You are browsing the archive for 2014 April 24.

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National Popular Vote Nonsense

April 24, 2014 in Economics

By Gary Galles

New York has just joined the national popular vote (NPV) compact. In the name of democracy, it would pledge each adopting state’s electoral votes to whoever received the largest national vote, if enough other states do the same. It brings adopters to 165 out of 270 state electoral votes necessary to impose their agreement.

Unfortunately, NPV fails to achieve its core rationale–fixing supposed disenfranchisement of voters in “safe” states. And beyond sidestepping the Constitution, it would undermine, rather than enhance, the perceived legitimacy of a close election victor. There would always be plausible claims that close races were stolen, since fraud or cheating or other forms of running up the vote anywhere could swing such an election. It could create the Florida Bush-Gore controversy nationwide.

If the real issue was disenfranchisement, states have an alternative, clearly constitutional, approach available–assigning electoral votes to each district’s winner (plus two to the state vote winner) rather than a state winner-take-all system. Every district could affect Electoral College totals. Yet only two states have adopted it. Most legislatures have strenuously fought the idea.

Unfortunately, district representation is compromised by gerrymandering, designed to create as many “safe” districts as possible. But gerrymandering, not the Electoral College, is the cause, by which politicians supposedly against disenfranchising Presidential voters disenfranchise voters in House and state legislature elections.

NPV will not make individual votes any more influential. Your vote only matters now if it is the decisive vote in your state and your state changes the Electoral College result; under NPV, it would only matter if it determined the national popular vote winner. In other words, it will remain insignificant.

The claim that safe states are ignored is also misguided. Their influence has already been exercised. Safe states are that way because the dominant party supports policies representing the majority view of their voters–the platform already represents them. Successfully raising money in a state forces candidates to be responsive to those donors’ interests, as well.

In fact, NPV is about increasing the political leverage of safe states, because running up the vote count in “friendly” territory could now swing a national election. And the possibilities go way beyond “get out the vote” drives, to include fraud, as with absentee ballots forged for voters who have died or moved but not been purged from voter rolls, or who are unlikely or unable to vote, such as public housing or nursing home residents, or for non-existent …read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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Our Oligarchs Can Thank James Madison

April 24, 2014 in Economics

By Mises Updates

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Ryan McMaken writes in today’s Mises Daily

A recent study from Princeton and Northwestern concluded that the United States is an “oligarchy” ruled by a small group of wealthy elites and interest groups.

According to authors Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page:

The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.

Are interest groups and wealthy elites more powerful than the average American? Certainly evidence of that is all around us.

…read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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How Terrible Are Some Scientific Journals?

April 24, 2014 in Economics

By Christopher Westley

Recently, a reporter for the Ottawa Citizen wrote a completely fabricated and incoherent paper on soils, cancer treatment, and Mars. Its full title? “Acidity and aridity: Soil inorganic carbon storage exhibits complex relationship with low-pH soils and myeloablation followed by autologous PBSC infusion.” The paper, comprised solely of unrelated phrases lifted from existing research, was then submitted to 18 low-level, for-profit journals that cater to the segment of the academic market comprised of individuals willing to pay for publication and, by extension, their own tenure and promotion.

The result? Eight quickly responded with offers to publish the work for payments between $1000 and $5000.

…read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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Fox News Latino Op-Ed: Paul, Garza, Rodriguez: Our Country’s Education System Has A Built-In Inequality

April 24, 2014 in Politics & Elections

Every American agrees that our children deserve a world-class education. But our country’s education system has a built-in inequality. Some children get the outstanding teachers and the education they need only because they’re lucky enough to live on the right street or in a good zip code. Others aren’t so lucky. Too many children are stuck in subpar schools – or even failing ones – because they came up short in the zip code lottery of life.
This is a case study of unfairness and inequality — and it’s not the American way.
America has always been a place where people succeeded and failed not based on the circumstances of their birth, but on their talent, hard work, and discipline. A quality education can’t be just a privilege for the wealthy; it should be accessible to all.
This is something that concerns all Wisconsinites. That’s why we are joining together to host a roundtable discussion on April 23 to discuss school choice and opportunity. Sen. Paul will serve as moderator to a group of educational experts and a panel of parents and students who have personal stories and experiences with school choice in Wisconsin.
There’s no better place to have this discussion. For over 23 years, Wisconsin has been at the forefront in the fight for equality and parental rights in education. Milwaukee boasts the largest and oldest parental choice program in the country, giving thousands of children access to better schools. The lucky beneficiaries of this system have been some of the most impoverished and disadvantaged children in the state.
But even in Milwaukee, the cradle of school choice, there remain unfair income caps, funding obstacles, and needless political barriers for families looking to escape poorly performing and unsafe schools. There also remains plenty of misunderstanding and controversy.
It’s time to clear things up. Critics of school choice have long argued that the problem with poorly performing schools isn’t with the schools so much as it is with the students. According to this narrative, kids who perform poorly in one school are likely to perform poorly elsewhere.
The data show that’s just not true. A recent study found that students who leave poorly performing schools outscore their former classmates by 14 percentage points in reading and 15 …read more

