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Recent Policy Studies
Budget & TaxationBy Jennifer L. Crull, Public Interest InstituteInstitute Brief, 06/18/2013
Currently in the state of Iowa we have over 2,000 “taxing authorities” when it comes to property taxes. This definitely adds to the complex mess of that property tax system. Another problem with our system is the “rollbacks.” This system, which was supposed to help the property tax system, has just shifted the burden and caused more problems with the current system. Cutting property taxes is easier said than done. There are so many entities involved in the property tax system that one move can affect ten different entities at once. So for the state to come up with a method to cut taxes and not negatively impact everyone receiving property tax revenue is not a small task.
Budget & TaxationBy J.D. Foster, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 06/18/2013
Federal government debt has nearly doubled since President Barack Obama took office. Under existing policies federal debt is projected to increase another 50 percent over the next decade and then rise rapidly thereafter. As federal debt has soared, so have concerns about America’s future. Used properly, debt can safely finance private and government investment in productive capital to support economic growth. But too much debt can ruin a family, a business, or a nation. There is still time, though not much, for substantial and effective course correction.
Budget & TaxationBy Alison Acosta Fraser, J.D. Foster, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 06/18/2013
Federal government debt has nearly doubled since President Barack Obama took office and is projected to increase 50 percent over the next decade—and then rise rapidly thereafter—under existing policies. As federal debt has soared, so have concerns about America’s future. Used properly, debt can safely finance private and government investment in productive capital to support economic growth. But too much debt can ruin a family, a business, or a nation.
Transportation/InfrastructureBy Gabriel Roth, Institute of Economic AffairsPaper, 06/18/2013
Transport policies which favor rail over road make little economic sense. Investment in roads typically yields higher financial and social returns than investment in rail. As a result of current policies, Britain’s roads are the most crowded in Europe. Congestion is estimated to impose costs of around £20 billion a year in the UK. The basic problem is that roads are outside the market economy. Road users do not receive the facilities they are prepared to pay for. A shortage of road space does not encourage suppliers to provide additional capacity because investment in roads is constrained by government policy.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Randal O’Toole, Cato InstitutePolicy Analysis, 06/18/2013
In 2004, Congress allowed federal land managers to charge recreation fees only for certain kinds of recreation. In general, while national parks and wildlife refuges can charge entry fees, managers of other federal lands can only charge for developed recreation, such as campgrounds, not dispersed recreation, such as hiking and backpacking. As a result, recreation is free on 98 percent or more of the lands managed by the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Reclamation. The 2004 law expires in 2014, giving Congress an opportunity to revisit this restriction.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Jessica Zuckerman, et al., The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 06/17/2013
In 2011, the United States and Canada announced a joint strategy—Beyond the Border—to boost security in, and facilitate the flow of goods and services between, the two countries. Important progress has been made by the two countries, but much remains to be done to ensure both nations’ prosperity and security, including coordinated visa and entry policies, expanded cross-border law enforcement programs, and the development of bi-national disaster plans. With a shared border of over 5,000 miles, an excess of 115,000 flights per year, and nearly $2 billion in daily bilateral trade between the two nations, the vital importance of the U.S.–Canada relationship must not be overlooked. Failure to follow through on Beyond the Border could result in a serious setback for the U.S.–Canada relationship—and for security and trade freedom on both sides of the border.
EducationBy Frederick M. Hess, Andrew P. Kelly, Hudson InstituteReport, 06/17/2013
In markets where new entry is controlled and incumbent institutions are subsidized, there is a temptation to simply graft technology onto existing routines while leaving cost structures intact. Such retrofitting may be better than nothing—and it may look like transformation to optimistic observers, story-seeking journalists, and fretful academics—but it often amounts to little more than repackaging a largely familiar product at a familiar price.
Budget & TaxationBy Stephen Goldsmith, e21 – Economic Policies for the 21st CenturyCommentary, 06/17/2013
Politicians, buffeted by the pressure of false tradeoffs of higher taxes or fewer services and the ever increasing dependence on government programs and funding, usually avoid the heavy lifting of making government more efficient. Yet we remain confident that administrative savings of 10–25 percent can be achieved in almost every public agency. Such efficiencies necessitate changes to the traditional hierarchical and command-and-control structures we described in the first essay. Over the summer, we will be working with the Manhattan Institute to augment these essays with how-to examples that will analyze best practices and offer a better way to beleaguered citizens who are tired of receiving mediocre services in return for their taxpayer dollars.
