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Recent Policy Studies
Budget & TaxationBy Joshua Sharf, Independence InstituteIssue Backgrounder, 04/29/2013
Colorado’s Public Employee Retirement Association (PERA) is the State’s largest pension plan, with more than 483,000 members as of 2011. Government contributions exceeded $1 billion in FY2011. PERA has assets of $37.5 billion, balanced against reported accrued liabilities of $62.5 billion, for an overall funded ratio of 59.9 percent and an unfunded liability of $25 billion. The liability translates into an obligation of nearly $13,000 for each of Colorado’s two million households. In reality, the actual funded ratio may be significantly lower, and the unfunded liability for which the taxpayers are currently responsible may be much higher.
Information TechnologyBy Paul Rosenzweig, Hoover InstitutionEssay, 04/29/2013
Informally, private sector leaders in the IT/Telecoms space often say they don’t need anything from the government. Indeed, their repeated refrain is often that government involvement will stifle innovation rather than foster security. As we shall see, that argument has great appeal. Yet one of the most sophisticated players in the entire domain, Google, turned to the government for help. What does that say about the desirability of public/private cooperation in cybersecurity?
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Desmond Lachman, American Enterprise InstituteThe American, 04/29/2013
By destroying Cyprus’s bank-centric business model and by imposing severe austerity on the country within a euro straitjacket, the International Monetary Fund–European Union bailout package for Cyprus is likely to lead to the literal collapse of the Cypriot economy over the next year and to Cyprus’s exit from the euro. Such a course of events will have important ramifications for the rest of the European Monetary Union.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Alex J. Pollock, American Enterprise InstituteThe American, 04/29/2013
Today, the Federal Reserve is a huge investor in real estate loans. It owns over $1.1 trillion of them — and keeps buying more — in the form of mortgage-backed securities (MBS). But don’t worry about the credit risk of these mortgage loans: the MBS the Fed keeps buying at the top of the market are guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Whoops: Fannie and Freddie both went completely broke, suffering staggering aggregate losses of $246 billion, which wiped out all their capital and a lot more. But not to worry: Fannie and Freddie were given new capital — $187 billion of it — by the U.S. Treasury, in order to bring their capital up to zero. The government effectively now owns and runs both of them; they are no longer “government-sponsored enterprises,” but simply part of the government.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Michael Mazza, American Enterprise InstituteThe American, 04/29/2013
The Asia-Pacific’s most dangerous crisis may be going overlooked due to North Korean threats. Despite the Obama administration’s ‘pivot’ to the region, Asian allies worry that the United States will not continue to be a steadfast partner. As tensions in the East China Sea have heated up over the past year, analysts, journalists, and businessmen have been asking two questions: Could Japan and China really come to blows over the Senkaku (or, in Chinese, “Diaoyu”) Islands? Would the United States really allow itself to be drawn into a conflict over a handful of obscure, uninhabited rocks? These questions are based on an errant assumption that the roiling conflict is, at heart, about ownership of the Senkakus. It is not.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Edward J. Pinto, American Enterprise InstituteFHA Watch, 04/29/2013
Much misinformation exists regarding the rigor of the Federal Housing Administration’s (FHA’s) capital adequacy standards compared to the private sector. Recently, this statement was made at a House Committee on Financial Services’ Insurance Subcommittee hearing: The requirement of FHA to hold 30 years’ worth of expected claims is 30 times more than that required of banks, which are only required by the Financial Accounting Standards Board to hold one year of reserves. Any private financial institution that proposed to calculate its capital in the same manner as the FHA would be stripped of its charter before being escorted out of the room by its prudential regulator.
Budget & TaxationBy John H. Makin, American Enterprise InstituteEconomic Outlook, 04/29/2013
Nearly five years have passed since the great financial crisis that accompanied the collapses of Bear Stearns (March 2008) and Lehman Brothers (September 2008). The global economy has been administered massive doses of stimulus and has grown dependent on fiscal and monetary stances that cannot continue indefinitely. That said, withdrawing stimulus too rapidly, as has been done in parts of southern Europe, could precipitate extreme economic weakness that will eventually force abandonment of austerity amid political turmoil. This process may already have begun in Italy and Spain, and it is certainly underway in Greece. Add to this some new research that challenges the advisability of fiscal austerity, and you have the makings of an intense debate over post-crisis macro policy. With luck, we will learn something; otherwise, we may be in for continued turbulence.
