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Recent Policy Studies
Budget & TaxationBy Mark Milke, Fraser InstituteResearch Bulletin, 07/23/2013
The data show that long-standing recipients of corporate welfare continued to receive taxpayer money since the Conservative government was first elected in early 2006, and/or that some of Canada’s most well-known companies have begun to receive significant amounts of taxpayer assistance.
Regulation & DeregulationBy Eric J. Conn, Washington Legal FoundationLegal Backgrounder, 07/23/2013
OSHA issued a White Paper on February 26, 2013, analyzing the first 18 months of its new, controversial enforcement initiative known as the “Severe Violator Enforcement Program” (“SVEP”). The White Paper concludes that the SVEP is “off to a strong start” and “already meeting certain key goals. Despite OSHA’s claims, however, careful scrutiny of the data available regarding the SVEP casts doubt on the program’s effectiveness and reveals several glaring problems with how the SVEP is being administered.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Richard L. Frank, Jonathan M. Weinrieb, Washington Legal FoundationLegal Backgrounder, 07/23/2013
In January, pursuant to the HITECH Act, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (“OCR” ) issued long-awaited revisions to the federal medical privacy requirements commonly referred to as the HIPAA Privacy Rule. In a significant departure from the Department’s July 2010 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM” or “proposed rule”), the final rule expanded the definition of “marketing” to require patient “authorization” (i.e., affirmative “opt in”) for uses and disclosures of a patient’s protected health information for all “communications where the covered entity receives financial remuneration for making the communications from a third party whose product or service is being marketed. OCR’s decision to reject its proposed – and less onerous – notice/disclosure/opt-out procedure for sponsored communications and to impose a mandatory opt-in process for such communications arguably violates the First Amendment.
Economic GrowthBy Erin Shannon, Washington Policy CenterPolicy Brief, 07/23/2013
The most effective way to encourage job growth is not to burden employers and discourage entrepreneurs with more government mandates and new taxes. Despite the near-ubiquitous “I’m-for-jobs” sound bites and talking points issued by lawmakers of both parties, there were a number of job-killer bills introduced in the 2013 Legislative Session. While none of the job-killer bills listed passed the legislature, neither did most of the job-creator bills. Overall, the record of some lawmakers and the governor in improving Washington’s business climate and expanding job opportunities for workers was disappointing in the 2013 Legislative Session.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Bruce Klingner, Derek Scissors, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 07/23/2013
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) scored a landslide victory in upper house parliamentary elections on Sunday. With the LDP now in control of both houses of the national legislature, the stage is set for Abe to be a transformational Japanese leader. But decades of Japanese policy inertia were caused by deeper endemic factors than competing parties splitting control of the Diet. Whether Abe can break the logjam remains an open question.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy John J. Walters, Maryland Public Policy InstitutePolicy Report, 07/22/2013
When the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for pollutants entering the Chesapeake Bay in 2010, few expected it would lead directly to higher taxes for Maryland households. Nevertheless, 10 counties in Maryland are required by state law to start raising money to combat stormwater runoff, and most have already begun to do so. While it appears that Maryland is leading the charge in such novel legislation, states and counties all over the nation are being asked to craft bills similar to 2012 Maryland House Bill 987 in response to the EPA mandates for improved water quality. And everyone seems to have a different idea about the best way to tax the rain.
Transportation/InfrastructureBy David T. Hartgen, et al., Reason FoundationPolicy Study, 07/22/2013
Reason Foundation’s 20th Annual Report on the Performance of State Highway Systems tracks the performance of state-owned highway systems of the United States from 1984 to 2009. Eleven indicators make up each state’s overall rating, including highway expenditures, interstate and primary road pavement condition, bridge condition, urban interstate congestion, fatality rates and narrow rural lanes. The study is based on spending and performance data submitted by the state highway agencies to the federal government. The system’s overall condition improved dramatically from 2008 to 2009. Six of the seven key indicators of system condition showed improvement, including large gains in rural interstate and urban interstate condition, and a reduction in the fatality rate. Only rural arterial condition worsened slightly, but poor mileage is still only a fraction of 1 percent. These improvements were achieved despite a slight reduction in per-mile expenditures.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & Science
Does California Really Need Major Land Use and Transportation Changes to Meet Greenhouse Gas Emissions Targets?By Thomas A. Rubin, Reason FoundationAnalysis, 07/22/2013
The upshot of this is that California’s greenhouse gas emission targets, in and of themselves, provide little justification for efforts dramatically to change land use patterns or expand transit service. California’s metropolitan planning organizations should take note. Continued improvement in energy efficiency and emission reduction is important, but future plans should be based on proper technical information and analysis, not someone’s normative ideas about the way Americans should live, work and travel.
