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Recent Policy Studies
Budget & TaxationBy Kristina Rasmussen, Illinois Policy InstituteResearch, 09/30/2013
Opponents of pension reform often argue that the average government worker pension is modest, and that a lack of eligibility for Social Security benefits diminishes financial security prospects for these workers during retirement. This obscures two facts: First, the average pension benefit for career government workers who have recently retired is significantly higher than simple system-wide averages, which include workers who retired long ago on smaller salaries and workers who spent just a few years in the system. A teacher in Illinois who retired in fiscal year 2012 after 30 or more years on the job could expect an initial average annual pension of $72,693. Second, most state government workers actually do participate in Social Security in addition to receiving a pension through the State Employees’ Retirement System.
Protecting Students and Taxpayers: The Federal Government’s Failed Regulatory Approach and Steps for ReformBy Hank Brown, American Enterprise InstituteResearch, 09/30/2013
When it comes to federal funding of higher education, the government’s approach to quality assurance and consumer protection is a public policy and regulatory failure by almost any measure. For nearly half a century, the federal government has largely outsourced the determination of which colleges and universities are eligible to receive federal taxpayer money—in the form of student grants and loans—to member-based, geographically oriented accrediting agencies. Unfortunately, the current regulatory regime that relies on accrediting agencies fails to accomplish congressional intent (and therefore puts billions of federal tax dollars at risk); interferes with the autonomy and independence of American higher education; and undermines America’s global leadership in higher education by stifling innovation.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Roger F. Noriega, Jose Javier Lanza, American Enterprise InstituteLatin American Outlook, 09/30/2013
As stepped-up counter-narcotics policies in Colombia and Mexico have increased pressure on regional drug trafficking networks, organized crime syndicates have relocated operations to Central America, where law enforcement agencies and institutions are ill-equipped to withstand the onslaught. These multibillion-dollar gangs are making common cause with some local politicians who are following a playbook honed by Hugo Chávez in Venezuela. Like Chávez, caudillos are using the democratic process to seek power, weaken institutions, and undermine the rule of law—generating turmoil that accommodates narcotrafficking. Making matters worse for Honduras is that left-wing activists abroad, in support of ousted president and Chávez acolyte Manuel Zelaya, are waging a very public campaign of outlandish claims seeking to block any US assistance to help the Honduran government resist the drug cartels. It is imperative that US policymakers vigorously support democracy, the rule of law, and antidrug programs in Honduras.
National SecurityBy Charlotte Florance, et al., The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 09/30/2013
Al-Shabaab’s bloody four-day siege on the Westgate Shopping Center in Nairobi, Kenya, comes on the heels of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri’s calls for attacks on non-Muslims. Al-Shabaab’s close affiliation with al-Qaeda has made its fighters more sophisticated in their use of terrorist tactics—evidenced in the Nairobi attack by the group’s ability to deploy a well-coordinated team of operatives on a suicide mission. The Nairobi attack underscored al-Shabaab’s role as an increasingly effective al-Qaeda affiliate deserving of the al-Qaeda brand. To combat the resurgence of a “down but not out” al-Shabaab and the greater legitimacy the organization garnered in the eyes of Islamist extremists through the Nairobi attack, the U.S. and its allies in the region should develop a comprehensive counterterrorism strategy for the Horn of Africa that addresses the increasing number of al-Qaeda-linked groups operating throughout the continent.
Health CareBy Naomi Lopez Bauman, Illinois Policy InstituteResearch, 09/30/2013
Illinois is in the midst of a decades-long struggle to overcome numerous challenges ranging from corruption, high unemployment, underfunded pensions and high taxes. At a time when the state can’t afford any additional obstacles, recent data provide support to the claim that employers have been cutting employee hours to avoid the costliest aspects of ObamaCare since it was signed into law in 2011. The number of lost hours in the retail sector is the labor equivalent of about 36,000 Illinois jobs lost in that sector since 2011. The number of lost hours in the food and beverage sector is the equivalent of 10,000 jobs lost. Lost hours in the general merchandise sector is equivalent to 20,000 jobs lost. Since 2011, Illinois has lost the equivalent of about 66,000 jobs in these sectors through reduced work hours – more than the number of jobs added in all sectors over the past year.
