The Beacon: Blog of Independent Institute

Is Seeing Believing in Planned Parenthood Videos?
Monday October 5, 2015 | Mary Theroux

Few have the stomach for watching the Planned Parenthood videos—among others, Nancy Pelosi refuses to watch them (though I suspect this has more to do with politics than stomach). So how to get to the truth of the claim by Planned Parenthood head Cecile Richards that the videos were “heavily doctored”? Certainly watching the...
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Health Construction Spending Picks Up in August
Monday October 5, 2015 | John R. Graham

After a few months lagging behind other construction, health facilities construction starts finally showed some life in August (See Table I). Although on a twelve-month basis it is still running slower than the booming construction market overall, health construction grew by 1.9 percent from July. Other construction grew by only 0.7 percent. When looking...
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College Campuses Are Not Gun-Free Zones
Friday October 2, 2015 | Randall Holcombe

Wishing for something to be true does not make it true. Declaring an area to be gun-free is wishful thinking. We know campuses are not gun-free zones from the news reports of campus shootings. Declaring an area to be a gun-free zone discourages law-abiding citizens from carrying guns there, but it encourages people who...
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Taxation and Wealth Redistribution as Lowbrow Morality
Friday October 2, 2015 | Abigail Hall

Peter is a wealthy man and has $1,000 in his wallet. He plans to use it for a variety of things—some groceries, taking his wife out to dinner, and buying some new golf clubs he’s been admiring. Enter Paul. Paul thinks that Peter’s money could be put to better use, like helping low-income families...
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Understanding the Climate Science Boom
Thursday October 1, 2015 | Carl Close

Like an economy, a scientific discipline can undergo periods of boom and bust. Is climate science experiencing an unsustainable boom? Certainly its growth has been astounding. Over the past 20 years, the number of scientific papers related to “anthropogenic climate change” has increased twelve-fold, according to a search using Google Scholar. But whether or...
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Producer Price Index: Big Gap in Hospital Inpatient & Outpatient Prices
Thursday October 1, 2015 | John R. Graham

August’s Producer Price Index was flat, month on month, and dropped 0.8 percent, year on year, continuing the trend we saw in July. Producer prices for health goods and services are rising faster than other producer prices (see Table I). Outside health care, goods for both final and intermediate demand declined from July. Although...
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Health Spending an Increasing Share of GDP
Wednesday September 30, 2015 | John R. Graham

Last week’s third estimate of Gross Domestic Product for the second quarter confirms that growth in health spending might be moderating somewhat from its initial Obamacare-fueled rush. Unfortunately, it is not a clear break in the trend of health spending consuming an increasing share of our national income. Current GDP grew $264.4 billion, or 1.5 percent,...
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MyGovCost: Project of Independent Institute

Government Predatory Lending
Tuesday October 6, 2015 | K. Lloyd Billingsley

Politicians and pundits like to decry predatory lending, the practice of private banks and credit card companies preying on poor and vulnerable people. Indeed a new federal agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, was recently established to ride herd on private lenders. As Brad Branan of the Sacramento Bee shows the worst offenders would...
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Which State Is the Worst Off Because of Debt?
Monday October 5, 2015 | Craig Eyermann

Last week, we considered what your share of your state’s debt is. Today, we’re going to find out which state is in the worst situation with respect to its debt! Before we go any farther, let’s consider what we mean by worst off. While having the largest debt per capita is not a good...
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What’s Your Share of Your State’s Debt?
Thursday October 1, 2015 | Craig Eyermann

The following chart appeared in a Bloomberg article several weeks ago comparing the size of all-but-completely-bankrupt U.S. territory Puerto Rico with the 50 states. You might want to click on the image to see a larger one to see how your state ranks. Bloomberg explains the numbers: Puerto Rico’s debt per capita of $15,637...
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Class-Action Lawsuit Targets Taxpayers
Wednesday September 30, 2015 | K. Lloyd Billingsley

In California Dreaming: Lessons on How to Resolve America’s Public Pension Crisis, Lawrence McQuillan discovered that California accounts for $550 billion to $750 billion of the $4.7 trillion in unfunded pension liabilities nationwide. The biggest player is the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) which in 1999 assured legislators that its investment earnings would...
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Pentagon Blimps a $2.7 Billion Bust
Monday September 28, 2015 | K. Lloyd Billingsley

The Pentagon deploys the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (JLENS) to guard the nation from cruise missiles and other low-flying threats. JLENS primary contractor, Raytheon, says the system is proven capable and performing well right now, but as David Willman notes in the Los Angeles Times, taxpayers might have...
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Furnishing the EPA’s Environment
Monday September 28, 2015 | Craig Eyermann

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a lot of problems. For instance, the federal government department has had to tell its employees to stop defecating in its office hallways. The agency’s top expert on climate change is currently serving time in federal prison for collecting a paycheck for years without actually doing any work....
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Where Does All the Money Go Instead?
Saturday September 26, 2015 | Craig Eyermann

Jay Obernolte of the Los Angeles Times asked a question that nearly every California resident who has traveled in a car almost anywhere in the state at almost anytime in recent decades might also have asked: “Why are California’s roads so bad?“ Given that Californians pay about 40% more in taxes and fees than...
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