Information TechnologyBy George S. Ford, Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal and Economic Public Policy StudiesResearch, 07/22/2013
Where’s the beef? One cannot help but ask this question after reading Dr. Baker’s or the Department of Justice’s filings on the upcoming voluntary incentive auction. Excluding or limiting participation of the largest and most spectrum-hungry wireless companies is a big deal. At a minimum, such rules will significantly reduce auction proceeds. The burden, therefore, is on those promoting such regulations to demonstrate that the benefits to society are more than sufficient to offset the losses. Neither Dr. Baker nor the DOJ has taken that burden seriously, offering the Commission nothing but speculation and assertion to support their positions. Neither had the courtesy to provide a formal definition for the concept of “foreclosure value” upon which their arguments rest, and upon which others could evaluate their claims. Speculation and assertion are very poor guides for policymakers.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Bruce Klingner, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 07/22/2013
Even by North Korean standards, the story was odd. To a world used to North Korean exports of weapons, the seizure of a North Korean ship carrying arms from Cuba was unique. Pyongyang’s attempted transshipment of antiquated weapons revealed much about the North Korean regime. First, Pyongyang clearly continues to violate multiple United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions. Second, the U.N. sanctions are hurting North Korean finances, forcing the impoverished regime to scramble for cash. Third, the U.N. resolutions continue to have loopholes that must be rectified.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy Marc Levin, Jeanette Moll, John Locke FoundationSpotlight, 07/22/2013
The evidence indicates North Carolina should reconsider its laws relating to the youngest offenders who now enter the adult corrections system. From the lack of deterrent effects of imposing criminal court jurisdiction on minors, to the greatly increased recidivism rates for minors handled by the criminal justice system, to the dual risks of harm and lack of education or training for minors in adult facilities, it becomes pointedly clear that the best place for most of the state’s young offenders is in the juvenile justice system.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Hester Peirce, Mercatus CenterTestimony, 07/22/2013
Dodd-Frank was the product of desperation in the face of a deeply painful financial crisis and outrage at the big financial institutions that were at the center of the trouble. Not only does Dodd-Frank fail to effectively address the problems that precipitated the crisis, but it also imposes costly burdens on many businesses that were not central causes of the crisis. Among these are community banks.
EducationBy Vicki Alger, Independent Women's ForumPolicy Focus, 07/22/2013
Nearly 50 years of failure is enough. There is no reason to believe that giving the federal government more time and more money will improve student learning. What’s more, a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach to schooling cannot meet the unique, individual needs of American students. Rather than move forward with reauthorizing a modified version on No Child Left Behind—as is being considered in both the House of Representatives and in the Senate—it’s time for a new approach to education policy.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy John L. Ligon, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 07/22/2013
Representative Jeb Hensarling (R–TX) has released a discussion draft of a proposal, known as the Protecting American Taxpayers and Homeowners (PATH) Act that would wind down the federally sponsored housing finance agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and move the U.S. toward a housing finance system that protects both taxpayers and homeowners. The draft is a marked improvement over the plan earlier proposed by Senators Bob Corker (R–TN) and Mark Warner (D–VA), which would place the secondary mortgage market under the authority of a new government-backed agency. While not perfect, the Hensarling plan provides a good starting point for Congress as it debates housing finance reform.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Josef Joffe , Hoover InstitutionCommentary, 07/22/2013
Jihadi terrorism does not fit the “strategic model” for three reasons. One, the purpose keeps changing. Two, the ends become unlimited; the demands are “resolutely uncompromising.”1 Three, the proclaimed ends are not the real ones. Whence it follows that, short of completely eliminating the threat by superior and sustained force, there is no “rational” solution to the problem. Concessions do not work in the face of changing, boundless, or make-believe ends.