National SecurityBy Tevi Troy, Hudson InstituteBriefing Paper, 09/30/2013
Since 2000, the United States has been faced with an unprecedented series of natural and man-made disasters and threats that have generated concerns about the government’s ability to respond to future emergencies. To deal with the potential problems of the future, including bioterror attacks as well as natural disasters, the U.S. government needs to maintain a robust toolkit. One of these crucial tools for dealing with the medical consequences of natural and man-caused disasters is the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS), which provides the United States with an extensive supply of countermeasures—antibiotics, vaccines, and a variety of other life-supporting drugs and devices—that can be distributed by government officials in the event of national emergencies. But the SNS, like all government programs, is not perfect, and only through continual reassessment, analysis, and reform can we ensure that it is as effective as it needs to be when a crisis emerges.
Health CareBy Joseph Antos, American Enterprise InstituteThe American, 09/30/2013
Coming out of the box in October, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will look shaky. The first test of the insurance exchanges will occur when individuals attempt to apply for coverage, and problems are inevitable. Individuals in need of health coverage will experience delays and frustration by a bureaucracy-laden application process. Many will be uncertain how to choose a plan that is best for them. Is a gold plan (which covers 80 percent of the average person’s health costs) with a $2,000 deductible better than a silver plan (covering 70 percent of costs) with a $1,000 deductible? Should I pay more to keep my doctor or have access to the nearest hospital? These are the kinds of questions that most people will have, and the navigators and other people who try to help with the enrollment process will not have answers.
Budget & TaxationBy Ted Dabrowski, John Klingner, Illinois Policy InstituteResearch, 09/30/2013
A common refrain sounded by public sector unions is that government workers have consistently “paid their share” into Illinois’ pension systems and the state has not. However, the facts tell a different story. While government worker contributions to Illinois’ five pension systems have increased by 75 percent since 1998, taxpayer contributions have increased by 427 percent over the same period. In 2012 alone, Illinois taxpayers contributed $3.5 billion more to the pension systems than state workers did.
National SecurityBy David Inserra, et al., The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 09/30/2013
Al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group operating out of Somalia, has claimed responsibility for the deadly attack on a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya. Notably, the Kenyan government is claiming that several Westerners are among the al-Shabaab gunmen including “two or three Americans.” The threat of al-Shabaab is not be limited to a local insurgency, as the group maintains effective foreign recruiting of Americans and other Westerners and numerous terrorist attacks in the region have been attributed to al-Shabaab. Terror that al-Shabaab inflicts and the tactics it uses could be easily exported to the U.S. The attack in Kenya should remind the U.S. that the fight against terrorism is not over and that al-Qaeda and its affiliates are still a formidable threat to the U.S. homeland. The U.S. should update its counterterrorism tools to prevent attacks such as this from occurring in the U.S.
PhilanthropyBy Guy Sorman, Manhattan InstituteCity Journal, 09/30/2013
Money manager Paul Tudor Jones believes that private philanthropy could help the poor improve their lot and reduce inequality—but only if that philanthropy was effective. He has decided to try to revolutionize social philanthropy by infusing it with methods from the world of finance, seeking to measure the result—the “output” produced—rather than simply track the money spent, the “input.” Can philanthropy be calculated that way? No philanthropic institution had ever functioned on such a rigorously quantitative basis.
Health CareBy Joseph Antos, American Enterprise InstituteThe American, 09/30/2013
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is remarkable for remaining consistently unpopular with the public. The problem is not that the public does not know how good the ACA will be. The problem, if you can call it a problem, is that 85 percent of Americans already have health insurance, most through their employers. Few of them will be eligible for lower premiums or larger subsidies in the exchanges. Offering the status quo—if you like your coverage, you can keep it—will not make the majority of the public fall in love with one of the most complex pieces of legislation in modern times. Especially if that promise cannot be kept.
Budget & TaxationBy Michael Schuyler, Tax FoundationFiscal Facts, 09/30/2013
One of the primary motivations for tax reform is a recognition that the U.S. income tax system is a serious drag on economic growth. Its anti-growth effects, which are inadvertent but powerful, hurt Americans’ productivity and incomes, reduce their ability to compete in an increasingly global marketplace, and diminish their future opportunities. Pruning back tax expenditures could—if done wisely—pay for spectacular reductions in income tax rates and fuel economic growth. Care must be taken, though, to assess the merits of each provision individually. Exchanging some provisions for lower rates would be pro-growth and would be a move that pays for itself. However, with a number of other tax features—notably those that affect the cost of capital—dropping the items in return for lower rates would slow growth and collect much less revenue than a conventional revenue estimate would predict.