National SecurityBy Luke Coffey, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 04/29/2013
In November 2013, NATO will conduct a military training exercise called Steadfast Jazz 2013. The exercise will be held in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. According to NATO, the primary purpose of the exercise is to certify command and control elements of its NATO Response Force. However, considering the size, timing, and location of the exercise, it will also help to reassure Poland and the Baltic states of NATO’s commitment to their territorial defense. In light of President Obama’s troop reductions in Europe, the U.S. should send significant numbers of troops to the exercise in order to demonstrate America’s commitment to trans-Atlantic security at a time when America’s commitment is being questioned.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Nicolas Loris, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 04/29/2013
Lawmakers have introduced legislation that would allow renewable energy producers to form Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs). MLPs are taxed as limited partnerships but publicly traded on the stock market. In the energy sector, the ability to form MLPs is available for mineral extraction, natural gas, oil, pipelines, geothermal, and the transportation and storage of ethanol, biodiesel, and other alternative fuels. Other renewable energy generation and commercial nuclear activities do not qualify. Congress should allow all energy project investors to form MLPs, but it should also remove economically unjustified tax credits for both conventional and renewable energy sources and technologies while lowering the corporate tax rate to encourage investment. Congress can further spur investment by allowing all companies the ability to expense their full capital costs immediately.
EducationBy Jason Richwine, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 04/29/2013
As Congress again considers preventing the interest rate on federal student loans from doubling, the cost to taxpayers should be a central issue. However, the federal government’s accounting practices systematically understate the cost of student loans by failing to account for market risk. A superior method called “fair value accounting,” which is the strong preference of academic economists and the Congressional Budget Office, would show considerably greater costs due to the risk associated with expecting loan repayments.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Sunjoy Joshi, et al., The Heritage FoundationSpecial Report, 04/29/2013
Few relationships among major powers have been transformed so comprehensively in recent years as that between India and the United States. Yet, there is a growing sense in both New Delhi and Washington that the much-heralded partnership has not lived up to its promise. In short, the relationship has plateaued. This Special Report by the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi and The Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., is about understanding this paradox and finding ways to rekindle the strategic enthusiasm between the two countries. The sections in this report offer specific proposals for advancing bilateral cooperation in various sectors, such as the economy, defense, regional security in East and Southwest Asia, nonproliferation, and counterterrorism.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Moisés Naím, Reason FoundationReason, 04/23/2013
The end of the Cold War and the birth of the Internet helped enable the rise of today’s micropowers, but they were by no means the only important factors. We need to look at deeper transformations in how, where, how long, and how well we live. These changes can be usefully imagined in three categories: the More Revolution, the Mobility Revolution, and the Mentality Revolution. The first is swamping the barriers to power, the second is circumventing them, and the third is undercutting them.
Health CareBy Jeffrey A. Singer, Reason FoundationReason, 04/23/2013
Government interventions over the past four decades have yielded a cascade of perverse incentives, bureaucratic diktats, and economic pressures that together are forcing doctors to sacrifice their independent professional medical judgment, and their integrity. The consequence is clear: Many doctors from my generation are exiting the field. Others are seeing their private practices threatened with bankruptcy, or are giving up their autonomy for the life of a shift-working hospital employee. Governments and hospital administrators hold all the power, while doctors—and worse still, patients—hold none.
LaborBy John Leeth, Nathan Hale, Mercatus CenterMercatus on Policy, 04/23/2013
Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act) to create a safer working environment. The Act created two federal agencies: the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which establishes and enforces workplace safety and health standards, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which researches the causes and remedies of occupational injuries and illnesses. OSHA is the fourth pillar of the US safety policy system, the others being the legal system, state workers’ compensation insurance programs, and the labor market. Since the OSH Act was passed, workplace fatalities have fallen substantially, but this decrease is a continuation of a trend that began long before 1970.
