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  • Author: George C. Bitros
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: In the aftermath of the unprecedented 2008 financial crisis, researchers of macroeconomics, finance, and political economy are showing renewed interest in the old but very significant question: Are central banks in large reserve currency democracies—in particular, the U.S. Federal Reserve—prone to creating asset bubbles, and if so, how is it possible to prevent the misuse of the banks' discretionary powers?
  • Topic: Political Economy
  • Political Geography: United States, England
  • Author: Edmund S. Phelps
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: In his most recent tome, Edmund Phelps, the 2006 Nobel Laureate in Economic Science, addresses a topic crucial to successful national capitalist systems: the dynamics of the innovation process. Phelps develops his thesis around three main themes: In part one, he explains the development of the modern economies as they form the core of early—19th century societies in the West; in part two, he explores the lure of socialism and corporatism as competing systems to modern capitalism; and, in part three, he reviews post-1960s evidence of decline in dynamism in Western capitalist countries.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe
  • Author: James L. Buckley
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: “The United States faces two major problems today,” writes James L. Buckley: “runaway spending that threatens to bankrupt us and a Congress that appears unable to deal with long-term problems of any consequence.” Contributing significantly to both, he argues, are the more than 1,100 federal grants-in-aid programs Congress has enacted—federal grants to state and local governments, constituting 17 percent of the federal budget, the third-largest spending category after entitlements and defense, with costs that have risen from $24.1 billion in 1970 to $640.8 billion in fiscal 2015. His “modest proposal”? Do away with them entirely, thereby saving Congress from itself while emancipating the states and empowering their people. If that sounds like a program for revising constitutional federalism, it is.
  • Topic: Government
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Jeffrey Miron
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: In November 2012, voters in the states of Colorado and Washington approved ballot initiatives that legalized marijuana for recreational purposes. Alaska, Oregon, and the District of Columbia are scheduled to consider similar measures in the fall of 2014, and other states may follow suit in the fall of 2016.
  • Topic: War on Drugs, Social Movement, Law
  • Political Geography: United States, Washington, Colombia
  • Author: Randal O'Toole
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Under its “Greenlight Pinellas” proposal, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA), which serves Pinellas County, FL, wants to switch its major funding source from a property tax to a sales tax at a rate that will more than double its local tax revenues, and use the added money to build a 24-mile light-rail line and expand bus service. This proposal is extremely and unnecessarily expensive given that buses can provide a superior service to light rail, carrying more passengers more comfortably to more destinations at a far lower cost.
  • Topic: Infrastructure
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Jason E. Taylor, Jerry L. Taylor
  • Publication Date: 03-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: In September 2012, seven weeks before the presidential election—one in which top marginal tax rates were a major policy difference between the two major—party candidates-the Congressional Research Service (CRS) published a paper (Hungerford 2012) suggesting that there is no empirical evidence that top marginal tax rates impact U.S. economic growth. After all, top marginal tax rates were above 90 percent during the 1950s and early 1960s when the economy experienced rapid growth. Furthermore, marginal tax rate cuts in 2001 and 2003 were followed by the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. The CRS study was widely reported in blogs, newspapers such as the New York Times, and The Atlantic magazine. It was portrayed as evidence refuting Republican candidate Mitt Romney's position that cutting the top marginal tax rate from 35 to 28 percent would spur economic growth and supporting Democratic President Barack Obama's position that top marginal tax rates could be raised to 39.6 percent with no cost to economic growth (Leonhart 2012, Thompson 2012).
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Andrew Foy, Christopher Sciamanna, Mark Kozak, Edward J. Filippone
  • Publication Date: 03-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Since 1970, the annual growth in U.S. health care spending per capita has been more than double the real growth in GDP per capita: 4.3 percent versus 2 percent. Over that same time period countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) averaged an annual growth rate of 3.8 percent in health care spending per capita compared to only a 2.1 percent annual growth in GDP per capita. Eight of 20 countries had higher average annual growth rates in health care spending per capita than the United States (White 2007). In light of the pronounced institutional differences among these countries in medical financing arrangements, the similarity in the rate of health care spending growth is striking. Therefore, any explanation that seeks to account for the tremendous cost growth in health care over the last several decades must hold true across all OECD countries.
