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  • Author: Alan Reynolds
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Estimates of the elasticity of taxable income (ETI) investigate how high‐​income taxpayers faced with changes in marginal tax rates respond in ways that reduce expected revenue from higher tax rates, or raise more than expected from lower tax rates. Diamond and Saez (2011) pioneered the use of a statistical formula, which Saez developed, to convert an ETI estimate into a revenue‐​maximizing (“socially optimal”) top tax rate. For the United States, they found that the optimal top rate was about 73 percent when combining the marginal tax rates on income, payrolls, and sales at the federal, state, and local levels. A related paper by Piketty, Saez, and Stantcheva (2014) concluded that, at the highest income levels, the ETI was so small that comparable top tax rates as high as 83 percent could maximize short‐​term revenues, supposedly without suppressing long‐​term economic growth. Such studies could be viewed as part of a larger effort to minimize any efficiency costs of distortive taxation while maximizing assumed revenue gains and redistributive benefits.
  • Topic: Economics, History, Tax Systems, High-Income People
  • Political Geography: North America, Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Isabella M. Pesavento
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Adoption, particularly adoption out of foster care, has not been well studied within the field of economics. Researchers may avoid this topic because the adoption market greatly deviates from a typical market, and the system and data collection are highly fragmented, with relatively little federal coordination. Rubin et al. (2007) and Thornberry et al. (1999) show that instability in foster care placements produces negative welfare outcomes, and Hansen (2006), Barth et al. (2006), and Zill (2011) demonstrate that adoption out of foster care is socially and financially beneficial. Yet, children waiting to be adopted out of foster care are in excess supply, which has been exacerbated in recent years. I hypothesize that this is, in part, due to misaligned incentives of government officials and the contracted foster care agencies. I show that earnings are prioritized over ensuring permanent child placement, which hinders the potential for adoption, and government oversight fails to correct such iniquities because of career interests.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Markets, Children, Incentives, Foster Care, Adoption
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Tanner Corley, Marcus M. Witcher
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: In Arkansas, the barber profession has been regulated and licensed for more than 80 years, and until recently, the issue was mostly absent from the political debate. During a regular session of Arkansas’s 92nd General Assembly in 2019, however, state Sen. John Cooper presented a bill to “repeal the [1937] Arkansas Barber Law” and to “abolish the State Board of Barber Examiners” (Briggs 2019). The average Arkansan probably was not aware of the bill, but occupational licensing reformers saw this as a great opportunity for Arkansas to pave the way for other states to reform their own license laws. If Cooper’s bill had passed, Arkansas’s economy would have likely benefited (Timmons and Thornton 2010, 2018). By removing restrictive requirements to becoming a barber, the bill would have allowed more Arkansans to enter the profession. This reform would have ­provided people with more economic opportunities, increased competition, and benefited consumers.
  • Topic: Regulation, Business , Public Health, Licensing
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Scott Lincicome
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Labor market and cultural disruptions in the United States are real and important, as is China’s current and unfortunate turn toward illiberalism and empire. But pretending today that there was a better trade policy choice in 2000—when Congress granted China “permanent normal trade relations” (PNTR) status and paved the way for broader engagement—is misguided. It assumes too much, ignores too much, and demands too much. Worse, it could lead to truly bad governance: increasing U.S. protectionism; forgiving the real and important failures of our policymakers, CEOs, and unions over the last two decades; and preventing a political consensus for real policy solutions. Indeed, that is happening now.
  • Topic: International Relations, Economics, Markets, Bilateral Relations, Trade, Protectionism
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: John A. Allison
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The Covid‐​19 pandemic greatly increased the scope and power of the Federal Reserve. The Fed created a number of new emergency lending facilities, which allowed it to make off‐​balance sheet loans and buy the debt of corporations and municipalities through special purpose vehicles backstopped by the Treasury under the CARES Act. Meanwhile, the Fed’s large‐​scale asset purchase program, known as quantitative easing (QE), was put on steroids after the pandemic struck in March 2020. The Fed has been purchasing longer‐​term Treasuries and mortgage‐​backed securities amounting to $120 billion per month, pushing the size of its balance sheet to an astonishing $7 trillion.
  • Topic: Economics, Monetary Policy, Federal Reserve, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Michael J. Casey
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: For all the upheaval of 2020, it’s perhaps not surprising that the 50‐​year anniversary of a major piece of financial legislation came and went with little fanfare. But the 1970 U.S. Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) deserves much scrutiny.1 In mandating that financial institutions maintain customer identity records and report illicit activity to government agencies, the BSA was a landmark statute by any measure. It paved the way to an ever‐​expanding system of international surveillance that’s a cornerstone of U.S. economic power.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Finance, Surveillance
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Jeb Hensarling, Phil Gramm, John B. Taylor
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The Fed’s huge balance sheet allows it to engage in credit policy (the composition of the balance sheet is by definition credit policy), which inherently auto‐​resides in fiscal policy — but should auto‐​reside with Congress. This discussion, moderated by John B. Taylor, took place at the Cato Institute’s 38th Annual Monetary Conference on November 19, 2020. The transcript has been edited for publication.
