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  • Author: Patrick J. Michaels, David E. Wojick
  • Publication Date: 04-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The purpose of this report is to provide a framework for doing research on the problem of bias in science, especially bias induced by Federal funding of research. In recent years the issue of bias in science has come under increasing scrutiny, including within the scientific community. Much of this scrutiny is focused on the potential for bias induced by the commercial funding of research. However, relatively little attention has been given to the potential role of Federal funding in fostering bias. The research question is clear: does biased funding skew research in a preferred direction, one that supports an agency mission, policy or paradigm? Federal agencies spend many billion dollars a year on scientific research. Most of this is directly tied to the funding agency mission and existing policies. The issue is whether these financial ties lead to bias in favor of the existing policies, as well as to promoting new policies. Is the government buying science or support?
  • Topic: Government
  • Author: George Selgin
  • Publication Date: 03-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Not long ago a colleague of mine, who works regularly with legislators, attended a conference at which the lunch speaker, a famous economist, began by telling everyone why governments regulate financial institutions. The reasons the economist gave consisted of various (supposed) financial-market failures. Said the colleague to me later: “I just wanted to stand up and shout, 'That's got nothing to do with it!'” I relate this because some readers may otherwise fail to appreciate the importance of a work whose chief revelation is that financial legislation — and consequently the general structure of financial systems — are shaped by politics. My colleague didn't need to be told, but others, including many economists, evidently do. In Fragile by Design: The Political Origins of Banking Crises Scarce Credit, Charles Calomiris and Stephen Haber tell them. Banking arrangements, they argue, are “not a passive response to some efficiency criterion but rather the product of political deals that determine which laws are passed” (pp. 13 and 38). What's more, the laws such deals give rise to are, more often than not, detrimental to bank safety and soundness. In few words, banking instability has its roots, not in any fragility inherent to commercial banking, but in deals struck between governments and various interest groups. Fragile by Design is at once an alternative interpretation of the history of banking and a contribution to the debate on the causes of the recent crisis. Though other reviewers have tended to focus their attention on the latter contribution, many of Fragile by Design's most important insights, as well as many of its more serious flaws, are independent of its take on the subprime crisis. It is to those insights and flaws that I wish to draw attention
  • Topic: Government
  • Author: Michael B. Rappaport
  • Publication Date: 01-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The constitutional amendment procedure of Article V is defective because the national convention amendment method does not work. Because no amendment can be enacted without Congress's approval, limitations on the federal government that Congress opposes are virtually impossible to pass. This defect may have prevented the enactment of several constitutional amendments that would have constrained Congress, such as amendments establishing a balanced budget limitation, a line-item veto, or congressional term limits. The increasingly nationalist character of our constitutional charter may not be the result of modern values or circumstances, but an artifact of a distorted amendment procedure. Article V should be reformed to allow two-thirds of the state legislatures to propose a constitutional amendment which would then be ratified or rejected by the states, acting through state conventions or state ballot measures. Such a return of power to the states would militate against our overly centralized government by helping to restore the federalist character of our Constitution. Moreover, a strategy exists that would allow this reform to be enacted.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Government, Law Enforcement, Law
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Michael F. Cannon, Diane Cohen
  • Publication Date: 06-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: When a member of Congress introduces legislation, the Constitution requires that legislative proposal to secure the approval of the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the president (unless Congress overrides a presidential veto) before it can become law. In all cases, either chamber of Congress may block it.
  • Topic: Government, Politics, Governance, Law
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Randal O'Toole
  • Publication Date: 06-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Streetcars are the latest urban planning fad, stimulated partly by the Obama administration's preference for funding transportation projects that promote "livability" (meaning living without automobiles) rather than mobility or cost-effective transportation. Toward that end, the administration wants to eliminate cost-effectiveness requirements for federal transportation grants, instead allowing non-cost-effective grants for projects promoting so-called livability. In anticipation of this change, numerous cities are preparing to apply for federal funds to build streetcar lines.