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: James A. Dorn
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The Federal Reserve Act was passed on December 23, 1913. It was designed to provide an elastic currency that would respond to the needs of trade. There was nothing in the Act about price stability, interest rates, or full employment. The expectation was that the United States would continue to define the dollar in terms of gold, and that the operation of the international gold standard would ensure long-run price stability.
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Charles I. Plosser
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Douglass C. North, co-winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize in Economics, argued that institutions were deliberately devised to constrain interactions among parties—both public and private (North 1991). In the spirit of North's work, one theme of this article will be that the institutional structure of the central bank matters. The central bank's goals and objectives, its framework for implementing policy, and its governance structure all affect its performance.
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Jerry L. Jordan
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: All of us who are interested in the century-long experience of central banking in the United States owe a great debt to Allan Meltzer. His several-years-long efforts gave us over 2,000 pages of careful documentation of decisionmaking in the Federal Reserve for the first 75 years (Meltzer 2003, 2010a, 2010b). The first score of years transformed a lender-of-last-resort, payments processor, and issuer of uniform national currency into a full-fledged central bank with discretionary authority to manage a fiat currency.
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: George Selgin
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: For a private-sector firm, success can mean only one thing: that the firm has turned a profit. No such firm can hope to succeed, or even to survive, merely by declaring that it has been profitable. A government agency, on the other hand, can succeed in either of two ways. It can actually accomplish its mission. Or it can simply declare that it has done so, and get the public to believe it.
  • Topic: Government
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Athanasios Orphanides
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The founding of the Federal Reserve was a good idea, but its performance during its first hundred years has been hampered by the lack of clarity of its mandate. At times its mandate was interpreted as requiring the pursuit of multiple targets resulting in the failure to safeguard price stability over time. This article reviews the evolution of the Federal Reserve's mandate and argues that Congress should clarify the primacy of price stability as the central bank's mandate to ensure that the Federal Reserve will better safeguard monetary stability going forward.
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Lawrence H. White
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Proposals abound for reforming monetary policy by instituting a less-discretionary or nondiscretionary system ("rules") for a fiat-money- issuing central bank to follow. The Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee could be given a single mandate or more generally an explicit loss function to minimize (e.g., the Taylor Rule). The FOMC could be replaced by a computer that prescribes the monetary base as a function of observed macroeconomic variables (e.g., the McCallum Rule). The role of determining the fiat monetary base could be stripped from the FOMC and moved to a prediction market (as proposed by Scott Sumner or Kevin Dowd). Alternative proposals call for commodity money regimes. The dollar could be redefined in terms of gold or a broader commodity bundle, with redeemability for Federal Reserve liabilities being reinstated. Or all Federal Reserve liabilities could actually be redeemed and retired, en route to a fully privatized gold or commodity-bundle standard (White 2012). All of these approaches assume that there will continue to be a single monetary regime in the economy, so that the way to institute an alternative is to transform the dominant regime.
  • Topic: Government
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Richard H. Timberlake, Jr.
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The Federal Reserve System is no longer just an unconstitutional monetary institution promoting a continuing inflation; it has also become, with quantitative easing, an unauthorized fiscal agent for the U.S. government. The fiat currency and equally fiat bank reserves it creates are much in contrast to the private currency and bank reserves that the commercial banks' clearing house associations provided in the latter half of the 19th century. It is that episode I review here.
  • Topic: Civil War
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: John A. Allison
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: I am going to talk from a different perspective because I am the only person who actually ran a bank that's been speaking today, and from that context I can tell you with absolute certainty that market discipline beats regulatory discipline. In fact, I will argue that regulatory discipline will always fail to reduce volatility and will slow economic growth. These observations are based on my understanding of public choice theory and particularly on 40 years of concrete experience in the banking business.
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Martin Hutchinson, Kevin Dowd
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Financial regulation is a recurring and central issue in contemporary policy discussions. Typically, leftists want more of it, while proponents of free markets want less, or preferably, none of it. We would suggest, however, that the central issue is not whether markets should be regulated, but by whom—by the market itself, which includes self-regulation by market practitioners, or by the state or one of its agencies. To put it in Coasean terms, what is the most appropriate institutional arrangement by which markets—including financial markets-should be regulated?