  • Topic: Economics, Monetary Policy, Federal Reserve, Credit
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: A. Trevor Thrall, Erik Goepner
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Observers of American foreign policy have been worried for years about eroding public support for international engagement, especially in light of increasing public discontent after nearly two decades of military conflict since 9/11. Low support for international engagement and military intervention among younger Americans, in particular, has led some to worry that the age of American internationalism has passed. There is little agreement, however, about how serious the erosion of public support is and what its causes are. Relying on an analysis of seven decades of polling data, we argue that generational effects have slowly reshaped patterns of American foreign policy preferences. Since World War II, Americans have come of age during periods increasingly less conducive to support of military intervention, leading them to adopt worldviews increasingly at odds with those carried by older Americans. As a result, the United States is undergoing a slow motion changing of the guard, as older and more hawkish Americans die and are replaced by younger, less hawkish ones. These findings have important implications for the debate about the state of public support for American leadership of the liberal international order and the evolution of American foreign policy.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Engagement , International Order, Generation
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Scott Lincicome, Huan Zhu
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and rising U.S.-China tensions, American policymakers have again embraced “industrial policy.” Both President Biden and his predecessor, as well as legislators from both parties, have advocated a range of federal support for American manufacturers to fix perceived weaknesses in the U.S. economy and to counter China’s growing economic clout. These and other industrial policy advocates, however, routinely leave unanswered important questions about U.S. industrial policy’s efficacy and necessity: What is “Industrial Policy”? Advocates of “industrial policy” often fail to define the term, thus permitting them to ignore past failures and embrace false successes while preventing a legitimate assessment of industrial policies’ costs and benefits. Yet U.S. industrial policy’s history of debate and implementation establishes several requisite elements – elements that reveal most “industrial policy successes” not to be “industrial policy” at all. What are the common obstacles to effective U.S. industrial policy? Several obstacles have prevented U.S. industrial policies from generating better outcomes than the market. This includes legislators’ and bureaucrats’ inability to “pick winners” and efficiently allocate public resources (Hayek’s “Knowledge Problem”); factors inherent in the U.S. political system (Public Choice Theory); lack of discipline regarding scope, duration, and budgetary costs; interaction with other government policies that distort the market at issue; and substantial unseen costs. What “problem” will industrial policy solve? The most common problems purportedly solved by industrial policy proposals are less serious than advocates claim or unfixable via industrial policy. This includes allegations of widespread U.S. “deindustrialization” and a broader decline in American innovation; the disappearance of “good jobs”; the erosion of middle‐​class living standards; and the destruction of American communities. Do other countries’ industrial policies demand U.S. industrial policy? The experiences of other countries generally cannot justify U.S. industrial policy because countries have different economic and political systems. Regardless, industrial policy successes abroad – for example, in Japan, Korea and Taiwan – are exaggerated. Also, China’s economic growth and industrial policies do not justify similar U.S. policies, considering the market‐​based reasons for China’s rise, the Chinese policies’ immense costs, and the systemic challenges that could derail China’s future growth and geopolitical influence. These answers argue strongly against a new U.S. embrace of industrial policy. The United States undoubtedly faces economic and geopolitical challenges, including ones related to China, but the solution lies not in copying China’s top‐​down economic planning. Reality, in fact, argues much the opposite.
  • Topic: Government, Industrial Policy, Manufacturing, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Scott Lincicome
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Both the American left and right often use “national security” to justify sweeping proposals for new U.S. protectionism and industrial policy. “Free markets” and a lack of government support for the manufacturing sector are alleged to have crippled the U.S. defense industrial base’s ability to supply “essential” goods during war or other emergencies, thus imperiling national security and demanding a fundamental rethink of U.S. trade and manufacturing policy. The COVID-19 crisis and U.S.-China tensions have amplified these claims. This resurgent “security nationalism,” however, extends far beyond the limited theoretical scenarios in which national security might justify government action, and it suffers from several flaws. First, reports of the demise of the U.S. manufacturing sector are exaggerated. Although U.S. manufacturing sector employment and share of national economic output (gross domestic product) have declined, these data are mostly irrelevant to national security and reflect macroeconomic trends affecting many other countries. By contrast, the most relevant data—on the U.S. manufacturing sector’s output, exports, financial performance, and investment—show that the nation’s total productive capacity and most of the industries typically associated with “national security” are still expanding. Second, “security nationalism” assumes a need for broad and novel U.S. government interventions while ignoring the targeted federal policies intended to support the defense industrial base. In fact, many U.S. laws already authorize the federal government to support or protect discrete U.S. industries on national security grounds. Third, several of these laws and policies provide a cautionary tale regarding the inefficacy of certain core “security nationalist” priorities. Case studies of past government support for steel, shipbuilding, semiconductors, and machine tools show that security‐​related protectionism and industrial policy in the United States often undermines national security. Fourth, although the United States is not nearly as open (and thus allegedly “vulnerable”) to external shocks as claimed, global integration and trade openness often bolster U.S. national security by encouraging peace among trading nations or mitigating the impact of domestic shocks. Together, these points rebut the most common claims in support of “security nationalism” and show why skepticism of such initiatives is necessary when national security is involved. They also reveal market‐​oriented trade, immigration, tax, and regulatory policies that would generally benefit the U.S. economy while also supporting the defense industrial base and national security.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, National Security, COVID-19, Free Market, Deindustrialization
  • Political Geography: China, North America, United States of America