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OpenMarket: April 2013

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

    April 22, 2013 5:00 AM

    86 new regulations, from sorghum ethanol to training miners.


  • More On Supreme Court Ruling Limiting International Lawsuits

    April 19, 2013 3:27 PM

    Earlier, I wrote about the Supreme Court's closing the door on lawsuits by foreigners alleging nebulous violations of "human rights" or international norms by multinational corporations. (It did that in the course of dismissing a lawsuit by Nigerians against three oil companies affiliated with Shell.)


    George Mason University law professor Michael Greve agrees, saying that prior to the Supreme Court's ruling, the Alien Tort Statute [ATS] had "become a playpen for a cabal of international law enthusiasts and plaintiffs’ lawyers." If the Supreme Court were to adopt the expansive view of the ATS pressed by international-law enthusiasts (including the ability to sue over violations of "customary international law," including vague international norms not contained in any treaty ratified by the U.S. Senate), he notes, that would create the potential for foreign employees working overseas to sue corporations and corporate employees in the U.S. over run-of-the-mill workplace discrimination and harassment claims that should be resolved elsewhere.

  • Amtrak And The Progressive Sleight Of Hand

    April 19, 2013 2:02 PM

    Progressives have always assumed that if something is good, it must be provided through coercive force by a central government. This is illustrated in progressive support for continuing large Amtrak subsidies. Various liberal policy outfits including the Brookings Institution and the Center for American Progress have been recently celebrating the mild uptick in the government-subsidized passenger railroad’s ridership levels. The train served a record 32.1 million passengers in 2012, a 55-percent increase since 1997. In earlier times, liberal advocates would have congratulated themselves on the success of a government program’s drive to self-sufficiency and move to let it fend for itself in the private sector, in the same way federally controlled Conrail was privatized and later sold off to CSX and Norfolk Southern. But this doesn’t cut it for today’s progressives, who appear to believe Amtrak’s recent uptick in ridership is reason for increasing federal subsidies. This is because they are well aware that Amtrak’s supposed success is largely a mirage.


    The rise in ridership appears impressive, until one realizes that 1997 was a severe low-point for train travel. If measuring Amtrak’s total passenger miles starting in 1991, its increase over the past 22 years is a pathetic 8 percent. Its condition looks even worse when considering that population growth has increased over this period by 25 percent, pushing Amtrak’s share of intercity passenger travel down from 0.45 to 0.36 percent. Passenger rail is alone in the dismal state of its ridership. Despite the airline industry’s financial instability, not to mention the costs incurred due to the September 11 attacks and the TSA, airline ridership increased by 68 percent. Even intercity buses carry three times more passenger miles than Amtrak does, while the vast majority of intercity travel is made by private automobile.


  • Bill Would Prevent CDC’s Taxpayer-Funded Anti-Food Propaganda

    April 19, 2013 11:33 AM

    Even in a divided Washington, everyone agrees on the importance of creating jobs in America. So why are some government agencies using taxpayer money to lobby against some food manufacturers?


    At least one lawmaker, Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) thinks it’s time government officials stopped using taxpayer money to run smear campaigns against the makers of lawfully produced goods that consumers want. On April 15, Rep. Schock introduced the Stopping Taxpayer Outlays for Propaganda Act (STOP) Act (H.R. 1572), which would prohibit the use of federal funds for advertising and media campaigns to discourage consumption of any food or beverage that is lawfully marketed under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. In a Politico op-ed this week, Schock explains that in this time of economic stress, using taxpayer money to harm American industry doesn’t make a lot of sense.


    Not only do these government-funded campaigns harm American businesses, they are doing nothing to improve Americans’ health -- and may even cause harm in some cases. Government is simply not very good at determining what is best or healthy for each individual. Studies funded by government grants are often cited by legislators to promote one-size-fits-all policies that fail to take into account a person’s health risks or specific dietary needs. Yet many such studies are based on limited data that often result in incorrect conclusions.


  • CEI Podcast For April 18, 2013: CISPA Is The Wrong Approach To Cybersecurity

    April 18, 2013 3:58 PM

    Today, the House passed the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act of 2013 (CISPA). Associate Director of Technology Studies Ryan Radia opposes the bill.