Health CareBy Devon M. Herrick, Linda Gorman, National Center for Policy AnalysisPolicy Brief, 06/17/2013
Faced with large potential federal subsidies for Medicaid expansion, state policymakers may easily underestimate Medicaid’s downsides on the one hand and the availability of practicable alternatives on the other. Indeed, given Medicaid’s current share of the state budget, its shortcomings in serving its present population, and its significant, unpredictable costs under the proposed expansion, policymakers have sound reasons to be wary of enlarging the program.
Budget & Taxation
The Best Solution from Both Budgets: “Reverse Logrolling” Shows the Best Option for Government Spending and Tax ReformBy Sarah Curry, John Locke FoundationSpotlight, 06/17/2013
Taking into consideration the proposed tax reform packages from each legislative chamber, there are different outcomes and possibly the opportunity to change details within the plans if a reverse logroll is used for budget spending. The result from the Senate tax plan would yield $851 million in surplus over two years, while the House plan would generate over $1.1 billion. This shows that, even with significant tax reform changes and the large Medicaid shortfall, the legislature still has many options.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy Paul Rosenzweig, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 06/17/2013
The traditional legal maxim is that “ignorance of the law is no excuse.” Today, however, even the Congressional Research Service can’t count the federal criminal laws. A unified list of crimes was unimportant when criminal law focused on crimes that are wrong in their essence, like robbery or murder, but it is of vital concern when crimes are “wrongs” only because of an arbitrary statutory definition. Given the proliferation of criminal law, ignorance of the law is reality. To fix the problem, Congress should demand that all crimes in the U.S. Code be counted and identified. Once that is done, the crimes in the code should all be consolidated or referenced in Title 18, accessible over the Internet without charge, and kept up-to-date so that a conscientious citizen can find the criminal law.
Advancing the Immigration Nation: Heritage’s Positive Path to Immigration and Border Security ReformBy The Heritage Foundation Immigration and Border Security Reform Task Force, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 06/17/2013
Fixing America’s broken southern border and deeply flawed immigration system is often framed as a stark choice between doing nothing or accepting a massive, sweeping, complicated bill that works at cross-purposes to its stated goals. Those are tragic options for the future of freedom, fiscal responsibility, and responsible governance. Americans should demand better. There are practical, effective, fair, and compassionate alternatives—Washington has simply never tried them. The Heritage path addresses every critical component of immigration and border security reform.
ImmigrationBy Curtis S. Dubay, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 06/14/2013
There are many serious flaws in the controversial Senate immigration bill, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (S. 744). One such flaw is that it fails a standard of basic fairness to which immigration has long been held: It does not meaningfully require illegal immigrants to pay back taxes, interest, and penalties on all the income they earned while here in the U.S. illegally before being granted legal status.
Budget & TaxationBy Daren Bakst, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 06/14/2013
The 2013 Senate and House farm bills add costly new subsidy programs. These new programs would go well beyond providing a safety net for farmers by protecting them from virtually all risk. Some of the programs, allegedly designed to cover major losses, are so generous that they would effectively provide guaranteed payments to some farmers. Many of the cost assumptions for the new programs are based on commodity prices staying at or near record highs. If these prices come down to their longer-term averages, the costs to taxpayers could be astronomical. Congress is gambling taxpayer money on risky assumptions.
Health CareBy Chris Jacobs, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 06/13/2013
Later this month, the House of Representatives could consider legislation regarding pediatric research. H.R. 1724 would require the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to provide a justification for any existing grants studying health economics, and would prohibit new grants until “a federal law has been enacted authorizing the National Institutes of Health to use funding specifically for health economics research. This is a mistake. The House should ensure that H.R. 1724’s proposed restrictions on health economics research remain in any NIH-related legislation that comes to the House floor. To do otherwise would provide tacit approval to Obamacare’s road to government-rationed health care.
Information TechnologyBy Randolph J. May, Seth L. Cooper, Free State FoundationPerspectives from FSF Scholars, 06/13/2013
Economic prosperity generated by and through intellectual property is dependent upon the existence of the same conceptual and legal framework applicable to property rights more generally. Of course, such framework may be adapted in certain appropriate ways to take into account the advances of the Information Age. But there is no justification for excluding intellectual property from fundamental principles of property law that government is charged with enforcing.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy Elizabeth Slattery, The Heritage FoundationLegal Memorandum, 06/13/2013
The courts have gradually abandoned their proper role of policing the structural limits on government and neutrally interpreting the laws and constitutional provisions without personal bias. Judicial activism occurs when judges decline to apply the Constitution or laws according to their original public meaning or ignore binding precedent and instead decide cases based on personal preference. Labeling as “activist” a decision that fails to meet this standard does not express policy disagreement with the outcome; it expresses disagreement with the judge’s conception of his or her role in our constitutional system. Three recent cases illustrate how our Founding Fathers’ vision of a government of laws and not of men is compromised when judges let their subjective policy preferences control their decisions.