Economic GrowthBy Aparna Mathur, American Enterprise InstituteResearch, 09/27/2013
So after decades of research on income inequality, do we really know where we stand? The standard narrative that rising income inequality has somehow hurt the middle and lower income classes is not supported by data. Whether the explanation for improvement in living standards lies in redistribution policies and the growth of the safety net, or technological improvements that allowed prices of electronics and other durable goods to drop, or real improvements in productivity and wages, the bottom line is: people are better off today than they were twenty or thirty years ago. Households are consuming more and the typical low income household possesses many more appliances and gadgets that have traditionally been considered the preserve of the rich, than at any time in history. Judging by these criteria, inequality is much less of a predicament than most politicians would have you believe.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Brett D. Schaefer, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 09/27/2013
Appropriations for all or part of fiscal year (FY) 2014 are expected to be adopted under a continuing resolution (CR). This practice keeps the government funded, but it fails to resolve stark differences between the Obama Administration, the Senate, and the House over funding for the international affairs budget, which includes the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and contributions to the United Nations and other international organizations and activities. Complicating matters is the fact that Congress has not passed an authorization bill relating to this budget since 2003. Without the periodic scrutiny inherent in the authorization process, Congress cannot be certain that its appropriations provide good value to the American taxpayer or reflect the evolving needs of U.S. interests and policy priorities.
Health CareBy Sam Batkins, American Action ForumResearch, 09/27/2013
Despite the many delays, administrative lapses, and staggering costs, few have examined the regulatory burdens of the new health care exchanges. According to administration data, the listed paperwork burden of the exchanges exceeds 16.6 million hours, $558 million in direct costs, and 40 new forms. Examining the regulatory impact analyses from exchange regulations, the total cost to states and private entities approaches $5.3 billion. Including all current requirements under Health and Human Services (HHS), the agency imposes 645 million hours of paperwork, $35.3 billion in costs, and 4,116 federal forms. These results should not be surprising. The ACA is a massive piece of legislation that involves eight separate government agencies, dozens of new taxes, and trillions of dollars in federal and state outlays. It is clear that this “fundamental reform” has produced more red tape, additional complexity, and higher costs.
Health CareBy Joseph Antos, American Enterprise InstituteThe American, 09/27/2013
The public relations battle over the cost of health insurance in the exchanges is in full roar. State insurance commissioners and health insurance exchange boards, eager to prove to taxpayers that they are doing their jobs, have announced that they will save consumers plenty of money—or at least not cost them too much more. Critics of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) dig into the rate filings and find unconscionable increases in premiums. Neither side in this debate over premiums can address affordability from the only perspective that matters: the consumer’s. Premiums might be lower than expected by experts, but are they lower than expected by the people who are supposed to buy the insurance? Even if premiums are affordable as determined by consumers and not by some arbitrary government standard, is the insurance attractive enough to purchase?
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Lisa Curtis, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 09/27/2013
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday is unlikely to result in any major breakthroughs in the relationship. At most, it will provide an opportunity for the two sides to continue a strategic dialogue on critical global and regional issues. Disappointment among the American business community over India’s lack of economic reform and protectionist policies are dampening enthusiasm over the visit. Despite current hurdles in the relationship, Washington should continue to look for ways to cooperate on the two countries’ increasingly convergent geopolitical objectives but temper expectations for any significant agreements before the Indian elections scheduled for May 2014.
