- Budget & Taxation
- Crime, Justice & the Law
- The Constitution
- Economic & Political Thought
- Economic Growth
- Elections, Transparency, & Accountability
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- Foreign Policy/ International Affairs
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- Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & Science
- Regulation & Deregulation
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- Acton Institute
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Recent Policy Studies
Health CareBy James C. Capretta, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, American Enterprise InstitutePaper, 05/02/2013
With the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s (PPACA) most significant provisions scheduled to take effect in 2014, advocates for an alternative reform have two apparent options: repeal and replace the PPACA when the time is right, or undertake sequential reforms intended to improve its policy outcomes. Of course, in the current political context, neither appears promising. Nevertheless, there is merit to continued evaluation of full-scale alternatives to the PPACA. One common defense of the law is that there has been no competing alternative, which is not true. But there is virtue to continuing to develop and refine as many alternatives as may be proposed. Toward that end, this short paper outlines one practical, conservative approach to replacing the law with a market-based reform plan.
Economic GrowthBy Edward Conard, Penguin PressBook, 05/02/2013
Was our country’s economic success before the Crash of ‘08 built on false pretenses? Did we simply borrow and spend too much, or was something else really going on? The conventional wisdom now accuses Wall Street and the mortgage industry of using predatory tactics to seduce homeowners. Meanwhile, average Americans are blamed for increasing consumption to unsustainable levels by borrowing recklessly. And the tax policies of the Reagan and Bush administrations are blamed for encouraging reckless risk-taking. Edward Conard disagrees. In an attempt to set the record straight he presents a fascinating new case for how the economy really works, why the U.S. has outperformed other countries, what caused the financial crisis, and what improvements might better protect our economy without damaging growth.
Budget & TaxationBy Barry Goodwin, American Enterprise InstituteThe American, 05/02/2013
The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that farm income in 2013 will be more than double what it was in 2009. The nation’s farmers are enjoying the benefits of high crop prices, massive crop insurance subsidies, and technological advances that have made crops more resistant to drought. As a result, farming’s record level of income far surpasses that of comparable non-farm sectors. Yet much of the debate over new farm legislation seems oblivious to these facts. The latest farm bill would give farmers even greater subsidies.
Regulation & DeregulationBy James L. Gattuso, Diane Katz, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 05/02/2013
Regulatory burdens on Americans increased by nearly $70 billion during President Obama’s first term in office, during which federal agencies imposed 131 new major regulations. In 2012 alone, the Administration issued a total of $23.5 billion in new regulatory costs from 25 major rulemakings. Only two rules last year decreased burdens. Much more regulation is on the way, with another 131 major rules on the Administration’s agenda, including dozens more implementing Dodd–Frank and Obamacare. Action is needed by Congress, including requiring congressional approval of each new major regulation before it may take effect.
Budget & TaxationBy Salim Furth, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 05/02/2013
The weight of the evidence indicates that high debt slows growth, but there is no magic threshold above which any country at any time will experience slower growth. This truth has been illustrated in the recent controversy around “Growth in a Time of Debt,” an academic paper by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff.
Family, Culture & CommunityBy Jonathan V. Last, Encounter BooksBook, 05/01/2013
Look around you and think for a minute: Is America too crowded? For years, we have been warned about the looming danger of overpopulation: people jostling for space on a planet that’s busting at the seams and running out of oil and food and land and everything else. It’s all bunk. The “population bomb” never exploded. Instead, statistics from around the world make clear that since the 1970s, we’ve been facing exactly the opposite problem: people are having too few babies. What happened? Everything about modern life—from Bugaboo strollers to insane college tuition to government regulations—has pushed Americans in a single direction, making it harder to have children. What to Expect When No One’s Expecting explains why the population implosion happened and how it is remaking culture, the economy, and politics both at home and around the world.
Budget & TaxationBy Andrew Moylan, R StreetPolicy Analysis, 05/01/2013
Whenever there are tens of millions of dollars worth of lobbying muscle behind a piece of legislation, folks seem willing to say just about anything to make a case for it. The Marketplace Fairness Act, the misguided legislation to allow states to enforce their tax laws on out-of-state businesses, is but the latest example. Here are the top 10 bogus arguments in favor of the bill.
