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OpenMarket: May 2014

  • How State Governments Can Stay in the Black

    May 30, 2014 2:09 PM

    A study by the University of California, Berkeley’s Sarah F. Anzia and Stanford University’s Terry M. Moe finds that public sector unions greatly increase costs to state and local governments by dramatically driving up wages and benefits.

  • Are My Ten Thousand Command "Mints" to Be Regulated?

    May 30, 2014 11:15 AM

    The Food and Drug Administration FDA wants to regulate serving size of breath mints. That's right.

    Ten Thousand Commandmints Mints Tin

    This rule was issued March 2014:

    “Food Labeling: Serving Sizes of Foods That Can Reasonably Be Consumed At One-Eating Occasion; Dual-Column Labeling; Updating, Modifying, and Establishing Certain Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed; Serving Size for Breath Mints; and Technical Amendments”

    They're extending time for comments, it was announced this week. Things like the definition of a single serving deserve careful attention, and "Each request conveyed concern that the original 90-day comment period does not allow sufficient time to develop a meaningful or thoughtful response to the proposed rule."

    The things America chooses to waste time and resources on always amazes.

    I used to work at FDA for a short time and opposed labeling mandates that were being initiated even then for a number of reasons. But now I reckon I'm an outlaw, as I was reminded by my colleague Ryan Young, who tweets as @RegOfTheDay.

  • CEI Labor and Employment Scorecard: Insourcing Amendment to Intelligence Authorization Act

    May 30, 2014 9:15 AM

    This week, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) will score a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives in its consideration of the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 2014 and 2015 (H.R. 4681).

  • CEI Labor and Employment Scorecard: Insourcing Amendment to Intelligence Authorization Act

    May 30, 2014 8:39 AM

    This week, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) will score a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives in its consideration of the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 2014 and 2015 (H.R. 4681).

    The intelligence authorization is considered annually, though there is some history of the process falling short of annual enactment. The vote below pertains to employment considerations for America’s labor force, both governmental and private. The score will be incorporated into CEI’s Congressional Labor and Employment Scorecard, which can be seen in full on CEI’s labor and employment policy website, WorkplaceChoice.org.

    INSOURCING AND OUTSOURCING
    In the course of government operations, work and employees are transferred between the federal government and private employers through “insourcing,” whereby activity once performed by the private sector is brought under government control, and “outsourcing,” whereby the private sector takes over some functions formerly performed by government employees. When deciding whether to insource or outsource, policy makers should follow a basic principle: Businesses should not be subjected to unfair competition from government entities.

    A good guide is the “Yellow Pages” test, which has been applied by mayors and governors around the nation, both Democrat and Republican. It operates under a simple premise: If you can find a private sector firm providing products or services that the government is also providing, then the service should be provided by the private sector. This would insert market competition into the government procurement process, break up government monopolies, and provide better value for taxpayers.

    The Center for Naval Analyses found benefits of competing work, in its 1996 examination of the issue. The visibility and identification of alternate providers were beneficial aspects of the process identified by the Center. As a bottom line, the Center for Naval Analyses determined a 30 percent average savings resulted from this beneficial focus on competition, with savings persisting over time.

    Government workers cost more per hour worked than private sector employees. As the Congressional Budget Office concluded in 2012,

    On average for workers at all education levels, benefits for federal employees cost about $20 per hour worked, whereas benefits for private-sector employees cost $14, CBO estimates. Thus, benefits for federal workers cost 48 percent more per hour worked, on average, than benefits for private sector workers with similar attributes. Benefits also constituted a larger share of compensation for federal workers, accounting for 39 percent of the cost of total compensation, compared with 30 percent in the private sector.

  • Reihan Salam's Argument for Alcohol "Prohibition Lite" Doesn't Hold Water

    May 29, 2014 3:25 PM

    In Slate recently, Reihan Salam argued that as America eases up on the criminalization of marijuana use it ought to consider ramping up the war against booze ("Alcohol Taxes Should Be Tripled: The war on drugs has been a failure. But the war on booze deserves a second chance")It’s a bold argument to make, but it doesn’t go far enough. Salam states, that “[t]he fact that alcohol is more harmful to society than marijuana is a reason to regulate alcohol more stringently than we regulate marijuana. In other words, let’s ease up on marijuana Prohibition and ramp up good old-fashioned alcohol Prohibition.” But he fails to identify another class of products that is in virtually every home in America and arguably more dangerous than weed and ought to be taxed if not banned altogether: beds, mattresses, and pillows. These inherently dangerous and addictive products sent 742,100 people to the hospital in 2012 alone—far more than marijuana (marijuana use was listed in the notes of 375, 000 ER visits). Following in Reihan’s brave steps, I’m advocating that we institute a nationwide pillow prohibition.

