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Recent Policy Studies
Budget & TaxationBy Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy Alternatives, Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy AlternativesFact Sheet, 04/03/2013
Governor Corbett’s proposed budget of $28.4 billion in general fund spending and $67.6 billion in spending from all funds represents our highest spending levels ever—exceeding years when federal stimulus dollars inflated total spending. This budget, however, still reflects a reduction from 2010-11 spending levels when adjusting for inflation.
LaborBy King Banaian, Center of the American ExperimentPolicy in Detail, 04/03/2013
There is more consensus over the proposition that larger changes in the minimum wage are more likely to have negative effects. Including the effects of the last increase under federal law, the federal minimum wage would rise 75 percent in the last 6 years under President Obama’s proposal; the Minnesota proposals would raise the Minnesota rate as much as 72 percent. I do not believe 72 percent is a modest increase.
ImmigrationBy Steven A. Camarota, Karen Zeigler, Center for Immigration StudiesBackgrounder, 04/03/2013
Eight U.S. Senators from seven states have together proposed an immigration plan allowing illegal immigrants to remain in the country and increasing legal immigration in the future. A number of these senators, collectively known as the Gang 8 (Gof8), seem to believe that there are few Americans available to fill jobs that require relatively little education.5 Moreover, labor and business leaders working with the gang are negotiating a new program to bring in more immigrants to fill “lesser-skilled” jobs.6 The idea that there is a general labor shortage in the United States or a shortage of workers to fill lower-wage jobs that require modest levels of education is not supported by the data. Ironically, unemployment and non-work are somewhat more pronounced in the states represented by the Gof8.
ImmigrationBy David North, Center for Immigration StudiesBackgrounder, 04/03/2013
If the United States were to have yet another amnesty program for illegal aliens—something I oppose—what should the fee be for really checking each application? Currently United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) charges $465 to process (rubber-stamp?) the applications for Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals, the administration’s on-going amnesty for some under-31 illegal aliens. The scrutiny in this program is so skimpy that while, as of March 14, 2013, more than 450,000 applications had been filed (and more than 245,000 had been approved), USCIS had yet to announce the denial of a single one of them.
ImmigrationBy David North, Center for Immigration StudiesBackgrounder, 04/03/2013
The frequently heard comment “You just can’t deport 11 million people” reflects a mistaken mental image of the illegal alien population. Because the illegal alien population is not static; it is a churning group, some newly arrived, some here for a long time, and many thinking about, planning to, or actually leaving through a wide variety of exits. If we could limit the number of new entrants and make it less attractive for illegal ones to stay and make it easier and more attractive to leave, then we could decrease the size of the illegal alien population without any need to deport them all, as the graphic below illustrates.
National SecurityBy Brian Slattery, Luke Coffey, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 04/03/2013
The Arctic region is becoming increasingly important to U.S. national interests. Ice in the Arctic has reached the lowest level since records began in 1979, opening up new possibilities for maritime trade, tourism, and natural resource exploration. Consequently, more actors than ever before will be operating in the Arctic region. This reality will present both challenges and opportunities for the United States. The U.S. Coast Guard will play a vital role in ensuring America’s interests in the Arctic. In order to do so, the sea service needs to be properly funded and resourced.
Budget & TaxationBy Curtis S. Dubay, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 04/03/2013
Right now, Americans are enduring the pain of filling out confusing tax forms before the April 15 deadline for completing their 2012 income taxes. The frustration they feel today will be even worse next year, however. That is when they will feel the sting of recent tax increases resulting from the fiscal cliff deal Congress struck earlier this year.
Economic GrowthBy Michael Hough, et al., American Legislative Exchange CouncilReport, 04/03/2013
State lawmakers can conquer today’s economic challenges by refocusing on our nation’s founding principles of limited government and free markets. The states, not Washington, D.C., must take the lead in restarting America’s economic engine and putting people back to work.
Elections, Transparency, & AccountabilityBy W. James Antle, Capital Research CenterFoundation Watch, 04/03/2013
The Applied Research Center has a benign-sounding name, but this community organizing group is a scrappy leader among new groups that use anti-racist rhetoric to advance the Left’s agenda.
