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Recent Policy Studies
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Diane Katz, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 11/18/2013
Janet Yellen, President Obama’s nominee to chair the Federal Reserve, told the Senate Banking Committee on November 14 that she is prepared to exercise a full range of regulatory “tools” to alter the actions of major financial institutions. Her remarks underscored the considerable expansion of the Fed’s regulatory powers under the Dodd–Frank law, as well as some of the thorny regulatory issues that await the next chairman. Yellen has been vice chair of the Fed’s Board of Governors since October 2010. If confirmed, she would succeed chairman Ben Bernanke when his term expires on January 31, 2014.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Peter J. Wallison, Hillsdale CollegeImprimis, 11/18/2013
The financial crisis was not caused by insufficient regulation, let alone by an inherently unstable financial system. It was caused by government housing policies that forced the dominant factors in the trillion dollar housing market—Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac—to reduce their underwriting standards. These lax standards then spread to the wider market, creating an enormous bubble and a financial system in which well more than half of all mortgages were subprime or otherwise weak. When the bubble deflated, these mortgages failed in unprecedented numbers, driving down housing values and the mortgage-backed securities on the balance sheets of financial institutions. Further regulation of the financial system through the Dodd-Frank Act was a disastrously wrong response. The vast new regulatory restrictions in the act have created uncertainty and sapped the appetite for risk-taking that had once made the U.S. financial system the largest and most successful in the world.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy Vikrant Reddy, Texas Public Policy FoundationResearch, 11/18/2013
“Crime” is a word that is easy to define for everyone except lawyers. It is increasingly evident that the definition of crime has expanded far beyond these intuitive guidelines. Actions which, traditionally, would never have been considered criminal are now regularly classified as such, and harsh criminal penalties—such as incarceration—are often applied. Many of these activities are of the sort that would be better punished by civil or administrative fines rather than criminal penalties—such as violations of certain environmental regulations. To some extent, the emphasis on federal overcriminalization has “crowded out” discussion and analysis of state-level overcriminalization. It is still the case that far more law enforcement occurs at the state level than the federal level—so many of the worst overcriminalization abuses inevitably occur at the state level.
Transportation/InfrastructureBy Emily Goff, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 11/18/2013
Senator Mike Lee (R–UT) and Representative Tom Graves (R–GA) have introduced companion pieces of legislation, the Transportation Empowerment Act (S. 1702 and H.R. 3486), that would incrementally lower the federal gas tax and the size of the federal highway program over several years. In turn, states would be empowered to assume this taxing authority and use their highway resources as they deem appropriate. As state and local authorities are more sensitive to local transportation needs, they are much better positioned to understand how to meet commuters’ demands for reduced congestion, enhanced mobility, and improved safety—the goals of transportation policy. Current federal earmarks, mandates, and funding diversions to low-value projects only hamstring efficient state and local deployment of resources to meet these goals.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Kevin Haroff, Adam Orford, Washington Legal FoundationLegal Backgrounder, 11/18/2013
California recently passed SB 4, the state’s first law to specifically address hydraulic fracturing. The law amounts to the most comprehensive regulation yet enacted by any state to address the perceived risks of fracking and other advanced well stimulation techniques. The California Natural Resources Agency is now required to conduct “an independent scientific study on well stimulation treatments . . . evaluat[ing] the . . . potential hazards and risks that well stimulation treatments pose to natural resources and public, occupational, and environmental safety.” While this study is in development, the state will continue to allow hydraulic fracturing and acid well stimulation treatments, provided certain conditions are met. The greatest uncertainty regarding SB 4 is the status of drilling in California while the new regulations and programs are developed and implemented. Anti-drilling interests may find support for seeking a court injunction until specific actions are performed to a court’s satisfaction.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Alana Wilson, Gerry Angevine, Miguel Cervantes, Fraser InstituteResearch, 11/18/2013
This report presents the results of the Fraser Institute’s 7th annual survey of petroleum industry executives and managers regarding barriers to investment in oil and gas exploration and production facilities in various jurisdictions around the globe. According to this year’s survey, the 10 most attractive jurisdictions for investment worldwide are Oklahoma, Mississippi, Saskatchewan, Texas, Arkansas, Kansas, Alabama, North Dakota, Manitoba, and Netherlands—North Sea. As in previous surveys, investors indicate that they continue to turn away from jurisdictions with onerous fiscal regimes, political instability, and land claim disputes. Similarly, investors prefer to avoid jurisdictions with costly, time-consuming uncertain regulations. Other factors being equal, competitive tax and regulatory regimes can attract investment and thus generate substantial economic benefits.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy Steven Groves, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 11/18/2013
Human rights activists have called for creation of a U.S. National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) to promote and monitor implementation of international human rights treaties, norms, and standards in the United States. Yet any violation of human rights as such rights are understood in the U.S. legal system is already justiciable in U.S. courts. Instead, activists would use a U.S. NHRI to promote economic, social, and cultural “rights” that lack constitutional or legal foundation and have been rejected for decades by the U.S. Supreme Court. Congress should reject any attempt to create a U.S. NHRI or expand the mandate of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to include the enforcement of human rights.
