Out of the Storm News
From the Florida Current:
“Now that the Cat Fund is at its healthiest, the time is right to shift some of that risk to the private market, so the Cat Fund is never again in a position where it is selling fake coverage,” Christian Camara, director of R Street Florida, a free market think tank, said last month when the latest Cat Fund estimate was released.
When the cause of flood insurance reform is advanced, one immediate bit of pushback that one tends to hear is that reform is unfair. The reasoning usually goes that, by removing the state from flood insurance reform, consumers get socked with a bigger share of the bill. This is an old chestnut, which conservatives should have little difficulty answering in this specific case, yet it persists all the same.
Fortunately, Bill Newton of the Florida Consumer Action Network has an article out (paywall) exploding this myth in the case of Florida’s Cat Fund. The article itself is behind a paywall, but some highlights can be excerpted. This is the money quote:
Opponents of the legislation contended that shrinking the Cat Fund would force Florida insurers to obtain more expensive coverage in the private market and insurance premiums for consumers. But the opposite is true. The cost of reinsurance is on the decline, and accessing that capital would not increase consumer rates.
In point of fact, Newton argues, leaving insurance as a bill to be paid by taxpayers will ultimately cost Floridians far more than simply pushing flood insurance toward the private market:
Florida has taken on a huge amount of risk. The Cat Fund, originally intended to provide stability for Hurricane Andrew-sized events, is supported by issuing debt that would have to be repaid by Florida homeowners, business owners, renters, churches, charities and automobile policyholders. That means ALL the risk is on us.
While the absence of a land-falling storm over the years has provided the fund with an opportunity to build up a cash reserve, we should not forget that its structure relies on post-event bond debt to pay hurricane claims, rather than traditional reinsurance, which spreads the risk outside the state. Florida can only put a limited amount of our funds at risk, and after that current law leaves us at the mercy of the financial markets.
We may or may not be able to borrow enough money, or we may face the possibility of having to pay sky-high interest. That means we might not be able to pay claims, which would be a second disaster, possibly worse than the storm itself. In today’s markets, estimated bonding capacity is down, not up. Thus, interest rates would be higher.
Both these points are absolutely necessary for conservatives to know, if they plan to win the broader flood insurance fight nationwide. Americans have already witnessed the regressive effects of one attempt to socialize risk and appear to have no stomach for similar schemes. Just like Obamacare’s use of poor young people to subsidize the risks of insuring disproportionately wealthy aging baby boomers, socialized flood insurance disproportionately benefits the well-off (often people with pricey oceanfront property) while stripping money from less well-off taxpayers. Americans should accept neither state of affairs.This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
The expansion of government surveillance— or, more precisely, our expanding awareness of government surveillance— has had a chilling effect on writers.
According to a survey conducted by the PEN American Center in October 2013, 28 percent of American writers have limited their comments on social media due to concern about increased surveillance. More seriously, one in four writers have “deliberately avoided certain topics in phone or email conversations” and 16 percent have “avoided writing or speaking about a particular topic.”
Due to increased surveillance, and the government’s grudging reluctance to share information about the scope of snooping or the possible consequences for being a thriller writer caught googling “how to build pipe bomb,” American writers may want to make use of uProxy, a service Google developed to help dissidents in autocratic nations mask their communications.
If writers are feeling the chill, tech businesses can’t be far behind. It is increasingly seen as a liability to keep servers and information on U.S. soil. After all, the National Security Agency placed physical taps on fiber optic cables carrying information in and out of the data centers run by Google, Yahoo and others. Just as writers have started editing or self-censoring, tech companies may start avoiding what would otherwise be best practices in order to maintain their users’ privacy.
Or they may start avoiding the United States all together.
The European Union has stricter laws on privacy than we do stateside, and, just as Google had to pare back its Street View program in Germany to remain in compliance, other tech companies may need to guarantee that the United States won’t have access to their data, perhaps by abandoning the U.S. market.