PhilanthropyBy Kirk MacDonald, Capital Research CenterFoundation Watch, 04/03/2013
The Carnegie Corporation is the largest single philanthropy created by Andrew Carnegie, whose own life is a tribute to the possibilities of the American dream. Yet thanks to the lack of guidance Carnegie gave the Corporation, it soon betrayed his own views and began eroding the very system that made his success possible.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Kevin Mooney, Capital Research CenterGreen Watch, 04/03/2013
The politicization of science, and leftists’ use of pseudoscience, can be traced back many decades, notably to the Left’s false attacks 30 years ago on President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative. Today, politicized science and anti-American ideology combine to frustrate natural gas development and other innovations that could help the nation be stronger and more secure. The biggest losers include average Americans who would benefit directly from fracking.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Neil Maghami, Capital Research CenterGreen Watch, 04/03/2013
Americans are all too familiar with fear-mongering campaigns organized by “green” nonprofits and their big foundation backers. Now some major environmentalist organizations appear to be shifting their efforts from stirring anxieties about the global atmosphere to new campaigns involving the world’s oceans. The focus of this new push is the “Global Partnership for Oceans,” which is yet another effort to squash private development of the world’s resources in favor of creating international bureaucracies that can stifle development around the world.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Blake Hurst, American Enterprise InstituteThe American, 04/02/2013
Farmers have been taking on mounting debt, creating an unsustainable increase in land prices and risking a crash that would ripple through our economy. Farmers may well be collateral damage in the quantitative easing battle and are rightly worried that the next victim of our monetary policy will be wearing overalls when the music stops.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Mauricio Claver-Carone, American Enterprise InstituteThe American, 04/02/2013
Cuba’s Castro brothers have spent billions of dollars over the last decade seducing U.S. farm bureaus and agri-business to lobby Congress to support lifting sanctions on Cuba. Recently recognizing that Congress is unlikely to support unconditional changes, and perceiving a possible opening with the new Secretary of State John Kerry, Castro lobbyists have shifted their focus to the Obama administration and a related goal: the removal of Cuba from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism. However, doing so would hand Havana a major – and unmerited – diplomatic victory.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Alex J. Pollock, American Enterprise InstituteArticle, 04/02/2013
It has been almost seven years since the mid-2006 peak of the spectacular U.S. housing bubble. With an American housing recovery now at last under way, it is a good time to re-state the repetitive lessons of financial history. The bubble, the panics and crises of 2007-09, and the extended bust and post-bubble doldrums, present a striking case of recurring financial and political patterns. This is true not only in the U.S., but also in the European housing and government debt disasters. These patterns notably include the painful dilemmas of governments when using taxpayers’ money to offset the losses of financial firms, all in the name of financial stability.
Economic GrowthBy Stephen D. Oliner, Daniel E. Sichel, David M. Byrne, American Enterprise InstituteWorking Paper, 04/02/2013
Given the slowdown in labor productivity growth in the mid-2000s, some have argued that the boost to labor productivity from IT may have run its course. This paper contributes three types of evidence to this debate. First, we show that since 2004, IT has continued to make a significant contribution to labor productivity growth in the United States, though it is no longer providing the boost it did during the productivity resurgence from 1995 to 2004. Second, we present evidence that semiconductor technology, a key ingredient of the IT revolution, has continued to advance at a rapid pace and that the BLS price index for microprocesssors may have substantially understated the rate of decline in prices in recent years. Finally, we develop projections of growth in trend labor productivity in the nonfarm business sector.
Economic GrowthBy Michael R. Strain, American Enterprise InstituteWorking Paper, 04/02/2013
The instability of labor earnings in the United States contributes to earnings inequality and may diminish household welfare. Despite the importance of earnings instability little is known about its correlates or causes. This paper seeks to better understand earnings instability by studying whether volatile firms pay volatile earnings. I am the first to directly test the relationship between earnings instability and firm employment instability using linked employer-employee data. I find a positive and statistically significant relationship between the two that remains when the effect is estimated using only within-firm variation. This suggests that the effect is a feature of the way workers are being paid by their employer.