Regulation & DeregulationBy Gregory Conko, Jerome Arnett Jr., Competitive Enterprise InstituteResearch, 11/18/2013
In September 2012, Eddie Lovelace died in what was later revealed to be the first in an unprecedented outbreak of fungal meningitis associated with a contaminated drug produced by the New England Compounding Center (NECC). In the face of growing criticism FDA officials went into overdrive to shift responsibility and deny any role in the tragedy. Even though the agency had inspected the NECC facility FDA officials claimed the agency was powerless and insisted it needed additional authority to prevent such problems from occurring again. Yet, the real problem behind this tragedy is not one of FDA impotence. In recent years the agency has become distracted by ever more aggressive enforcement of minor regulatory infractions against manufacturers of approved drugs. Adding new federal regulations would do little but raise the price and reduce the availability of important products for patients who need them.
Economic and Political ThoughtBy Mark Rodgers, Jedd Medefind, American Enterprise InstituteThe American, 11/18/2013
Conservatives know that human flourishing comes from aspiration nurtured in community. This is true for the poor and rich alike. So any policy or program that works against this goal isn’t compassionate; it’s destructive. Meanwhile, conservatism—properly understood—nurtures conditions in which all of these institutions together can elevate the lives of all citizens, including the poor, far more than government alone ever could. That’s why conservatism is compassionate.
Economic GrowthBy Andy Winkler, American Action ForumResearch, 11/18/2013
California was among a handful of states particularly hard hit by the boom and bust of the housing bubble, seeing home values decline by 45 percent statewide. Economic data suggests that housing markets in California have improved greatly in the past year, especially when it comes to house prices and jobs. Yet a very clear divide exists between coastal cities like San Jose and smaller inland cities like Redding and Fresno. Public policy, on the federal and state levels, has in many ways prevented local communities from recovering more quickly and continues to do so. Recent changes in California law have also slowed down foreclosures, likely to the detriment of the overall recovery.