Family, Culture & CommunityBy Christopher Caldwell, American Enterprise InstitutePolicy Brief, 07/22/2013
Opinions about the role of the journalist in a free society vary widely according to political ideology. But there is a rough consensus about why top-quality journalism flourished for a while in the 20th century. The basic problem that brings mass journalism into being is that political democracy and technological complexity mix poorly. Although our world grows more networked and complicated every day, we claim to want to make our political life more democratic, more answerable to the public. Journalism has an intimate relationship to citizenship. What remains of that relationship after the information revolution will give us some idea of what American politics is going to look like in the future—how democratic and cultured it will be, and how likely to enhance (or demean) our public life.
EducationBy Joy Pullmann, Heartland InstitutePolicy Brief, 07/22/2013
Special interests are the only ones to have had a seat at the table in developing Common Core: Parents and elected officials were largely shut out. Common Core represents an improvement over most state standards only because those standards were so awful. It replaces low benchmarks with barely better benchmarks, is confusing and of poor quality itself, and introduces a host of privacy and curricular concerns.
EducationBy Michael B. Horn, Education NextEducation Next, 07/22/2013
Unlike school vouchers for low-income students, charter schools in disadvantaged communities, or bonus pay for teachers in inner-city schools, digital learning is not designed for just one slice of the population. It’s not a policy that parents might support in theory but, because it has no practical impact on them, won’t spend political energy promoting or defending. Rather, if it works as well as its proponents hope, digital learning will gather political support from a wide swath of the American public.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Joel Wood, Fraser InstituteStudies, 07/22/2013
Canada has abundant supplies of freshwater, but most of these are in the north. Canada is also among the largest per-capita users of fresh water in the world. The first question this publication seeks to answer is whether we are running out of freshwater. It provides an overview of Canada’s freshwater resources, how they have changed over time, how Canadians use these resources, and how these things compare to other countries.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Will Fulton, American Enterprise InstituteArticle, 07/22/2013
The election of Hassan Rouhani as president has reignited intense debate both inside and outside of Iran about the future of the Islamic Republic. Most in the West expected a hardline candidate favored by the Supreme Leader or the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) to win and the status quo to remain unchallenged. The unexpected turn of events suggests that there are still forces in Iran that wish to make meaningful reforms within the context of the current system. But even if Rouhani indeed desires to make reforms, can his government make substantive changes on issues that most concern the U.S., such as Iran’ s nuclear program and support for Bashar al Assad’s regime in Syria?
ImmigrationBy The Heritage Foundation, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 07/22/2013
Currently, the House of Representatives is taking a piece-by-piece approach to immigration reform. One of the bills said to be under preparation will likely address issues similar to those addressed in the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which extends amnesty to illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. Similar bills have been proposed and debated in the past, only to be rejected due to faulty details and policies. Not willing to accept Congress’s decision, President Obama has temporarily implemented portions of the DREAM Act through executive action. The Heritage Foundation has published a number of writings analyzing the policies and effects of various iterations of the DREAM Act. These writings cover legislative proposals during President Bush and Obama’s tenure as well as President Obama’s executive actions.
Health CareBy Nadeem Esmail, Fraser InstituteFraser Alert, 07/22/2013
The rationing of health care in Canada through queues for medically necessary health services imposes direct costs on those waiting for care. The ability of individuals who are waiting to enjoy lei sure time and earn an income to support their families is diminished by physical and psychological pain and suffering. In addition, friends and family may be asked to help those waiting for treatment, or may suffer similar reductions in their productive lives because of their own psychological pain. In 2012, the estimated 870,462 Canadians who were waiting for treatment endured an estimated private cost of at least $982 million, and possibly substantially more, in lost productivity and leisure time. That cost was, on a per-patient basis, slightly less than the cost in 2011 and not far from the cost in 2004.