While the White House emphasizes STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education to keep America competitive intellectually and economically, NSA overreach may frighten off potential entrepreneurs or turn them into expatriates.This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
The Food and Drug Administration is cracking down on a “dangerous” medical product, but it’s not a drug or a diet or a surgery.
On Nov. 22, the agency issued a warning letter to 23andMe.com, a DNA analysis company. For just $99, 23andMe will send you a little vial to collect your saliva. Once you’ve mailed it back, the will run a battery of genetic tests and provide you with information about your genetic history, relatives, ancestral origins and how your genes affect your health.
23andMe has been a fast-growing service, building attention through an aggressive television, radio and podcast marketing campaign. But you won’t be hearing the company talk about its services for at least a little while since, per the FDA letter, “23andMe must immediately discontinue marketing the [personal genome service] until such time as it receives FDA marketing authorization for the device.”
The company’s PGS doesn’t sequence your entire genome. It looks instead at specific regions of your genes that tend to vary across the population and have known consequences. Once they’ve figured out which versions of these single-nucleotide polymorphisms you’ve got, they tell you what the academic research has found. Maybe one of your mutations is associated with Himalayan ancestry (a fun fact about your family) or a higher sensitivity to blood-thinners like Warfarin (an important piece of data for your doctor).
The FDA is worried about the latter kind of data. In their letter, the regulators write:
For instance, if the BRCA-related risk assessment for breast or ovarian cancer reports a false positive, it could lead a patient to undergo prophylactic surgery, chemoprevention, intensive screening, or other morbidity-inducing actions, while a false negative could result in a failure to recognize an actual risk that may exist.
In other words, learning about your risk for breast cancer through an imperfect test might lead you to get unnecessary surgery or ignore warning signs.
Mammograms are still legal, by the way.
Banning 23andMe because it gives patients data they might misuse is roughly analogous to shutting down WebMD or Wikipedia. While 23andMe can tell me that some sequences in my genes are associated with a greater risk of breast cancer, WebMD can tell me that my persistent cough is associated with a cold or pneumonia or lung cancer. Either way, I won’t end up on chemo or under a surgeon’s knife without going through the usual medical gatekeepers. I bring my suspicions to a doctor and the expert makes the final call about whether to alter my treatment.
If genetic assays for consumers are causing problems, it is not because they’re revealing perilous information about the patient, but because they’re exposing a gap in the way the medical establishment is prepared to use and explain genetic and statistical data. That’s the ailment the FDA should be addressing.This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
To the Editor:
You write that because of the influx of wealthy tech employees and a shortage of affordable housing, San Francisco “city officials must grapple with the arithmetic of squeezing more people into the limited space afforded by San Francisco’s 49 square miles.”
On the contrary, rules created by city officials themselves are the primary cause of high prices and displaced residents.
The Harvard economist Edward L. Glaeser has found that “zoning, and other land-use controls, are more responsible for high prices” in cities like San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles, not scarcity of land.
In the absence of legal restrictions, developers respond to high demand by building taller, denser developments. If city officials make such development illegal or politically impossible, poorer residents may find themselves in a zero-sum bidding war against the likes of Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Evan Williams of Twitter.
Washington, Nov. 25, 2013
The writer, an associate policy analyst of land use and local regulations at the R Street Institute, a free-market think tank, is the founder of In My Backyard-DC, an anti-Nimby group.
Now that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has ended the filibuster for district and appeals court nominees and executive branch appointments, it’s only a matter of time before the filibuster goes away for Supreme Court nominations and legislation as well. Reid’s decision has been a long time coming: One of his predecessors, Republican Bill Frist, came very close to ending the filibuster in 2005.
Even so, at least some observers are troubled by what they see as Reid’s recklessness. Former Senator Olympia Snowe and former Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman, co-chairs of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Commission on Political Reform, of which I’m a member, released a statement criticizing the filibuster decision on the grounds that “any alterations of rules or practices should be done judiciously, after careful consideration and with a balanced approach that incorporates views from all sides.”
