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  • CEI Shows Support for Sen. Capito's Greenhouse Gas Legislation

    May 13, 2015 12:59 PM

    Today the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) showed its support of a new legislative effort to pushback against the “Clean Power” Plan. Introduced by U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), the ARENA Act is new greenhouse gas legislation that will be addressed today at a press conference on Capitol Hill.

    Myron Ebell, CEI’s director of the Center for Energy and Environment said:

    CEI strongly supports Senator Capito's bipartisan legislation and other efforts to block the Environmental Protection Agency's so-called ‘Clean Power’ Plan. The EPA's proposed regulations go far beyond the authority Congress delegated in the Clean Air Act. If fully implemented, the regulations will raise energy prices in States where electricity is still affordable into copies of California's failing economy.

    See more on CEI’s work on related topics here.

  • U.S. Pollinator Policy Should Focus on Facts Rather than Alarmism

    May 13, 2015 12:13 PM

    Today, the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research is holding a hearing on “pollinator health” to discuss a national strategy designed to improve honeybee health. Hopefully, U.S. regulators and legislators will not move too quickly on a strategy that is governed by alarmism; rather, they should take a deliberative approach that is based on science and good information. They should avoid the rash approach taken by European policy makers, which is increasingly proving unwarranted and counterproductive.

    The issue erupted in Europe a few years ago, and European lawmakers jumped the gun by deciding to ban a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids that environmental activists claimed were wreaking havoc on honeybee populations. Supposedly, this ban would stop a phenomenon called Colony Collapse Disorder, in which most worker bees disappear often after winter hibernation, leaving behind a healthy queen, honey, and male honeybee drones in the hive. But even before the ban could take effect, research shows that honeybees in Europe are suffering fewer post-winter losses than originally believed or expected. And the most recent data indicate that honeybee health is improving, and survival is relatively high.

    The ban took effect December 2013, which means farmers had access to neonicotinoids for all growing seasons until the spring of 2014. So far, there have been two years of data collected measuring post-winter hive survival rates in Europe during 2012-2014. Bees from the hives covered in this survey foraged in the springs and summers of 2012 and 2013—all before the ban took effect in December 2014.

  • This Week Is Infrastructure Week

    May 12, 2015 4:19 PM

    In the lead-up to the May 31 sunset date for federal highway funding, this week is “Infrastructure Week”—a week for scholars, advocates, and policy makers to debate needed long-term technologies, policies, and reforms on a wide range of infrastructure topics. Competitive Enterprise Institute transportation policy expert Marc Scribner has put forward specific reforms focused on infrastructure such as user-based revenue collection and expanded debt financing.

    “Government monopolies in infrastructure are misallocating resources and increasingly failing to serve their ‘customers’”, said Scribner. “Instead, lawmakers need to adopt policies that allow for improved transportation infrastructure provision. For the nation’s highways and airports, the most important reform right now is allowing modern user-based revenue collection and increasing debt financing, while reducing tax-funded federal grants. The improvements include all-electronic tolling, expanding the use of private activity bonds, and a modernized airport passenger facility charge, and would let consumers directly support services they actually use.”

    For more on CEI’s work on transportation policy, see CEI’s agenda for Congress, Free to Prosper.

    Also note that CEI president Lawson Bader is speaking on a Thursday panel on the economic impact of airports in America and what reforms are needed. > Thinking Beyond the Runway: A Look at How Airports Help Our Economy Take Off

  • Ten Thousand Commandments 2015: A Fact Sheet

    May 12, 2015 12:42 PM

    Ten Thousand Commandments is the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s annual survey of the size, scope and cost of federal regulations, and how they affect American consumers, businesses, and the U.S. economy. Authored by CEI Vice President for Policy Clyde Wayne Crews, Jr., it shines a light on the large, growing “hidden tax” of America’s regulatory state.

    The scope of federal government spending, deficits and the national debt is staggering, but so is the impact of federal regulations, which now exceeds half the amount the federal government spends annually. Unfortunately, regulations get too little attention in policy debates because, unlike taxes, they are unbudgeted. They are also difficult to quantify because their effects are often indirect. In Ten Thousand Commandments, Crews compiles available data on regulatory costs and trends. By making the size, extent and cost of Washington’s rules and mandates more comprehensible, Crews underscores the need for more review, transparency and accountability—for both new and existing federal regulations.