EducationBy Lindsey Burke, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 11/14/2013
No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is a continuation of nearly five decades of growing federal intervention in education. Signed into law in 2001 and intended to improve students’ academic performance, NCLB has chiefly resulted in burdening schools and states with costly and time-intensive bureaucratic compliance, while mandating unattainable universal proficiency requirements. NCLB suffers from bipartisan displeasure, and the Obama Administration has granted waivers to over 40 states, releasing them from the law’s most onerous provisions—on the condition that these states implement the Administration’s vision of education policy. This pact is a ruse: Any short-term relief that states gain comes at the price of ceding unprecedented authority over education decisions to the U.S. Department of Education. Instead of continuing to pay for dozens of ineffective and duplicative federal programs, states should be allowed to opt out of NCLB.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Sam Boxerman, Joel Visser, Jim Wedeking, Washington Legal FoundationLegal Backgrounder, 11/14/2013
The shale oil and gas revolution is a “game changer” for the United States. Experience shows shale oil and gas development is being and can be done safely, as two Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrators have acknowledged in testimony before Congress. This is not surprising, as states have been overseeing oil and gas production successfully for decades and have adjusted their own rules to address advances in shale development. Nevertheless, activists have mounted a relentless campaign, claiming hydraulic fracturing will damage the environment because it is “unregulated.” Yet, there already is no shortage of federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing. New or proposed federal regulations run the gamut from controlling air emissions to seeking to restrict worker exposure to the sand used in hydraulic fracturing fluid. The question should not be whether there is enough federal regulation, but whether the ever-growing federal regulation will handcuff future development.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy Benjamin Zycher, American Enterprise InstituteThe American, 11/14/2013
The global warming/climate change industrial complex has begun the 19th (!) session of the Conference of the Parties, and the only certainties are that considerable sums of other people’s money will be spent and deafening self-applause on the part of the environmental Left will be the dominant feature of the proceedings. Global warming became climate change, which became extreme weather, which became changing weather, which became SUPERSTORM SANDY! Thus do we find the global warming/climate change industrial complex clinging to anecdotes like so much flotsam in an ocean devoid of actual evidence. Once upon a time, the earth was Eden. But mankind, having consumed the forbidden fruit of the tree of technological knowledge, has despoiled it. Only through repentance and economic suffering can we return to the good graces of Gaia. And the plight of ordinary people? For them the environmental Left has no concern and no sympathy, but much contempt.
Health CareBy Devon M. Herrick, National Center for Policy AnalysisBrief Analysis, 11/14/2013
Michigan is moving to cover Medicaid enrollees in privately-administered managed care plans. The state should also continue to move enrollees to managed drug plans. Virtually all state Medicaid programs distribute some drugs on a fee-for-service (FFS) basis separately from any health plan. State Medicaid programs that carve out drug benefits often ignore drug therapy coordination and management. Private health plans that provide medical care to Medicaid enrollees are the logical entities to manage drug benefits. This analysis makes clear that Michigan should avoid the mistake of allowing any willing pharmacy to participate in the Medicaid drug program rather than authorizing drug plan managers to negotiate lower prices with exclusive pharmacy networks. Any willing pharmacy laws that allow outsiders to participate in a drug plan’s network reduce the power of managers to negotiate lower prices and unnecessarily facilitates waste, fraud and abuse.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Ralph Peters, Hoover InstitutionArticle, 11/14/2013
Vladimir Putin befuddles our foreign-policy establishment. Washington sages will not entertain the simple fact that Putin enjoys beating the diplomatic daylights out of our president–and otherwise responds emotionally to a range of foreign-policy matters. Westerners who view Putin as a mere thug dangerously underestimate the man. Putin has incredible strength of will and may be the only major world leader in our time who is touched, if darkly, with genius. The tragedy–which in true Russian spirit often veers into farce–is that Russia and the United States face many of the same threats and challenges: Islamist fanaticism, the rise of China and many lesser concerns. Yet, cooperation on these matters, by Russia’s choice, is limited or non-existent. Russia doesn’t really fear us–that’s hogwash. But Russians are infernally jealous of our position in the world, of our wealth, success and attractiveness as a system and a culture.
Budget & TaxationBy Charles Blahouse, Mercatus CenterReport, 11/14/2013
Washington will never gain control of federal budget deficits unless it clearly identifies their underlying causes. The vast majority—more than three-fourths—of the currently projected long-term fiscal imbalance derives from a set of decisions made between 1965 and 1972: specifically, the creation and subsequent expansion of Medicare and Medicaid and the automatic indexation of Social Security benefits. The current-year deficit exists largely because of growth in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid spending, in combination with recent expansions of income security programs and lower-than-typical revenue collections.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Edward N. Luttwak, Hoover InstitutionPaper, 11/14/2013
There are many cooperative strands in the multilateral complex of U.S.-Russian strategic relations, including those that started in Soviet days. In regard to all matters into which Putin chooses not to intrude, the weight of history is indeed manifest by way of precedents, norms and expectations, and even taboos. By contrast, the intensely adversarial stance mandated by Putin’s politics, as well as left-over Cold War suspicions on both sides, clearly impede purely bilateral attempts at cooperation. Yet if China’s regime endures, highly improbable in the long run, less so while we still live, and the entirety of global strategic relations are therefore recast by the Sino-American confrontation, Russia will once again necessarily become America’s ally, and not China’s.