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Gerald P. O'Driscoll, Jr.
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The intellectual climate has never been more open to a critical analysis of existing monetary institutions both here and abroad. When the Germans agreed to a monetary union, they were promised that they would keep the Bundesbank; only the name would be changed to the European Central Bank. Instead, Germans with whom I have spoken now think they got the Banca d'Italia. In the United States, before the financial crisis, the Federal Reserve was held in high regard by the public. Now, at least in some circles, "the Fed" has become a term of opprobrium, not unlike "the IRS."
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Germany
  • Author: R. David Ranson
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Passing its 100th birthday, the Federal Reserve is receiving unprecedented scrutiny. We (the public) are living through the consequences of its attempts to bolster the U.S. economy through exceptionally low interest rates and the conversion of great quantities of debt to money. Although these efforts are ongoing, we are disappointed. Even with the help of strenuous actions on the fiscal side, economic and credit-market recovery from the recession of 2008–09 was notoriously slow. It took 15 quarters for U.S. real GDP to pass its pre-recession high in the fourth quarter of 2007, compared to only 7 quarters following the deep recession of 1981–82. On a per capita basis, there was an even starker contrast between the two recoveries. Moreover, the Fed remains a suspect in the genesis of the financial crisis that precipitated the Great Recession. The ultimate test of its role as overseer and regulator of the commercial banking system met with a very poor result.
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Leighton Ku, Brian Bruen
  • Publication Date: 02-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Claims are sometimes made that immigrants use public benefits, such as Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families programs, more often than those who are born in the United States. This report provides analyses, using the most recent data from the Census Bureau, that counter these claims. In reality, low-income non-citizen immigrants, including adults and children, are generally less likely to receive public benefits than those who are native-born. Moreover, when non-citizen immigrants receive benefits, the value of benefits they receive is usually lower than the value of benefits received by those born in the United States. The combination of lower average utilization and smaller average benefits indicates that the overall cost of public benefits is substantially less for low-income non-citizen immigrants than for comparable native-born adults and children. The report also explains that the lower use of public benefits by non-citizen immigrants is not surprising, since federal rules restrict immigrants' eligibility for these public benefit programs.
  • Topic: Economics, Health, Humanitarian Aid, Markets, Immigration
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Brink Lindsey
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: For over a century, the trend line for the long-term growth of the U.S. economy has held remarkably steady. Notwithstanding huge changes over time in economic, social, and political conditions, growth in real gross domestic product (GDP) per capita has fluctuated fairly closely around an average annual rate of approximately 2 percent. Looking ahead, however, there are strong reasons for doubting that this historic norm can be maintained.
  • Topic: Economics, Globalization, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Financial Crisis, Governance
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Dean Stansel, Melissa Yeoh
  • Publication Date: 01-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: This article provides the first examination of the relationship between public expenditures and labor productivity that focuses on municipalities, rather than states or nations. We use data for 1880–1920, a period of rapid industrialization in which there were both high levels of public infrastructure spending and rapid growth of productivity. We use a simple Cobb-Douglas production function to model labor productivity in the manufacturing sector, letting total factor productivity depend on “productive” public expenditure by city governments—that is, on public spending that may raise the productivity of labor and encourage human capital accumulation. Using a data set of 45 of the largest cities in the United States, we find no statistically significant relationship between productive public expenditure and labor productivity in the manufacturing sector during this period. These findings are robust to three different econometric approaches. We do, however, find a strongly positive and statistically significant relationship between private capital and labor productivity. Our results are consistent with those of much of the literature examining this same relationship in states and nations and they have important implications for contemporary public policy issues.
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: James A. Dorn
  • Publication Date: 01-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: In 2001, the U.S. gross public debt was about $6 trillion; a decade later it was $14 trillion; by the end of 2012 it exceeded $16 trillion. A large part of that increase was absorbed by foreign holders, especially central banks in China and Japan. With the U.S. government gross debt ratio now in excess of 100 percent of GDP, not including the trillions of dollars of unfunded liabilities in Social Security and Medicare, it is time to stop blaming China for the U.S. debt crisis.