Source: RAND PAUL

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New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program's Medical Advisory Board Recommends Adding Alzheimer's Disease to the List of Eligible Conditions

April 24, 2014 in PERSONAL LIBERTY

By drosenfeld

If Approved by the Dept. of Health, New Mexico Would Join 13 Other States Where Patients Can Access Medical Cannabis for Alzheimer’s Disease

SANTA FE—Yesterday, the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program’s Medical Advisory Board voted unanimously to add neurodegenerative dementia including Alzheimer’s disease (AD) to the list of medical conditions eligible for the Medical Cannabis Program. The Secretary of Health will have the final decision. Medical cannabis is currently available to Alzheimer’s patients in thirteen of the states that authorize its use.

April 24, 2014

Drug Policy Alliance

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Source: DRUG POLICY

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Campaign Finance: Untangling Citizens United and McCutcheon

April 24, 2014 in Economics

By Robert A. Levy

Robert A. Levy

Contributions, independent expenditures, super PACs, electioneering communications — the terminology and regulations governing campaign finance are incomprehensible to the average voter. Moreover, the Supreme Court’s last two major decisions on the issue — Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, and more recently McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission — have been widely misinterpreted. Let’s dispel some of the confusion.

First, a few basics: Currently, federal limits apply to contributions of money, goods or services by individuals or groups to candidates, political parties and political actions committees (PACs). For example, individuals cannot give more than $5,200 to a single candidate — $2,600 for the primary plus $2,600 for the general election. Corporations and labor unions are forbidden from making direct contributions.

Contrary to what some have written, McCutcheon actually left intact all the limits on contributions to single candidates, parties and political committees.”

Prior to the McCutcheon decision, individuals were limited to aggregate contributions of $48,600 to all candidates plus $74,600 to all PACs and parties. Accordingly, anyone wishing to donate the maximum $5,200 per candidate would be constrained to nine candidates before encountering the combined limit. In McCutcheon, the Supreme Court overturned the aggregate ceilings because they did not advance the anti-corruption rationale underlying campaign finance laws. After all, if $5,200 did not corrupt the first nine candidates, why would the same amount corrupt the tenth, or the 50th? Contrary to what some have written, McCutcheon actually left intact all the limits on contributions to single candidates, parties and political committees.

Additionally, our laws still require disclosure of independent expenditures, which are outlays for advertisements and publications that expressly advocate the election or defeat of a clearly identified federal candidate. Until the Citizens United case, a corporation would have violated campaign finance rules if it published a book containing the words “vote for Obama.” Of course, Americans are not supposed to be in the book-banning business. That’s why the Supreme Court invalidated the outright prohibition on corporate and union independent expenditures, despite retaining the disclosure requirement.

Citizens United also struck down the prohibition on electioneering communications, which are broadcast ads that even name a candidate within 60 days of a general election or 30 days of a primary. Under the new rules, corporations and unions can pay for those communications — as long as they are fully disclosed and independent; that is, not coordinated with candidates or their …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Saving the Asylum System

April 24, 2014 in Economics

By Alex Nowrasteh

Alex Nowrasteh

Broad immigration reform may have stalled but Rep. Goodlatte (R-VA), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is considering reforming the asylum system. He recently said, “Our immigration system should be generous to those persecuted around the globe, but we must also ensure our compassion isn’t being abused by those seeking to game the system.” Goodlatte and others are on a fact-finding mission that will shortly lead to legislation.