Transportation/InfrastructureBy Charles Lammam, Hugh MacIntyre, Fraser InstituteCommentary, 06/13/2013
As governments across the United States wrestle with the challenge of providing high-quality transportation infrastructure, they should increasingly consider public-private partnerships. The record shows such partnerships are more likely to be built on time and on budget and they offer greater value for money than conventional infrastructure projects.
EducationBy Joey Gustafson, Education NextArticle, 06/13/2013
Since the first charter school opened 20 years ago in Minnesota, charters have been a focus of school reform advocates and the subject of substantial research. Yet the regulators of the charter industry (called “authorizers” or “sponsors”) remain a mystery to many. In fact, many authorizers work in isolation, developing their own best practices, and are often just trying to keep their heads above water. Authorizers evaluate charter school applications, oversee charter schools once they are up and running, and decide, based on various performance measures, whether to renew or revoke the schools’ charters. Strong authorizing can create and support high-quality charter schools, and weak authorizing can enable lousy charter schools to open or stay open.
Budget & TaxationBy Charles Blahous, e21 – Economic Policies for the 21st CenturyReport, 06/13/2013
Medicare like Social Security faces substantial financing challenges and warrants significant legislative reforms. Whereas in Social Security the financing strains are manifested in projections of trust fund depletion, in Medicare some financing strains are manifested primarily in rising projected pressure on the general federal budget. As with Social Security, Medicare is being strained by the growing numbers of baby boomers moving onto its benefit rolls. Overall, Medicare financial projections are subject to greater uncertainty than Social Security’s due to the difficulty of projecting health cost inflation. For a variety of reasons including expected legislative actions, actual Medicare costs are likely to be higher than currently projected.
Regulation & Deregulation
Avoiding the Regulatory Cliff: A Bipartisan Agenda to Restore Limited Government and Revive America’s EconomyBy Ivan Osorio, Wayne Crews, Competitive Enterprise InstituteReport, 06/13/2013
We who advocate economic liberty recognize these endeavors as the choices that free individuals make to realize their dreams and all are necessary to improving the human condition. And by doing so, we contribute to a more dynamic and innovated American economy. Promoting this freedom to prosper should be Congress’s top priority for the next four years—and beyond.
Information TechnologyBy Paul Rosenzweig, David Inserra, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 06/13/2013
Last year, the Senate twice voted down the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 because of concerns that a regulatory approach might harm U.S. cybersecurity efforts. Despite these concerns, President Obama issued a cybersecurity executive order that uses a regulatory or standards-based approach to require additional security from private-sector organizations. The government, however, already requires its own agencies to follow existing cybersecurity standards. The best way to see the effectiveness of cybersecurity standards is to observe how well the government has handled its own security guidelines.
EducationBy Sally Lovejoy, Chad Miller, American Action ForumResearch Study, 06/13/2013
Collective bargaining by teacher unions has an enormous impact on public education. And while salaries and benefits for teachers have increased over time, student academic achievement has not. At almost every opportunity, teacher unions have vehemently opposed efforts to consider student academic performance in teacher evaluations and, unfortunately for students, they have been successful.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Paul Larkin, The Heritage FoundationLegal Memorandum, 06/12/2013
In society’s fight against crime, police and prosecutors are the tip of the spear, but U.S. law has never trusted the police or prosecutors with the ultimate authority to resolve legal issues. Yet the government often will attempt to justify a broad interpretation of a criminal statute by urging the courts essentially to “trust us.” That is, the government will argue that the courts should not be troubled by an interpretation of a statute that casts a wide net because the government will prosecute only truly guilty and truly heinous offenders. But we are a government of laws, not of men. It is therefore the function of the written law, as construed by the courts, to protect us against unjust deprivations of liberty, regardless of the “conscience and circumspection in prosecuting officers.”