National SecurityBy Danielle Pletka, American Enterprise InstituteTestimony, 11/14/2013
In each new round of negotiations with Iran, the Obama administration has proffered a sweeter set of incentives and fewer demands of Tehran. This gives Iran every reason to play out the clock, advance its program and hope for a better offer next time around. We need to consider the strong possibility that Iran has secret nuclear sites. Of course, the administration pats itself on the back that it holds the trump card in its hands: military action. I believe that the Iranians assess the likelihood of American military action under Barack Obama at zero.
Budget & TaxationBy R.J. Lehmann, James Madison InstituteBackgrounder, 11/14/2013
Florida’s property insurance system remains broken and in need of significant changes. The market is plagued by uncertainty, government intrusion, and regulatory overreach. Moreover, the ongoing risk that multiple government agencies might levy assessments on property insurance policies after a major storm or a series of lesser storms poses a meaningful risk to the state’s post-disaster economic recovery. The quickest and most effective solution to would be to charge rates that are market-based and actuarially sound. Such a shift would level the playing field, allow private insurers to better compete in Florida, spread the risk among more companies and, ultimately, lower premiums over time.
Economic and Political ThoughtBy Eamonn Butler, Institute of Economic AffairsBook, 11/14/2013
Freedom creates prosperity. Societies that have embraced freedom have made themselves rich. Those that have not have remained poor. People in a free society do not become rich by exploiting others, as the elites of less-free countries do. They become rich only by providing others with what they want and making other people’s lives better. The chief beneficiaries of the economic dynamism of free societies are the poor. Free societies are economically more equal than non-free societies. The poor in the most-free societies enjoy luxuries that were undreamed of just a few years ago, luxuries available only to the ruling elites of non- free countries. Attempts by governments to equalize wealth or income are counter-productive. They destroy the incentives for hard work and enterprise and discourage people from building up the capital that boosts the productivity of the whole society.
Budget & TaxationBy Salim Furth, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 11/14/2013
U.S. policymakers pursued deficit reduction (also called “fiscal consolidation” or “austerity”) twice in 2013. As economists have shown in dozens of papers, how a country goes about reducing deficits matters a lot in determining the economic impact of the deficit reduction. Deficit reduction based on tax increases can cause deep and immediate economic losses. The U.S. implemented both tax increases and spending cuts in 2013, but the tax increases were two to four times larger. Taking into account that the tax increases were larger and that tax increases have larger economic effects, we can safely conclude that any “austerity”-induced slowdown is due primarily to tax increases. Neither the basic historical facts nor the economic research on the topic give support to the idea that sequestration is the villain in 2013’s poor economic growth.
Elections, Transparency, & AccountabilityBy Brian Costin, Illinois Policy InstituteResearch, 11/14/2013
Illinoisans suffer from the second-highest property tax rates in the nation. Their state is the third most corrupt in the nation. And driving this expensive and corrupt reality on the local level is the fact that Illinois has more units of local government than any other state in the nation. With 6,963 units of local government, Illinois beats its nearest competitor by more than 1,800. When citizens live in areas with too many layers of government, their ability to participate in the democratic process becomes more difficult. Taxpayers shouldn’t be supporting multiple – and often redundant – layers of government through ever-higher property taxes. The state of Illinois must create more reasonable pathways for citizens to consolidate local government.
National SecurityBy Charles L. Hooper, Hoover InstitutionDefining Ideas, 11/14/2013
Should governments spy on their own citizens to find and neutralize terrorists? For a diagnostic test to be considered a good screening tool for the general population, experts say it should have a positive predictive value (PPV) of 5 to 25 percent. There are 317 million Americans. Assume that the NSA’s methods have a sensitivity of 80 percent and a specificity of 80 percent. If we use the formula for PPV and target a PPV of one percent, then the NSA would only be justified in spying on us if more than 800,000 Americans—roughly the population of South Dakota—were terrorists. Clearly, the real number is far below 800,000. With these numbers, the NSA is absolutely not justified in spying on Americans.
