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The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
Subscribe now, or browse Back Issues.

Volume 13, Issue 3: January 18, 2011

  1. Runaway Federal Spending the Reality for Nearly a Decade
  2. WikiLeaks and National Security
  3. Can Iraq Learn Anything from Sudan?
  4. Summer Programs for Students!
  5. New Blog Posts

1) Runaway Federal Spending the Reality for Nearly a Decade

From 1976 through 2001, Uncle Sam could have secured and maintained a balanced budget by cutting federal spending by $570.75 per household per year, according to Craig Eyermann, creator of the online Government Cost Calculator at MyGovCost.org. After 2001, however, government spending grew faster than median household income, and the deficit soared. By 2009, the feds would have had to slash spending by $8,991 per household to close the gap.

House Speaker John Boehner proposed reducing a significant part of federal spending to 2008 levels. That measure may sound bold, but it would be totally inadequate. “That’s like a sedentary senior reducing his daily calorie intake from 5,500 to 4,500; it’s still way too much,” writes Emily Skarbek, director of MyGovCost.org. Policymakers who call for raising the debt ceiling—as has been done 70 times since World War I—are deluded if they believe doing so would result in a substantive improvement.

“Like all gluttons struggling to reform, politicians and presidential advisers will provide plenty of excuses for increasing the debt limit—just this once,” Skarbek writes in the Sacramento Bee. “But if 70 previous increases weren’t enough, why will this increase be different?”

“Aim at the Zero Deficit Line,” by Craig D. Eyermann (1/13/11)

“Government’s Obesity Crisis,” by Emily C. Skarbek (The Sacramento Bee, 1/13/11)

Video: Emily Skarbek on U.S. Government Policies and Unemployment (International Press TV, 1/7/11)

MyGovCost

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2) WikiLeaks and National Security

The WikiLeaks controversy raises important questions. Here’s one that the public may not have heard: Did the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks really warrant significant changes in the way that government analysts could access classified information? Army Private Bradley Manning was able to gain access to military and State Department computer networks—and thereby allegedly leak top-secret military videos and diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks—because intelligence-sharing guidelines were changed, after 9/11, from a narrow “need to know” basis to a much broader “need to share” basis.

This policy should be reformed so that highly sensitive information is “pushed” from one authorized and appropriate party to another, rather than “pulled” by whomever has obtained a “top-secret” clearance, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Charles Peña. But Peña cautions that reforming access to classified information would not solve the deeper problem that no one in the White House or in the congressional leadership will say publicly: many Muslims consider the stationing of U.S. military forces in Muslim countries to be an act of war.

Writes Peña: “According to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, WikiLeaks is ‘an attack on America’s foreign policy interests.’ The sad truth is that U.S. foreign policy isn’t necessarily in America’s best interests.”

“The Lessons of Private Manning and WikiLeaks,” by Charles Peña (The Daily Caller, 1/11/11)

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3) Can Iraq Learn Anything from Sudan?

Although the final vote tally is not scheduled for release until February 14, last week’s vote on secession for Southern Sudan offers hope for people who seek independence from a centralized government whose customs and values are at odds with their own. Unfortunately, those who think that Iraq’s future will follow a path as peaceful as Sudan’s future appears to be are guilty of wishful thinking, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland.

With fiercely anti-American critic Muqtada al-Sadr back in Iraq and acting as power broker to the Shi’ite governing coalition, it’s less likely that U.S. forces will be asked to postpone the withdrawal that is currently scheduled by year’s end. This is a blessing in disguise for the Obama administration, Eland argues. “President Obama would be wise to keep his campaign pledge and promptly get out (while the getting’s good),” Eland concludes.

One reason the U.S. troop withdrawal should meet its target date is that Iraq is still a very fractious society, a tinder keg waiting for a spark. The basis for ethno-sectarian fighting—Sunnis versus Shi’ites, and Arabs versus Kurds—persists. The recent lull in violence is largely a result of the United States buying the cooperation of Sunni militia groups and a by-product of the brutality of al-Qaeda in Iraq, a group whose attacks made Osama bin Laden’s franchise even less popular than the U.S. forces. Writes Eland: “Absent a Sudanese-style referendum on devolution or secession, which has not even been contemplated, the artificial Iraq is likely to eventually succumb to more ethno-sectarian turmoil, probably ending in a bloody civil war.”

“Don’t Expect Iraq to End Like Sudan,” by Ivan Eland (1/12/11)

Partitioning for Peace: An Exit Strategy for Iraq, by Ivan Eland

The Empire Has No Clothes: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, by Ivan Eland

Recarving Rushmore: Ranking the Presidents on Peace, Prosperity, and Liberty, by Ivan Eland

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4) Summer Programs for Students!

Registration is now open for our 2011 Summer Seminars! Our high-school seminar will be held at our campus in Oakland, June 20-24, and our college seminar will be hosted at a local Bay Area university campus, August 1-5.

These week-long seminars feature talks by Independent Institute fellows as well as local university professors. Addressing various topics on economics and philosophy, these seminars are a perfect way to ensure that your student has an intellectually rewarding summer.

We are also now accepting applications for our summer internship program. Positions are available for college students interested in Publications, Development, Communications, and Marketing. This 3-month program allows students to gain valuable work experience while receiving on-going education about critical issues and ideas.

Seminars

Internships

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5) New Blog Posts

From The Beacon:

From MyGovCost Blog:

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