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OpenMarket: March 2016

  • USA Act Increases Accountability, Restores Congress' Power of the Purse

    March 14, 2016

    Separation of powers is one of the United States government’s most basic principles. But for several decades, presidents from both parties have gradually concentrated more and more power in the executive branch, at the expense of Congress and the judiciary. A new bill from Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the Unauthorized Spending Accountability (USA) Act of 2016, seeks to rebalance a tilted scale.

    Only Congress has the power of the purse, yet a long list of unauthorized executive branch programs continue to operate—256 in all, at a cost of more than $310 billion. The USA Act would automatically cut a program’s budget to 90 percent of its previously authorized level in its first unauthorized year, and to 85 percent in the second year. Programs would sunset altogether after a third unauthorized year.

    As the executive branch becomes more overbearing with each...

  • DOT Compromises Safety and Efficiency for Union Favoritism

    March 14, 2016

    Today, a draft proposed rule from the Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration has been making the rounds. It will be published in the Federal Register tomorrow and comments will be due on May 16. The aim is to require that all trains have at least two crewmembers in the cab unless they are explicitly approved to operate single-crewmember trains. It is nothing more than government-imposed union featherbedding, will offer no safety benefits, and will impose nontrivial costs.

    In Congress, legislation known as the Safe Freight Act has been repeatedly introduced at the behest of railroad unions that would be even worse by...

  • Collusive Deals with Class Action Lawyers before the Supreme Court

    March 14, 2016

    Class-action lawsuits are commonly settled for things that benefit the lawyers bringing them, not the class of allegedly victimized people they are supposedly suing on behalf of.

    A classic example is Frank v. Poertner, pending before the Supreme Court. Ripped-off class members asking the Supreme Court to hear their challenge to a class action settlement that awarded class lawyers $5.7 million, while 99 percent of class members get nothing, and a third-party nonprofit got a bunch of donated batteries. As Roger Parloff of Fortune asks, “Should Plaintiffs Lawyers Get 94% of A Class Action Settlement?” The Supreme Court should answer with a loud “No.”

    The class-action lawsuit was brought against Gillette, the maker of...

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

    March 14, 2016

    It was just another week in the world of federal regulation, with new rules covering everything from Nixon’s archives to black bears.

    On to the data:

    • Last week, 66 new final regulations were published in the Federal Register, after 80 the previous week.
    • That’s the equivalent of a new regulation every two hours and 33 minutes.
    • With 589 final regulations published so far in 2016, the federal government is on pace to issue 3,068 regulations in 2016. Last year’s total was 3,406 regulations.
    • Last week, 1,601 new pages were added to the Federal Register, after 1,600 pages the previous week.
    • Currently at 13,237 pages, the 2016 Federal Register is on pace for 68,943 pages. The 2015 Federal Register had an adjusted page count of 81,611.
    • Rules are called “economically significant” if they...
  • Advancing Capitalism at the New Intellectual Forum

    March 11, 2016

    Yesterday, my colleague Fred Smith and I co-hosted the New Intellectual Forum, an exciting event that brought business leaders and free market intellectuals together for a discussion of how both groups can more effectively work together to advance economic freedom. As Fred has long suggested, the defense of a free economy requires an alliance of both “Doers” and “Thinkers” to be effective. Both groups have good reasons for staying focused on their own familiar realms, though, so it was a testament to the open-mindedness of the many participants that they embraced the idea of working across professional boundaries. CEI hosted the even in conjunction with the ...

  • FCC’s New Privacy Mandates – What’s Next, Internet Czar?

    March 10, 2016

    Today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) unveiled a proposal to regulate how broadband providers may collect and use their customers’ information. These rules, which the FCC’s five commissioners will vote on later this month, mark the agency’s first major attempt to expand its power over the Internet since its controversial February 2015 decision to reinterpret federal law as authorizing the Commission to regulate Internet service providers as public utilities. That move, which FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler justified as necessary to protect so-called “net neutrality,” came after the Obama administration intervened in the FCC’s rulemaking process...

  • Bashing Trade Is a Popular Election Year Target

    March 10, 2016

    Pundits are opining that Bernie Sanders’ significant win in the Democratic primaries in Michigan was primarily due to his vehement anti-trade stance. Donald Trump’s surge in the Republican primaries in Michigan and Mississippi also came in part from his own protectionist position. The Wall Street Journal has a lengthy front-page article on the rise of protectionist sentiment among both Democratic and Republican voters. Major newspapers such as the Washington Post have pointed to Sanders’ use of “bogus numbers” when attacking free trade in his stump speeches and in his debates.

    Almost every candidate is pointing to trade...

  • NLRB vs. McDonald's: The Trial Begins

    March 10, 2016

    The long awaited McDonald’s trial in National Labor Relations Board joint employer case begins today. In RealClearPolicy, I discuss the less-than-transparent proceedings leading up to the trial.

    In December 2014, NLRB General Counsel Richard Griffin consolidated dozens of unfair labor practice charges against McDonald’s franchisees and named McDonald’s USA, LLC, as a joint employer responsible for alleged labor-law violations of privately owned franchises all across the country.

    Since the mega-consolidation and over a year’s time, the NLRB has still failed to adequately explain to McDonald’s or the public the legal reasoning behind naming the fast...

  • Beware of Misleading CBO Score of the AIRR Act

    March 9, 2016

    The AIRR Act (H.R. 4441), the FAA reauthorization bill in the House, contains badly needed reforms of U.S. air traffic control. See my FAQ on what this reorganization is all about. Today, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its cost estimate, or score, of the AIRR Act. It concludes that the bill would add $19.8 billion to the deficit through 2026. Before conservatives blow a gasket on this supposed budget buster, note that the CBO report relies on some nonsensical assumptions to derive this misleading figure.

    CBO assumes aviation taxes will remain the same following the spinoff of the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization into the new independent nonprofit ATC Corporation. This is because the House Ways...

  • In Memoriam: Giancarlo Ibarguen

    March 9, 2016

    The liberty movement has lost an important friend, with the passing of Giancarlo Ibarguen, who led Universidad Francisco Marroquin (UFM) in Guatemala for many years. He helped build UFM into a major institution dedicated to the ideas of liberty, one I’ve been fortunate to visit on several occasions. As I noted at the passing of UFM’s founder, Manuel Ayau:

    A full-fledged university, since its founding in 1971, UFM sought not only to eschew the Marxist economic theories that were in fashion then (even more than today, and especially in Latin America), but to revive the study of the great classical liberal thinkers.

    In addition to his pioneering work in higher education, Giancarlo also played a...

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