Economic and Political ThoughtBy Charles C. Johnson, Encounter BooksBook, 05/01/2013
Why Coolidge Matters revisits the record of our most underrated president, examining Coolidge’s views on governance, public-sector unions, education, race, immigration, and foreign policy. Most important, Why Coolidge Matters explains what lessons Coolidge—the last president to pay down the national debt—can offer the limited-government movement in the post-industrial age.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Logan Beirne, Encounter BooksBook, 05/01/2013
Blood of Tyrants reveals the surprising details of our Founding Fathers’ approach to government and this history’s impact on today. Delving into the forgotten—and often lurid—facts of the Revolutionary War, Logan Beirne focuses on the nation’s first commander in chief, George Washington, as he shaped the very meaning of the United States Constitution in the heat of battle. Key episodes illustrate how the Founders dealt with thorny wartime issues: Who decides war strategy? When should we use military tribunals over civilian trials? Should we inflict harsh treatment on enemy captives if it means saving American lives? How do we protect citizens’ rights when the nation is struggling to defend itself? Beirne finds evidence in previously-unexplored documents such as General Washington’s letters debating torture, an eyewitness account of the military tribunal that executed a British prisoner, Founders’ letters warning against government debt, and communications pointing to a power struggle between Washington and the Continental Congress.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy James Phillips, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 05/01/2013
As bad as the reported chemical attacks by Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime are, a much worse threat to the U.S. and its allies would be posed if Assad’s chemical weapons fall into the hands of al-Qaeda or Hezbollah, which could use the banned weapons in terror campaigns outside Syria. At this point, the Obama Administration has better options than putting U.S. boots on the ground inside Syria that it has neglected to develop. Stronger support for the non-Islamist Syrian opposition, including facilitating arms transfers and training, would help to accelerate the fall of the Assad regime and cultivate local allies with a strong interest in neutralizing the chemical weapons threat and containing the rising influence of al-Qaeda.
Regulation & DeregulationBy Jayson Lusk, Crown Publishing GroupBook, 05/01/2013
Ban trans-fats? Outlaw Happy Meals? Tax Twinkies? What's next? Affirmative action for cows? A catastrophe is looming. Farmers are raping the land and torturing animals. Food is riddled with deadly pesticides, hormones and foreign DNA. Corporate farms are wallowing in government subsidies. Meat packers and fast food restaurants are exploiting workers and tainting the food supply. And Paula Deen has diabetes! Something must be done. So says an emerging elite in this country who think they know exactly what we should grow, cook and eat. They are the food police. Taking on the commandments and condescension the likes of Michael Pollan, Alice Waters, and Mark Bittman, The Food Police casts long overdue skepticism on fascist food snobbery, debunking the myths propagated by the food elite.
WelfareBy Peter Saunders, Centre for Independent StudiesOccasional Paper, 05/01/2013
The left thinks high welfare spending signifies compassion. The right believes it rewards irresponsible behaviour. Saunders argues both sides are right. The left says people who need help must be cared for, irrespective of circumstances. Recent work in evolutionary psychology shows this principle derives from a deep instinct for compassion which we all share. The right says everyone should pull their weight and nobody should ‘free-ride’. This too is deeply embedded in human instincts — the sense that reward should be in proportion to contribution. A just welfare system should express both of these moral instincts – caring and proportionality. Saunders spells out how welfare should be organised to achieve this.
Elections, Transparency, & AccountabilityBy Susan Myrick, Capital Research CenterOrganization Trends, 05/01/2013
Thanks to a leaked strategy memo, the inner workings of the Left have been revealed in North Carolina. Dozens of nonprofits have colluded to make personal assaults on their political foes and to subvert state voting laws.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Philip Booth, Institute of Economic AffairsBook, 05/01/2013
The UK decided not to join the euro on economic grounds. This was a decision which met with approval from the vast majority of UK liberal economists and which has been proved right by the course of events. Indeed, even the major supposed benefit of the euro – reduced currency volatility – is questionable when the volatility of sterling and the euro against other world currencies is considered. The euro zone – even without the UK – was not an optimal currency area. Many proponents of the euro thought that it would evolve into an optimal currency area through structural reform and economic convergence. This has not happened in practice.