  • The Train Wreck That Is Obamacare

    April 18, 2013 3:57 PM

    At least one union that supported passage of Obamacare, is now calling for its repeal. As The Wall Street Journal notes, the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers has given up on salvaging the deeply-flawed health care law:


    Organized labor . . . recently has voiced concerns that the law could lead members to lose their existing health plans. . .“After the law was passed, I had great hope…that maybe the rough spots would be worked out and we’d have a great law,” said Kinsey Robinson, international president of the [roofer's] union, which represents 22,000 commercial and industrial roofers…Mr. Robinson says the union’s concerns about the law began to pile up in recent months after speaking with employers.


    The roofers’ union’s current insurance plan caps lifetime medical bill payouts at $2 million for active members and $50,000 for retirees. Next year, the plan has to remove those caps in order to comply with the health law. . . that will increase the cost of insuring members, Mr. Robinson said, and has prompted the union to weigh eliminating the retiree plan.


    Adding to those cost concerns is a new $63-per-enrollee fee on health plans that pays insurers to cover people with pre-existing conditions next year. Looking ahead to 2018, when the law levies an excise tax on high-value insurance plans, Mr. Robinson predicts that at least some of the union’s plans will get hit by it… On Tuesday, the union called for a repeal of the health law or a complete reform of it.

  • Four Of The Worst Arguments Against The Immigration Bill

    April 18, 2013 12:00 PM

    Since the Gang of 8 released their proposal, the desperation from those who want to see this bill die -- and any hope of immigration reform die with it -- can be heard throughout DC. Its opponents are spreading everything from the inaccurate to the absurd about the bill and its probable consequences.


    1. Rubio’s “Phone for Illegals”: The blog “Shark Tank” is promoting the idea that the immigration bill could grant phones to unauthorized immigrants. The myth comes from a provision in the bill that would authorize DHS to give “satellite telephone communications systems” to an individual who “regularly resides or works in the Southwest Border region” or “is at greater risk of border violence due to the lack of cellular service at his or her residence or business.” This provision actually improves border safety by empowering citizens -- it’s a good idea that decentralizes and enhances security.

  • Supreme Court Dismisses Alien Tort Lawsuit Over Nigerian Dispute

    April 17, 2013 7:43 PM

    The Supreme Court today refused to allow Nigerians to sue Dutch and other corporations in U.S. court over alleged abuses in Nigeria that occurred under the rule of Nigeria's former military dictator. These abuses, which allegedly violated international norms, were supposedly assisted by company employees who provided Nigerian troops "with food, transportation," etc., and allowed "the Nigerian military to use" company "property." As the Supreme Court put it, "Nigerian nationals residing in the United States, filed suit in federal court under the Alien Tort Statute, alleging that respondents—certain Dutch, British, and Nigerian corporations—aided and abetted the Nigerian Government in committing violations of the law of nations in Nigeria. The ATS provides that '[t]he district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.'”


    In its decision today in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., the Supreme Court held that the statute does not reach conduct within foreign countries (as opposed to piracy on the high seas), in light of the strong presumption against extraterritorial application of U.S. law (it cited the Morrison case, in which CEI filed an amicus brief urging the Court to curb extraterritorial application of U.S. law to enrich trial lawyers at companies' expense.). The court of appeals had dismissed the lawsuit on an alternative ground, ruling that international law only holds individuals (including corporate employees) liable, not the corporations they work for.


  • Don't Waste Billions Putting Gun-Wielding Guards In Our Schools

    April 17, 2013 9:27 AM

    School violence has diminished in recent years, but in response to a few mass shootings, the National Rifle Association and the Obama administration have advocated putting armed guards in every school, even though that would cost billions of dollars. The Cato Institute's Gene Healy explains why this is a bad idea. As Healy notes, "if your goal is to prevent kids from getting murdered, the schools are about the last place you’d put new police, since 98 percent of youth homicides occur off school grounds."

  • Fred L. Smith, Jr., In This Month's Cato Unbound

    April 16, 2013 5:03 PM

    This month's Cato Unbound series focuses on the constraints of money in politics, how businesses respond to opportunities for rent-seeking, and prospects for the future of free market advocacy.


    In his initial essay, CEI Founder and Chairman and Director of CEI's Center for Advancing Capitalism, Fred L. Smith, Jr., makes the case for increased business involvement in politics on the side of free markets. He suggests that academics and intellectuals sympathetic to capitalism should consider how their work affects the narratives about business that frame the general public's views. Public choice economists, in his opinion, may have actually contributed to the decline of principled businessmen and the rise of crony capitalists.


    You can read see the entire series here, or go directly to Fred's essay here.


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