The problem, however, is that the filibuster has not been used judiciously, by either Democrats or Republicans. Over the past 40 years, it has been transformed from a tool designed to encourage deliberation to something else entirely. Josh Chafetz, a professor at Cornell Law School, argues that the filibuster has become an implicit super-majority requirement — one that violates the Constitution. According to Chafetz, the rules governing the legislative process and the appointments process are based on the premise that a determined legislative majority will eventually prevail over the minority, not that the minority has the right to exercise an effective veto. One could argue that there is a meaningful difference between using the filibuster to block judicial nominees and executive branch appointments, and using it to stymie legislation, but it’s not at all clear that such a distinction would hold up in a constitutional challenge.
It’s worth considering how different the last few years might have been in the absence of the filibuster. President Obama’s Affordable Care Act might have included a public option, or opened Medicare to Americans under the age of 65. A number of left-of-center legal scholars, including Goodwin Liu, who currently serves on the California Supreme Court, might now sit on the federal bench. During the first years of the Obama presidency, moderate Democrats in the Senate would have been far less powerful, and liberal Democrats would have been far more so. It is also true, however, that conservative Senate Republicans would have been far more powerful when they were in the majority for most of the Bush years, and a conservative judicial nominee like Miguel Estrada might now be serving on the Supreme Court.
Going forward, Reid’s decision will leave a deep imprint on American politics. Without the filibuster, a future Republican majority in the Senate will have a much easier time repealing the Affordable Care Act. Conservative critics of the ACA, like Keith Hennessey, have called for using the budget reconciliation process to repeal many of its central elements. Yet other elements of the law, including the state exchanges and the new coverage mandates, would be harder to undo, as they might have remained subject to the filibuster. Though ending the filibuster lowers the bar for liberal lawmakers to increase social expenditures, it also lowers the bar for conservative lawmakers to shrink them.
But the most visible consequence of the filibuster’s demise, at least in the near term, is that it will transform the politics of Supreme Court appointments. Ever since Robert Bork’s failed nomination to the Supreme Court, presidents have tended to appoint legal scholars who have kept their ideological views close to the vest, for fear of sparking opposition from hostile lawmakers. If a simple majority is enough, activists on the left and right will expect their respective parties to nominate more ideologically forthright jurists.
This shift might prove particularly consequential for future Republican presidential candidates. For decades, pro-life conservatives have pressed for judicial nominees committed to repealing Roe v. Wade. They’ve been frustrated by a series of Republican Supreme Court appointees who’ve been unwilling to take that step, including some, like the former Justices David Souter and Sandra Day O’Connor, who sided with their liberal colleagues on a wide range of social issues. During the next race for the GOP presidential nomination, candidates will be expected to demonstrate their anti-Roe bona fides by committing themselves to nominate anti-Roe jurists. But in a post-filibuster world, this commitment might mean more than it has in the past, as future Republican presidents won’t have the filibuster as an excuse for nominating Supreme Court justices who don’t have clear convictions. Of course, there is no guarantee that a future Republican president will have a Republican Senate majority, and a divided government scenario raises issues all its own.
If our goal is to lower the temperature of judicial nomination battlers, with or without the filibuster, we might consider embracing term limits for Supreme Court justices, an idea that’s been advanced by Steven Calabresi and James Lindgren, both of Northwestern University. Specifically, Calabresi and Lindgren call for a constitutional amendment that would establish a nonrenewable eighteen-year, staggered term limit for each justice, with the expectation that there would be a vacancy every two years. This term would be long enough to guarantee political independence, but also short enough that political actors needn’t fear that every nomination represents a last-ditch battle for America’s constitutional future. Constitutional amendments are always a heavy lift, but this one has the potential to unite activists on the left and the right.