Health CareBy Robert E. Moffit, Edmund F. Haislmaier, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 09/27/2013
The declared purposes—and resulting effects—of the Obamacare exchanges are very different from those of consumer-oriented approaches. Consumer-choice health insurance exchanges facilitate defined-contribution financing of health insurance. The objective is not merely to increase supplier competition, but also to make suppliers more responsive to the preferences of individual consumers. A different type of exchange operates on a government “procurement model.” In those cases, while a private insurer may provide the coverage, the covered individuals have little or no say in the decision. The Obamacare health insurance exchange system, though often sold as a mechanism to provide consumer choice and competition, is, in fact, a vehicle for the detailed federal regulation of insurance. Americans can expect less choice and less competition. Given the extreme degree of that regulation, private health plans will soon become “private” in name only.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Hans von Spakovsky, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 09/26/2013
The Illinois Supreme Court has finally joined the rest of the nation in recognizing Second Amendment rights, including the ability to carry a concealed weapon in public. In a decision on September 12 in Illinois v. Aguilar, the Illinois court threw out as unconstitutional a state statute that made the “aggravated unlawful use of a weapon” a felony. This may not be the end of Second Amendment litigation in Illinois. That will depend on whether Illinois authorities administer the new concealed carry law in a reasonable manner and whether elected officials in places such as Chicago who are hostile to gun rights attempt to evade the intent of the statute and these court holdings. Only time will tell.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Kathleen Hunker, Texas Public Policy FoundationReport, 09/26/2013
Texas boasts one of the greatest energy markets in the world. Yet, despite years of success, many policymakers have begun to question whether Texas’ energy-only market can continue to deliver adequate generation in the years ahead. Instead of looking at current regulations that distort the market, recent debate has centered on installing a top-down, system-wide capacity market that subsidizes the operational costs of energy production in the hopes that energy companies will invest in new capacity. Past experience, however, shows that capacity markets, at best, have a threadbare track record at boosting energy investment. Its cumbersome regulations cannot accurately recreate the incentives naturally found in the market, resulting in a multi-billion dollar redistribution scheme whose greatest success will be at inflating electricity rates all the while shifting the risks of bad business decisions onto consumers.
Budget & TaxationBy William McBride, Tax FoundationFiscal Facts, 09/26/2013
America’s economic problems are often attributed by those in the popular press and in political office to a “lack of demand,” resulting in numerous policies aimed at boosting consumption. Meanwhile, investment—the true engine of economic growth—is at a nearly record low, well below the levels seen in our largest trading partners. Cross-country comparisons show the U.S. has an extremely low level of investment and low economic growth relative to both developed and major developing countries. A primary reason is U.S. tax policy, which is heavily slanted against investment. Tax reform can address these problems by cutting the corporate tax rate, currently the highest in the developed world, reducing individual income tax rates on non-corporate business, reducing investor-level taxes, improving business expensing, and moving to a territorial tax system.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Paul J. Gessing, Rio Grande FoundationPolicy, 09/26/2013
New Mexico, along with other Western states, is owned to a great extent by the federal government. The federal government’s poor management of lands in New Mexico and other Western states harms the environment and reduces the economic value of precious resources. New Mexico and other Western states could improve the management of federal lands–leading to improved ecology and multi-purpose use–all while also bringing more economic growth and jobs to the state. If New Mexico was given the opportunity to manage its own BLM and National Forest lands, the surplus generated from minerals and the oil and gas industries could be used to ensure that these lands are economic drivers for their communities and the state while surplus revenues could be re-invested in ways that ensure their sustainability for future generations.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Josh Blackman, Reason FoundationReason, 09/26/2013
The challenge to Obamacare was, at its heart, a libertarian challenge. The legal arguments were fashioned by prominent libertarians, such as Georgetown law professor Randy Barnett. The law being attacked was one libertarians opposed for decades on policy and economic grounds. And, the notion of mandated health insurance is inherently anti-libertarian. But, this was not only a philosophical argument, or one of policy. As the Supreme Court’s opinion demonstrated, these libertarian principles resonated strongly in the structural protections of our Constitution, which stood as bulwarks against two of Obamacare’s biggest increases in federal power: the individual mandate and the Medicaid expansion.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Terry Anderson, Shawn Regan, George W. Bush InstitutePaper, 09/26/2013
Currently Native American reservations are unable to develop their vast energy resources due to poorly-defined property rights. If policies were different and tribes could earn a 5% return on their energy resources, Native Americans would have additional income of $75 billion per year, and U.S. GDP would increase by as much as 0.5% per year. Thus, regulations on American Indian energy reserves impose a huge cost on the rightful owners of those reserves and on economic growth. Indian reservations contain almost 30% of the nation’s coal reserves west of the Mississippi, 50% of potential uranium reserves, and 20% of known oil and gas reserves. Yet 86% of Indian lands with energy or mineral potential remain undeveloped because of Federal control of reservations that keeps Indians from fully capitalizing on their natural resources if they desire.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Warren Meyer, PERC – The Property and Environment Research CenterPERC Case Studies, 09/26/2013
In 2010, Arizona announced it would have to close Red Rock State Park near Sedona due to budget shortfalls. Next door, the U.S. Forest Service owns Crescent Moon Ranch, a nearly identical public park with similar facilities, visitation, and revenues. The fee revenue at this park, however, not only keeps the park fully maintained, it supports a visitor center down the road and adds more than $60,000 to the local Forest Service recreation budget—all without requiring tax money to operate. Why the difference? Thirty years ago, the Forest Service adopted a radically different model for operating its public recreation areas. The agency partners with private companies that substantially reduce its costs while providing more accountability for customer service.