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Paul Larkin, The Heritage FoundationLegal Memorandum, 06/12/2013
Overcriminalization continues to ensnare average citizens in the criminal justice system for committing acts that are not morally blameworthy. Furthermore, these citizens are being prosecuted for crimes that most people would not even recognize as criminal offenses. Punishing someone who is morally blameless is unjust and engenders disrespect for the U.S. legal system. In order to help ameliorate the serious problems created by overcriminalization, a “mistake of law” defense should be added to the criminal law. Such a defense should exculpate morally blameless parties without creating a loophole for miscreants. Both goals can be attained by using a reasonableness standard and by allocating the burden of production and proof to the defendant.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Paul Larkin, The Heritage FoundationLegal Memorandum, 06/12/2013
For six years, Abner Schoenwetter languished in U.S. federal prison. His crime? Importing Honduran lobsters in violation of Honduran law. Despite having broken no domestic law, Schoenwetter ran afoul of the Lacey Act, which is one of many U.S. regulations that criminalize the violation of foreign law. Such regulations, however, undermine a long-held tenet of U.S. law: No one can be held criminally liable for violating a law that he or she cannot understand. Given the staggering number of current federal laws and regulations—to say nothing of state laws—demanding that Americans know foreign law on pain of domestic criminal liability is more than unreasonable; it is unjust and most likely unconstitutional.
EducationBy Alexander Volokh, Reason FoundationArticle, 06/12/2013
This May 7, the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled 6–1, in Louisiana Federation of Teachers v. Louisiana, that a statewide school voucher plan was unconstitutional. The opinion offers a fascinating glimpse into the developing field of non-religious state challenges to school voucher programs. The moral, for those following school voucher controversies, is that, while vouchers are on solid legal ground at the federal level, they can face barriers based on language in state constitutions, sometimes because of the inclusion of religious schools but sometimes for reasons entirely unrelated to religion.
Budget & TaxationBy Victor Nava, Reason FoundationPolicy Brief, 06/12/2013
It is difficult to gauge the success of community development programs. The funds often do not go to the neediest communities, and federal and state community development programs exhibit evidence of cronyism, with a small number of individuals and corporations benefiting at the expense of the wider public. In light of these findings, the best solution is to end these federal and state subsidies once and for all. Favoring certain businesses over others with government funds, even in less affluent communities, is a form of crony capitalism. An individual or corporation is gaining an advantage in the market place with the help of government money, and if the project fails to improve the community the taxpayers don’t get that money back.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Nicolas Loris, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 06/12/2013
Praised as a policy that would reduce dependence on oil and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which requires refineries to blend ethanol into gasoline, has been fraught with unintended consequences. The RFS mandates the use of an inefficient fuel, drives up food prices, and causes adverse environmental effects. The 2012 drought and problems meeting the quotas in the RFS have put the program under the political microscope. The Heritage Foundation’s Nicolas Loris explains how the only true reform to the Renewable Fuel Standard is to eliminate it, and why Congress should repeal the costly and unnecessary mandate.
Information TechnologyBy George S. Ford, Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal and Economic Public Policy StudiesTestimony, 06/12/2013
Critics are right that these terms and conditions are intended to adhere the customer to a particular carrier, but the practices are neither anti-competitive nor anti-consumer for doing so. They are motivated by a desire to better serve the customer. Such practices increase the complementarity of the handset and the services, thereby providing stronger incentives to subsidize the purchase of handsets. These market behaviors are a natural response to the desires of consumers to have the latest and greatest technology at very low prices....
Budget & TaxationBy Vincent H. Smith, Mercatus CenterPolicy Analysis, 06/12/2013
American taxpayers currently spend more than $20 billion per year on farm subsidies, the vast majority of which flow to the largest and wealthiest farming operations. The upcoming farm bill provides Congress the opportunity to eliminate the programs that simply transfer money from less-wealthy taxpayers to wealthier farm households. The question is, will the 2013 farm bill make these politically sensitive cuts?
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy James Phillips, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 06/12/2013
Last week, Egyptian courts sentenced 43 staff members of pro-democracy non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including 16 Americans, to prison terms of up to five years for their activities to support civil society and democracy after Egypt’s 2011 revolution. Given the Obama Administration’s repeated failure to link U.S. aid levels to the increasingly authoritarian behavior of President Mohamed Morsi’s government, Congress should step in to freeze U.S. aid to Egypt unless Morsi’s government quickly reverses the outcome of the politically motivated trial.