Economic and Political ThoughtBy Charles Murray, Centre for Independent StudiesOccasional Paper, 05/01/2013
Capitalism has become a dirty word and the current ‘segregation of capitalism from virtue’ is one of the major contributing factors to capitalism’s image problem. Over the course of the last 50 years, the United States has seen a divergence in classes that is different in kind from anything the nation has known before. This has led to a new lower class that has dropped out of the civil institutions of American life—especially marriage and work—and a new upper class that is increasingly segregated from, and ignorant of, life in the mainstream. The nature of this new upper class has contributed mightily to the class antagonism in the United States, and to the blighted reputation of capitalism. The problem is not that the new upper class has bad habits, but that they are increasingly isolated and distanced from mainstream culture, and are living in an elite bubble.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Ryan Messmore, Centre for Independent StudiesOccasional Paper, 05/01/2013
Recent events in the United States suggest a weakening of robust religious freedom, with religious organisations and institutions facing critical challenges to their freedom in the public square. The problem is not simply one of a handful of secular voices who want to cleanse the public square of religion per se (or of some religions rather than others). Rather, perhaps a more pernicious problem is a set of modern assumptions that is making the public square conducive to only a certain kind of religion—a heavily privatised kind. Societies, even highly secularised ones, need to safeguard space for robust forms of religion and religious communities in their midst. Such freedom not only protects the integrity of churches and other institutions, but it also frees them to serve the common good in their distinct way.
Economic GrowthBy Jake Haulk, Allegheny Institute for Public PolicyPolicy Brief, 05/01/2013
Pennsylvania’s employment growth at the major job drivers has slowed dramatically while the slower growing sectors have stopped expanding or even slipped into negative territory. This is not a healthy position for the Commonwealth. Unfortunately, there is little the state can do in the short run to boost employment expansion. The weakness in Pennsylvania stems principally from national policies that are restraining the economy. Policies that deter investment and punish savings, budget deficits that threaten the national fisc together with continuous calls for higher taxes and reams of new regulations daily are having a smothering effect on the economy.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Brett D. Schaefer, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 05/01/2013
U.N. peacekeeping operations can be useful and successful, but they are limited, specialized tools that can misfire badly when employed in the wrong circumstances. It is too early to say whether the U.N. Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the U.N. Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) will succeed or fail, but past overreaches have led to tragedy for U.N. peacekeepers and those under their protection. The U.S. should not let the pressure to act override prudence. Supporting the intervention brigade and MINUSMA were likely the least difficult options, but history indicates that U.N. peace enforcement is fraught with problems. Failing to learn from past lessons on peace enforcement will only make tragedies more likely in the future.
Economic GrowthBy Chuck DeVore, Texas Public Policy FoundationPolicy Perspective, 04/30/2013
Attacks on Texas take a few common, oft repeated lines: Texas’ public education is in the national cellar; Texas has the most uninsured residents; Texas’ poverty rate is high as is its income inequality; Texas owes any wealth it has to oil; and little in the way of business is moving to Texas. These claims, however, fail to stand up to scrutiny for several reasons: they use poor measures of academic achievement for comparison; they conflate having medical insurance with access to doctors; they ignore cost of living when comparing poverty and income inequality; they overlook California’s vast natural resources; and finally, they downplay the role of California business expansions into Texas. Examining these claims one by one will demonstrate that Texas’ free-market policies and governance push it above California.
Budget & TaxationBy Michael Schuyler, Tax FoundationFiscal Facts, 04/30/2013
Professor Martin Feldstein of Harvard has called for limiting the tax savings from itemized deductions, tax-exempt municipal bond interest, and the tax-free status of employer-provided health insurance. Feldstein’s plan would not allow the tax savings from these items to exceed 2 percent of adjusted gross income. To better understand the implications of this proposal, we have used the Tax Foundation’s tax simulation model to assess whether these numbers are plausible and to examine how the cap would affect economic growth.
Budget & Taxation
The Tax Treatment of Capital Assets and Its Effect on Growth: Expensing, Depreciation, and the Concept of Cost Recovery in the Tax SystemBy Stephen J. Entin, Tax FoundationBackground Paper, 04/30/2013
Congress is debating major reforms of the corporate and individual income taxes. One expressed goal of the exercise is to promote economic growth while lowering the deficit. Growth is key. Without it, employment and incomes will suffer, and the hoped-for tax revenue will not appear. Proper tax treatment of the cost of plant, equipment, and buildings is an important and underappreciated prerequisite for a pro-growth tax system. This paper seeks to explain the nature of capital cost recovery as it is currently treated by business planners, accountants, and the tax code, and to describe the reforms needed to produce the best economic and budget outcomes.