From the Huffington Post:
A recent report, “Protected Lands: A Government-lite Approach,” is trying to reframe the issue and its economics. The policy’s premise is that keeping American’s public lands and National Parks open must be consistent with the long-term health of the parks and public land and be founded on a strong working relationship with local communities, as well. No more winners vs. losers, left vs. right, environmental vs. the communities near that environment. The theory is to create federal policy with sustainable economic benefits in both “gateway” communities and the nation as a whole, while preserving America’s natural heritage.
A new paper from the R Street Institute, a national research group, aggressively defends e-cigarettes.
Dr. Joel Nitzkin’s analysis broadly counters attacks on e-cigarettes, which have mounted in recent months. Time will tell if the study’s conclusions offset or ameliorate the impact of those attacks.
Nitzkin calls the e-cigs a tool in tobacco-harm reduction and pointed criticism at some of the most often-referenced events or studies assailing the safety of “vapor” devices.
Release of Nitzkin’s analysis for R Street Institute comes in the midst of discussion here in Oklahoma of e-cigarette bans in public settings, including parks. Such ordinances have passed in the communities of Ada and Shawnee, but a proposal in Tahlequah was pulled from the city council agenda last week.
A member of the Oklahoma City Council has asked for a report from the municipal lawyer as prelude to a likely anti-ESD ordinance.
“E-cigarettes are currently the most prominent and promising THR option,” Nitzkin writes in his new study. Unlike other smoke-free products, e-cigarettes “do not carry mandated warnings about cancer or other diseases. They are also unique in terms of their skyrocketing sales.”
Bonnie Herzog, a corporate managing director of research, projected e-cig sales of $1 billion in 2013, but recently increased that estimate to $2 billion. Nitzkin’s reported sales could reach $10 billion by 2017.
As recounted in the new study, consternation about the possible health impact of e-cigarettes increased after a July 22, 2009 press conference of the Food and Drug Administration, held a few weeks after passage of the Tobacco Control Act.
Nitzkin points out that officials at the FDA event did not point out “that e-cigarette fluids, with the exception of the one showing a trace of diethylene glycol, showed the same trace carcinogens in about the same concentrations as the pharmaceutical … products approved by FDA (Nicorette, Commit, and others).”
“Over the past four years, public health advocates have embellished, exaggerated and distorted statements from that January 2009 press conference to suggest that e-cigarettes might be even more harmful than cigarettes. It simply is not so. FDA, for its part, continues to repeat statements from this conference, but is careful not to compare the hazard posed by e-cigarette vapor to the hazard posed by cigarette smoke,” Dr. Nitzkin contends in his new report.
A prominent recent critique of electronic smoking devices came in September from the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, a group which has been supporting efforts to lump e-cigarettes into anti-tobacco regulations.
Nitzkin, who has testified on tobacco-harm reduction strategies across America, has not received financial support from tobacco, e-cigarette or pharmaceutical enterprises, R Street said in a disclaimer at the end of the study, posted online Thursday.
Nitzkin, a senior fellow at R Street, has previously worked as a local health director, a state health director and leader or two national public health groups.
He was co-chair of the Tobacco Control Task Force of the American Association of Public Health Physicians and studied options for reducing tobacco-related illness.
R Street describes itself as “a Washington-DC based think tank that respects the role of government in regulating industry to protect health and the environment, but strongly opposes undue governmental interference with market forces.
Australia is the darling of anti-tobacco extremists. They tout that country as the model for draconian cigarette regulation and taxation. Australia imposed mandatory plain packaging last December and exorbitant excise taxes have raised the price of a pack of cigarettes to 16 Australian dollars (AUD).
A new report from KPMG tracks the effect of these policies on smoking prevalence and consumption. The unintended consequences remind one of America’s Prohibition Era fiasco.
KPMG compares Australia’s exorbitant per-pack prices with those of other countries in the region (all in AUD), including Cambodia (1.12), Vietnam (1.08), Indonesia (1.43), Thailand (3.07) and Papua New Guinea (5.37). It comes as no surprise that these differences have created a huge illicit market in Australia, accounting for about 13 percent of all cigarette consumption.