WelfareBy Christopher Sarlo, Fraser InstituteResearch, 11/14/2013
An absolute measure of poverty should be part of Canada’s complement of key indicators telling us how we are doing. Poverty is a condition of serious deprivation. The poor are likely to be hungry, ill-housed, inadequately clothed, or lacking in some other essential need. Yet the measurement of poverty cannot be an exercise in compassion. In the process of counting the number of poor people, we should set aside how we feel about poverty and what we think should be done about it. If poverty is a condition of serious deprivation then we should find a way to objectively determine the number of people who are, in fact, likely to be deprived in that way.
Economic GrowthBy Peter D. Salins, Encounter BooksBook, 11/14/2013
The Smart Society offers a detailed blueprint for how the United States can recast its human capital policies to make all Americans—not just a privileged elite—smarter and more successful than ever before, at the same stemming the size and cost of its welfare state. Over the last four decades, the vaunted United States human capital machine has been breaking down, dimming the economic and social prospects of millions of Americans, crowding the nation’s welfare rolls and prisons, and sharply inflating the size and cost of the nation’s “safety net.” If The Smart Society blueprint is followed, these trends can be reversed and the nation and its people can quickly regain their preeminence in the hyper-competitive and globalized world of the 21st century.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Desmond Lachman, American Enterprise InstituteTestimony, 11/14/2013
Over the past five years, in the aftermath of the Great Economic Recession, the Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, the Bank of Japan, and the Bank of England have all pursued unorthodox monetary policies on an unprecedented scale. There can be little question that unorthodox monetary policies were successful in stabilizing the major industrialized economies’ respective financial systems. However, these policies have come with a host of unintended consequences, including incipient asset and credit market bubbles, which both cloud the global economy’s longer-run economic outlook. They have also had important spillover effects on other economies in general and on the emerging market economies in particular that now pose a real risk to the global economic outlook.
Regulation & DeregulationBy Lee Harris, American Enterprise InstituteThe American, 11/13/2013
Today, the phrase “social engineering” has fallen into disgrace. Yet the policy of social engineering, the idea of which goes back to the time of Plato, is still with us today, most conspicuously in the Affordable Care Act (more popularly known as Obamacare). Those who remain optimistic that Obamacare will eventually turn around fail to realize that early glitches are not a passing phase, nor mere growing pains on the path toward progress: they are classical symptoms of an experiment in social engineering in the process of falling to pieces. The small irrationalities of our daily individual can never damage society as much as the grandiose rationality of centralized planners—a vital truth that our generation seems to have forgotten, but of which Obamacare is rapidly reminding us.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Hester Peirce, Robert Greene, Mercatus CenterPaper, 11/13/2013
The Federal Reserve’s performance as a regulator in the years leading up to the 2007–08 crisis earned it wide-spread criticism. Dodd-Frank, instead of responding to these criticisms, greatly enhanced the Fed’s regulatory authority. Recent comments by Federal Reserve officials indicate an institutional eagerness to expand this authority further into all corners of the financial markets, even those already overseen by other regulators. The pursuit of new regulatory power is a troubling manifestation of the Board’s embrace of macroprudential regulation in which every aspect of the financial system is monitored and controlled by regulators. This approach not only displaces market discipline, it also displaces other regulators. In the process, it may undermine financial stability by ensuring that regulatory mistakes by the Board reverberate through the entire financial system.
Health CareBy Edmund F. Haislmaier, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 11/13/2013
How have health insurance companies responded to Obamacare? Insights into how Obamacare is likely to alter the health care system can be gleaned from analyzing insurer decisions to participate, or not participate, in the new exchanges. An analysis of the decisions shows that in the vast majority of states the Obamacare exchanges will offer less, not more, insurer competition than the state’s current individual market. Obamacare’s complicated, income-based design of premium and cost-sharing subsidies will result in the exchange market essentially offering something akin to Medicaid managed care for the middle class. The resulting picture is one that millions of Americans are likely to find unappealing.