A recent surge in asylum seekers and fears that many of them are fraudulent has sparked calls for reforming America’s asylum system. Asylees who claimed they had a credible fear of returning to their home countries jumped from 5,369 in 2009 to 36,035 in 2013 — an almost six-fold increase in four years. In 2013, 76 percent of these claims were made by unauthorized immigrants apprehended while crossing the border — which can explain most of the increase in claims since 2009. 

Concerns of abuse are understandable, but the fundamental problem doesn’t lie within the asylum system.”

Making such a claim starts a long legal process that allows many unauthorized immigrants claiming asylum to work legally in the United States for years on a de facto work permit. This is an effective loophole that is growing in popularity but reformers must be careful not to close off this vital humanitarian safety valve.

From independence to the 20th century, America was the world’s safe haven for religious refugees. But in 1921 the federal government imposed the nation’s first immigration quotas, removing the last hope for many millions of people seeking to flee dictatorship, war, and genocide. Those restrictions led to the U.S. government shamefully turning away ships full of German Jews fleeing Nazi Germany.

If everything is done right, asylum seekers show up at a port of entry and ask for asylum. They are then interviewed by an asylum officer and if their fear seems credible — meaning that there is a “significant” chance that their claim is legitimate — they are detained. Once in detention, if they are determined not to be a security or flight risk, then the asylum applicant can be released into the United States to await his or her hearing.

If the applicant’s claim is approved, he or she must then get a hearing before an immigration judge — which can take years, but the asylum applicant can be paroled and work during that time if …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Measuring Misery around the World

April 24, 2014 in Economics

By Steve H. Hanke

image

Steve H. Hanke

The Great Recession grinds on. And as it does, politicians of all stripes ask, usually behind closed doors, “Just how miserable are our citizens?” The chattering classes offer a variety of opinions. As it turns out, there is a straightforward way to measure what is termed the misery index.

The late Arthur Okun, a distinguished economist who served as chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers during President Johnson’s administration, developed the original misery index for the United States. Okun’s index is equal to the sum of the inflation and unemployment rates.

The misery index pours cold water on the current critique of free markets and fiscal austerity. ”

Harvard Professor Robert Barro amended the misery index by also including the 30-year government bond yield and the output gap for real GDP. Barro used his index to measure the change in misery during a president’s term.

From these metrics, we would anticipate that if there were a high level of misery in a country, and the current politicians increased the level of misery, then this increase would be borne out by looking at the polls. In other words, we expect citizens to be aware of misery, and approve or disapprove accordingly.

The data in the misery index chart speak loudly. Contrary to left-wing dogma, the Reagan “free-market years, ” were very good ones. And the Clinton years of Victorian fiscal virtues– when President Clinton proclaimed in his January 1996 State of the Union address: “the era of big government is over” — were also very good ones.

The misery index pours cold water on the current critique of free markets and fiscal austerity — a critique that has taken on the characteristics of a religion embraced without investigation. Indeed, it makes one bothered to subject their ideas to a reality check.

But does the misery index accurately measure misery? Well, when looking at the relationship between a president’s approval ratings and the misery index, the truth comes into sharp relief. If the economy is doing poorly during a president’s term, the likelihood for this president to have a low approval rate is high, and vice versa (correlation of -0. 54). By examining the misery index ranking in the United States and the poll ratings of U. S. Presidents (compare the first two charts), the correlation becomes apparent.

For most people, their quality of life is important. Constituents prefer …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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What’s Really Impeding Progress in the Trans-Pacific Partnership?

April 24, 2014 in Economics

One item remains conspicuously absent from President Obama’s agenda during his trip to Asia: any announcement of an agreement with Japan that could lead to completion of the long-suffering Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). So what’s the problem? According to Cato scholar Daniel R. Pearson, the real problems facing each country are the underlying political realities. “Meaningful progress toward trade liberalization could be put on hold at least until a new administration takes office in 2017,” says Pearson.

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Source: CATO HEADLINES

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Audio: Mark Thornton Discusses ‘The Bastiat Reader’

April 24, 2014 in Economics

By Mises Updates

220px-Bastiat (1)

From the 2014 AERC:

At the Authors’ Forum this year, Mark Thornton discussed the origins and scope of The Bastiat Reader a new collection of Bastiat’s writings to become widely available later this year.

Full audio here. 

See also The Bastiat Collection.

…read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE