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InsiderOnline Blog: August 2011

New Index Highlights Where the Unions Rule

A new Big Labor v. Taxpayers Index, produced by the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s WorkplaceChoice.org, shows where government worker unions have the most power to dip into taxpayers’ wallets.

When politicians sit across the table from unions representing government workers, they’re bargaining with the very people whose votes they’ll want come the next election. Giving those same unions collective bargaining rights, too, tilts the set-up even further against the interests of taxpayers.

The Big Labor v. Taxpayers Index ranks all 50 states on 23 factors, such as whether a state has laws limiting how unions can spend workers’ dues on political activity, whether union elections are conducted by secret ballot, and the power of binding arbitrators to make generous awards with the taxpayers money.

According to the index, the five states whose laws are the most favorable to taxpayers are Tennessee, Utah, Idaho, Texas, and Florida; while the five states whose laws are most favorable to unions are New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania.

Posted on 08/31/11 05:53 PM by Alex Adrianson

Choices Explain Pay Gap

When you take into account the different career choices men and women make, the so-called gender pay gap disappears almost completely. Steve Horwitz explains in this new video from the Institute for Humane Studies:

Posted on 08/30/11 05:47 PM by Alex Adrianson

The “Super Committee” Needs Transparency

In the rush to make a deal on the debt ceiling by August 2, Congress forgot (or perhaps neglected) to include transparency requirements when it created the Joint Select Committee—aka, the Super Committee that is supposed to come up with $1.5 trillion in 10-year savings by Thanksgiving. Here’s what should be done, according to Brian Darling:

First, each committee in the House and Senate are mandated by law to transmit recommendations to the Super Committee by Oct. 14. All of those recommendations should be shared with the American public.

Next, there is no provision in the law mandating that the American people get to attend hearings or participate in the legislative process before the final report of the committee. At a minimum, a draft of the final proposal should be shared with the American public before the committee’s final vote in late November.

The hearings should be public. The law says that the Super Committee “may” hold hearings. The law does not force transparency on the members of the committee. Yet this legislative process needs to be open to the public to allow the American people to participate. Secret meetings and closed-door negotiations have no place in politics today.

Darling’s column provides the Legislative Lowdown each week at Human Events. Check it out.

Posted on 08/29/11 12:32 PM by Alex Adrianson

If You’re Not Convinced by the Science, Maybe You’ll Be Convinced By the Science Fiction

Researchers in Penn State University’s geography department want to help humanity prepare for an encounter with extra-terrestrials, so they’ve published a 37-page paper that lays out a variety of scenarios, including this one:

Ecosystem-valuing universalist ETI [extra-terrestrial intelligences] may observe humanity’s ecological destructive tendencies and wipe humanity out in order to preserve the Earth system as a whole…. These scenarios give us reason to limit our growth and reduce our impact on global ecosystems. It would be particularly important for us to limit our emissions of greenhouse gases, since atmospheric composition can be observed from other planets.

Why contemplate such a scenario? Perhaps the authors really secretly yearn for the arrival of an all-powerful alien overlord willing to threaten havoc unless we humans shape up. There’s a certain type of liberal that reveres thuggery, as long as the thuggery is put in service of good ends. In James Cameron’s The Abyss, aliens stand ready to crash thousand-foot high tsunamis on every city, town, and hamlet in the world in order to stop humanity’s destructive ways. They change their minds at the end of the movie, but only because they think there’s hope for us yet. Everybody goes home happy. Columnist Tom Friedman wants America to have a government more like China’s so that it could get around messy democracy and do cool stuff like subsidize clean energy. These are the deus ex machina fantasies of progressives: If we don’t have utopia, it’s only because the dictatorship that would impose it hasn’t yet arrived.

Posted on 08/26/11 01:57 PM by Alex Adrianson

There Might Be a Reason Illinois Is Losing Jobs

The Illinois Policy Institute explains:

Illinois lost more jobs during the month of July than any other state in the nation, according to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report. After losing 7,200 jobs in June, Illinois lost an additional 24,900 non-farm payroll jobs in July. The report also said Illinois’s unemployment rate climbed to 9.5 percent. This marks the third consecutive month of increases in the unemployment rate.

Illinois started to create jobs as the national economy began to recover. But just when Illinois’s economy seemed to be turning around, lawmakers passed record tax increases in January of this year. Since then, Illinois’s employment numbers have done nothing but decline.

Data released today by the bureau confirms this downward trajectory. When it comes to putting people back to work, Illinois is going backwards. Since January, Illinois has dropped 89,000 people from its employment rolls.

Posted on 08/26/11 12:49 PM by Alex Adrianson

Facebook Tweaks

Maybe it’s time to fine-tune your organization’s Facebook page. For tips on graphics, vanity urls, showing fans and non-fans different content, and timing posts check out Steve Coulson’s article “5 Tips for Optimizing Your Brand’s Facebook Presence” at Mashable.

Posted on 08/26/11 12:36 PM by Alex Adrianson

Halfway Through a Lost Decade

Even judged against the recoveries of the worst financial crises, the current U.S. recovery is poor. In their paper, “After the Fall,” Vincent and Carmen Reinhart looked at the experiences surrounding the 15 worst financial crises of the second half of the 20th century. In a recent update, Vincent Reinhart notes:

The risk to the US outlook is not that it will repeat the precedent in “After the Fall” of a deep recession and hesitant recovery. That has already happened. Rather, the risk is that the foundation for sustained expansion after that pain has not been set. Figure 3b [below] identifies the key drivers of economic expansion in the fifteen episodes we studied. As plotted by the solid blue line, real equity prices rebound sharply in the median performance. House prices (the dashed green line) continue to sag in real terms, but their rate of decline slows. Four years after the fall (which is five years after the asset market peak), capital gains on equities are driving wealth creation.

       

But this is not so, yet, in the United States. The table [below] tracks the median performance of the fifteen crisis countries and the United States five years after the asset market peak. In the median case, a country has recovered its previous peak in production, with real GDP per capita up 3.7 percent, on net. The US recovery is yet incomplete, with real per-capita output 2.2 percent off its 2006 level. The two rows below give the associated asset market performance, showing that the real values of equities and homes track well below the median experience.

           

See Is the U.S. Economy Freefalling?” by Vincent Reinhart, American Enterprise Institute.

Posted on 08/26/11 12:24 PM by Alex Adrianson

CPAC for Sunny Weather

CPAC is going on the road—to the sunshine state! Yep, there’s now a Florida edition of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. The conference starts September 23, in Orlando. The theme of the conference is “We Still Hold These Truths,” (Not bad, right, Matt Spalding?)

The lineup of speakers includes Rep. Michele Bachmann, businessman Herman Cain, ACU Chairman Al Cardenas, bestselling author Ann Coulter, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, founder of The Weekly Standard Bill Kristol, Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Faith & Freedom Coalition Chairman Ralph Reed, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Sen. Marco Rubio, former Sen. Rick Santorum, and former Sen. Jim Talent.

Posted on 08/26/11 11:51 AM by Alex Adrianson

The Government Will Be Needing Some of Your Future Earnings

An entry in the recent Powerline contest:

Posted on 08/25/11 10:31 PM by Alex Adrianson

The Second Children Might Have Appreciated the Second Guess

Under China’s “one-child policy,” Chinese officials have forced women to abort unauthorized pregnancies and undergo sterilizations. This policy is the one Vice-President Joe Biden said he does not second guess. Biden, who made the remark on Sunday to students of Sichuan University while comparing China’s demographic challenges to those in the United States, could have learned the facts about China’s policy by reading the State Department’s 2010 Human Rights Report (published this April):

National law prohibits the use of physical coercion to compel persons to submit to abortion or sterilization. However, intense pressure to meet birth limitation targets set by government regulations resulted in instances of local family-planning officials using physical coercion to meet government goals. Such practices included the mandatory use of birth control and the abortion of unauthorized pregnancies. In the case of families that already had two children, one parent was often pressured to undergo sterilization.

A U.S.-based human rights organization reported that in August, the one-month-old daughter of a mother in Changfeng County, Anhui Province, was detained by local family-planning officials until the woman signed a document consenting to a sterilization procedure.

In April as reported by a regional investigative newspaper affiliated with the newspaper Southern Daily and later in the international press, local family-planning officials in Puning, Guangdong Province, initiated an “education campaign” to encourage nearly 9,559 “most serious violators of family-planning policies” to undergo sterilization procedures. Reportedly, 1,300 persons were detained during this process, including family members of couples who had unauthorized births, until at least one member of the couple in violation submitted to a sterilization procedure.

Posted on 08/24/11 06:07 PM by Alex Adrianson

Tech Titans Come and Go

Will technology giants conspire to control consumers’ choices unless checked by regulation? Recent history, observes Adam Thierer, shows that free markets are the digital consumer’s best friend:

Isn’t it funny how all the recent hand-wringing about the supposed dominance of today’s big four fails to mention Microsoft, Intel, AltaVista, AOL, Yahoo!, BlackBerry, or the old telcos? It would have been impossible to pen anything about technology “dominance” in past years and not mention those companies. Today, they rarely get a mention, except perhaps to highlight their rapid fall from the upper echelons of Tech Titan-dom.

This week’s big news was Google’s bid for Motorola, which positions the search giant better for battle in the smartphone and tablet wars with Apple. Think about it: A company that didn’t even exist 15 years ago and got started in a garage is now making telecom giants sweat. Meanwhile, Facebook, a company started in a college dorm, made News Corporation’s $580 million bet on MySpace turn out to be a mega-turkey. Meanwhile, Apple had what former CEO John Sculley called a “near-death experience“ just 15 years ago only to experience a Lazarus-like rebirth and revolutionize the computing, online music, and mobile device sectors. Finally, Amazon.com, along with Apple, has upended media distribution methods and forced mass media giants to rethink how content is priced, bringing prices down in the process.

This is capitalism at its finest, not the catastrophe the tech pessimists preach about. …

[W]e shouldn’t buy into pessimistic-minded tales of techno-apocalypse or the suggestion that digital markets need to be preemptively reshaped through incessant regulatory interventions. [Of “Tech Titans” and Schumpeter’s Vision, by Adam Thierer, Forbes.]

Posted on 08/22/11 05:39 PM by Alex Adrianson

PolitiFact Spins

PolitiFact says its mission is finding the truth in American politics, but a couple of its recent fact-checking efforts look more like spin jobs for the Left.

Last month, the Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin PolitiFact franchises all rated House Speaker John Boehner’s Tweet, “POTUS’ economists: ‘Stimulus’ Has Cost $278,000 per job,” as false. If you do the math, Boehner’s numbers are right, but PolitFact said his claim is false because not all of the stimulus was spent on salaries.

As Jeffrey Anderson at the Weekly Standard points out, the question isn’t the size of salaries paid by government, but whether the stimulus did in fact stimulate the economy. The White House told us that all government spending has a multiplier effect (i.e., it creates jobs). Did PolitiFact not read the news that day?

Meanwhile, PolitiFact Florida has issues with the Reason Foundation study relied on by Florida Governor Rick Scott to reject a high-speed rail project. PolitiFact essentially said there’s no reason to think Reason’s analysis of historical cost overruns is relevant to Florida’s project. At Reason’s Hit-and-Run blog, Robert Poole, the author of the original report, responds in part:

Actually, there is quite a bit of evidence that Florida could expect at least average overruns. The Reason Foundation projections were based in part on a detailed 11-point comparison between the Tampa-to-Orlando line's claimed construction costs and a segment of the proposed California rail line on similar flat and level terrain. And Florida appeared to be underestimating its costs significantly. Just last week, the California High-Speed Rail Authority revised its own cost projections for the first segment upwards by between approximately 40 and 100 percent.

PolitiFact, by the way, thinks it relevant to its rating to note that Reason is a “rail skeptic.” Aren’t fact checkers supposed to be skeptics?

Posted on 08/19/11 12:48 PM by Alex Adrianson

Social Media: Don’t Ignore Qualitative Indicators

Social networking is about building relationships and finding metrics to measure relationships isn’t easy. Bob Cramer has a few good ideas. Read his article “What Are the Metrics of Success for Your Online Community?” at Katya’s Non-Profit Marketing Blog.

Posted on 08/19/11 11:36 AM by Alex Adrianson

Who Waives Whom?

Using federal waivers to dictate policy changes to the states is damaging to democratic government, and you don’t even need to be a conservative to see that. Rick Hess imagines this interview from the future:

Chris Wallace: Last November, the Democrats narrowly retained control of the Senate and the Republicans enjoy only a modest majority in the House. Are you worried you’ll be unable to make the legislative changes that you and the President think necessary?