Health CareBy Devon M. Herrick, National Center for Policy AnalysisBrief Analysis, 09/26/2013
The proportion of Americans without health coverage has remained relatively stable over time. However, many of those who lack insurance are uninsured for only a short period of time. Data from past years showed that more than half of the uninsured will be covered within a year. The rise in the uninsured over the past decade was largely due to population growth, immigration, the recession and—in some instances—individual choice. Proponents of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) hoped it would achieve near-universal coverage. Yet, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the ACA will cover less than half of the uninsured. A decade from now (2023), long after the ACA is fully implemented, the CBO estimates it will only cover about 25 million people who would otherwise be uninsured, leaving 31 million people uninsured. Even this estimate may be too optimistic.
EducationBy Kyle Buckley, Lloyd M. Bentsen IV, National Center for Policy AnalysisIssue Brief, 09/26/2013
The process to receive education benefits begins with an online or telephone application. After a veteran enrolls and registers for courses, university employees forward the student’s documents to the Veterans Benefits Administration, which scrutinizes the information for eligibility prior to disbursing education benefits. Unfortunately, the Veterans Administration (VA) does not provide veterans with adequate information about the benefits available and the application process. Furthermore, the way benefits for living expenses are structured creates obstacles for veterans attending traditional colleges, provides incentives for commercial (for-profit) schools to recruit veterans, and reduces the number of vets who successfully complete degree requirements. Finally, under the post-9/11 GI Bill, the VA education program is failing to meet performance benchmarks.
Economic and Political ThoughtBy Steven M. Teles, National AffairsNational Affairs, 09/26/2013
In recent decades, American politics has been dominated, at least rhetorically, by a battle over the size of government. But that is not what the next few decades of our politics will be about. With the frontiers of the state roughly fixed, the issues that will define our major debates will concern the complexity of government, rather than its sheer scope. With that complexity has also come incoherence. Conservatives over the last few years have increasingly worried that America is, in Friedrich Hayek’s ominous terms, on the road to serfdom. But this concern ascribes vastly greater purpose and design to our approach to public policy than is truly warranted. If anything, we have arrived at a form of government with no ideological justification whatsoever.
The Constitution/Civil LibertiesBy Joel Alicea, National AffairsNational Affairs, 09/26/2013
The NFIB decision exposed divisions in the conservative legal movement that have existed for decades. Legal conservatism has long stood for a modest judicial role that tends to defer to current legislative majorities. But legal conservatism has also stood for originalism, the idea that judges should enforce the original meaning of the Constitution and its amendments. When opposing the fabrication of constitutional rights by judges, judicial restraint and originalism have reinforced one another. As the reaction to Chief Justice Roberts’s opinion in NFIB demonstrated, however, some originalists think judicial restraint permits the elected branches to do things the founding generation never could have imagined, let alone ratified. What is judicial restraint? And should the conservative legal movement affirm it?
National SecurityBy Gabriel Schoenfeld, National AffairsNational Affairs, 09/26/2013
No one can doubt that keeping state secrets is essential to national security. Whether the threats we face come from Islamic radicals intent on wreaking mayhem and murder or hostile regimes like North Korea and Iran intent on acquiring nuclear weapons, America and its allies depend on secrecy to observe our adversaries and obstruct their plans. Yet national-security secrets are now leaking from our government at a rate without precedent in our history. Indeed, when it comes to America’s protection of government secrets, the old order—in which leaks were seldom terribly damaging and were largely tolerated by the federal government—appears to be coming to an end. A new order is taking its place in which, on one side, aggressive journalists are joining with self-appointed “whistleblowers” to disseminate some of our government’s most sensitive secrets, and, on the other side, the government is forcefully cracking down.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Jason Thomas, National AffairsNational Affairs, 09/26/2013
We all know the familiar story of how the financial crisis that precipitated the Great Recession supposedly came to be. Mortgage lenders issued a large number of exotic, subprime, adjustable-rate mortgages that were packaged into securities eventually purchased by the enormous government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Borrowers who availed themselves of such mortgages defaulted in large numbers beginning in 2007. That wave of defaults drove a mortgage crisis that became a banking crisis and eventually an economic crisis and severe recession. Familiar as it has become, this story was not how the housing crisis was understood as it was happening. The spike in mortgage default volumes in 2007 and 2008 was not a result of resets in mortgage payments, but was instead a function of the collapse in house values, which serve as the collateral for mortgage loans.