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, China
  • Author: Thomas Grennes
  • Publication Date: 01-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The value of government debt relative to the size of the economy has become a serious problem, and the problem is likely to grow in the future. Total debt of the U.S. government relative to gross domestic product increased substantially since the financial crisis and the Great Recession that began in 2007, but the debt ratio has been increasing since 2001. Gross debt relative to GDP increased from 55 percent in 2001 to 67 percent in 2007 to 107 percent in 2012. Comparable figures for debt held by the public (net debt or gross debt minus debt held by various government agencies) were 80 percent in 2011 and 84 percent in May 2012 (IMF 2012). As a result, the debt ratio is now the highest in U.S. history, except for World War II, when it reached 125 percent of GDP (Bohn 2010). U.S. debt is also high relative to the debt of other high-income countries, and projections of future debt place the U.S. government among the world's largest debtors (IMF 2011, 2012; Evans et al. 2012). Gross debt consists of all the bonds issued by the U.S. Treasury, but a broader measure that includes contingent debt results in a much larger debt (Cochrane 2011). Contingent debt includes unfunded obligations related to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and loan guarantees to agencies such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and these obligations are so large that they have been described as a “debt explosion” (Evans et al. 2012). The sovereign debt crisis of the European Union has similarities to the U.S. debt problem, but it also has significant differences, as will be shown below. Interestingly, the poorer countries of the world that have frequently experienced debt problems in the past, have avoided major debt problems so far.
  • Topic: Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe
  • Author: Michael Tanner
  • Publication Date: 04-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Margaret Thatcher once quipped about the problem facing modern social welfare states: "They always run out of other people's money." Today, in country after country, we are seeing that prophetic remark coming true. The headlines have been dominated by the problems of the so called PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain), which face the most immediate economic crisis and have required economic support from the International Monetary Fund and other European countries. However, even countries with relatively robust economies, such as France and Germany, are facing unprecedented levels of debt. Unless the countries of Europe reform their welfare states, they will face some combination of huge tax increases or default on their obligations, both explicit and implicit. The result will be social upheaval and continued economic stagnation. The tough choices facing those countries are playing out today in parliaments and on the streets. The future remains highly uncertain. But how much better off is the United States? Our national debt exceeds $16.4 trillion and is increasing at a rate of more than $3 million per minute. And that only represents the debt that is actually "on the books." If the unfunded liabilities of Medicare and Social Security are included, then U.S. total indebtedness could top 800 percent of GDP.
  • Topic: International Monetary Fund
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Greece, France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Ireland
  • Author: Jagadeesh Gokhale, Erin Partin
  • Publication Date: 04-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: What are the implications of Europe's economic troubles for America? Several EU economies now face deep private and sovereign debt overhangs-a situation not unlike that in the United States, which also faces its own challenges with fiscal policy. How do the economic conditions in America and the EU compare in the short and longer terms? This article provides an overview of key indicators that summarize and help to project the two regions' economic prospects. It should be noted at the outset, however, that economic conditions and policies in the two regions differ in substantive ways. As in the United States, most European economies-members of the European Monetary Union (EMU)-now participate in a single currency (euro) system operated by the European Central Bank-the counterpart of the U.S. Federal Reserve System. However, the EU lacks a single central fiscal authority that operates a significant cross-nation transfer system. Having surrendered authority over monetary policy and, by the definition of a single currency, exchange rate policy, EMU member nations must depend on national fiscal policies to exert stewardship over their economies.
  • Political Geography: United States, America, Europe
  • Author: Michael Tanner
  • Publication Date: 04-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: It does not take more than a glance at the headlines to see that European countries are in trouble. From Greece to Britain, from France to Portugal, it is becoming clear that the modern welfare state is unsustainable, facing fiscal catastrophe, stagnant economic growth, punishing taxes, and prolonged joblessness. European countries are being forced, kicking and screaming, to rethink their approach to social welfare. But how much better off is the United States?
  • Political Geography: Britain, United States, America, Europe, Greece, France, Portugal
  • Author: Pierre Lemieux
  • Publication Date: 04-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The American welfare state is not as different from the European welfare state as conventional wisdom would have it. If we define the welfare state as that part of the state (the whole apparatus of government at all levels) devoted to taking charge of the welfare of the public, welfare-state functions cover social protection (which includes public pensions), health, and education. These functions make up 57 percent of total U.S. government expenditures compared to 63 percent for the typical euro zone country. In this sense, the American welfare state is only about 10 percent smaller than the European welfare state.