SecEd Nominee Bachmann: Once upon a time, that might’ve been a concern. Happily, the Obama administration provided a path for driving educational change even when you don’t have the votes. That’s why we’ve promised that, come inauguration day, we’ll be ditching the Obama administration’s requirements for waivers from No Child Left Behind and substituting our own. They’ll be drawn from the President’s plan that we’ve been calling the Freedom Blueprint.

Chris Wallace: What do you have in mind?

SecEd Nominee Bachmann: We’ll be employing the Obama administration’s notion that we can provide states waivers from federal law so long as they promise to do stuff that we like. We’ll impose a few conditions for states seeking to maintain their NCLB waivers or obtain new ones. They’ll have to adopt certain elements of our Freedom Blueprint if they want their waivers.

Chris Wallace: What are those elements?

SecEd Nominee Bachmann: We have five in mind. States will need to institute a moment of silence in all “turnaround” schools, adopt a statewide school voucher plan for low-income students and those in failing schools, require abstinence education, restrict collective bargaining to wages and prohibit bargaining over benefits or policy, and ask states to revise their charter laws to ensure that for-profit operators are no longer discriminated against on the basis of tax status.

Posted on 08/19/11 11:10 AM by Alex Adrianson

Paying People Not to Work Leads to Less Work

Keynesian economics is the stuff of witchcraft, thinks Stephen Moore, commenting on the President’s idea that increasing unemployment insurance (i.e., paying people not to work) will create jobs:

I have two teenage sons. One worked all summer and the other sat on his duff. To stimulate the economy, the White House wants to take more money from the son who works and give it to the one who doesn’t work. I can say with 100% certainty as a parent that in the Moore household this will lead to less work.

Economic bimboism is rampant in Washington. The Center for American Progress held a forum earlier this summer arguing that raising the minimum wage would create more jobs. For this to be true, you have to believe that the more it costs a business to hire a worker, the more workers companies will want to hire.

A few months ago Mr. Obama blamed high unemployment on businesses becoming “more efficient with a lot fewer workers,” and he mentioned ATMs and airport kiosks. The Luddites are back raging against the machine. If Mr. Obama really wants to get to full employment, why not ban farm equipment? …

Macroeconomics simply took basic laws of economics we know to be true for the firm or family—i.e., that demand curves are downward sloping; that when you tax something, you get less of it; that debts have to be repaid—and turned them on their head as national policy.

Read his whole column in Friday’s Wall Street Journal: “Why Americans Hate Economics.”

Posted on 08/19/11 10:58 AM by Alex Adrianson

We’ve (Almost) Never Had It So Good

The downer economic news lately makes it easy to forget how much higher our standards of living are compared to those of previous generations. To help you keep things in perspective, here’s Steve Horwitz in a new video from the Institute for Humane Studies:

Posted on 08/19/11 10:57 AM by Alex Adrianson

Don’t Miss the Values Voter Summit

The Values Voter Summit is one of the most important conservative events of the year, and it will kick off on October 7 at the Omni Shoreham in Washington, D.C. Josh Shepherd of The Heritage Foundation runs down some of the details:

Already confirmed are several Members of Congress, including House Speaker John Boehner (R–OH) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R–VA); media personalities Mark Levin and RedState.com’s Erick Erickson; leading voices against Obamacare, including Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli; pro-family activist Bishop Harry Jackson; and many more. Sean Hannity calls it “the premier conservative event now in the country.”

As a sponsor of the Values Voter Summit, The Heritage Foundation will be there in force this year. Robert Rector, whose recent study on poverty lit up national media from Fox News to the Huffington Post to the Drudge Report, will lead an interactive panel discussion on “How the Welfare State Erodes the Family.” Recently starring in the short film We Still Hold These Truths, Matthew Spalding, Ph.D., will host an informal breakfast on American renewal. And the policy experts behind “Saving the American Dream” will share the way forward to fix our national debt, cut spending, reform health care by empowering patients—not bureaucrats—and restore prosperity in America.

To close the weekend, the Faith, Family and Freedom Gala Dinner will honor Heritage’s own Ed Meese, former Attorney General under President Reagan, with the Vision and Leadership Award. Notables including Levin, Phyllis Schlafly, and Heritage’s President Edwin Feulner, Ph.D., reveal behind-the-scenes stories and lessons from Meese’s revolutionary career.