EducationBy Susan Headden, Education NextEducation Next, 07/22/2013
Individualized instruction is an ideal that has long been available only to those who could afford to pay for elite tutors. Blended learning offers a new way. True, the jury is still out on which models work and on how they work best. At Tennenbaum, students show progress on most benchmark assessments, but in a few cases they have shown only modest progress or declines. Constant innovation virtually guarantees mistakes. And blended learning models can dilute the power that comes when everyone is working in concert on the same thing. Some also say that students have to be particularly motivated to succeed with blended learning.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & Science
EPA’s Woeful Deadline Performance Raises Questions About Agency Competence, Climate Change Regulations, “Sue and Settle”By William Yeatman, Competitive Enterprise InstituteWebMemo, 07/22/2013
The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) record of compliance with statutory deadlines established for three core Clean Air Act programs raises serious questions regarding the agency’s competence and discretion. Since 1993, 98 percent of EPA regulations (196 out of 200) pursuant to these programs were promulgated late, by an average of 2,072 days after their respective statutorily defined deadlines. Currently, 65 percent of the EPA’s statutorily defined responsibilities (212 of 322 possible) are past due by an average of 2,147 days. In addition, the results demonstrate the insidiousness of a practice known as “sue and settle,” whereby the EPA advances the agenda of environmental advocacy groups.
National SecurityBy Jessica Zuckerman, Steven P. Bucci, James Jay Carafano, The Heritage FoundationSpecial Report, 07/22/2013
The Heritage Foundation has tracked post-9/11 terrorist plots against the United States in an effort to study the evolving nature of the threat and to garner lessons learned. The best way to protect the United States from terrorism is to ensure a strong and capable domestic counterterrorism enterprise—and to understand the continuing nature of the terror threat. In a political environment of sequestration on the one hand, and privacy concerns on the other, there are those on both sides of the aisle who want to cut counterterrorism spending and restrict the scope of U.S. intelligence agencies. But the long war on terrorism is far from over. Most disturbingly, an increasing number of Islamist-inspired terrorist attacks are originating within America’s borders. The rise of homegrown extremism is the next front in the fight against terrorism, and Congress and the Administration must take it seriously.
Regulation & Deregulation
High Frequency Trading: Do Regulators Need to Control this Tool of Informationally Efficient Markets?By Holly A. Bell, Cato InstitutePolicy Analysis, 07/22/2013
The key issue for regulators is to be careful to distinguish between inappropriate uses of a technology (such as order ignition, intentional quote stuffing, wash trades, and other manipulative practices) and the technology itself. As discussed earlier, developing additional regulatory requirements that restrict the activities of all high frequency traders will likely create market distortions and disrupt the efficient movement of market information, liquidity, and short-term price stability. This is likely to be more damaging to the market than High-Frequency-Trading-induced noise.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Diane Katz, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 07/22/2013
Although three years in, the full effects of Dodd–Frank have yet to hit. Some of the most significant regulations are still winding their way through the bureaucracy. Dozens of rulemakings have been completed, but a backlog of hundreds more is prolonging regulatory uncertainty and inhibiting economic growth. Consumers are facing dramatically higher banking fees and fewer service options because of new government constraints on credit. And for all its vast regulatory scope, Dodd–Frank utterly fails to address some of the principal causes of the 2008 crisis. All of which is the predictable result of policymakers’ deeply flawed diagnosis of the financial crisis.
Elections, Transparency, & AccountabilityBy Hans A. von Spakovsky, The Heritage FoundationHeritage Lecture, 07/18/2013
America is one of the few democracies in the world that do not uniformly require voters to present photo identification when they vote. All of the other 100 countries administer such a requirement without any problems and without any reports that their citizens are in any way unable to vote. Requiring voters to authenticate their identity is a perfectly reasonable and easily met requirement. It is supported by the vast majority of voters of all races and ethnic backgrounds. As the U.S. Supreme Court has said, voter ID protects the integrity and reliability of the electoral process. It should be applied to in-person voting as well as to absentee ballot voting, which is all too often the “tool of choice” of vote thieves.
Health CareBy Chris Jacobs, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 07/18/2013
Congress may soon revisit the issue of Medicare physician reimbursement. Under the SGR, the federal government computes an annual target for Medicare physician spending based in large part on annual changes in economic growth as measured by GDP. Physician spending exceeding the growth in GDP in any given year will result in an automatic, proportional cut in physician reimbursement the following year. Since 2003, Congress has blocked the SGR formula from going into effect because the applicable cuts would threaten seniors’ access to care. For 2014, the formula calls for a reimbursement cut of almost 25 percent. Many policymakers have concluded that the SGR must be reformed. They are right, but Congress must ensure that any fundamental reform of the SGR is accompanied by fundamental Medicare reform.
