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OpenMarket: August 2012

  • Regulation And The Setting Sun

    August 16, 2012 1:00 PM

    Agencies are well-equipped for passing regulations, but not for repealing them. This becomes a problem as the years march on, and dusty old rules that don't apply in today's world retain the force of law. One solution: automatic sunsets.

  • My Fox News Interview On GM's Losses To Taxpayers And Obama's Auto Dealer Job Shaft

    August 16, 2012 7:26 AM

    On Tuesday, I was on Fox News’ “Special Report with Bret Baier” answering Doug McKelway’s questions on the Treasury Department’s upward revision of taxpayers' losses from the auto bailout. Although it was once breathlessly claimed that taxpayers would actually profit, losses are now projected to be $25 billion. A snippet of my interview also ran on "Studio B. with Shepard Smith" that same day.

    During the in-depth interview with Doug, which also was part of a fine story he wrote on Fox News' website, I emphasized another important point I have made in the past few days: that in the bailout, some workers -- notably those in the United Auto Workers -- were more equal than others. In articles in National Review and the Daily Caller, my Competitive Enterprise Institute colleague Mark Beatty and I point out  how the Obama administration’s “Team Auto” task force put 100,000 auto dealer jobs -- a number approaching the total workforce at GM and Chrysler -- at risk by pushing the auto companies to close more than 2,000 dealerships in a just a few months. By contrast, Mitt Romeny's old private equity firm, Bain Capital, is taking heat for laying off 750 workers at GST Steel eight years after it acquired the company.

  • California's Unconstitutional Proposition 37

    August 16, 2012 7:22 AM

    Writing in the Daily Caller, legal commentator Walter Olson says that California's Proposition 37 is bad policy that will only enrich opportunistic lawyers:

    Prop. 37 on this fall’s California ballot, pleasantly billed as the Right to Know campaign, would require labeling of food with genetically modified (GMO/GE) ingredients. Backers say Europe already has similar rules and there’s no reason California shouldn’t follow suit. And even though health fears about GMO/GE products have been debunked by virtually every scientific authority to look into the matter — from the AMA to the World Health Organization, and including science reporting in such perhaps unexpected venues as Mother Jones and the Huffington Post — voters in a new Pepperdine poll still approve of the idea by a lopsided 69 to 22 percent. After all, how much could it cost just to put labels on foods?

    We may soon find out. California’s fabled Proposition 65, enacted in 1986, requires the labeling of products that expose consumers to substances linked to cancer. That’s a pleasant-sounding idea too, but 26 years later the law has benefited almost no one but litigators. Even as cancer remains just as much of a problem in California as elsewhere, a cadre of lawyers in the state have made many, many tens of millions of dollars filing inadequate-labeling suits against purveyors of such products as candles, fireplace logs, Christmas lights, hammers, billiard cue chalk, matches, grilled chicken, life-saving drugs, brass doorknobs, car exhaust in parking garages, and on and on. (Most of the money in the resulting settlements goes to the lawyers, which is one reason defendants often describe Prop 65 litigation as legalized extortion.)

    Weirdly, it might even reduce the availability of certain non-GMO foods, those currently distributed by middlemen that currently sell mostly GMO foods, and don’t want to establish parallel tracks for GMO and non-GMO foods: “By some estimates, 70 percent of the current American food supply would need a 'contains GMOs' label” under Prop. 37,” notes Olson in the article. Proposition 37's enormous documentation burdens and liability risks will have a large chilling effect on suppliers.

  • Time To Extinguish Flame Retardant Hype

    August 15, 2012 4:15 PM

    Flame retardants are making headlines these days thanks to an "exposé" -- more properly characterized as an unsubstantiated smear campaign -- published as a series of articles in the Chicago Tribune this past spring. The effort has helped Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) build the case for his anti-chemical legislation, which he calls the "Safe Chemicals Act." Supposedly, he and his journalist allies at the Chicago Tribune know better than anyone else -- including scientists and engineers that produce these products -- about what makes a chemical safe or dangerous.

    The Tribune reporters conducted a  little bit of "research" and added some colorful interpretations of their "findings" to render the judgment that flame retardants -- which have been used for decades to reduce fire risks and save lives -- are public enemy number 1. But despite the Tribune's sloppily researched and ideologically motivated series, there isn't much evidence that anyone has suffered significant  adverse health effects  from trace exposures to flame retardants in consumer products.

  • What The New York Times' Ron Nixon Doesn't Understand About Northeast Corridor Travel

    August 15, 2012 3:14 PM

    In today's New York Times, reporter Ron Nixon has a remarkably misleading article on travel in the Northeast corridor (NEC). Three major distortions stick out:

    1. Nixon regurgitates the Amtrak propaganda that claims 75 percent of travelers take the train between New York and Washington, with 54 percent of travelers between Boston and New York taking the train;
    2. Nixon uncritically repeats the myth that Amtrak suffers from far fewer delays than airline service; and
    3. Nixon fails to bat an eye at Amtrak's ridiculous 2040 ridership projections.

    On the first point, it is important to note -- at which Nixon fails -- that the 75-percent figure refers to air and rail only. On the Northeast Interstate 95 corridor, bus travel accounts for more person trips than Amtrak while driving still accounts for about 80 percent of total passenger travel, according to this Amtrak report. And if Amtrak subsidies were reduced throughout the entire system (meaning NEC Amtrak fares would rise dramatically), rail's mode share would be greatly reduced. Air, bus, and private automobile trips are minimally subsidized.