Economic and Political ThoughtBy Randall G. Holcombe, Andrea Castillo, Mercatus CenterBook, 04/23/2013
Political and economic systems either allow exchange and resource allocation to take place through mutual agreement under a system of liberalism, or force them to take place under a system of cronyism in which some people have the power to direct the activities of others. This book seeks to clarify the differences between liberalism and cronyism by scrutinizing the actual operation of various political and economic systems. Examples include historical systems such as fascism in Germany between the world wars and socialism in the former Soviet Union, as well as contemporary systems such as majoritarianism and industrial policy. By examining how real governments have operated, this book demonstrates why—despite their diverse designs—in practice all political and economic systems are variants of either liberalism or cronyism.
Budget & TaxationBy Michael Lowrey, John Locke FoundationPolicy Report, 04/23/2013
Counties and towns are critical levels of government in North Carolina, providing or administering many services while taking in billions of dollars of revenue. This is especially true as the state government has increasingly shifted more taxing authority to localities to make up for money kept by the state. While the importance of county and municipal government is great, obtaining comparative data is difficult. To help address this problem, By The Numbers provides information on how much local government costs in every city and county in North Carolina.
EducationBy Matthew M. Chingos, Paul E. Peterson, Education NextEducation Next, 04/23/2013
In this paper, we extend the original evaluation of the School Choice Scholarships Foundation program by estimating impacts of the offer of a voucher on college enrollment. Our results provide the first experimental evidence of the effects of a voucher intervention on this outcome. The study is also notable for obtaining information on college enrollments for 99 percent of study participants, greatly reducing the potential for bias due to attrition from the evaluation. We find large positive impacts on college enrollment for African American students but not for Hispanic students. Impact data for the small group of students from other backgrounds are too noisy to produce reliable evidence.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy Richard A. Epstein, Hoover InstitutionDefining Ideas, 04/23/2013
Matters of criminal procedure were not much in evidence in the aftermath of the bombings at the Boston Marathon. Nary a peep of protest was raised against the massive lock-down and manhunt that followed hard on the heels of that senseless tragedy. But now that some degree of normalcy has returned, it is important to think about these procedural issues. To that end, two recent Supreme Court cases address law enforcement and the Fourth Amendment. Florida v. Jardines deals with searches in connection with illegal drug trafficking and Missouri v. NcNeely addresses compelled blood tests on suspected drunk drivers.
Regulation & DeregulationBy Henry I. Miller, Hoover InstitutionDefining Ideas, 04/23/2013
The desire to support local farmers is admirable. But sentiment should not keep us from thinking critically about the consequences of coerced locavorism—that is, forcing municipal hospitals, schools, and other institutions to source an arbitrary percentage of their foods locally. But that is precisely what various cultural and political luminaries are suggesting we do.
EducationBy Greg Forster, Friedman Foundation for Educational ChoiceResearch, 04/23/2013
School choice improves academic outcomes by allowing students to find the schools that best match their needs, and by introducing healthy competition that keeps schools mission-focused. It saves money by eliminating administrative bloat and rewarding good stewardship of resources. It breaks down the barriers of residential segregation, drawing students together from diverse communities. And it strengthens democracy by accommodating diversity, de-politicizing the curriculum, and allowing schools the freedom to sustain the strong institutional cultures that are necessary to cultivate democratic virtues such as honesty, diligence, achievement, responsibility, service to others, civic participation, and respect for the rights of others.
Budget & TaxationBy Charles Lammam, Milagros Palacios, Fraser InstituteFraser Alert, 04/23/2013
The Canadian tax system is complex and no single number can give us a complete idea of who pays how much tax. This Alert examines what has happened to the tax bill of the average Canadian family over the past 51 years. To do this, we have constructed an index of the tax bill, the Canadian Consumer Tax Index, for the period 1961 to 2012. This Index reveals that there has been a dramatic increase in the average family’s tax bill from 1961 to 2012.