  • Topic: Economics, Environment, Government, Political Economy, Infrastructure
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Thomas L. Hogan
  • Publication Date: 06-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Privately issued money can benefit consumers in many ways, particularly in the areas of value stability and product variety. Decentralized currency production can benefit consumers by reducing inflation and increasing economic stability. Unlike a central bank, competing private banks must attract customers by providing innovative products, restricting the quantity of notes issued, and limiting the riskiness of their investing activities. Although the Federal Reserve currently has a de facto monopoly on the provision of currency in the United States, this was not always the case. Throughout most of U.S. history, private banks issued their own banknotes as currency. This practice continues today in a few countries and could be reinstituted in the United States with minimal changes to the banking system.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Markets, Monetary Policy
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Trevor Burrus
  • Publication Date: 05-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Public broadcasting has been in critics' crosshairs since its creation in 1967. Assailed from all sides with allegations of bias, charges of political influence, and threats to defund their operations, public broadcasters have responded with everything from outright denial to personnel changes, but never have they squarely faced the fundamental problem: government-funded media companies are inherently problematic and impossible to reconcile with either the First Amendment or a government of constitutionally limited powers.
  • Topic: Government, Communications, Mass Media, Law
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Morris A. Davis
  • Publication Date: 05-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: For decades U.S. housing policy has focused on promoting homeownership. In this study, I show that the set of policies designed to further homeownership has been ineffective and expensive and that homeownership as a public policy goal is not well supported.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Markets, Urbanization
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Randal O'Toole
  • Publication Date: 05-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Although gasoline taxes have long been the main source of funding for building, maintaining, and operating America's network of highways, roads, and streets, the tax is at best an imperfect user fee. As such, Congress and the states should take action to transition from gas taxes to more efficient vehicle-mile fees.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Communications, Infrastructure
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Michael Tanner
  • Publication Date: 04-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: News that the poverty rate has risen to 15.1 percent of Americans, the highest level in nearly a decade, has set off a predictable round of calls for increased government spending on social welfare programs. Yet this year the federal government will spend more than $668 billion on at least 126 different programs to fight poverty. And that does not even begin to count welfare spending by state and local governments, which adds $284 billion to that figure. In total, the United States spends nearly $1 trillion every year to fight poverty. That amounts to $20,610 for every poor person in America, or $61,830 per poor family of three.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Poverty
  • Political Geography: United States, America
  • Author: Patric H. Hendershott, Kevin Villani
  • Publication Date: 03-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The current narrative regarding the 2008 systemic financial system collapse is that numerous seemingly unrelated events occurred in unregulated or underregulated markets, requiring widespread bailouts of actors across the financial spectrum, from mortgage borrowers to investors in money market funds. The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, created by the U.S. Congress to investigate the causes of the crisis, promotes this politically convenient narrative, and the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act operationalizes it by completing the progressive extension of federal protection and regulation of banking and finance that began in the 1930s so that it now covers virtually all financial activities, including hedge funds and proprietary trading. The Dodd-Frank Act further charges the newly created Financial Stability Oversight Council, made up of politicians, bureaucrats, and university professors, with preventing a subsequent systemic crisis.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Markets, Global Recession, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Jagadeesh Gokhale
  • Publication Date: 11-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Official federal budget accounts are constructed exclusively in terms of current cash flows – receipts from taxes and fees and outlays on purchases and transfers. But cash-flows do not reveal economically relevant information about who benefits and who loses from government policies. Cash flows also do not reveal how changes in government's policies redistribute resources within and across generations, including reducing the tax burden on today's generations and increasing it on future ones. Because most government transact ions are targeted by age and gender, the federal government can bring about large resource transfers across generations. Intergenerational resource transfers will grow larger as the composition of budget receipts and expenditures changes with relatively faster growth of age-and-gender-related social insurance program. Intergenerational redistributions across generations through federal government operations could substantially affect different generations' economic expectations and choices and exert powerful long-term effects on economic outcomes.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Health, Human Welfare, Markets, Monetary Policy
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Alan Reynolds
  • Publication Date: 10-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: This paper confirms recent studies which find little or no sustained increase in the inequality of disposable income for the U.S. population as a whole over the past 20 years, even though estimates of the top 1 percent's share of pretax, pretransfer (market) income spiked upward in 1986-88, 1997-2000 and 2003-2007.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Markets, Social Stratification
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Marcus E. Ethridge
  • Publication Date: 01-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: In the wake of the 2010 elections, President Obama declared that voters did not give a mandate to gridlock. His statement reflects over a century of Progressive hostility to the inefficient and slow system of government created by the American Framers. Convinced that the government created by the Constitution frustrates their goals, Progressives have long sought ways around its checks and balances. Perhaps the most important of their methods is delegating power to administrative agencies, an arrangement that greatly transformed U.S. government during and after the New Deal. For generations, Progressives have supported the false premise that administrative action in the hands of experts will realize the public interest more effectively than the constitutional system and its multiple vetoes over policy changes. The political effect of empowering the administrative state has been quite different: it fosters policies that reflect the interests of those with well organized power. A large and growing body of evidence makes it clear that the public interest is most secure when governmental institutions are inefficient decisionmakers. An arrangement that brings diverse interests into a complex, sluggish decisionmaking process is generally unattractive to special interests. Gridlock also neutralizes some political benefits that producer groups and other well-heeled interests inherently enjoy. By fostering gridlock, the U.S. Constitution increases the likelihood that policies will reflect broad, unorganized interests instead of the interests of narrow, organized groups.