EducationBy Benjamin Scafidi, Jim Kelly, Friedman Foundation for Educational ChoiceReport, 11/13/2013
In choosing the private school education best suited for the overall needs of their children, do parents primarily focus on the results from standardized tests administered to students attending the school or do they rely on a variety of factors, including student safety, class size, classroom discipline, religious education, high school completion and post-secondary success, and a greater sense of community? To enable parents to make informed choices regarding the education of their children, what information should private schools provide to them and to the community at large? If state and local governments empowered parents to educate their children in the public or private schools of their choice, and parents were able to secure relevant information relating to those choices, would a more efficient “spontaneous education order” arise? We address those questions.
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Brett D. Schaefer, The Heritage FoundationBackgrounder, 11/13/2013
A U.S. nongovernmental organization has filed a lawsuit against the United Nations, seeking compensation on behalf of victims of a cholera outbreak in Haiti, as well as funding to support programs to eradicate the disease and improve sanitation. Evidence strongly indicates that U.N. peacekeepers were the source of the cholera and, due to negligence or deliberate disregard, U.N. officials and peacekeepers were responsible for its introduction into the broader Haitian population. Haitians deserve great sympathy for their plight, but a very likely consequence of a successful lawsuit would be to discourage future U.N. operations, which, while having a spotted record, are often the best or only response to humanitarian crises. The U.S. should support efforts to eradicate cholera in Haiti and reduce the chances of future tragedies by improving accountability for U.N. officials and troop-contributing countries, strengthening health-screening and sanitation standards, and improving the efficacy of U.N. peacekeeping.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Desmond Lachman, American Enterprise InstituteEconomic Perspectives, 11/13/2013
In the aftermath of the Great Recession, major central banks have scrambled to support economic recovery and to avoid deflation through highly accommodative and unorthodox monetary policy stances. Although relatively successful in the short term, these policies have given rise to incipient asset- and credit-market bubbles and to spillover effects on the emerging-market economies, which could threaten the longer-run world economic outlook. Going forward, these central banks need to be very much more mindful than they have been to date of the longer-term unintended consequences of their policy actions.
Economic and Political ThoughtBy Fred Siegel, Encounter BooksBook, 11/12/2013
This short book rewrites the history of modern American liberalism. It shows that what we think of as liberalism—the top-and-bottom coalition we associate with President Obama—began not with Progressivism or the New Deal but rather in the wake of WWI, in disillusionment with American society. Critical of mass democracy and middle-class capitalism, liberals despised the businessman’s pursuit of profit as well as the conventional individual’s pursuit of pleasure; and in the 1950s liberalism expressed itself in the scornful critique of popular culture. Today’s brand of liberalism, led by Barack Obama, has displaced the old Main Street private-sector middle class with a new middle class composed of public-sector workers allied with crony capitalists and the country’s arbiters of elite style and taste.
Information TechnologyBy Steven Titch, Reason FoundationPolicy Brief, 11/12/2013
The National Broadband Plan set an objective of universal access to data speeds of at least 4Mbps. Technological innovation has resulted in a dramatic increase in competition for the supply of data and voice service in rural areas. It is now possible to obtain 3Mbps or faster rates of data transfer practically anywhere, either over 4G cellular wireless, or over satellite. In many rural areas, such services can be delivered at significantly lower cost than through new cable or fiber lines. The National Broadband Plan universal service objective has thus been met and no more subsidies are needed. Continuing to subsidize the deployment of wired broadband in rural areas through the Connect America Fund and other programs undermines the incentive of cost-competitive firms to invest in infrastructure, harming competition and likely reducing the proportion of people who are able to access higher speed.