Health CareBy Nadeem Esmail, Fraser InstituteResearch, 04/23/2013
This paper focuses on the Japanese health care system which has been identified as a system that provides some of the best outcomes on an aggregate basis when compared with other developed nations that maintain universal approaches to health care insurance. A careful examination of this high-performing health care system will provide insights and information that will be useful in the Canadian debate over the future of Medicare. The Japanese health care system departs from the Canadian model in the following important ways: cost sharing for all forms of medical services, largely private provision of acute care hospital and surgical clinic services, activity-based funding for hospital care, permissibility of privately funded parallel health care, and a system of statutory independent insurers providing universal services to their insured populations on a largely premium-funded basis (commonly known as a social insurance system).
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Ross McKitrick, Fraser InstituteResearch, 04/23/2013
The Ontario Green Energy and Green Economy Act (herein the GEA) was passed in May 2009 with the purpose of addressing environmental concerns and promoting economic growth in Ontario. Its centerpiece is a schedule of subsidized electricity purchase contracts called Feed-in-Tariffs that provide long-term guarantees of above-market rates for power generated by wind turbine farms, solar panel installations, bio-energy plants and small hydroelectric generators. This report investigates the effect of the GEA on economic competitiveness in Ontario. It focuses on three questions: (1) Will the GEA materially improve environmental quality in Ontario? (2) Is it a cost-effective plan for accomplishing its goals? (3) Are the economic effects on households and leading economic sectors likely to be positive? The answer to each question is unambiguously negative.
ImmigrationBy George Borjas, Center for Immigration StudiesPolicy Analysis, 04/23/2013
At current levels of around one million immigrants per year, immigration makes the U.S. economy (GDP) significantly larger, with almost all of this increase in GDP accruing to the immigrants themselves as a payment for their labor services. For American workers, immigration is primarily a redistributive policy. Economic theory predicts that immigration will redistribute income by lowering the wages of competing American workers and increasing the wages of complementary American workers as well as profits for business owners and other “users” of immigrant labor. Although the overall net impact on the native-born is small, the loss or gain for particular groups of the population can be substantial. The best empirical research that tries to examine what has actually happened in the U.S. labor market aligns well with economy theory: An increase in the number of workers leads to lower wages. This report focuses on the labor market impact of immigration.
ImmigrationBy Steven A. Camarota, Center for Immigration StudiesPolicy Analysis, 04/23/2013
In making his case that immigration-induced population growth by itself will have a positive indirect impact on the economy and public coffers, Holtz-Eakin ignores the academic research showing that immigration does not significantly increase the income of natives. He also ignores the research that has examined the actual impact of immigration on public coffers. He can do this because he is not really interested in the actual characteristics of immigrants, even though all available evidence suggests that the fiscal impact of immigrants depends heavily on their education at arrival. His view is that by making the population larger and the country more densely settled, immigration will make the country richer, all evidence to the contrary. There might be a fiscal benefit from immigration-induced population growth. But Holtz-Eakin has certainly not made a convincing case for it.
Elections, Transparency, & AccountabilityBy Stephen Goldsmith, e21 – Economic Policies for the 21st CenturyEssay, 04/23/2013
These essays will highlight ways to make government more effective and responsive. We will show that leaders throughout the country can make a difference when they combine personal commitment, new technologies, citizen involvement, private sector innovation, competitive sourcing and new structures to unlock value. When all of these efforts are connected to true outcomes and real performance, taxpayers can receive the results they deserve.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy John Samples, Cato InstitutePolicy Analysis, 04/23/2013
Three years ago the U.S. Supreme Court decided the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. It found that Congress lacked the power to prohibit independent spending on electoral speech by corporations. A later lower-court decision, SpeechNow v. Federal Election Commission, applied Citizens United to such spending and related fundraising by individuals. Concerns about the putative political and electoral consequences of the Citizens United decision have fostered several proposals to amend the Constitution. Most simply propose giving Congress unchecked new power over spending on political speech, power that will be certainly abused. The old and new public purposes cited for restricting political spending and speech (preventing corruption, restoring equality, and others) are not persuasive in general and do not justify the breadth of power granted under these amendments.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Michael Rubin, American Enterprise InstituteMiddle Eastern Outlook, 04/23/2013
Tehran sees many of Africa’s 54 countries as easy picking in a zero-sum game for influence. In comparison with recent American presidents who made just three visits to Sub-Saharan Africa in the last decade, Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad travels to Africa at least annually, with key Iranian ministers visiting even more frequently. Iran’s strategy toward Africa has been threefold. First, Tehran is reaching out to countries voting in important international bodies such as the United Nations Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Board of Governors, as well as African states active in the Non-Aligned Movement and African Union. Second, Iranian officials seem to be prioritizing outreach to African countries that mine or are prospecting for uranium. And, third, senior Iranian officials are seeking to cement partnerships with littoral states that can provide the Iranian navy with access to strategic bases.