National SecurityBy Richard J. Dunn III, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 07/18/2013
Imbalances in combat readiness could undermine the U.S. military’s ability to protect U.S. interests. Because some dimensions of combat readiness lack natural constituencies, readiness may suffer disproportionate and significant harm in the increasingly fierce competition for budgetary resources. Congress has an obligation to learn from history rather than repeat past mistakes of allowing military readiness to decline to a point that puts the lives of service members and U.S. national interests at risk.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Paul Rosenzweig, The Heritage FoundationLegal Memorandum, 07/18/2013
All too often, America’s legislature writes laws that are silent on the question of intent. Whether by mistake, through laziness, or due to purposeful ambiguity, Congress often writes laws without a “guilty mind” (mens rea) requirement and leaves it to the courts to decide whether that law has an intent requirement in it, what that requirement is, and the actions to which it applies. As a result, innocent persons are facing unjust conviction for violating federal criminal offenses. Congress should stop creating laws that do not have mens rea requirements, but simple solutions can be difficult to implement. America therefore needs a systemic solution: a statute that, by its terms, sets a default rule for mens rea requirements.
Budget & TaxationBy Scott Drenkard, Tax FoundationFiscal Facts, 07/17/2013
Virginia gubernatorial candidates Ken Cuccinelli (R), Terry McAuliffe (D), and Robert Sarvis (L) made a splash in early May when they rolled out the preliminary details of their tax plans, all of which would make substantial changes to the state tax code. While details are still in flux, this report describes the candidates’ current tentative plans followed by commentary on their impacts on economic activity in the state.
Crime, Justice & the Law
The Unfair Attack on Arbitration: Harming Consumers by Eliminating a Proven Dispute Resolution SystemBy Hans A. von Spakovsky, The Heritage FoundationLegal Memorandum, 07/17/2013
Opponents of strong enforcement of arbitration agreements, as authorized by the Federal Arbitration Act, contend that arbitration is unfair and biased. The evidence is to the contrary. Study after study shows that consumers and employees fare as well, if not better, in arbitration than in court. Moreover, arbitration’s speed and low costs allow the resolution of many claims that would be impractical to litigate. While the arbitration process may not treat lawyers as well as drawn-out litigation does, it is a boon for consumers, and legislation or regulation to curtail it would only injure them by cutting off a fast and efficient means of dispute resolution.
ImmigrationBy Jessica Zuckerman, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 07/17/2013
Rather than taking up the Senate’s Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (S. 744), the House has chosen to take a piece-by-piece approach to immigration reform, with five separate bills currently up for consideration, each seeking to address a specific challenge within the nation’s broken immigration system. While this approach should be applauded, the devil, of course, is in the details. The Border Security Results Act of 2013 (H.R. 1417) is one of the five bills that the House is considering. Regrettably, H.R. 1417 calls for misguided border security metrics and potentially opens the door for amnesty. The goal of any immigration reform effort should recognize that it should not end in comprehensive legislation or blanket amnesty. Instead, meaningful reform should offer practical and effective solutions.
Budget & TaxationBy Emily Goff, Romina Boccia, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 07/17/2013
House appropriators are considering the fiscal year (FY) 2014 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) appropriations bill in full committee this week. The bill would allocate $47.4 billion for commerce, justice, science, and related agencies—only $350 million (1 percent) less than the FY 2013 post-sequestration level. House appropriators can do better than that. There is ample room in the CJS bill to eliminate or reduce funding for agencies and programs whose activities are duplicative or inappropriate for the federal government to undertake. The following examples show how Congress could save an additional $2.3 billion.
Economic GrowthBy James Sherk, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 07/17/2013
Conventional wisdom holds that worker productivity has risen sharply since the 1970s while worker compensation has stagnated. This belief rests on misinterpreted economic data. Accurate and careful comparisons show that over the past 40 years measured productivity has increased 100 percent and average compensation has risen 77 percent. Inflated productivity measurements account for most of the remaining 23 percentage point difference. An apples-to-apples comparison shows that employee compensation continues to closely follow productivity. American workers continue to earn more as they become more productive. To help Americans advance economically, policymakers should seek policies that will increase productivity.