    Highlights of the 2015 edition include:

  • Not So Fast: Fatally Flawed Research Asserts Alcohol Taxes Save Lives

    May 12, 2015 10:52 AM

    Last month, researchers at the University of Florida published a study in the American Journal of Public Health that concluded, “Increases in alcohol excise taxes, such as the 2009 Illinois act, could save thousands of lives yearly across the United States as part of a comprehensive strategy to reduce alcohol-impaired driving.” Their study presented the case that the 2009 tax increase resulted in a statistically significant reduction in alcohol-related deaths in Illinois. However, as I pointed out in a blog post, there only appears to be a reduction in fatalities because of the authors’ selective inclusion and exclusion of data. Rebecca Goldin, Director of STATS.org and Professor of Mathematical Sciences at George Mason University, found even more flaws in the research.

    In her post, Rebecca takes a bird’s eye view of the crash data in Illinois between 1999 and 2013. She finds a steady decline during this 10-year period with “hardly anything special at all going on at the end of 2009.” Looking closer at the data, she noted (as did I) the curious exclusion of data after 2011. “Results should be resilient to changes in choices, such as whether to use data published 2011-2013,” Goldin notes. When added to the evaluation, this 2011-2013 data shows a small decrease immediately after 2009, but then shows a steady increase in alcohol-related traffic deaths in Illinois. She also found that as a proportion of total traffic fatalities, alcohol-related fatalities on the road have been increasing since 2009 (though only by 2 percent—a statistically insignificant amount).

    Of course, the real story here is that breaking the data at year 2009 may not be an appropriate way of measuring the trends, and certainly it’s not appropriate to “blame” the excise tax for the proportionally increased alcohol deaths in the context of decreasing deaths associated to alcohol. But by the same logic neither is it appropriate to conclude that the excise tax has been saving lives.

    Finally, in addition to the “creative math” and error of conflating correlation with causation (bad scientists, bad!), there’s another potential problem with the study. The grant provided by the National Institutes of Health lists the purpose as “to develop a research program of HIV prevention focused on the intersection of event-level alcohol use… and sexual partner selection among adolescents.” There is no mention in the grant description about taxes or motor vehicle crashes. I say this is a “potential” problem because I have been unable to get answers from anyone at the NIH or the University of Florida researchers who worked on the project. My questions were simple: What was the rationale behind using an AIDS grant for alcohol tax research? And is this sort of change in scope common practice?

    It’s one thing to have public health advocates peddling flawed research in order to advance personal agendas, but it’s another entirely to use taxpayer money to do so.

  • New Tax Foundation Report Endorses PFC Modernization

    May 11, 2015 2:16 PM

    The Tax Foundation today released a new report, “Improving Airport Funding to Meet the Needs of Passengers.” Authored by Tax Foundation economist Alan Cole, the report notes that airport funding and financing in the U.S. is skewed against the users-pay principle and that the passenger facility charge (PFC) represents a welcome alternative to federal airport cross-subsidization schemes.

    The PFC is a local user charge that airports can use to fund or finance a narrow class of improvements, as permitted by the Federal Aviation Administration. The PFC has been capped at a maximum of $4.50 per enplanement since 2000. Inflation has eroded that buying power by about half. CEI, along with airports and other aviation industry stakeholders, supports increasing the cap to $8.50 and then indexing it to inflation. In the report, Cole endorses this position, writing, “The current $4.50 cap should be modernized and indexed to meet the needs of today and future growth.”

    Some have incorrectly labeled the PFC a tax. As I explain in detail here, it is not a tax and raising the federal cap on PFCs certainly cannot constitute a tax increase.

    The report goes on to say that harnessing local user fees such as PFCs can allow airports to eventually wean themselves off federal funding. The major reason CEI supports PFCs, and all transportation system user charges, over taxes is that, as Cole notes in his report, they resemble charges you would see if these were private, market institutions.

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

    May 11, 2015 12:04 PM

    Last week’s raft of new rules covers everything from school lunch workers to Flugzeugbau gliders.