EducationBy Frederick M. Hess, National AffairsNational Affairs, 09/26/2013
In recent years, a growing group of reformers has evinced an admirable interest in fundamentally reshaping education policy. Reformers have shown impressive discipline in overhauling musty tenure laws, expanding school choice, holding educators accountable for performance, and insisting upon forceful interventions in low-performing schools. Progress has been undermined, however, by the reform coalition’s casual faith in the kind of social planning typically associated with the progressive left. These efforts have paid short shrift to the simple and frustrating fact that, while public policy can make people do things, it cannot make people do those things well. This is especially salient in education for two reasons. First, state and federal policymakers do not run schools. And second, schooling is a complex, highly personal endeavor, which means that what happens at the individual level—the level of the teacher and the student—is the most crucial factor in separating failure from success.
Health CareBy Tom Miller, National AffairsNational Affairs, 09/26/2013
It has been another rough year for Obamacare. A majority of state governments continue to resist the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid, and only about a third of them have agreed to set up state-administered insurance exchanges. Obamacare remains about as unpopular today as it was right after its passage. Despite all these problems, however, Obamacare will be implemented (at least in part), and many conservative critics waiting for the law to collapse under its own weight will need to postpone their funeral plans until they can do a better job of articulating the conservative health-care agenda to the public. Obamacare may not be carried out as written and may not survive as implemented, but persuading voters to overturn what unfortunately remains, for now, the law of the land will require a serious approach to solving our health-care system’s very real problems.
Transportation/InfrastructureBy Brian Deignan, Mercatus CenterWorking Paper, 09/26/2013
Many Americans take it for granted that the federal government should regulate the transportation sector in the United States and continue to provide funding for transportation infrastructure, particularly highways and urban mass transit. Yet an economic and historical analysis raises questions about how much government safety regulation is necessary and whether private firms or state and local governments could provide infrastructure more efficiently.
Budget & TaxationBy Keith Hall, Robert Greene, Mercatus CenterMercatus on Policy, 09/26/2013
In the aggregate, Virginia weathered the Great Recession and the dismal recovery much better than the nation as a whole. However, the state has two distinct labor markets: a fully private one and a second one that is both directly and indirectly supported by government spending. We estimate that about 30 percent of state employment relies on government spending, and this portion of the labor market flourished during the recession. The remaining 70 percent of Virginia’s labor market has performed about as poorly as the rest of the country since 2007. Eliminating Virginia’s corporate income tax, reforming the personal income tax, lowering regulatory burdens on low-income entrepreneurs, and eliminating the state’s wasteful sales tax loopholes and enterprise zone program would create opportunities for increased private-sector growth and employment.
Economic GrowthBy James R. Copland, Margaret M. O'Keefe, Manhattan InstituteProxy Monitor, 09/25/2013
In recent years, large, publicly traded American corporations have increasingly faced pressure from a subset of shareholder activists that introduce proposals on the companies’ proxy ballots for consideration at annual meetings. The 2013 proxy season shows shareholder activism in the form of shareholder proposals submitted for consideration on corporate proxy ballots on the rise. Such proposals, however, received less support this year than in any of the prior seven years in the Proxy Monitor database. Labor-affiliated investors, which sponsored a plurality of all shareholder proposals in 2013, sponsored them more often at companies that play a larger role in the political process and that contribute more heavily in support of the Republican Party.
