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OpenMarket: October 2012

  • Police (Union) Brutality: Montgomery County Police "Effects" Bargaining Bludgeons Public Safety

    October 23, 2012 8:10 AM

    This November, voters in Montgomery County, Maryland, will decide whether the police chief or union boss should determine public safety policy.

    The voter initiative, which will appear on the ballot as Question B, reads, "Shall the Act to modify the scope of collective bargaining with police employees to permit the exercise of certain management rights without first bargaining the effects of those rights on police employees become law?" A vote in favor of Question B eliminates effects bargaining.

    Question B’s origins began in 2011, when the all-Democratic County Council unanimously passed legislation to repeal the union’s power to challenge, then bargain, over basic police chief directives. Before the reform, police department management needed union approval to implement any new policy. Even asking officers to check their email became a contentious ordeal. The union power over management derived from what is called “effects” bargaining, a privilege the local police union does not intend to lose.

    To maintain the status quo or preserve effects bargaining for the county’s police, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) local gathered more than 40,000 signatures -- more than enough to put Question B on the ballot.

  • PolitiFact Smears Supreme Court, Provides False Political Talking Point For Democratic Party

    October 22, 2012 3:02 PM

    Earlier, the left-leaning "fact-checker" PolitiFact made the false claim the Supreme Court had declared employees are barred from suing over pay discrimination even if they did not learn of the discrimination in time to sue, "making it impossible for employees who learned of such discrimination later to get relief, such as back pay."

    PolitiFact has failed to fix the false claim, even after being informed its claim was false by a leading law professor, Jonathan Adler, who both contacted PolitiFact last week to inform it of its false claim, and wrote about PolitiFact's error twice at a legal website that is regularly read by lawyers and Supreme Court justices (a website whose legal commentary is so well-respected its contents go into Westlaw's news database).

    I also contacted PolitiFact about its error, and sent PolitiFact both court documents and language from the Supreme Court's opinion that contradicted PolitiFact. Yet, PolitiFact has failed to fix its erroneous claims even after other lawyers and journalists pointed out the error of its claims, such as Newsweek's Megan McArdle (at the Daily Beast) and a former Justice Department lawyer at the Heritage Foundation. PolitiFact's claim echoes a false claim made by President Obama in the second presidential debate in 2012 and in mailings by state Democratic Parties in October 2008. As I explain further below, this is part of a pattern of egregiously false claims and ideological bias by PolitiFact.

  • Devolve Infrastructure Decision-Making To Promote Efficiency, Foster Innovation

    October 22, 2012 11:02 AM

    Last week, Walter Russell Mead had an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal arguing that traditional infrastructure spending will no longer provide the services people want and that the pro-growth focus should be on telecommunications "infostructure." There's some truth to the fact that people will be able to do more online -- telecommuting and shopping to name just a couple. While I still believe unsexy transportation, water, and wastewater infrastructure are more important to future growth than Mead gives them credit, he does highlight some serious policy problems with our current infrastructure programs. But he misses a big one.

    Today, the Journal runs my letter response explaining the underlying problem Mead omitted from his discussion:

    Mr. Mead correctly identifies three major problems facing infrastructure funding: nimbyism, cronyism and an outdated vision of what infrastructure ought to be. However, there is a greater underlying problem: the concentration of infrastructure spending decisions in Washington. For example, the national highway system's major corridors are funded 80% by the federal government and only 20% by the states.

    The stated purpose of federal funding of transportation infrastructure is to promote interstate mobility. But this funding arrangement reduces local accountability, leading to pork-barrel infrastructure investments of dubious value at the expense of maintaining or reconstructing existing infrastructure. These misallocations reduce the long-run efficiency of the network, costing more than just government largess.

  • Today's Links: October 22, 2012

    October 22, 2012 10:35 AM

    OPINION

    NICK GILLESPIE: "George McGovern, Libertarian Hero"
    "[W]hen you take a longer view of his career -- especially after he got bounced from the Senate in 1980 during the Republican landslide he helped create -- what emerges is a rare public figure whose policy positions shifted to an increasingly libertarian stance in response to a world that’s far more complicated than most politicians can ever allow."

    JOHN WHITESIDES: "In Ohio, 'fracking' boom a delicate issue for Obama"
    "With the presidential campaign focused on jobs, the economy and the need to cut U.S. dependency on foreign oil, Obama's administration has walked a fine line in trying to impose environmental rules on the growing fracking industry without stifling badly needed jobs or a vast supply of domestic energy. It is a particularly delicate issue in Ohio, a politically divided state that may play a key role in determining whether Obama or presumptive Republican challenger Mitt Romney wins the presidency in the November 6 election."

    CADIE THOMPSON: "Here's Why Google Could Disappear in Five Years"
    "Google may be on its way out as the dominant player in search, according to one analyst — and could even "disappear" in as little as five to eight years if the competitive pressures that ultimately claimed other search giants start to take root."

  • CEI's Battered Business Bureau: The Week In Regulation

    October 22, 2012 5:00 AM

    71 new regulations, from gas mileage to certifying seafarers.

  • Alcohol Regulation Roundup: October 19, 2012

    October 19, 2012 3:06 PM

    The only real change of late seems to be happening to leaves on trees. But on the alcohol regulatory reform front, the following states have taken baby steps toward updating their laws.