Posted on 08/18/11 08:47 PM by Alex Adrianson

We Still Have a Government of Enumerated Powers

In striking down Obamacare’s individual mandate on Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit noted that the government’s defense of the mandate left no room for limits on what Congress may regulate under the Commerce Clause. That’s a problem, noted the court, for a government that is supposed to possess only enumerated powers:

In sum, the individual mandate is breathtaking in its expansive scope. It regulates those who have not entered the health care market at all. It regulates those who have entered the health care market, but have not entered the insurance market (and have no intention of doing so). It is overinclusive in when it regulates: it conflates those who presently consume health care with those who will not consume health care for many years into the future. The government’s position amounts to an argument that the mere fact of an individual’s existence substantially affects interstate commerce, and therefore Congress may regulate them at every point of their life. This theory affords no limiting principles in which to confine Congress’s enumerated power. …

This economic mandate represents a wholly novel and potentially unbounded assertion of congressional authority: the ability to compel Americans to purchase an expensive health insurance product they have elected not to buy, and to make them re-purchase that insurance product every month for their entire lives. We have not found any generally applicable, judicially enforceable limiting principle that would permit us to uphold the mandate without obliterating the boundaries inherent in the system of enumerated congressional powers.

Posted on 08/16/11 06:21 PM by Alex Adrianson

Capitalism Is Moral

There’s a moral defense to be made of capitalism, and Tom G. Palmer makes it in his new book The Morality of Capitalism: What Your Professors Won’t Tell You. He talked about his book with the Cato Institute, recently:

Posted on 08/15/11 05:30 PM by Alex Adrianson

Get Your Site on Page One!

Ninety-three percent of Web users don’t look beyond the first page of search results. To help your organization hit that first page you need what the geeks call “search engine optimization”—AKA, SEO. And you can get that from James A. Martin’s PC World Article “Five SEO Secrets to Make Your Site More Visible.”

Posted on 08/12/11 04:41 PM by Alex Adrianson

The Most Disastrous Administration Yet

The Obama administration achieve another dubious distinction on Monday when the Federal Emergency Management Agency issued its 158th disaster declaration of the year—breaking the Clinton administration’s 1996 record of 157 in one year.

This new record is just part of a steady rise in disaster declarations over the years. Are disasters really becoming more frequent? Heritage visiting fellow and Buckeye Institute President Matt Mayer runs down the data:

At this pace, FEMA will end the year with roughly 288 declarations, or almost twice the previous record. … During his term, President Obama’s FEMA has issued 375 declarations, or one declaration every 2.48 days. As a reference point, in just over 2.5 years, President Obama’s FEMA has issued more declarations than President Dwight Eisenhower’s in two terms (106), President Richard Nixon’s in two terms (212), and President Ronald Reagan’s in two terms (225). Obama’s yearly average now stands at almost 150 declarations per year, which is more than 20 declarations more per year than President George W. Bush had and more than 1.5 times more than Clinton averaged in his two terms. President Obama’s FEMA has issued more declarations at this point in his presidency than any other president in U.S. history.

Keep in mind: During Obama’s time in office, not one hurricane has struck the United States, and not one earthquake of a 7 or higher reading on the Richter scale has occurred. As we have pointed out many times, the U.S. is federalizing more and more natural disasters that were handled by states and localities from 1787 to 1992. The federalization trend since 1993 gets larger with each presidential Administration.

Posted on 08/12/11 03:05 PM by Alex Adrianson

Yes, High Taxes Do Encourage Wealth Creators to Leave

Antony Davies and John Pulito summarize their findings in a new Mercatus Center study, Tax Rates and Migration:

Controlling for property-tax rates, sales-tax rates, high-income tax brackets, unemployment, and state/county-specific and time-specific effects, we find that higher state income-tax rates cause a net out-migration not only of higher-income residents, but of residents in general. We also find that changes in the income levels to which the tax rates apply similarly affect out-migration. For county-level data, we find that high-income households react to a lowering of income levels to which higher tax rates apply in the same way that they react to increases in the tax rates themselves. This behavior suggests that the tendency to lower the threshold for “high income” or “millionaire” households to capture households that are not millionaires may entice those households to follow the behavior of millionaire households and flee to more tax-friendly environs. Finally, for state-level data, we find that the effect of property taxes on migration is significantly stronger than the effect of high-income tax rates on migration. For example, a one percentage point increase in the property-tax differential between two states has almost three times the effect on migration as does a one percentage point increase in the difference in high-income tax rates. All of these data suggest a recipe for population depletion. States lose households to more tax-friendly states by (1) lowering the “high-income” threshold so as to capture more households, (2) increasing high-income tax rates, and (3) increasing property-tax rates.