Budget & TaxationBy Derrick Morgan, et al., The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 11/12/2013
For the first time in years, lawmakers have agreed to convene in a budget conference to reconcile differences between their respective budget proposals, as presented by House Budget Committee chair Paul Ryan (R–WI) and Senate Budget Committee chair Patty Murray (D–WA). The two chambers’ budgets differ wildly in terms of taxes and the size of government. A budget conference presents a rare opportunity to address the U.S. government’s key fiscal challenges. During this process, it is important to recognize some key principles that are necessary for a good outcome and for a prosperous American future. However, no deal is far preferable to a bad deal.
EducationBy Liv Finne, Washington Policy CenterPolicy Brief, 11/12/2013
Innovative leaders in education are using new digital learning tools and methods to enhance the capacity of teachers to help individual students learn. Charter schools allow educators to transform their schools with new digital learning tools and methods. Students in these schools spend part of the day learning from a computer or online program and the rest of the day learning from a teacher, known as “blended learning.” These schools can offer longer school days, small group instruction, reduced class sizes, lower instructional burdens on teachers, increased teacher pay, improved teacher training, and sustainable school budgets. The lesson provided to all involved is that the flexible integration of digital and online tools into school programs can improve the academic achievement of students from all backgrounds, while enhancing teaching and utilizing limited public education funding.
EducationBy James Golsan, Texas Public Policy FoundationPolicy Perspective, 11/12/2013
In many respects, Texas has a strong public education system. We are starting to see gradual improvements in a number of metrics, including our high school graduation rate and SAT participation. Our dropout rate, a consistent and serious problem for our public schools, also has started to decrease, if only slightly. However, the bigger questions are what we should be paying for and if we are getting the kind of outcomes we should expect for our money. The question that should stem from our underwhelming academic outputs in the face of rising spending is not “Are we spending enough?” but rather “How are we spending the money we have?”
Foreign Policy/International AffairsBy Richard S. Williamson, American Enterprise InstituteThe American, 11/12/2013
Georgia’s recent presidential election was another milestone for democracy, but the small nation faces ongoing intimidation and illegal occupation of two of its territories by Russia. Whether Georgia integrates into the West or becomes annexed into President Vladimir Putin’s greater Russia is critical for the Georgian people and consequential to the United States. Consistent with his global policies of disengagement and retrenchment, President Obama is not responding effectively to Putin’s thuggish tactics. His passivity makes it harder for these countries to Westernize—even as polls show their people want to integrate with the West and their leaders seek stronger affiliation with Europe and America—and are contrary to America’s long-term interests.
Budget & TaxationBy Norbert J. Michel, John Ligon, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 11/12/2013
As Congress considers legislation to eliminate the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, advocacy groups are pressuring financial institutions to adhere to a “duty to serve” their markets rather than to meet specific affordable housing goals. The “duty to serve” is a nebulous concept that codifies the idea that the GSEs (and lenders) have a “duty” to provide mortgage financing to the entire market. Thus mortgage market participants would no longer have to make sure a certain percentage of their business serves a low-income segment, but they would have to fulfill their duty to serve that segment. A regulatory regime such as this one leaves so much discretion in the hands of regulators that it effectively replaces the market with a government directive.
WelfareBy Lewis Warne, Marcelo Ostria, National Center for Policy AnalysisIssue Brief, 11/12/2013
In the United States, eligibility for government social benefits is based mainly on an absolute measure of poverty – the federal poverty level – which is an income threshold that varies by family size. The level is supposed to be the minimum income required for a household to buy such things as food, clothing and shelter. Because the cost of living varies widely across the United States, the federal poverty threshold is not a meaningful definition of minimum living standards. How much a family can buy with those benefits depends on where they live.
National SecurityBy Baker Spring, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 11/12/2013
The number of objects in orbit, including satellites and space debris, continues to increase, and these objects need to be tracked in order to reduce the risk of collisions. It is necessary to improve the monitoring capability of the Air Force, known as “space situational awareness” (SSA), in order to improve space security and safety for all responsible spacefaring nations. Thankfully, the Air Force is acquiring the next generation of the Space Surveillance System (more often referred to as the “Space Fence”). However, the budget impasse, including the automatic defense funding reductions under sequestration, has led Air Force Space Command to discontinue full operation of the current Space Fence and postpone the next generation Space Fence final contract award date until next year. This program should be put back on track.