Budget & TaxationBy Roy Cordato, John Locke FoundationSpotlight, 09/24/2013
For many years it has been recognized that North Carolina’s tax system is in need of a major overhaul. The system has been a model of hodgepodge tax policy, with high marginal rates on personal and corporate incomes and lots of exemptions carved out for the favored few. This has led to a tax system that generally penalizes investment, entrepreneurship, economic growth, and therefore job creation. The process of bringing this to an end has more than begun with this year’s sweeping tax reform, passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by Governor McCrory. The changes that were made, particularly to the personal and corporate income taxes, have set the stage for long-term economic growth. The deliberative process that led to these changes was thoughtful and, in large part, ignored the kind of special interest pleadings that typically plague such reform efforts.
National SecurityBy Brian Slattery, Michaela Dodge, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 09/24/2013
For the past several years, the President and Navy Secretary Ray Mabus have directed the U.S. Navy to dedicate increasingly precious budgetary resources to establish a “green fleet”—i.e., to replace conventional diesel fuel for ships with biofuels harvested from organic material. Supporters claim that instability in the fossil fuel market justifies paying more for unproven technologies, but this initiative will in effect cause fiscal instability in an already unstable Department of Defense budget.
EducationBy Terry Stoops, John Locke FoundationSpotlight, 09/24/2013
What we know about North Carolina’s implementation of the Common Core State Standards has changed since the John Locke Foundation released 35 Questions About Common Core: Answers for North Carolinians in April 2013. What has not changed is the demand for basic information about Common Core.
Health CareBy Merrill Matthews, Institute for Policy InnovationIPI Ideas, 09/24/2013
Every state is looking for ways to reduce its Medicaid spending. Here’s an untested idea: integrate existing technology to help beneficiaries and their health care providers monitor and manage their health care. Medicaid could play a leading role in that effort. But neither the states nor Washington have embraced health IT. The goal of health care reform was to increase access to care, lower costs and improve quality. It is doubtful that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will achieve any of those goals, but integrating technology into Medicaid coverage could.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Richard A. Epstein, Hoover InstitutionDefining Ideas, 09/24/2013
This past week, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced that it is preparing a full new set of regulations on CEO compensation that are in keeping with the Dodd-Frank law. These regulations are the brainchild of Senator Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, who believes that investors deserve to know “whether public companies’ pay practices are fair to their average employees, especially compared to their highly compensated CEOs.” The seductive search for “fairness” is, however, both mischievous in its choice of ends, and perverse in its selection of means. The new regulations could cost billions and yet provide no useful public information, in light of the massive amounts of information already available.
Economic GrowthBy Lee Ohanian, John B. Taylor, Hoover InstitutionDefining Ideas, 09/24/2013
Why is the current recovery so weak? It is not because of the aftermath of the 2007-08 financial crisis. U.S. Financial markets began to recover in late 2008, more than four and a half years ago. Recent research by us and other scholars analyzes the chronically slow economic recovery from a very different perspective. Specifically, our view is that poorly designed and implemented government policies have impeded capital and technological investments and hiring, and that bad government policies – not underlying problems with the U.S. market economy – are the primary reason why the economy has not recovered.
Economic GrowthBy Charles L. Hooper, Hoover InstitutionDefining Ideas, 09/24/2013
With a “progressive” tax code and a growing economy, the government’s tax collections grow relatively faster than the income of regular Americans. During recessions, when income falls, the government’s tax collections shrink relatively faster. It is exactly this relationship that makes the government the biggest beneficiary of a strong economy and the biggest loser in a down economy. But you would never know that from the myopic, anti-economic policies regularly instituted by politicians and bureaucrats. They haven’t learned from or acted on the refrain: It’s the economy, stupid.
Information TechnologyBy Seth L. Cooper, Free State FoundationPerspectives from FSF Scholars, 09/24/2013
A sure sign of the wireless market’s dynamism is the prevalence and popularity of prepaid, no contract pricing options. Over the last few years, new subscriptions for the prepaid wireless segment have typically outpaced net additions for the postpaid segment. AT&T’s proposal to acquire Leap Wireless is just the latest development in prepaid, no contract wireless market trends. AT&T/Leap would, in all likelihood, increase competition and would enhance spectral efficiency by enabling AT&T to utilize Leap’s unused spectrum and by better using Leap’s underutilized spectrum. In reviewing the proposed AT&T/Leap combination, it is critical that the FCC’s review process follow a proper analysis and that it be completed in an expeditious manner. The FCC should not arbitrarily shrink its product market definitions in the course of conducting its review.