The Aussie black market offers smokers an array of smuggled products. Counterfeit cigarettes are inferior products manufactured offshore and packaged to resemble popular brands. KPMG also identifies a type of contraband cigarette called “illicit white” which is produced specifically for smuggling. One such brand, Manchester, is so popular that it has a market share of 1.3 percent. In 2012, Manchester was only found in Sydney and Melbourne; this year it was available in 13 of the 16 cities surveyed by KPMG.
I discussed earlier this year how prohibitive policies and prices in New York (population 20 million) have cost the state $250 million that wound up in criminal hands. In Australia (population 23 million), the toll is larger: KPMG estimates the government has lost $1 billion in excise taxes to the black market.
In their popular book Freakonomics, authors Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner argue that “morality…represents the way that people would like the world to work – whereas economics represents how it actually does work.” (emphasis in original)
Australia’s treatment of smoking as a moral issue has resulted in Prohibition Era tobacco policies and real-world economic consequences.This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
The same independent Oklahoma news site that found Oklahoma cities might be banning e-cigarettes for the benjamins, reports that some anti-smoking advocates are full of hot air. In particular the report covered in the article points out how some groups are still hanging on to the deeply flawed 2009 FDA press release claiming all kinds of nasty things about e-cigarettes.
When it comes to Obamacare’s current problems, there is a story often told at libertarian seminars that springs to mind. The story tells of a town that, plagued with a viper problem, decides to pay its citizens for the number of vipers they kill. Months later, it becomes clear that the problem has not only not been solved, but it has gotten worse. Why? Because citizens, seeking extra cash, had begun breeding vipers in their basement.
The moral of the story – that unintended consequences can be worse than the problems they are meant to address – appears wholly lost on the Obama administration. While much ink has been spilled about the precipitous fall in the polls the president has experienced over the failure of his health care law, not to mention the embarrassing public exhibitions of the Obamacare website’s failure, what no one seems to have noticed is the degree to which the law, even when functional, creates severe perverse incentives.
At Marginal Revolution, Tyler Cowen noted an article from the Financial Times pointing out that many hospitals have been buying Obamacare coverage for their terminal patients in order to stop taking on more uncompensated costs.
While a guileless observer might expect that such a move would be welcomed by the administration, given their outsized emphasis on securing care for Americans with preexisting conditions, that observer would be quite wrong. The administration apparently opposes the idea, fearing it could utterly derail the health insurance market. Seeing as the practice merely adds more risk to the insurance market, with no young and healthy customers as yet to offset it, one has to admit that they are right.
Now, it’s obvious that this response, while correct, is a blinding example of political hypocrisy. Equally obvious is the fact that this practice cannot continue over the long haul, if health insurance is to exist in any form. However, what it also suggests, albeit in a deeply impractical form, is that there may be an alternative model for providing insurance that could be exploited by either party as a fix to Obamacare.
Let’s stipulate that, barring some massive, flawless statistical shift, the model advanced in Obamacare will prove to be a failure. This leaves the question of what both parties can offer to try to fix its problems. Republicans will, naturally, offer a straight repeal, while Democrats will claim that if we’d only pass single payer, everything would be wonderful.
Republicans have no answer to this latter idea, except to recycle the same talking points they used against Obamacare, but this time with more vigor. For as long as Republicans hold even one house of Congress, single payer will never go anywhere. But the health insurance status quo of 2009 will also become synonymous with dysfunction, and will remain so the longer it remains in the rearview mirror. Make no mistake, Democrats will run on the idea of single payer in the future, and as Obamacare demonstrates, it will sell well with traditional Democratic constituencies – especially young people, who Republicans need in order to win in the future – for as long as Republicans don’t offer a competing solution.