    Alabama: Lawmakers in Alabama are talking about getting the state out of the liquor business. State Sen. Arthur Orr authored a bill that would eliminate the state’s 172 state stores and allow hard liquor to be sold by private retailers.

    Illinois: In the next legislative session, State Rep. Keith Farnham plans to introduce a bill that would allow home brewers  to offer free samples at public gatherings. Although the bill is based on a similar Wisconsin law, Farnham worked with local home-brewing clubs to draft his specific proposal, which he says has a “good chance” of being approved.

    Indiana: Though not on the official legislative agenda, it is likely Sunday alcohol sales will come up in the next session. Last May, Connecticut became the 49th state to allow Sunday sales, leaving Indiana as the last state in the nation to maintain its prohibition-era ban on Sunday off-site alcohol sales for all three categories of alcohol.

    Kentucky: A district court judge halted an order that would allow gas stations and grocery stores to sell wine and liquor. In August, the same judge ruled the state’s laws banning wine and liquor sales at gas stations and other retailers was unconstitutional, but he ordered sales not begin immediately so state regulators  could have a chance to address the statute without creating a “legal mess.”

  • Free Education? Not In My State!

    October 19, 2012 2:54 PM

    Coursera is a California-based startup that partners with top-tier universities to provide free online courses to people around the world. Sounds like a pretty great service, doesn't it?

    The Minnesota Office of Higher Education doesn't think so. They told Coursera to stop offering free courses to Minnesota residents. Why? Under Minnesota state law, universities cannot offer courses to residents without the approval of the Office of Higher Education.

    The Chronicle of Higher Education reports:

    It’s unclear how the law could be enforced when the content is freely available on the Web, but Coursera updated its Terms of Service to include the following caution:

    Notice for Minnesota Users:

    Coursera has been informed by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education that under Minnesota Statutes (136A.61 to 136A.71), a university cannot offer online courses to Minnesota residents unless the university has received authorization from the State of Minnesota to do so. If you are a resident of Minnesota, you agree that either (1) you will not take courses on Coursera, or (2) for each class that you take, the majority of work you do for the class will be done from outside the State of Minnesota.

  • Today's Links: October 19, 2012

    October 19, 2012 10:34 AM

    OPINION

    ROBERT BRYCE: "A123 Goes Chapter 11"
    "The collapse of A123—as well as the January bankruptcy of another electric-car-battery maker, Ener1, the recipient of a $118 million DOE grant—provides yet another example of the Obama administration’s costly and unsuccessful backing of the electric-car business."

    RAGHURAM RAJAN: "The Only Game in Town"
    "What should central banks do when politicians seem incapable of acting? Thus far, they have been willing to step into the breach, finding new and increasingly unconventional ways to try to influence the direction of troubled economies. But how can we determine when central banks overstep their limits? When does boldness turn to foolhardiness?"

    KATIE KILKENNY: "Is Killing Them Softly About 'Responsible Capitalism'?"
    "If you had only previously seen the domestic trailer for Andrew Dominik’s new film Killing Them Softly, you might have assumed the film’s focal points are mob killings, dark humor, and how cool Brad Pitt looks when he takes out his gun. However, the film’s international trailer, subtitled in French, highlights a different aspect of the highly-anticipated film: its allegorical treatment of America’s response to the financial crisis."

  • A Rational View Of The Presidency

    October 19, 2012 10:24 AM

    Back in 2008, Gene Healy wrote a book called Cult of the Presidency. It was an election year, so naturally many people thought it was an anti-Bush polemic. But it wasn't about Bush. It wasn't about any president, really. It was about how people view the presidency itself.

    Healy's thesis is people have unrealistically high expectations for the office -- expectations so high that no one can meet them. But in trying to meet them, presidents grab for more and more power. As they inevitably fail to make voters' hopes and dreams come true, they decline in popularity until  fresher faces take their place. And those fresher faces will grab for still more power and disappoint even more people. It's a remarkably vicious cycle.

    When Healy wrote the book, he had no idea Barack Obama would win the Democratic nomination. But win it Obama did, in large part by tapping into voters' unrealistic expectations for what the office can accomplish. Now that four years have gone by, he has institutionalized and expanded Bush-era abuses of power. He also is decidedly less popular than he used to be, although he still could win a second term.

  • Welfare Nation

    October 19, 2012 5:00 AM

    Welfare spending has exploded in America. Citing a new report from the Congressional Research Service, the Heritage Foundation notes:

    Roughly 100 million people—one-third of the U.S. population—receive aid from at least one means-tested welfare program each month. Average benefits come to around $9,000 per recipient. If converted to cash, means-tested welfare spending is more than five times the amount needed to eliminate all poverty in the United States.

    Despite the fact that welfare spending was already at record levels when he took office, President Obama has increased federal means-tested welfare spending by more than a third. . .

    At the beginning of this year, only four of the 80-plus federal welfare programs had work requirements; the Obama Administration has now suspended the work requirements in two of these. After the Obama Administration suspended the work requirement from the food stamp program in 2009, the number of people on food stamps doubled.

    Welfare now surpasses the government's biggest traditional money pit, the Pentagon. "By 2022, there will be $2.33 in federal and state welfare spending for every $1 spent on national defense."

    But the Pentagon, too, needs to be cut, even though that would make the Heritage Foundation unhappy. As Fareed Zakaria once noted, "the U.S. defense establishment is the world’s largest socialist economy." The Cato Institute has identified billions in readily-achievable savings at the Pentagon.

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