Elections, Transparency, & AccountabilityBy Adriana Cordis, Jeff Milyo, Mercatus CenterWorking Paper, 04/30/2013
The Supreme Court has long held that campaign finance regulations are permissible for preventing corruption or the appearance of corruption. Yet the implied hypothesis that campaign finance reforms are effective tools for combating public corruption has gone essentially untested. We conduct the first systematic evaluation of the effects of campaign finance laws on actual corruption rates in the states. We examine the effects of state reforms on both convictions and filings in public corruption cases over the last 25 years. Overall, we find no strong or convincing evidence that state campaign finance reforms reduce public corruption. Earlier research that employs similar methods also finds little support for the contention that state campaign finance regulations increase public trust and confidence in government. Together, these results call into question the legal rationale for campaign finance regulations.
Information TechnologyBy Seth L. Cooper, Free State FoundationPerspectives from FSF Scholars, 04/30/2013
An expert regulatory agency should have a high-level, up-to-date understanding of the markets it regulates, right? That would seem only logical, especially when technologies and consumer trends undergo successive sea-changes. But in the face of these changes, the FCC appears remarkably uninterested in taking a hard look at the effect of intermodal competition. Its shallow consideration of the data available concerning the competitive effects of wireless-wireline rivalry is a good example of this disinterest.
Information TechnologyBy Donna Coleman Gregg, Free State FoundationPerspectives from FSF Scholars, 04/30/2013
Having spent some time as a media lawyer and regulator, I have established a list which focuses on video service regulation. In the interest of full disclosure, my list is based on personal experience and observation rather than on surveys or scientific public opinion polls. Moreover, the list identifies not the best or most successful video service regulations, but the “lowest-ranking” – those that have become the most counterproductive and problematic. Here I reveal and briefly discuss some of the regulations of my list with hopes that policy makers who have begun to re-examine video service regulation will take note.
Economic GrowthBy Nicole Gelinas, Manhattan InstituteCity Journal, 04/30/2013
When the financial hurricane struck in 2008, Britain found itself in a crisis very much like the American one. A giant credit bubble had fueled an unsustainable rise in the price of real estate. British homeowners, feeling rich, had spent and spent, pushing up their household debt to a staggering 106 percent of GDP, up from 61 percent just eight years earlier. When the bubble burst, hitting house prices and making people feel poorer and afraid, British consumers went on strike; employers promptly imitated them, and the United Kingdom lost 1.6 percent of its jobs between 2008 and 2009. (America, with its easier hire-and-fire culture, lost 5 percent.) With bubble-era tax revenues gone, a British government deficit that had seemed manageable became cavernous, expanding from 3.5 percent of GDP over the 2004–08 period to 11.5 percent in 2009. David Cameron then pledged to shrink the government; instead, he raised taxes and strangled economic recovery.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Robin Harris, The Heritage FoundationSpecial Report, 04/30/2013
The United States has a strong and continuing interest in a prosperous and stable Europe, but the policies and pronouncements of President Barack Obama and the U.S. Department of State are making that goal less, not more, attainable. This is especially true as regards current, very public U.S. pressure on Britain to stay inside the European Union, apparently whatever the cost and whatever the fate of the EU. History shows that in the past, the U.S. has often misread its own interests in Europe and then had to make sudden reversals.
International Trade/FinanceBy Bryan Riley, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 04/30/2013
Congress routinely makes targeted, short-term tariff cuts through “miscellaneous tariff bills.” While conventional wisdom is that unilateral tariff cuts are politically impossible, these bills show that it is possible to reduce tariffs. Proponents of such tariff cuts argue that the cuts support U.S. jobs; critics argue that the economic value of miscellaneous cuts is modest, and that the process is open to abuse. While it is healthy to discuss ways to maximize the benefits provided by miscellaneous tariff bills, the United States would see the most economic benefit from across-the-board tariff reform. The best possible reform would be for the U.S. Congress to eliminate all remaining import tariffs and quotas.
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.