That’s where this recent phenomenon comes in. Obamacare, whatever its flaws, was an attempt to create multiple payers into a universal healthcare system, while also shifting health insurance toward a more portable model than the at-times exploitative employer-based coverage of today. This last-ditch effort to save money by hospitals may provide another option that would accomplish the same goal, while potentially bringing down costs. That is, rather than force insurance companies to insure everyone regardless of preexisting conditions, it may be wise to allow hospitals to take on limited risk portfolios, provided patients pay them subscription fees.
This could potentially have a positive effect in at least one big area. Despite the demagoguery of the Obama administration, the fact is that health insurance companies are not the primary drivers of health insurance costs. In fact, they only account for 4 percent of all health care spending. Hospitals, by contrast, account for 30.7 percent. However, in the status quo, hospitals are completely immune to the effects of rising health care costs, rather like the administrations of colleges and universities. Allowing publicly funded hospitals to take on risk portfolios of their own would allow them to reap extra sources of profit while also exposing them to the effects which their own prices have on the insurance market. This, in turn, might limit the degree to which healthcare costs rise.
The advantage to such an approach, aside from its potential cost savings, is that it also limits the degree of coercion exercised by the federal government. Whereas Obamacare coerces every American into buying a potentially suboptimal insurance policy, even the most draconian version of a policy like this would only involve mandates levied against hospital administrators, a much smaller subset of the general citizenry. What is more, given the degree to which many hospitals are publicly funded, passing risk onto hospitals is quite clearly within the rights of the government. It would be essential, however, that hospitals not merely become high risk pools, which is why the model of out-of-pocket payment would almost certainly have to persist.
In any case, the fact that hospitals can and do act as middlemen for insurance in the present day, when it saves them money, can be a gateway to a better policy than the one currently on offer. If seeds of an idea can be found even in an approach that is presently catastrophic, one can only imagine what other seeds of hope might be found inside the Pandora’s box opened by Obamacare.This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
From Somewhat Reasonable:
Critics of the Marketplace Fairness Act immediately called foul on the study. Andrew Moylan of the R Street Institute quickly pointed out in an article responding to the study that that it was incredibly biased and written by authors who have already written articles favoring the MFA in the past, all on the taxpayer’s dime. “In service of the PR campaign for President Obama’s and Senator Dick Durbin’s favorite Internet sales tax law, the SBA decided to fork over $80,000 of taxpayer money to…(drumroll please)…the very people who have been writing studies in favor of the Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA)! What a coincidence!”
Moylan also contends that the actual information contained in the study was not of any real importance, covering no new ground. “In fact, the most important passage essentially concedes that having a higher small seller exception in the bill ‘does not add measurably to the covered share of total online retail,’ wrote Moylan. “In other words, protecting a larger number of businesses from the onerous compliance obligations of MFA wouldn’t appreciably reduce revenues.”
November 20, 2013
The undersigned groups strongly object to Amendment #2319 offered by Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and supported by Senators James Inhofe (R-OK), and Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to the National Defense Authorization Act that would alter sequestration’s impact on the Pentagon by stretching the reductions out over the next 8 years. It has been reported that under the McCain-Sessions plan, the new defense cap would be set at $524 billion. And it then would allow defense spending to grow at 1 percent annually through 2021.
As you know, the Budget Control Act (PL 112-25) capped defense spending at $498 billion in Fiscal Year 2014, but then permits it to grow at 2.5 percent annually through Fiscal Year 2021. The Budget Control Act is the law of the land and has been for over two years. While many of us would argue it is far from perfect, all of us agree that the proposed change is ill-advised.
The President needs to present a budget request for FY15 that meets the caps set in place by the Budget Control Act. Congress should follow suit by authorizing and appropriating defense spending at the budget caps set in law, not seek exemptions for the Pentagon.
The proposed amendment is a shell game that would allow the Pentagon to avoid making hard choices while gambling on America’s future. Even after sequestration and the BCA caps, the Pentagon will remain near record high levels of spending. With the war in Iraq over and our troops coming home from Afghanistan, the reductions mandated under the BCA are in line with historical averages, and completely manageable if Congress and the Pentagon do their jobs and make the hard decisions that fiscal responsibility requires.