Health CareBy Thomas P. Miller, American Enterprise InstituteHealth Policy Outlook, 04/02/2013
Finding economically feasible and politically safe options for cutting costs in Medicare has proven to be no easy task. A variety of government organizations, including the Congressional Budget Office and Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, and health policy researchers, such as MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, have put forth plans to improve the program, but they often diminish potential savings by playing it too safe. The best option for sustainable reform appears to be a major-risk approach toward restructuring cost-sharing requirements. This involves a higher coinsurance rate and an income-related stop-loss cap on participants’ annual cost-sharing liabilities. An additional key to subsidizing high-income seniors less is by restricting their use of supplemental insurance such as Medigap for early-dollar spending, rather than taxing the coverage itself.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Clark Neily, Dick M. Carpenter, Institute for JusticeReport, 04/02/2013
The past five decades have seen a relentless expansion in the size of government and a sharp increase in the number of liberty-stifling laws and regulations at every level. Despite this explosion of political power, commentators and scholars of all ideological stripes appear to worry more about the supposed growth of judicial power. Those who decry so-called “judicial activism” complain that the Supreme Court too frequently strikes down the acts of elected representatives, infringes on the prerogatives of the executive branch or upends settled law by overturning its own precedents. This report puts those claims to the test with empirical data and concludes that we suffer not from rampant judicial activism, but rather from too little judicial engagement.
Regulation & DeregulationBy David M. Primo, Institute for JusticeReport, 04/02/2013
Disclosure, proponents claim, produces a better functioning democracy: By requiring groups that advocate for or against issues on the ballot to reveal their funding sources and how they spend their money, voters gain valuable insights into the issues themselves and make more informed voting decisions. Even better, they say, it is a policy that comes with few costs; it is “merely” disclosure. But what if these claims are wrong? In fact, as this report shows, the research on the effects of mandatory disclosure for ballot issue campaigns finds exactly that. Disclosure does little to help voters and imposes substantial costs on those wishing to participate in democratic debate.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy Tim Keller, Diana Simpson, Dick M. Carpenter, Institute for JusticeReport, 04/02/2013
Arizona’s civil forfeiture laws need to be reformed. In the upside-down world of civil forfeiture, police and prosecutors can seize and keep cash and property that was allegedly involved in criminal activity—without ever proving a crime was actually committed. Unlike criminal forfeiture, with civil forfeiture a property owner need not be found guilty of a crime—or even charged with a crime—to permanently lose his or her cash, car, home or other property. Even property owners who are acquitted of crimes can still lose their property. As the Arizona Daily Star reported, a Picture Rocks woman was acquitted of criminal charges but was still forced to forfeit her house, where the alleged crime occurred. According to one deputy county attorney, pursuing forfeiture even when a defendant has been acquitted of criminal charges is not unusual.
National SecurityBy Steven P. Bucci, Paul Rosenzweig, David Inserra, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 04/02/2013
Cybersecurity is one of the most critical issues the U.S. faces today. The threats are real and the need is pressing. Despite the best intentions of those involved with previous cyber legislative efforts, a regulatory basis simply will not work: It will not improve security and may actually lower it by providing a false level of comfort and tying the private sector down with outdated regulations. Cyberspace’s dynamic nature must be acknowledged and addressed by policies that are equally dynamic. Heritage Foundation national security analysts detail seven measures that the U.S. should implement to protect its assets and interests in the cyber domain.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Franklin L. Lavin, The Heritage FoundationHeritage Lecture, 04/02/2013
There are four fundamental issues that China’s new leaders must face: (1) economic performance, (2) social stability, (3) leadership cohesion, and (4) foreign policy. How the People’s Republic of China addresses these issues will determine its success or failure at home, and will also contribute to either friction or comity in Asia in the coming years. On January 23, 2013, long-time “China hand” Ambassador Frank Lavin shared his insights on these issues with an audience at The Heritage Foundation.
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.