy Ryan T. Anderson, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 03/25/2013
Government recognizes marriage because it benefits society in a way that no other relationship or institution does. Government policies should support marriage and protect it rather than undermine it. Promoting marriage does not ban any type of relationship. All Americans have the freedom to live and love as they choose, but no one has a right to redefine marriage for everyone else. Those who believe in monogamy and exclusivity—and the benefits that these bring to orderly procreation and child well-being—should take note.
EducationBy Jason Richwine, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 03/25/2013
Despite the centrality of pensions in debates over government budgeting and education policy, the federal government dramatically underestimates teacher pension costs in its official education spending figures. States report to the federal government only the yearly contributions to teacher pension funds rather than the present value of accrued benefits. Since states and local school districts routinely contribute less to their pension funds than is needed to cover future benefits, correcting this accounting problem could add tens of billions of dollars—somewhere around $1,000 per pupil—to official education spending estimates. The federal government should revise its data collection procedures to require proper accounting of teacher pension costs, giving taxpayers a more accurate picture of education expenditures.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy Paul Rosenzweig, Daniel J. Dew, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 03/25/2013
Developed over the course of hundreds of years, the Anglo–American legal system contains several key provisions that, when used properly, guard against wrongful criminal convictions. These provisions, however, are under attack by America’s legislators and their desire to eliminate mens rea (“guilty mind”) requirements from U.S. criminal law. The loss of this guilty mind requirement would destroy Americans’ primary defense against false accusations and Kafka-esque legal proceedings. How the Supreme Court of the United States rules (if the Court does choose to rule) on Shelton v. Sec’y, Dep’t of Corrections will have a tremendous impact on one of America’s primary core liberties.
Health CareBy Michael F. Cannon, Cato InstituteWhite Paper, 03/25/2013
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) currently denies states the freedom to tailor health care reforms to their needs. States can regain that freedom by blocking major provisions of that law and forcing Congress to reopen it. Congress granted states the power to block the PPACA’s employer mandate, individual mandate, and deficit pending by refusing to create Exchanges. NFIB v. Sebelius freed states to decline not just part of the Medicaid expansion, as the Obama administration claims, but all of it. Approval of a strengthened Health Care Freedom Act can prevent even the federal government from operating PPACA Exchanges. A critical mass of states could force Congress to repeal the law.
National SecurityBy Mackenzie Eaglen, American Enterprise InstituteReport, 03/25/2013
Sequestration is here, and with it, roughly $500 billion in cuts to the US Department of Defense (DoD) over the next nine years. These cuts come on top of nearly $1 trillion in defense budget reductions since fiscal year 2010 and have provoked harsh criticism from many of America’s senior military and political leaders. As Pentagon leaders begin to execute the cuts mandated under sequestration, they face a fundamental choice: they can continue business as usual and attempt to explain away growing problems, or they can address structural drivers of military spending. Although defense officials did not choose sequestration, they can use this latest budget cut as an opportunity for change. Smart, targeted cuts can produce savings while attempting to protect tip-of-the-spear capabilities from further harm. The road to reform is clear. The question is whether America’s senior civilian and military leadership will have the courage to tackle these major enterprises.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy John H. Makin, American Enterprise InstituteEconomic Outlook, 03/25/2013
The banking system in Cyprus is currently in a state of crisis, only narrowly avoiding collapse through a recent agreement between the nation and the European Union (EU) and International Monetary Fund (IMF). The €10 billion rescue package includes the condition that Cyprus come up with a portion of the rescue funds through a tax—now called a “restructuring”—on deposits over €100,000 in the nation’s banks. Such a tax cripples Cyprus’s banks and frightens depositors in other debt-laden weak economies like Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Italy. Once again the EU, European Central Bank, and IMF “troika” has doubled down on a losing bet to rescue the eurozone from a breakup. They fail to acknowledge that Cyprus and Greece cannot be in a currency zone with Germany, Holland, and Finland.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Nicolas Loris, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 03/25/2013
The old adage “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is” undoubtedly applies to alternative fuel investments that need government support. Too many times, politicians have promised that a few billion taxpayer dollars would fundamentally transform the energy sector. These attempts have done little else but waste taxpayer money and benefit special interests. Congress should reject the idea of an Energy Security Trust Fund and instead open access to federal energy resources and remove subsidies for all energy sources and technologies.
Transportation/InfrastructureBy Emily Goff, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 03/25/2013
In addressing transportation funding challenges, lawmakers should avoid saddling their citizens with onerous tax increases. Instead, they should examine current spending and rethink costly, underperforming programs in order to efficiently deploy resources while living within their means. The onerous tax hikes that Virginia and Maryland would impose on their motorists, consumers, and businesses do not meet this test.