  • Topic: Democratization, Government, Politics, Power Politics, Governance
  • Political Geography: United States, America
  • Author: Jagadeesh Gokhale
  • Publication Date: 01-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Unless repeal attempts succeed, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ObamaCare) promises to increase state government obligations on account of Medicaid by expanding Medicaid eligibility and introducing an individual health insurance mandate for all US citizens and legal permanent residents. Once ObamaCare becomes fully effective in 2014, the cost of newly eligible Medicaid enrollees will be almost fully covered by the federal government through 2019, with federal financial support expected to be extended thereafter. But ObamaCare provides states with zero additional federal financial support for new enrollees among those eligible for Medicaid under the old laws. That makes increased state Medicaid costs from higher enrollments by "old-eligibles" virtually certain as they enroll into Medicaid to comply with the mandate to purchase health insurance. This study estimates and compares potential increases in Medicaid costs from ObamaCare for the five most populous states: California, Florida, Illinois, New York, and Texas.
  • Topic: Government, Health, Markets, Health Care Policy
  • Political Geography: United States, New York, California, Florida
  • Author: Jagadeesh Gokhale
  • Publication Date: 10-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Social Security is often described as a "foundational" element of the nation's social safety net. Almost all Americans are directly affected by the program and many millions primarily depend on its benefits for supporting themselves during retirement. But the program's financial condition has worsened considerably since the last recession, which began in 2007. In that year, the Social Security trustees estimated that the program's trust fund would be exhausted by 2042. The trustees' annual report for 2011 brings the trust fund exhaustion date forward to 2038. Indeed, the programs revenues fell short of its benefit expenditures in 2010 and it appears unlikely that significant surpluses will emerge again under the program's current rules. If the program's finances continue to worsen at this rate, it won't be long before the debate on reforming the program assumes an urgency and intensity similar to that during 1982-83, when imminent insolvency forced lawmakers to implement payroll tax increases and scale back its benefits.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Human Welfare
  • Political Geography: America, Ethiopia
  • Author: Michael F. Cannon, Aaron Yelowitz
  • Publication Date: 01-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: In 2006, Massachusetts enacted a sweeping health insurance law that mirrors the legislation currently before Congress. After signing the measure, Gov. Mitt Romney (R) wrote, "Every uninsured citizen in Massachusetts will soon have affordable health insurance and the costs of health care will be reduced." But did the legislation achieve these goals? And what other effects has it had? This paper is the first to use Current Population Survey data for 2008 to evaluate the Massachusetts law, and the first to examine its effects on the accuracy of the CPS's uninsured estimates, self-reported health, the extent of "crowd-out" of private insurance for both children and adults, and in-migration of new Massachusetts residents.
  • Topic: Government, Health, Privatization
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Michael F. Cannon
  • Publication Date: 01-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: House and Senate Democrats have produced health care legislation whose mandates, subsidies, tax penalties, and health insurance regulations would penalize work and reward Americans who refuse to purchase health insurance. As a result, the legislation could trap many Americans in low-wage jobs and cause even higher health-insurance premiums, government spending, and taxes than are envisioned in the legislation.
  • Topic: Government, Health, Privatization
  • Political Geography: United States, America
  • Author: Adam B. Schaeffer
  • Publication Date: 03-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Although public schools are usually the biggest item in state and local budgets, spending figures provided by public school officials and reported in the media often leave out major costs of education and thus understate what is actually spent.
  • Topic: Economics, Education, Government, Monetary Policy
  • Author: Randal O'Toole
  • Publication Date: 03-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Over the past four decades, American cities have spent close to $100 billion constructing rail transit systems, and many billions more operating those systems. The agencies that spend taxpayer dollars building these lines almost invariably call them successful even when they go an average of 40 percent over budget and, in many cases, carry an insignificant number of riders. The people who rarely or never ride these lines but still have to pay for them should ask, “How do you define success?"
  • Topic: Government, Markets, Infrastructure
  • Political Geography: America