  • Political Geography: United States, America, Europe
  • Author: Desmond Lachman
  • Publication Date: 04-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The European sovereign debt crisis offers a cautionary tale for the United States. This is the case since all too sadly the U.S. public finances appear to be on the same sort of unsustainable path that lies at the heart of the present European crisis. Whereas Europe, taken as a whole, currently has a budget deficit of around 3 percent of GDP And a gross public debt ratio of around 90 percent of GDP, the United States has a budget deficit of around 8 percent of GDP and a gross public debt ratio in excess of 105 percent of GDP.
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe
  • Author: Chris Edwards
  • Publication Date: 04-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Two decades ago Canada suffered a deep recession and teetered on the brink of a debt crisis caused by rising government spending. The Wall Street Journal said that growing debt was making Canada an "honorary member of the third world" with the "northern peso" as its currency. However, Canada reversed course and cut government spending, balanced its budget, and enacted pro-market reforms. It reduced trade barriers, privatized businesses, and slashed its corporate tax rate. The economy boomed, unemployment plunged, and the formerly weak Canadian dollar soared to reach parity with the U.S. dollar. The Canadian reforms were hugely successful. Today, the United States is in as bad or worse fiscal shape than Canada was in. U.S. leaders need to make major fiscal and economic reforms, and they can learn many lessons from Canadian efforts to restrain government and create a more competitive economy.
  • Topic: Reform
  • Political Geography: United States, Canada
  • Author: George S. Tavlas
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: This issue of the Cato Journal is dedicated to Anna Jacobson Schwartz, who passed away on June 21, 2012, at the age of 96. Anna was an economic historian whose scholarship was marked by, among other things, dedication, tenacity, and perseverance. Her career spanned three quarters of a century. When Anna was about 90, her son Jonathan complained (somewhat tongue-in-check) that he had thought about retiring, but did not feel comfortable doing so while his mother was still working. In 1936, she began collaborating with A. D. Gayer and W. W. Rostow on a study of fluctuations in the British economy between 1790 and 1850. The study was not published until 1953, although most of the work on the study had been completed by the early 1940s. Anna joined the National Bureau of Economic Research in 1941 and remained there for the rest of her life, continuing to go to her office until shortly before her death. She published her first NBER paper in 1947 with Elma Oliver, and her last with Michael Bordo and Owen Humpage in 2012. Her collaboration with Milton Friedman on A Monetary History of the United States, 1867–1960 began in 1948 and was not completed until 1963. The underlying objective of Anna's scholarship throughout her career was to use historical evidence, which she assembled with meticulous attention to accuracy, to understand the workings of the economy better.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Steven Gjerstad, Vernon L. Smith
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Balance sheet crises, in which the prices of widely held and highly leveraged assets collapse, pose distinctive economic challenges. An understanding of their causes and consequences is only recently developing, and there is no agreement at all on effective policy responses. A preliminary purpose of this article is to examine in detail the events that led to and resulted from the recent U.S. housing bubble and collapse, as a case study in the formation and propagation of balance sheet crises. The primary objective of the article is to evaluate similar events around the world with a view toward assessing the economic performance of countries that have pursued varied alternative policies.
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Thomas Hoenig
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: For the last 100 years, government officials and bank CEOs have insisted that new policies, rules, and laws—combined with greater market discipline, resolution schemes, and enhanced supervision—would ensure that future financial crises, should they occur, would be more effectively handled. In the United States, the creation of the Federal Reserve System and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation are examples where such assurances were given to the public. More recently, the FDIC Improvement Act of 1991 and other legislation were intended to end public bailouts of failing banks and, in particular, prevent the moral hazard problem inherent in “too big to fail.” Such assurances seem even more significant following a U.S. Treasury (1991) study that found that “too big to fail” resolution policies used for six of the largest banks cost taxpayers more than $5 billion (in current dollars). If only the cost of the six largest bailouts in this recent crisis were just $5 billion. Unfortunately, it was many times greater.