  • Equal Pay Should Be For Equal Work, Not Unequal Work

    August 15, 2012 10:28 AM

    Yesterday, I criticized the assumption that people should receive equal pay for unequal work, such as requiring the average woman to be paid exactly the same amount as the average man even though the average male employee works more hours than the average female employee. (I am talking here about averages, not generalizing about every individual case; there are obviously male part-time employees, just as there are women who work 80 hours a week.)

    But apparently this point was too subtle for some people. Collin Maessen of Real Sceptic tweeted my blog post, with the preface, "apparently CEI is against regulations that allow women to earn the same wages for the same work as men do." I didn't write about such regulations at all. To me, it's not "the same work" if it's not the same number of hours. Why should a full-time employee be paid as little as a part-time employee? Why should an employee who works 60 hours per week be paid the same as an employee who works 40 hours per week?

  • Today's Links: August 15, 2012

    August 15, 2012 10:01 AM

    OPINION

    LINDSAY ABRAMS: "Pot May Improve Cognitive Functioning in Bipolar Disorder"
    "At least one prior study has shown than cannabis might have some positive effects for patients with bipolar disorder, and several others have reported that in patients with schizophrenia, marijuana use is actually associated with an improvement in neurocognitive functioning. While it is still unclear why the psychoactive drug might have this effect on patients with major psychiatric disorders, this study further investigates the association in bipolar disorder patients."

    ADAM KIRSCH: "Gore Vidal’s ‘Burr’ Is Antidote to Tea Party Myths"
    "'Burr' delights in subverting everything we think we know about how the country was built. With his characteristic patrician sarcasm, Vidal casually scraps the enduring notion of American exceptionalism, the idea that our politics, unlike those of the corrupt Old World, are founded on ideals of democratic equality and public virtue. If the Tea Party today looks back to the founders with reverence, 'Burr' suggests, that is only because they did such a good job mythologizing themselves and mesmerizing posterity."

    KATHERINE MANGU-WARD: "The Sad, Wasteful Afterlife of Olympic Venues"
    "Cities spend hundreds of millions of dollars (at least!) attracting the Olympics, preparing for the tourist onslaught, housing athletes and getting people to and fro. But what happens when the hoopla is over? Some cities manage to re-purpose the infrastructure built for the games—Atlanta handed much of its Olympic park over to Georgia Tech, for example. But many, perhaps most, of the building is ultimately left to rot."

  • When Wage Gaps Are Fair

    August 14, 2012 12:29 PM

    When I and my wife first got married, she worked shorter hours than I did, and used her additional time outside the workplace for activities like grocery shopping and preparing dinner. So there was nothing unfair about the fact that her employer paid her less than I was paid. I was getting the benefit of  these activities, not her employer -- a benefit reflected in the fact that I paid most of the rent (while my wife did most of the family consumer spending, using financial contributions from me -- I reimbursed her for three-quarters of each grocery bill).

    My situation was not unusual. On average, women work fewer hours in the workplace than men, and are paid less, although women's purchases apparently account for most of the nation's consumer spending, and women probably consume as much as men. As Ramesh Ponnuru notes at Bloomberg News, although "women earn an average of 77 cents on a man’s dollar,” "part of the gap reflects the fact that women, on average, work fewer hours than men. Among people who work 40 hours a week, according to the Labor Department, women make 87 percent of what men do." Economist Diana "Furchtgott-Roth cites a 2005 study . . . which found that . . . 'There is no gender gap in wages among men and women with similar family roles.' In addition to being more likely to seek part-time work, women are also more likely to have gaps in their employment history and to enter lower-paying fields. . . a 2009 report for the Labor Department, found that these factors account for most of the pay gap."

    As Ponnuru points out, it makes no sense to blame employers for this, since "[t]here is very little that individual employers can do about any of these issues. They can’t make men do more housework, or pick majors for women. Nor can they reasonably be asked to adjust their salary schedules to make up for those choices."

  • In Praise Of Judicial Activism

    August 14, 2012 11:18 AM

    Judicial activism is a dirty word in politics. It shouldn't be. Over at The American Spectator, David Deerson try to rehabilitate a term that has been sorely missing from a passive judiciary.

  • Today's Links: August 14, 2012

    August 14, 2012 10:06 AM

    OPINION

    SALON: "Helen Gurley Brown: A Life in Links"
    "In an undated video, [Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley] Brown talked to Small Business Magazine about her early publishing experiences. 'I knew nothing about business. I knew nothing about magazine editing. All I had was a basic brain and a lot of drive.'"

    RICH LOWRY: "Dems’ big ‘battle of ideas’ is off to a lying start"
    "Democrats believe fervently in the folly of Paul Ryan’s ideas, yet somehow can’t speak about them truthfully. They are confident they can destroy Ryan — not because they think they can win the debate over his proposals on the merits, but because they are certain they can distort those proposals with impunity."

    RICHARD RAHN: "Economic Lessons From the Olympics"
    "Civilization can only advance when individuals are both encouraged and rewarded for excellence. The men and women who designed, built, and succeeded in placing the new SUV-sized rover on Mars receive and deserve our acclaim. The late Steve Jobs is widely admired for creating the world’s most valuable company and for being a genius in product innovation and marketing. [...] The good side of humanity is revealed when we praise and reward such people. The bad side of humanity is shown by those who wish to punish success."

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