    On to the data:

    • Last week, 65 new final regulations were published in the Federal Register, the same number as the previous week.
    • That’s the equivalent of a new regulation every two hours and 35 minutes.
    • So far in 2015, 1,065 final regulations have been published in the Federal Register. At that pace, there will be a total of 2,992 new regulations this year, which would be several hundred fewer rules than the usual total of 3,500-plus.
    • Last week, 1,609 new pages were added to the Federal Register, after 1,975 pages the previous week.
    • Currently at 26,706 pages, the 2015 Federal Register is on pace for 74,694 pages.
    • Rules are called “economically significant” if they have costs of $100 million or more in a given year. Eight such rules have been published so far this year, one in the past week.
    • The total estimated compliance cost of 2015’s economically significant regulations ranges from $917 million to $970 million for the current year.
    • Ninety final rules meeting the broader definition of “significant” have been published so far this year.
    • So far in 2015, 189 new rules affect small businesses; 30 of them are classified as significant. 
  • President Again Makes False Claims about Supreme Court's Ledbetter Decision

    May 11, 2015 11:16 AM

    On April 15, President Obama once again made false claims about what the Supreme Court did in its decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. (2007), insinuating that the Court set a deadline for suing over pay discrimination that expires before many employees could possibly discover the discrimination.

    He falsely claimed that the Supreme Court said it didn’t “matter” when Lilly Ledbetter learned of the pay disparity she unsuccessfully sued over, and that it ruled against her even though she explained that “I just found out” about the discrimination right before suing.

    In reality, Ledbetter admitted in her deposition that she knew of the pay disparity years earlier. Yet she waited until long after the deadline to sue. The Supreme Court specifically said in footnote 10 of its decision that it had “no occasion” to consider whether Ledbetter could have sued had she only just found about the discrimination shortly before suing, since Ledbetter never argued to the courts that she had just discovered the discrimination. If she had just found about the discrimination, her lawyers would have argued that the “discovery rule” applied to restart the deadline for suing, making her lawsuit timely, but they never did so.

  • Will Gov. Cuomo Kill the Economic Opportunity James Franco Extols?

    May 8, 2015 1:40 PM

    Kudos to actor, writer, and director James Franco for his Washington Post piece yesterday explaining an important benefit of McDonald’s and the fast-food and franchise industries writ large—they are there for you when you need them.

    James Franco explains that in his case the McDonald’s job was essentially a starting job after being fired from two others. Franco explains that that job sustained him when other avenues were not available. Furthermore, Franco tells how he used that time to develop skills that launched his current career.

    Franco demonstrates the value of a good work ethic and shows how he made the job fun and kept a good attitude.

    Franco’s story points out that in many cases the jobs are starting jobs as skills are developed. The story doesn’t end there though, because it makes the point that such jobs are there for you when nobody else is and at whatever stage of life you may find yourself.

    Women hold 73 percent of these fast-food jobs, writes New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in an opinion editorial in the New York Times yesterday. Unfortunately, raising the minimum wage is going to do is keep a notable percentage of these women at home, making McDonald’s and other franchise jobs unavailable for them when they need them.

    There are jobs that are going to be lost, and disproportionately it’s the women who will be losing them. If someone has to be let go due to rising labor costs for employers, then there is a 73 percent chance it will be a woman fired from these fast-food jobs.

    About 80 percent of economists surveyed recognize the job-killing reality of minimum wage hikes and 85 percent of econometric studies demonstrate this job-killing phenomenon. 

  • Congress Gives Up Fight against NLRB Ambush Election Rule

    May 8, 2015 10:55 AM

    The Competitive Enterprise Institute planned on scoring the Senate’s veto override vote on S.J. Res. 8, a Congressional Review Act Resolution of Disapproval to void the National Labor Relations Board’s “ambush election” rule. Unfortunately, the Senate voted 96-3 to table the measure in order to focus on other business.

    While it was unlikely that Senate Republicans could have mustered the 67 votes needed to override President Obama’s veto, GOP members should have demanded a vote to put senators on the record on whether they support the special interests of labor unions or worker rights.

    The NLRB’s ambush election rule threatens workers’ freedom of association and privacy, while hampering employers’ abilities to educate employees on the impact of unionization in the workplace.

    Further, the ambush election rule is a regulatory solution in search of a problem that doesn’t exist. Labor unions already win 65.2 percent (FY 2013) of all union elections held. Labor unions win an even higher percentage of elections when employees have less time to educate themselves on unionization, and the main component of the rule is to drastically shorten the time period for union organizing elections, possibly to as little as 11 days after a union files a petition.

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