Posted on 08/12/11 02:46 PM by Alex Adrianson

Happy Cost of Government Day!

Today is the Cost of Government Day—which means we’ve now earned enough income this year to pay for both this year’s direct government outlays and the regulatory burdens government imposes. Americans for Tax Reform calculates Cost of Government Day every year, and they’ve just put out their report on it. Cost of Government Day 2011 is two days earlier than least year, but still 33 days later than just four years ago. But get ready for Cost of Government Day to fall even later in the years ahead. According to the report, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act by itself will add 3.5 to 4.5 days to the time it takes to reach Cost of Government Day in 2016.

Posted on 08/12/11 02:36 PM by Alex Adrianson

The New Deal Made the Great Depression Worse

About now would be a good time to discard the mythology of the Great Depression. Here’s historian Stephen Davies in recent video from the Institute for Humane Studies:

Posted on 08/12/11 02:10 PM by Alex Adrianson

Heritage Libertad Spreads the Liberty Message in Spanish

In case you missed it: The Heritage Foundation now offers many of its research papers, blog posts, reports and videos in Spanish on its companion site, HeritageLibertad.org. The Left is trying to solidify support among Hispanics across the country. Please spread the word that Heritage Libertad is providing daily conservative research and analysis in Spanish.

Posted on 08/12/11 02:06 PM by Alex Adrianson

One Curriculum to Rule Them All

Australia’s new national curriculum contains some lessons for Western Civilization—but you have to read between the lines. John Roskam, executive-director of the Institute of Public Affairs, thinks Australia is a part of Western Civilization. In a March letter to the Education Minister, Roskam points out the numerous ways the curriculum seems more aimed at cultivating an environmentally conscious world view than in teaching basic facts about democracy and the rule of law. Roskam quotes the curriculum writers:

[H]istory provides content that supports the development of students’ world views, particularly in relation to actions that require judgment about past social systems and access to and use of the Earth’s resources.

He continues:

The National Curriculum goes on to explain how the History curriculum “provides opportunities for students to develop an historical perspective on sustainability by understanding, for example … the overuse of natural resources, the rise of environmental movements and the global energy crisis …”

He also notes the curriculum writers claim education should be

futures-oriented, focusing on protecting environments and creating a more ecologically and socially just world through action that recognises the relevance and interdependence of environmental, social, cultural and economic considerations.

Roskam goes on to note that this curriculum completely ignores the English Civil War and the Magna Carta.

One can find examples of schools with wacky curriculum priorities here in the United States, too. But the danger of ideological teaching is minimized because the United States doesn’t have a national curriculum—yet. The Obama administration might change that, however, with its proposal to ease some federal mandates on the condition that states sign up for the Common Core standards. It’s a way of imposing national standards without Congress passing a law.

See Lindsey Burke’s “Waive State Education Authority Goodbye” at The Foundry for a discussion of why this move isn’t going to improve education.

Posted on 08/11/11 04:16 PM by Alex Adrianson

Who Really Leaves No Child Behind?

Florida doesn’t just lead the nation in making progress on National Assessment of Education Progress test scores. It leads in the nation in the progress that low-income children have made on the NAEP scores. Matt Ladner recently compiled the National Assessment of Education Progress reading and math scores of children eligible for free and reduced-price lunch:

[h/t: There’s Good News and There’s Really Good News, by Michael Petrilli, Education Next]

So what has made Florida successful? Maybe it’s Jeb Bush’s education reforms that included giving every school in the state letter grades ranging from A to F and not letting students advance to the fourth grade unless they know how to read. School choice was another component, by the way. To find out how Indiana, New Mexico, and Utah are learning from Florida’s success, see Lindsey Burke’s post Florida Education Reforms Succeed, Spread to Other States at The Foundry.

Posted on 08/09/11 01:43 PM by Alex Adrianson

Unarmed and Dangerous!