Health CareBy Roger Feldman, Bryan Dowd, Robert Coulam, American Enterprise InstituteReport, 04/23/2013
Competitive Bidding—Bids for a specific package of health services are submitted by competing health plans operating in a unique geographic area, which are then used as a reference point to determine the amount of federal contributions to premiums. An enrollee can pay extra if she chooses a more expensive plan whose bid is above the government’s contribution. The authors conclude that competitive bidding, as a vehicle for determining prices for Medicare health plans, holds the promise of substantial cost savings while protecting the health care needs of beneficiaries, regardless of the political question of determining the size of the entitlement.
Health CareBy James C. Capretta, American Enterprise InstituteReport, 04/23/2013
Medicare is the 800-pound gorilla of American health care. The misaligned incentives embedded in Medicare fee-for-service have affected the entire health care delivery system, driving up costs without commensurate increases in quality. In the end, real improvement will almost certainly require a more fundamental change than has been enacted to date: a market-based reform that corrects the flawed incentives that drive unnecessary spending in the current program.
Health CareBy Joseph Antos, American Enterprise InstituteReport, 04/23/2013
Premium Support—Replace Medicare’s current defined-benefit system with a defined contribution approach that provides a fixed subsidy to cover the cost of enrolling in an available health plan. Beneficiaries would receive a government contribution to purchase coverage and then be responsible for any extra premium. This reform incorporates competitive bidding and expands on it to include features such as a capped subsidy that is adjusted according to the health risk of the beneficiary.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Pierre Desrochers, American Enterprise InstituteThe American, 04/23/2013
With Earth Day near (this Monday), we hear the usual annual litany of laments from environmentalists, urging us to mend the errors of our industrial ways. Greed and profits, we are told in no uncertain terms, inevitably result in unmanageable pollution problems, the depletion of non-renewable resources, habitat and species destruction, and a regulatory “race to the bottom” among competing jurisdictions. Yet, as documented in several studies, our environment has paradoxically gotten cleaner and greener as we have become wealthier. The search for increased profitability has long delivered both economic and environmental improvements by promoting the evermore efficient use of material resources.
Budget & TaxationBy Blake Hurst, American Enterprise InstituteThe American, 04/23/2013
President Obama’s fiscal 2014 budget has a section prohibiting individuals from accumulating over $3 million in tax-preferred retirement accounts. The Obama administration’s proposed limits on ‘reasonable’ retirement savings will penalize success and patience in favor of the nebulous concept of fairness.
Retirement/Social SecurityBy Andrew G. Biggs, American Enterprise InstituteThe American, 04/23/2013
“Expanded Social Security,” a New America Foundation (NAF) policy white paper, argues for expanding Social Security by paying each retiree a flat annual benefit of $11,669 in addition to their traditional Social Security benefits. The idea is to provide the typical retiree with a guaranteed “replacement rate” of 60 percent of his pre-retirement earnings, with higher replacement rates for low earners. The supplement would cost around 3.7 percent of GDP. Added to Social Security’s forecasted cost of 5.6 percent of GDP in 2035, total outlays would reach 9.3 percent of GDP. This NAF paper misses a few important factors in thinking about Social Security reform including the fact that It would crowd out the private saving that drives our economy.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy Charles "Cully" Stimson, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 04/23/2013
Now that one of the Boston bombers, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, has been apprehended, naturally the discussion has turned to the most prudent way to deal with him given that there are so many unanswered questions about him and any possible ties to the continuing threat of terrorism. Should Tsarnaev be tried by a military commission? Should he be designated as an enemy combatant? Should the government invoke the “public safety exception” ostensibly allowing interrogation without giving him his Miranda warnings? Each of these and related questions require a review of the legal and policy options available to the government.