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The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 14, Issue 24: June 12, 2012

  1. Jobs, Recession, and the Election
  2. The Case for Tax-Credit Scholarships
  3. Must the U.S. Destabilize Pakistan?
  4. Cap-and-Trade for Carbon Dioxide Must Go
  5. New Blog Posts

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1) Jobs, Recession, and the Election

The current economic “recovery”—if that’s really the right word—is the slowest in 60 years. It’s so slow that the Congressional Budget Office warns that the United States is vulnerable to a double-dip recession. The underlying reason is that the Obama years have fostered tremendous uncertainties for job creators, according to Independent Institute Research Fellow John C. Goodman. Those uncertainties relate to whether or not the Bush tax cuts will expire in January, the unknown hiring costs for employers due to the new healthcare law, and the still unfinished business of implementing Dodd-Frank.

Of the three factors mentioned above, ObamaCare might be the worst for jobs, Goodman argues. That’s because an employer’s health-insurance costs depend on the size of its workforce rather than, say, the number of hours worked by employees. This would explain why the number of hours worked by those who already have jobs has returned to pre-recession levels, but the number of workers employed has not recovered. “The new health law, then, encourages businesses to expand by increasing the number of hours worked rather than by increasing the number of employees,” Goodman writes in a recent piece for Townhall.

Meanwhile, Independent Institute Research Editor Anthony Gregory wonders whether Obama and Romney can have a meaningful debate about economic policy, given their agreement about the desirability of energy independence, central banking, and the propriety of government insuring people with pre-existing medical conditions. In his latest column for the Huffington Post, Gregory calls for greater attention to issues such as preemptive war, indefinite detentions, surveillance, the drug war, and the prison system. “Surely, if the two parties took up these issues, they’d still be posturing,” he writes. “But we could at least claim to live in a country whose leaders pretend to care about basic human rights concerns enough to bother debating them.”

The Tragedy of a Jobs-Based Election, by Anthony Gregory (Huffington Post, 6/5/12)

Video: Can Health Care Be Fixed?‬, featuring John C. Goodman (WSJ Live, 6/6/12)

Is ObamaCare Slowing the Economy?, by John C. Goodman (Townhall, 6/2/12)

Are We Going Over a Cliff?, by John C. Goodman (Townhall, 5/26/12)

Priceless: Curing the Healthcare Crisis, by John C. Goodman

“John Goodman has long been the clearest and most insightful healthcare thinker.... It’s time we acted on his common sense, fact-based wisdom in Priceless.” —Mitch Daniels, Governor of Indiana

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2) The Case for Tax-Credit Scholarships

A recent article in the New York Times paints a distorted picture of tax-credit scholarship programs for K-12 schooling, according to Independent Institute Research Fellow Vicki E. Alger. The offending article, “Public Money Finds Back Door to Private Schools,” fails to adequately answer the critics. Far from burdening state coffers or harming students, the programs have helped both.

Since their inception in Arizona in 1997, tax-credit scholarship programs have benefited approximately 82,000 students in a dozen states. Unlike so-called school-choice vouchers, they are paid for with private funds—a view reinforced by a Supreme Court decision last year that struck down a challenge to the Arizona program. In addition, tax-credit scholarship programs spare taxpayer funds. A study by the Florida state government “found that the state’s tax-credit scholarship program saves $1.49 for every dollar it reduces in state revenue,” Alger writes.

Moreover, tax-credit scholarship programs have improved student performance in math and reading, according to research published by Northwestern University professor David Figlio. “Most important, tax-credit scholarships offer a lifeline to students trapped in schools that aren’t working for them,” Alger continues. “That’s the real story of this important education innovation. Shame on the so-called paper of record for trying to keep it from voters.”

The New York Times Needs a School Choice Reality Check, by Vicki E. Alger (Townhall, 6/5/12)

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3) Must the U.S. Destabilize Pakistan?

Last week’s drone-assisted assassination of al-Qaeda’s second-in-command—on Pakistani soil—may come at a high cost: it reinforces the view of many Pakistanis that the United States has compromised their security and sovereignty, and that the best remedy may be to support the Pakistani Taliban, thereby helping to destabilize that nuclear-armed country. This may be the worst unintended consequence of the U.S. campaign in the Af-Pak war, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland.

“The Pakistani Taliban did not even exist on 9/11 and are largely a creation of the backlash and resulting instability associated with the heavy U.S. footprint in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Eland writes in his latest op-ed. “The Pakistani public feels that the American drone strikes are a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and are causing increased Islamist militancy in the country’s western tribal regions and elsewhere.”

Each U.S. drone strike in Pakistan serves to complicate the picture. Many Pakistanis already view the Afghan Taliban as their best hope for gaining greater influence in Afghanistan than their rival India. Given this reality, it is especially important for U.S. leaders to understand Pakistani perspectives about national security and territorial sovereignty and to reduce the U.S. footprint in the region, Eland suggests.

Pakistan would be more stable “if the United States had avoided an extended post-9/11 nation-building war in Afghanistan in favor of selected attempts to go after al-Qaeda leaders,” Eland continues. “This approach would have also provided more security at a far lower cost to the American public.”

Did Anyone Ever Bother to Get the Pakistani Perspective?, by Ivan Eland (6/6/12)

No War for Oil: U.S. Dependency and the Middle East, by Ivan Eland

“Ivan Eland has produced a devastating indictment of the ‘oil rationale’ for the intrusive, counterproductive U.S. military presence in the Middle East. No War for Oil should help debunk the most prominent justification for that misguided policy.” —Ted Galen Carpenter, Cato Institute

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4) Cap-and-Trade for Carbon Dioxide Must Go

Carbon trading is about as big a business in Europe as wheat production is across the entire globe—a $176 billion industry. Although federal carbon-trading legislation got nowhere, cap-and-trade programs (C&T) may be coming to a state near you. The Cal Air Resources Board, for example, aims to implement C&T in the Golden State by January 2013. One reason may be financial: it expects the program to earn about one billion dollars annually through auctions of emission permits. Whether at the state or federal level, C&T is a bad idea that should be abandoned immediately, according to Independent Institute Research Fellow S. Fred Singer.

Cap and Trade may have made sense for controlling the sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions that caused acid rain, but that was partly because it was a cheaper alternative to a command-and-control approach. Singer argues that C&T for CO2 is different: it’s not a true pollutant, as SO2 is; CO2 emission targets wouldn’t be fixed, they’d be constantly tightened; and CO2 regulation would eventually become international.

Ironically, many of the activists who opposed C&T for SO2 in the 1980s now embrace it for CO2. That isn’t a sign of progress, according to Singer, who helped advise the White House on SO2 trading. “Even though it was obvious that C&T would provide the lowest-cost solution nationally, the activists on the panel just couldn’t stomach the idea that utilities would be permitted to emit SO2 as before by simply buying emission rights…. It is ironic that these same activists who then ideologically opposed C&T for SO2 are now clamoring for C&T to control emissions of CO2—a pointless, counterproductive, and very expensive exercise.”

‘Cap and Trade’ for CO2 Needs a Stake Through the Heart, by S. Fred Singer (6/11/12)

Hot Talk, Cold Science: Global Warming’s Unfinished Debate, by S. Fred Singer

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5) New Blog Posts

From The Beacon:

From MyGovCost News & Blog:

Eurosclerosis
Burt Abrams (6/8/12)

Doubling the National Debt in 25 Years
Craig Eyermann (6/5/12)

You can find the Independent Institute’s Spanish-language blog here.

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