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OpenMarket: December 2013

  • BLS Data: Government Workers Miss Work 50 Percent More than Private Sector Workers

    December 18, 2013 2:34 PM

    A blog post at buyhappiness.net cites recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data and reports that in 2012

  • Cataloging Washington’s Hidden Costs, Part 4: The Costs of Poor Regulatory Sausage Making

    December 18, 2013 1:46 PM

    In the first installment of “Cataloging Washington’s Hidden Costs,” the focus was the loss of liberty in our enthusiastic nanny/"Nudge" state.

    So-called "libertarian paternalism" remains unappreciated by unenlightened people like me.

    In Part 2, we looked at unmeasured economic costs.

    Regulators always assume their regulations create net benefits, so in Part 3 we looked at how regulatory benefits can may actually be costs.

    Some costs of government arise from how regulations are enacted and accounted for (or as is actually most often the case, unaccounted for). Here in Part 4 we glance at some of these shortcomings. If lawmaking up on Capitol Hill is compared to sausage making, it gets even worse down here in the agency packing houses.

    Political failure: Regulatory agencies see alleged market failure everywhere, but remain unconcerned with their own status as a static, imperfect man-made institutions.

    Sometimes reality dictates that an agency scale back as new human institutions emerge to discipline risk, uncertainty, market power or you name it. Instead agencies seek solely to expand, such as regulation of net neutrality, low-earth orbit experimentation, and nanotechnology. There is such a thing as pretense of knowledge. It's costly.

  • CEI Podcast for December 18, 2013: The FDA Goes after 23andMe

    December 18, 2013 11:01 AM

    The Food and Drug Administration recently banned 23andMe, a genetic testing service, from marketing its product to consumers. CEI Executive Director and Senior Fellow Gregory Conko thinks the FDA should reverse the ban.

  • Why Workers Deserve the Employee Rights Act, Part 1: Secret Ballot Elections

    December 17, 2013 3:13 PM

    In November, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Representative Tom Price (R-Ga.) introduced the Employee Rights Act, a bill that strengthens federal labor law to protect workers from union coercion and enhance worker choice when deciding on whether or not to join a union.

  • IRS Threatens to Curb Criticism of IRS and Bureaucratic Wrongdoing by 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) Groups

    December 17, 2013 12:35 PM

    The IRS recently proposed rules “limiting political speech" by nonprofit 501(c)(4) groups. In Orwellian fashion, the proposed rules seek to redefine non-partisan, non-election-related criticism of government abuses as "candidate-related political activity." As the Venable law firm notes, they label "a wide variety of activities as candidate-related and therefore not qualifying 501(c)(4) 'social welfare' activity." I discuss an example in the December 16 edition of The Wall Street Journal:

    Those rules restrict even truthful, nonpartisan criticism of IRS and bureaucratic wrongdoing by classifying it as "candidate-related political activity." For example, if an IRS official subjects citizens to incredibly burdensome demands for irrelevant information just to harass them for their political or religious beliefs, no 501(c)(4) group could later criticize that official's nomination to be IRS commissioner, without engaging in restricted activity. That's because the IRS's proposed regulation defines even unelected government officials, like agency heads and judges, as "candidates" if they have been nominated for a position requiring Senate confirmation. The IRS's proposed rules are an attack on the First Amendment that will make it easier for the government to get away with harassing political dissenters and whistleblowers in the future.

    Although these proposed rules in their initial form only apply to 501(c)(4) groups, and only limit the amount of such "political" activity those groups can engage in, rather than entirely banning it, the IRS says it may expand the limit to a total ban in the final version of its rule, and may eventually apply the ban to non-partisan 501(c)(3) groups, like think-tanks and other tax-exempt charities, in the future. Thus, think-tanks, which have have historically been allowed to criticize executive and judicial nominees for their misconduct or bad policies, could be banned from doing so, simply by the IRS radically redefining the candidate-related partisan political activity they are already forbidden to engage in (electioneering) to include non-partisan criticism that has nothing to do with election campaigns or electioneering (Think-tanks are currently forbidden to engage in any electioneering, but are perfectly free to criticize bureaucrats and judges, for the time being.).