Crime, Justice & the LawBy Heather Mac Donald, Manhattan InstituteCity Journal, 11/12/2013
In 2009, three federal judges in California issued what Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has dubbed “perhaps the most radical injunction issued by a court in our nation’s history.” The state, announced the judges, must release upward of 46,000 prisoners within two years. The injunction was the culmination of two decades of nonstop litigation by prisoner advocates, who argued that the poor health care in California prisons violated the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The state has radically reconfigured its criminal-justice system to comply with the court order. Yet the judicial triumvirate shows no signs of relinquishing its hold on the prisons. Time will tell if California’s recent sharp increase in crime is one consequence of the judicial intervention.
Health CareBy Alyene Senger, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 11/12/2013
Obamacare’s government-run insurance exchanges opened for enrollment on October 1, and the Department of Health and Human Services finally released information on insurance plan offerings and prices in the 34 states where the federal government is responsible for running the exchanges. Analyzing insurer participation in both federal and state-run exchanges shows that the President’s health care law has almost completely failed to increase insurance market competition. In the vast majority of states, the number of insurers competing in the state’s exchange is actually less than the number of carriers that previously sold individual market policies in the state.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Richard A. Epstein, Hoover InstitutionDefining Ideas, 11/12/2013
The United States has filed its much anticipated brief in Washington Federal v. United States, defending itself against charges that it had seized the wealth of the private shareholders of Fannie and Freddie. The Federal Housing Finance Authority (FHFA), on behalf of Fannie and Freddie, paid the Treasury another $39 billion in dividends on the original advances of about $188 billion. The prospect of further and equally lucrative paydays promises to turn Treasury’s erstwhile “rescue operation” into an unparalleled bonanza for the government. Notwithstanding the government’s efforts to sugarcoat the obvious, this deal remains one of the most lopsided and unfair transactions in the annals of United States history—which says a lot about the sad state of public law and finance today.
Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & ScienceBy James M. Taylor, Capital Research CenterGreen Watch, 11/12/2013
Environmental Protection Agency rules greatly affect the quality of life in the United States—not only in terms of air pollution, but in terms of economic growth and job creation. Yet EPA’s decisions are rooted in information that is hidden away from both Congress and the American people. The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology has issued its first subpoena in 21 years. The target: “secret science” used by the Environmental Protection Agency. In the face of repeated requests over the past two years, the EPA has refused to provide Congress with the secret information that the agency employs to justify draconian restrictions—federal regulations that are shutting down power plants, raising fuel prices, and creating a tremendous burden on the country’s economy.
Monetary Policy/Financial RegulationBy Paul H. Kupiec, American Enterprise InstituteFinancial Services Outlook, 11/12/2013
The new Basel III regulations will require significantly higher minimum capital levels for banks and bank holding companies. Although many applaud higher capital levels for large institutions, it is unclear that there are good economic reasons to apply these rules to small banks. Beyond the well-known capital increase, Basel III contains new unproven macroprudential capital buffers that will impose costs on large banks with uncertain stability benefits. The complexity of the new Basel III rules give rise to a host of concerns. Complex rules are difficult and expensive to enforce. History shows that when bank supervisors are preoccupied with writing and interpreting complex capital regulations, they often miss emerging financial-sector imbalances.
Economic GrowthBy Salim Furth, James Sherk, Filip Jolevski, The Heritage FoundationIssue Brief, 11/12/2013
The economy created 204,000 jobs in October, although labor force participation dropped to its lowest level in 35 years and unemployment ticked up to 7.3 percent. The labor market remained mediocre despite a monthly payroll survey that showed “no discernible impacts of the partial federal government shutdown on the estimates of employment, hours, and earnings.” The U.S. is mired in an economic slump: Although the economy is growing, many are not contributing to or benefiting from the mediocre growth. U.S. policymakers might be able to learn from Canada’s 1990s similar slump and subsequent recovery.