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Michael Tanner
  • Publication Date: 02-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Opponents of allowing younger workers to privately invest a portion of their Social Security taxes through personal accounts have long pointed to the supposed riskiness of private investment. The volatility of private capital markets over the past several years, and especially recent declines in the stock market, have seemed to bolster their argument.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States
  • 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: Mark Wilson
  • Publication Date: 06-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The federal government has imposed a minimum wage since 1938, and nearly all the states impose their own minimum wages. These laws prevent employers from paying wages below a mandated level. While the aim is to help workers, decades of economic research show that minimum wages usually end up harming workers and the broader economy. Minimum wages particularly stifle job opportunities for low-skill workers, youth, and minorities, which are the groups that policymakers are often trying to help with these policies.
  • Topic: Economics, Labor Issues, Governance
  • 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: David Kirby, Emily McClintock Ekins
  • Publication Date: 08-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Many people on the left still dismiss the tea party as the same old religious right, but the evidence says they are wrong. The tea party has strong libertarian roots and is a functionally libertarian influence on the Republican Party.
  • Topic: Democratization, Economics, Politics, Insurgency, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Mark A. Calabria, Emily McClintock Ekins
  • Publication Date: 08-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: During the financial crisis of 2008, the financial markets would have been better served if the credit rating agency industry had been more competitive. We present evidence that suggests the Securities and Exchange Commission's designation of Nationally Recognized Statistical Rating Organizations (NRSROs) inadvertently created a de facto oligopoly, which primarily propped up three firms: Moody's, S, and Fitch. We also explain the rationale behind the NRSRO designation given to credit rating agencies (CRAs) and demonstrate that it was not intended to be an oligopolistic mechanism or to reduce investor due diligence, but rather was intended to protect consumers. Although CRAs were indirectly constrained by their reputation among investors, the lack of competition allowed for greater market complacency. Government regulatory use of credit ratings inflated the market demand for NRSRO ratings, despite the decreasing informational value of credit ratings. It is unlikely that this sort of regulatory framework could result in anything except misaligned incentives among economic actors and distorted market information that provides inaccurate signals to investors and other financial actors. Given the importance of our capital infrastructure and the power of credit rating agencies in our financial markets, and despite the good intentions of the uses of the NRSRO designation, it is not worth the cost and should be abolished. Regulators should work to eliminate regulatory reliance on credit ratings for financial safety and soundness. These regulatory reforms will, in turn, reduce CRA oligopolistic power and the artificial demand for their ratings.
  • Topic: Economics, Markets, Financial Crisis, Governance
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Tad DeHaven
  • Publication Date: 07-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Rising federal spending and huge deficits are pushing the nation toward a financial and economic crisis. Policymakers should find and eliminate wasteful, damaging, and unneeded programs in the federal budget. One good way to save money would be to cut subsidies to businesses. Corporate welfare in the federal budget costs taxpayers almost $100 billion a year.
  • Topic: Economics, Markets, Monetary Policy, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Alex Nowrasteh
  • Publication Date: 09-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Arizona's immigration laws have hurt its economy. The 2007 Legal Arizona Workers Act (LAWA) attempts to force unauthorized immigrants out of the workplace with employee regulations and employer sanctions. The 2010 Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neigh¬borhoods Act (SB 1070) complements LAWA by granting local police new legal tools to enforce Ari¬zona's immigration laws outside of the workplace.
  • Topic: Political Economy, Labor Issues, Immigration, Law
  • Political Geography: United States, Arizona
  • Author: K. William Watson
  • Publication Date: 09-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 gives the United States International Trade Commis¬sion (ITC) the power to exclude products from the United States that are imported pursuant to “unfair methods of competition.” The range of potential activities covered by the law is broad, but the most common claim brought before the ITC is patent infringement. In addition to fil¬ing a lawsuit in federal district court, U.S. pat¬ent holders can often use Section 337 to bring a second case over the same subject matter as long as the defendant imports the impugned product from abroad. This tactic has become increasing¬ly popular because the ITC renders its decisions relatively quickly and has the authority to order a very powerful remedy—total exclusion of the product from the U.S. market.
  • Topic: International Organization, International Trade and Finance, World Trade Organization, Labor Issues
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Benjamin Zycher
  • Publication Date: 08-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: This study examines the prospective economic effects of a reduction below the current baseline in defense outlays of $100 billion per year over 10 years.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Economics, Labor Issues
  • 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