  • NLRB General Counsel: Guidance on Micro-Unions is Coming

    December 16, 2013 12:11 PM

    Last Friday, at the Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations in Manhattan, the National Labor Relations Board general counsel Richard Griffin said the Board will put forth guidance concerning its Specialty Healthcare decision, which ruled "micro-unions" are legitimate forms of collective bargaining units.

  • CEI’s Battered Business Bureau: The Week in Regulation

    December 16, 2013 8:11 AM

    56 new regulations, from toddler beds to eagle permits.

  • BPA Junk Science Headaches

    December 13, 2013 8:44 AM

    IMG_3456Could your affection for bottled water be responsible for your bout with migraines? Apparently so, if you believe the latest headlines about the chemical bisphenol A (BPA). But its wise to be wary of such silly claims.

    First of all, it's wrong to suggest that single serving bottled water commonly contains BPA, because that's simply not true. BPA is not used for single-serving, flexible plastic water bottles, as pointed out on the International Bottled Water Association website. They note: "It [BPA] is not, however, used in any retail-sized PET bottled water containers." Nor is it used for most food storage containers like GladWare and other more flexible plastic food storage containers. So go ahead and put those containers in the microwave and leave your bottled water in the car and sun despite the claims that doing so will release BPA! They don't have any BPA to release. But even if they did, I wouldn't worry.

    BPA is used in the five-gallon water jugs designed for office water coolers, and other products made with hard, clear plastics, such as safety goggles. It was once used to make hard clear plastic reusable water bottles, but most of these are now made "BPA-free," thanks to all the misguided hype about BPA risks. And BPA is used in resins that line the interior of soda cans and steel cans for canned foods. These resins prevent the development of dangerous pathogens in our food, which is a good thing! The trace levels of of BPA that ends up in the food are so low that the risks are negligible and those benefits outweigh any risks, as numerous comprehensive scientific reviews around the world have concluded.

  • Minimum Wage Increases Harm the Young, Unskilled, and Less Educated

    December 12, 2013 4:58 PM

    Minimum wage increases eliminate some jobs. Real world examples abound. As a business owner explains:

    The minimum wage kills jobs. End of story. I am a perfect example. I run a very successful financial advisory practice, and I would gladly hire two or three teens to work for me personally. But I will not do it at the minimum wage. They simply don’t bring enough economic benefit to warrant me paying them that much. So, what’s the end result? Two or three teens go without a job and instead do nothing. No job. No experience. No learning. Nothing.

    I personally know at least a dozen seniors in high school and freshmen in college who would jump at the opportunity to work with me for nothing, let alone $3 per hour or $5 per hour. All of the ancillary skills and benefits would far outweigh any wage they may earn. Yet, the minimum wage laws prevent this from happening. And instead they are just unemployed – economic casualties.

    Warren Meyer of Recreation Resource Management, Inc., has also been prevented from hiring people because of the minimum age, as he chronicles at this link.

    Studies show minimum wages disproportionately increase unemployment among the youngest and least-educated and least-skilled workers. Increasing the minimum wage increases unemployment rates among young people and minorities, noted economics professor Walter Williams in his 1982 book, The State Against Blacks. The economist Thomas Sowell makes the same point in his recent two columns “Minimum Wage Madness” Parts I & II. A 2013 study released by George Mason University's Mercatus Center concluded that due to a relatively-modest “minimum wage increase," “the unemployment rate for young workers without high school educations" would “rise by almost two percentage points," compared to “almost one percentage point” among older workers. Sowell notes that a "survey of American economists found that 90 percent of them regarded minimum wage laws as increasing the rate of unemployment among low-skilled workers. Inexperience is often the problem. Only about two percent of Americans over the age of 24 earned the minimum wage." A 2012 study by Sabia, Burkhauser & Hansen reached similar conclusions.

  • CEI Podcast for December 12, 2013: The Affordable Care Act's Marriage Penalties

    December 12, 2013 2:49 PM

    The Affordable Care Act's subsides and tax credits are structured in such a way as to cause thousands of dollars worth of penalties for many married couples. CEI Senior Attorney Hans Bader proposes phasing them out as income rises to soften the blow.

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