Across the ideological spectrum, there is support for real reform in Pentagon spending. Rather than attempting to once again kick the can down the road, replacing real savings today with promises of cuts in the future, Congress should maintain the current caps on the Pentagon’s budget. Putting off until tomorrow decisions that we need to make today is how Congress created this problem. Doing so once again will not make the situation for our men and women in uniform any better and may very well make things worse.
Thank you for your attention to this matter,
Americans for Tax Reform
American Friends Service Committee
Center for International Policy
Coalition to Reduce Spending
Cost of Government Center
Council for a Livable World
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Just Foreign Policy
National Priorities Project
National Taxpayers Union
NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
Peace Action West
Progressive Democrats of America (PDA)
Project on Government Oversight
R Street Institut
Taxpayers for Common Sense
Taxpayers Protection Alliance
United for Peace and Justice
U.S. Labor Against the War
Win Without War
Women’s Action for New Directions
For years, blog posts promising “The One Chart That Explains” some complex subject or “Three Graphs Tell You Everything You Need to Know About” a current policy debate have been de rigueur among the smart set. Such posts may be good clickbait, but they typically fall short of what they promise; a graphical representation of the relationship between two or three quantifiable variables seldom offers a satisfying and robust account of a social phenomenon.
Paul Taylor, chief counsel of the House Subcommittee on the Constitution, has a handy new ebook out called The Big Picture: An Illustrated Guide to Modern American Trends that pulls together not three or five but a massive 375-plus graphs and charts covering virtually every major area of domestic public policy including taxes and spending, education, health care, and family policy. For data fiends and policy wonks, it’s a very handy reference manual with an impressive array of data pulling from (and linked to) sources as diverse as the CBO, the CDC, the Pew Research Center, the Cato Institute, the Brookings Institution, AEI, the Urban Institute, and the Heritage Foundation.
One chart about, say, the changing landscape of American marriage and family doesn’t really tell us much. The three dozen charts, graphs, and tables on the subject in Taylor’s book, however, gives a great perspective on how families are changing and how this relates to poverty, tax policy, criminal justice, and labor force participation.
It’s only $3 on Amazon and well worth checking out.This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
WASHINGTON (Nov. 21, 2013) – The R Street Institute welcomes the House Judiciary Committee’s overwhelming vote to approve the Innovation Act, legislation to encourage innovation by cracking down on patent assertion entities, better known as “patent trolls.”
Passed by a 33-5 margin, the legislation from committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., would lay out a more transparent process for patent assertion litigation to discourage frivolous and extortive lawsuits while still protecting the interests of legitimate inventors.
“While not perfect, this bill is an important first step to addressing the $29 billion problem of patent trolls,” R Street Policy Analyst Zachary Graves said. “It is the most comprehensive of the patent reform bills introduced in Congress this year, and the bipartisan support it has enjoyed means it could soon end up on President Obama’s desk.”
R Street expressed disappointment with amendments to remove the bill’s language addressing covered business method patents and weakening its “fee shifting” provisions. However, an amendment from Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., calling on the Government Accountability Office to study CBM litigation should ensure that issue remains a focus of future reforms.
WASHINGTON (Nov. 21, 2013) – The Food and Drug Administration and other public health authorities should look to the promise of e-cigarettes as a vehicle for tobacco harm reduction, according to a new paper from the R Street Institute.
Authored by R Street Senior Fellow Dr. Joel Nitzkin, former co-chair of the American Association of Public Health Physicians’ Tobacco Control Task Force, the paper also calls on the public health community to reconsider objections to harm reduction approaches light of overwhelming literature establishing that smoke-free tobacco products present far less risk of potentially fatal tobacco-attributable illness than cigarettes.
“Many in the public health community seem unaware of the research findings demonstrating the potential public health benefits of a THR initiative,” Dr. Nitzkin writes. “They seem unaware of the research findings demonstrating both the relative safety and unattractiveness to non-smokers of e-cigarettes. This paper is intended to help close these gaps.”