A terrible scourge stalks the land: Unlicensed purveyors of lemonade, cookies, and other treats are proliferating in towns big and small, from Portland, Oregon to Appleton, Wisconsin to Salem, Massachusetts. These scofflaws are typically between 9 years and 11 years old and often found along roadsides, usually behind stands. Sometimes they tote boxes of treats door-to-door!

Unlicensed!

The cops are taking the problem seriously, though. The Freedom Center of Missouri has produced a Google map showing when and where the police have taken down these illegitimate merchants. As you can see, it’s a growing problem:

Posted on 08/08/11 11:09 AM by Alex Adrianson

Regulators Target Conscience

New regulations issued on Monday by the Department of Health and Human Services provide only the barest of conscience rights for health care providers—even though federal law requires respect for health care workers with moral objections to certain procedures like abortion.

The new regulations implement Obamacare’s mandate that private health insurers cover women’s reproductive services. The rules provide conscience rights only to non-profits recognized as religious institutions, whose primary mission is to promote its religious views and who employ and serve only those who share its religious views. As Chuck Donovan explains, these protections are so narrow that they exclude a wide range of recognized religious institutions whose primary mission is to provide services to the poor and indigent. In addition they trample on the rights of institutions for whom serving all in need regardless of creed is a core part of their religious mission. The new regulations also appear to provide no protection whatsoever for individual health workers not employed by a protected non-profit.

Read Donovan’s Heritage Foundation paper: HHS’s New Guidelines Trample on Conscience.

Posted on 08/05/11 03:25 PM by Alex Adrianson

Great Web Site Advice

Seth Godin’s “How to Create a Great Web Site” identifies 10 big-picture principles of how the process should work. Read it and see how many of these can your non-profit claim to have followed on the last redesign?

Posted on 08/05/11 02:47 PM by Alex Adrianson

Expanding Coverage Bends the Cost Curve Upward!

Surprise! A study published in Health Affairs projects that health care spending will go up as a result of ObamaCare. From the conclusion:

Average annual growth in national health spending is expected to be 0.1 percentage point higher (5.8 percent) under current law compared to projected average growth prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act (5.7 percent) for 2010 through 2020. Simultaneously, by 2020, nearly thirty million Americans are expected to gain health insurance coverage as a result of the Affordable Care Act.

The largest impact on the growth of health spending is expected to occur in 2014, when the major coverage expansions begin. There is projected to be a proportionately larger impact on physician and clinical services and on prescription drug spending growth relative to other services and goods, as those who gain coverage are likely to be relatively young and healthy and to use less intensive care than the populations currently enrolled in Medicaid and private health insurance.

Combined with the entry of the baby boomers into Medicare and Medicaid, the impact of the Affordable Care Act—stemming from the expansion of Medicaid, subsidies associated with exchanges, and administrative costs associated with implementing and operating the various provisions—is projected to increase federal, state, and local governments’ estimated share of total health spending to near 50 percent in 2020. [Emphasis added.]

The article estimates that annual growth reaches 8.3 percent in 2014 when Obamacare really kicks in. Here’s some detail on growth rates.

For all the details, see: National Health Spending Projections Through 2020: Economic Recovery And Reform Drive Faster Spending Growth, Health Affairs, August 2011. [h/t: Bad News for Obamacare, John Goodman’s Health Policy Blog.]

Posted on 08/05/11 02:04 PM by Alex Adrianson

A Damaging Deduction

Eliminating the mortgage interest deduction would be a big plus for the economy, and might even help more people afford to buy a house, too, say Dean Stansel and Anthony Randazzo. Their new Reason Foundation study (Unmasking the Mortgage Interest Deduction: Who Benefits and by How Much?) observes that most of the deductions are claimed by those who can already afford to buy a house anyway:

The authors explain:

Those households that rent but would prefer to own a home—if they had just a bit more financial flexibility—are typically low-income families. As such, even if they bought a home they would be much less likely to itemize their deductions and unlikely to claim the MID. As a result, rather than increasing the homeownership rate, the primary impact of the MID is to increase the amount spent on housing by consumers who would choose to own anyway, subsidizing spending on housing rather than homeownership.

Stansel and Randazzo point to studies estimating that getting rid of the mortgage interest deduction would lower house prices by between 3 percent and 10 percent—quite possibly putting more people within reach of homeownership than the deduction does.