ImmigrationBy Madeline Zavodny, Tamar Jacoby, American Enterprise InstituteResearch Study, 06/12/2013
Immigration reform is back on the agenda in Washington, and one of the most disputed questions, this year as in past immigration debates, is whether the U.S. needs more less-skilled foreign workers. Does the U.S. economy lack workers? Do less-skilled immigrants take jobs from Americans? Or are they filling jobs that most Americans are unable or unwilling to do because the work is physically demanding, hazardous or in a part of the country where few Americans live? This study uses the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Information Network, or O*NET, to examine similarities and differences in the jobs held by foreign workers and U.S.-born workers.
Health CareBy Hadley Heath, Independent Women's ForumPolicy Focus, 06/12/2013
The Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) was passed in part to reduce the number of Americans without health insurance. One of the primary ways ObamaCare would accomplish this is by expanding Medicaid—the program that currently provides insurance to low-income Americans—so more Americans are eligible. The original law sought to compel states to expand their programs (or face the threat of losing all federal funding for Medicaid). However, in 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government can’t force states to expand Medicaid. Since then, states have grappled with a decision: Should they take generous but short-term federal funding to expand Medicaid, or should they avoid the expansion altogether?
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Hadley Heath, Independent Women's ForumPolicy Focus, 06/12/2013
In 2012, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a mandate under the Affordable Care Act that requires all employer-sponsored insurance to cover a comprehensive list of contraceptive drugs and procedures without imposing any cost-sharing on the consumers at the time of service. This sparked an election-year debate that the media claimed pitted women against religious communities that object to the use of contraception. But the issue is much more complex than that. There are many reasons that nonreligious people should oppose this mandate: It will have adverse consequences on public health, distort health care markets, particularly for contraception, and threatens First Amendment rights.
Economic and Political ThoughtBy Ted Cruz, Hillsdale CollegeImprimis, 06/12/2013
In the history of mankind, freedom has been the exception. Governed by kings and queens, human beings were told that power starts at the top and flows down; that their rights emanate from a monarch and may be taken away at the monarch’s whim. The British began a revolution against this way of thinking in a meadow called Runnymede in 1215. It was embodied in the Magna Carta, which read: “To all free men of our kingdom we have also granted, for us and our heirs forever, all the liberties written out below, to have and to keep for them and their heirs . . . .” That revolution reached full flower in Philadelphia in 1787, in a Constitution that began from two radical premises. The first is that our rights come not from kings or queens—or even from presidents—but from God.
Health CareBy Kelly McCutchen, Georgia Public Policy FoundationIssue Analysis, 06/12/2013
The current major health care debate in the states is whether or not to expand Medicaid. Expanding Medicaid under the inflexible federal regulations in place now would not be a good long-term decision for Georgia, but that doesn’t mean states shouldn’t propose a more effective alternative. The question should not be limited to whether to expand a specific program such as Medicaid. The question should be how to best provide access to quality health care to our poorest citizens in a way that is fiscally sustainable. Public hospitals provide care to anyone who comes into the emergency room, regardless of their ability to pay. So even if Medicaid did not exist, taxpayers and citizens would be paying for health care for the poor and uninsured.
Health CareBy Sean Parnell, Rhode Island Center for Freedom & ProsperityPolicy Study, 06/12/2013
While advocates of the Rhode Island Health Benefits Exchange are optimistic about its ability to substantially reduce the unacceptably high number of uninsured in the state (along with the Medicaid expansion), there is substantial reason to be concerned that it will not attract large numbers of individuals and families. As demonstrated here, for many age and income levels, the clear financial incentive is to not buy insurance and instead pay (or possibly avoid altogether) the tax. In some instances this incentive is relatively weak, only several hundred dollars. But for many more the incentive is thousands of dollars in difference between buying insurance or remaining uninsured, and more than $10,000 for many who are older, have children, and are in higher income brackets.
Information TechnologyBy Randolph J. May, Seth L. Cooper, Free State FoundationPerspectives from FSF Scholars, 06/12/2013
The Federal Communications Commission now has an opportunity to rethink its misguided aggressive regulatory approach to program carriage. Now is the time for the FCC to consider a deregulatory, free market approach that avoids a myopic look at the “cable” market. Instead, it must take a holistic view of the video programming choices that cable, direct broadcast satellite, telephone company entrants, over-the-air, mobile, and various Internet-based distributors now offer consumers. After Comcast v. FCC, the Commission must recalibrate its program carriage regulations to account for today’s convergent, platform-rivalrous video services market. The Commission should reframe its regulations to comport with the consumer welfare and market power standard that the statute calls for and which the First Amendment demands.