As the FDA considers whether to regulate e-cigarettes, Dr. Nitzkin argued in favor of regulation of the quality of e-cigarette manufacture and marketing, but against removing e-cigarettes from the market or stifling continuing product improvement.
“The alternative to use of e-cigarettes is not abstention from tobacco use, but continuation of cigarette use,” Dr. Nitzkin wrote. “Misrepresenting e-cigarettes has the practical effect of reinforcing tobacco cigarettes as the dominant product for nicotine consumption. It does nothing to reduce teen initiation of tobacco/nicotine products. It protects cigarettes from competition from these much less-hazardous products.”
The full paper can be found at:
Nicotine vaporizers, usually referred to as e-cigarettes, show substantial promise as a vehicle for tobacco harm reduction (THR). Skyrocketing sales of e-cigarettes, consumer advocacy for these products, and a flood of new scientific papers relating to these products suggest the possibility that e-cigarettes may be the greatest advance in reducing tobacco-attributable illness and death in decades. Moreover, progress to date has been accomplished at no cost to the taxpayer and with little or no recruitment of teen non-smokers.
This paper makes the case for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other public health authorities to add a THR element to current public health programming, highlighting e-cigarettes as a THR modality under FDA guidance, skillfully crafted to recognize both the potential public health benefits and theoretical harms of a THR initiative.
Optimal FDA regulation will involve strict control of the quality of manufacture and marketing without threatening the removal of e-cigarettes from the market, even on a temporary basis, and without stifling continuing product improvement.
There currently exists strong opposition to THR within the public health community. While those familiar with the scientific literature readily agree that smoke-free tobacco products present far less risk of potentially fatal tobacco-attributable illness than cigarettes, they object to any consideration of THR because of their unsubstantiated belief that a THR initiative would necessarily increase the number of teens initiating tobacco/nicotine use and necessarily decrease quit rates.
Reconsideration of this intense distrust of all non-pharmaceutical tobacco/nicotine products will open major new opportunities to reduce tobacco-related addiction, illness and death. We now know about the huge differences in risk, comparing cigarettes to the smokeless tobacco products available on the U.S. market. We know more about the lack of attractiveness of e-cigarettes to non-smoking teens and non-smoking adults. We also know that, for a large number of mental health patients, self-administered nicotine is highly effective in helping them get through the day.
Experience to date with currently unregulated e-cigarettes strongly suggests they already are securing substantial public health benefits among current smokers without increasing teen initiation of tobacco/nicotine use and without adverse impact on quit rates.
Many in the public health community seem unaware of the research findings demonstrating the potential public health benefits of a THR initiative. They seem unaware of the research findings demonstrating both the relative safety and unattractiveness to non-smokers of e-cigarettes. This paper is intended to help close these gaps.
From the Houston Chronicle:
Andrew Moylan, outreach director and senior fellow at R Street Institute, a think tank in Washington, said, “We should be having a completely different conversation, like how to move out of the risk area you live on. We have to keep in mind what the scale of this is.”
Moylan said he believes the Biggert-Waters Act was a fundamentally good reform and should move forward, but in a more targeted way, rather than delaying the whole process.
“We’re hopeful that we’ll start to see some alternatives that are more targeted that don’t take this meat cleaver approach,” he said.
From Business Insurance:
The insurance industry itself is divided on the issue.The discussion draft, which includes the reinsurance proposal among other tax changes, drew immediate fire from free-market groups and others.
“In order to make coverage available for big catastrophes — everything from earthquakes and hurricanes to crop failures to acts of terrorism — the U.S. market relies to a significant extent on insurance capacity provided by global companies,” R Street Institute Senior Fellow R.J. Lehmann said in a statement. “This protectionist scheme, long sought by a handful of large domestic insurance groups, would inevitably make the United States less attractive to global insurers and reinsurers, encouraging them to commit their capital elsewhere.”