And, as the authors point out, the deduction has been implicated as a culprit in the housing bubble. The favorable tax treatment encourages investment in housing rather than other assets that might be more economically productive. And the deduction encourages house buyers to rely on debt-financing, which makes them more vulnerable to the ups and downs in the housing market.

Eliminating these distortions would help the economy, as would broadening the tax base to allow for lower tax rates. The authors calculate that average tax rates could be 8 percent lower without reducing government revenue if the mortgage interest deduction were eliminated.

Posted on 08/05/11 01:37 PM by Alex Adrianson

Work to Do

“Instead of our nation running toward bankruptcy we will be walking toward bankruptcy,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham earlier this week. He was speaking of the debt-ceiling deal.

Indeed, the Budget Control Act provides only the Washington definition of a spending cut: Up to $2.4 trillion less than the spending that was expected to take place over the next 10 years under current law. Year-to-year, government spending will still go up. Even judged against that low bar, the cuts are miniscule. Next year’s expected budget deficit of $3.6 trillion is cut by only $22 billion—less than 1 percent. According to the Congressional Budget Office’s June Outlook, debt held by the public was expected to rise from $10.35 trillion to $20.1 trillion in 2021. Shaving off $2.4 trillion means that instead of public debt rising from 69 percent of gross domestic product to 101 percent of GDP in 2021, it will hit 89 percent of GDP instead.

But the deal does contain this consolation: According to Sen. Rob Portman, who is also a former director of the Office of Management and Budget, if future debt-ceiling increases follow the rule of matching reductions in 10-year outlays with increases in borrowing authority, then we will have a balanced budget by the year 2021.

Let’s hope Portman’s optimism proves more accurate than Graham’s fatalism. As Heritage Foundation president Ed Feulner puts it, the work of fiscal conservatives has only begun.

To read: Make the Dollar-for-dollar Rule Permanent, by Rob Portman, Wall Street Journal; Morning Bell: Our Work Has Only Begun, by Ed Feulner, The Heritage Foundation; Budget Deal Doesn’t Cut Spending, by Chris Edwards, Cato Institute; The Next Deficit Reduction Deal, by Kevin Williamson, National Review Online.

Posted on 08/05/11 09:43 AM by Alex Adrianson

Defense Isn’t a Luxury

Defense spending isn’t a boondoggle—like, say, farm subsidies—that can be cut without harm to the nation. Yet the debt-ceiling deal treats defense just that way: A Congressional Joint Commission is supposed to find $1.5 trillion of the $2.4 trillion in deficit reduction. If that commission comes up short, then equal cuts to defense and nondefense discretionary spending kick in. Kim Holmes:

These cuts will only worsen the already looming problem of declining military readiness. Over the past year, a full half of the Navy fleet was either underway daily or engaged, which has reduced the fleet’s quality and condition. The Air Force, which has been involved in combat operations for 20 years, has seen aircraft tragically fall out of the sky, likely because of wear and tear. …

To meet the military spending cuts of the debt deal, at least one and possibly two Navy carrier strike groups will disappear. A large part of the U.S. missile defense program will have to be scaled back, exposing millions of Americans unnecessarily to nuclear attack. Overseas bases will have to be shut down, meaning that it will be far more expensive and take far longer to move U.S. forces where they need to be in the future—assuming they can even get there at all.

There will be only enough armed forces to fight at best one military operation overseas (historically we have been able to fight two or even more).

Eliminating defense spending completely would not change the long-term problem:

To read: The Debt Deal and the Threat to America’s National Security, by John Bolton, Fox News; A Dangerous Debt Ceiling Deal, by Kim Holmes, The Heritage Foundation; Warning: Hollow Force Ahead, by the Defending Defense Project, American Enterprise Institute, Foreign Policy Initiative, and The Heritage Foundation.

Posted on 08/04/11 08:14 PM by Alex Adrianson

The Spending Is Nuts

This video, by Justin Folk, is the winner of the Power Line Prize:

Posted on 08/02/11 06:16 PM by Alex Adrianson

Yes, the National Debt Is Really, Really Big

Says Antony Davies in this video from the Institute for Humane Studies

And to see what the U.S. Debt looks like in stacks of $100 bills, check out USdebt.kleptocracy.us.

Posted on 08/01/11 05:34 PM by Alex Adrianson

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