    Of course, that is a ridiculous idea, since we get many benefits from beds, mattresses, and pillows. But it’s no more ridiculous than Salam’s apparent suggestion that alcohol can only be put to harmful uses.

    Furthermore, Salam’s argument rests on some serious fallacies and inaccuracies. He seems to believe that the only deciding factor in how much people drink is the price, despite a wealth of evidence that shows increasing taxes on alcohol and restricting availability does not save society from alcohol-related harms and is, in fact, likely to increase the overall cost to society. Not to mention that whole erosion-of-individual-freedom thing.

    Salam’s argument is, indeed, very strange. So, is he pulling our leg? Apparently not. The inspiration for his recent article appears to be a recently released Pew survey that found that an increasing number of Americans favor legalizing marijuana and that 69 percent consider alcohol a greater threat to individuals’ health (though Salam incorrectly reported that 69 percent of respondents thought alcohol was a greater threat to society).

    For Salam, “[t]he fact that alcohol is more harmful to society than marijuana” seems reason enough to increase regulation and taxes on alcohol. Since when does a majority of people believing something make it true or even desirable?

    And as for the harm, what people believe can actually mislead. In another Pew poll, participants between 18-25 years old were asked if they believed people of their generation drink more alcohol than people their age drank 20 years ago. Sixty-nine percent responded that their generation drinks more—and all 69 percent of those respondents were 100 percent wrong. According to a 2013 survey by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the rate of drinking among young adults (12th graders through college) has significantly and steadily declined since 1980.

    young drinking trend

  • Obama's New Unified Agenda of Federal Regulations Shows Big Rules Are Growing

    May 29, 2014 3:23 PM

    In the just-released Spring 2014 Unified Agenda of Federal Regulations, published twice a year by the Office of Management and Budget, federal departments and agencies have 3,348 rules in the pipeline.

    These are broken up into Active (mostly proposed and final rules in the works), Recently Completed, and Long-Term rules as follows:

    Spring Unified Agenda of Federal Regulations (All Rules)
    Active: 2,389
    Completed: 518
    Long-term: 441
    TOTAL: 3,348

    This is up a tad from the pipeline count in the Fall 2013, which was 3305, as detailed here. The pipeline regularly stood above 4,000 in decades prior; the drop derives substantially from changes in OMB reporting policy, which in my view reduce transparency, as I explained in "Big Sexy Holiday Fun With the Unified Agenda of Federal Regulations."

    Still, the number of economically significant rules in the Unified Agenda pipeline, those projected to impact the economy by at least $100 million annually (usually upward, but occasionally downward) rose from the Fall 2013 report's 191 rules to 197, as follows:

    Spring Unified Agenda of Federal Regulations (Economically Significant Rules)
    Active: 129
    Completed: 38
    Long-term: 30
    TOTAL: 197

  • 21 Chicago Aldermen Introduce $15 Minimum Wage Bill

    May 29, 2014 1:23 PM

    Proponents of a government-imposed wage hike in Chicago are gaining steam. On May 28, 21 of the city's 50 council members signed on as co-sponsors of a bill to raise the city's minimum wage to $15 per hour.

  • CEI Podcast for May 29, 2014: Rachel Was Wrong

    May 29, 2014 10:18 AM

    Seeing as Carson's book set malaria prevention back decades, CEI Senior Fellow Angela Logomasini thinks there are other figures more deserving of such tributes.

  • Chattanooga Mayor Berke Delivers City Employees to SEIU

    May 28, 2014 12:59 PM

    In today's Chattanooga Times Free Press, Matt Patterson, executive director at the Center for Worker Freedom, draws attention to the behind the scenes deal between SEIU and Chattanooga, Tennessee Mayor Andy Berke (a former union lawyer).

  • NLRB Rules That Employees Have the Right to Be Disrespectful to Fellow Employees

    May 28, 2014 10:57 AM

    The NLRB has ruled, once again, that a company’s employee handbook cannot require its employees to be courteous to fellow employees.

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