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OpenMarket: May 2016

  • One Enlightened Statesman: Sen. Rand Paul Pauses TSCA Bill

    May 31, 2016

    Three cheers to Senator Rand Paul for actually caring enough to read legislation before voting on its passage. Last week, he held up legislation that will vastly expand the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to regulate chemicals. As I pointed out recently, this legislation to amend the federal Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) has been moving along without proper consideration from most members of Congress. In fact, rather than appoint a formal conference committee composed of legislators from both House and Senate, it appears that lawmakers...

  • Inequality: Policies That Work, and Policies That Don't

    May 31, 2016

    CEI recently released a pair of papers by Iain Murray and me about economic inequality. The first encourages activists to ask the right questions: think about flesh-and-blood people, not ratios. The second paper seeks to answer the right questions. Our main focus is on effective poverty reduction policies. But it is also important to know which policies don’t reduce poverty, so policy makers can avoid them. We mention two in our paper: minimum wage hikes and increased collective bargaining.

    The arguments against both are similar: they have tradeoffs. Some workers benefit from a higher minimum wage, and many union members benefit from higher union wages. But their benefits come at a cost.

    Workers pay for minimum wage increases in the form of reduced hours...

  • RealClear Radio Hour: Latin American Politics, Jazz, and Freedom

    May 31, 2016

    This week on RealClear Radio Hour, I’m joined by three freedom fighters for a discussion of Latin American politics, economics, and culture. We focus much of the discussion on Cuba’s bleak history. Will Cuba become a "Socialist Jurassic Park" propped up by poverty tourists who want to "see it before it changes?" Or is there hope that the long-suffering Cuban people will one day be free from tyranny?

    My first guest is Carlos Eire, Yale professor of history and religious studies, National Book Award winner, and author of Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy, who grieves for his native Cuba under the Castro regime. Evacuated to the U....

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

    May 31, 2016

    The Congressional Review Act deadline for the possible midnight regulation rush has now likely passed, though the Federal Register once again topped 2,000 pages last week. That makes four weeks out of the last five the page count has gotten that high, which is unusual. If there is a slowdown in the next few months, we’ll know if the midnight rush was real or not. For now, it’s too early to tell. In the meantime, new regulations in the last week ranged from food labels to selling electricity.

    On to the data:

    • Last week, 70 new final regulations were published in the Federal Register, after 68 the previous week.
    • That’s the equivalent of a new regulation every two hours and 24 minutes.
    • With 1,344 final regulations published so far in 2016, the federal government is on pace to issue 3,262 regulations in 2016. Last year’s total was...
  • Federal Regulations Affecting Small Business

    May 26, 2016

    It is often said that there is no such thing as a free lunch, something particularly true for the small businessperson. The “Small Business Anthem,” heard on the Small Business Advocate radio program, goes in part:

    Even though you make payroll every Friday,

    You don’t have a guaranteed paycheck.

    You’re a small business owner, and you eat what you kill.

    For those hunter-gatherers among us, the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) directs federal agencies to assess their rules’ effects on small businesses and to “publish semiannual...

  • NLRB Downplays Pro-Union Threats

    May 26, 2016

    Union bias permeates the actions of the current National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). This is hardly surprising since a former union lawyer, Richard Griffin, holds the powerful position of Board General Counsel and a majority of Board members have a pro-union background.

    But however significant the pro-union bias is at the NLRB, the members should still be able to uphold basic elements of the National Labor Relations Act. The NLRB’s predisposition to favor labor unions should not override their duty to impartially enforce the Act.

    One duty of the Board is to ensure employees are free to self-determine their own representation. Part of that requires “free and fair elections.” Any observer of the Board knows that the current NLRB members take this duty extremely seriously...

  • Court Will Soon Decide Fate of FCC's Ill-Conceived Internet Regulations

    May 26, 2016

    Any day now, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is expected to release its decision in U.S. Telecom Association v. FCC. The case involves a challenge to the Federal Communications Commission’s so-called “Open Internet Order,” a set of regulations the agency issued in early 2015 when it voted on party lines to begin treating Internet service providers like public utilities under the Communications Act. The FCC’s Democratic majority, led by Chairman Tom Wheeler, felt these rules were necessary to protect a concept known as “net neutrality,” which holds that the government should prevent broadband companies from treating Internet traffic...

  • More on "Inequality"

    May 25, 2016

    In serendipitous timing, the Institute of Economic Affairs in London released a new study this week entitled “Never Mind The Gap: Why we shouldn’t worry about inequality.” Authors Ryan Bourne and Christopher Snowden look at the facts and figures about inequality in the UK and conclude that “the trends do not conform to the story of unprecedented or spiraling inequality that are frequently implied in the media.”

    They also point out that attempting to intervene in market functions to reduce inequality means accepting “more poverty or less wealth overall provided the distribution is more narrow,” which is the point Ryan Young and I also make in “...

  • Unions and Environmentalists Oppose Plan to Address California's Rising Housing Costs

    May 25, 2016

    Everyone’s for affordable housing—except, it seems, some unions and environmentalists.

    On May 18, a coalition of unions and environmental advocacy groups—including the State Building & Construction Trades Council and Natural Resources Defense Council—wrote to lawmakers to voice their opposition to a proposal by Governor Jerry Brown to encourage more building of lower-cost housing by expediting the state’s environmental impact review process.

    Brown’s proposal would exempt projects planned on land zoned for high-density development from burdensome review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Note that those projects would already have had to qualify under local zoning ordinances.

    Green activists are often hostile to development in general....

  • Raise, Don't Level: New CEI Papers on Inequality and Poverty Relief

    May 25, 2016

    Economic inequality is one of today’s defining issues. How to address it? Iain Murray and I offer an unconventional approach in a new two-part CEI study, released today. The first part frames the issue. The title sums it up well enough: People, Not Ratios: Why the Debate over Income Inequality Asks the Wrong Questions. The second part, The Rising Tide: Answering the Right Questions in the Inequality Debate, outlines a concrete policy agenda to make the poor better off.

    Anti-poverty activists routinely fret about the ratio between a CEO’s salary and her lowest-paid employee’s, or how the top one percent’s ratio of national income compares to the bottom one percent’s. Instead of mathematical ratios, we encourage activists to focus on human beings. Again,...

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