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

Volume 7, Issue 1: January 3, 2005

  1. The Pentagon's Budget Deception
  2. Reforming California's Politicized Pension Fund
  3. The Death Penality on Trial

1) The Pentagon's Budget Deception

The White House's deceptive deficit-hawk rhetoric is masking a defense-spending increase that will actually weaken U.S. security, according to Ivan Eland, senior fellow and director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at the Independent Institute.

The Bush administration is claiming cuts in defense spending in an attempt to pretend to reduce the yawning budget deficit while pouring ever more funds into the Pentagon," Eland writes in his latest op-ed. "Yet despite the bucket loads of added cash, the administration is mortgaging the future of the U.S. armed forces."

The Defense Department, for example, claims it will cut spending by $10 billion in the 2006 fiscal year. But that "cut" means only that it won't spend as much as previously projected, not that it will spend fewer dollars than in the 2005 fiscal year. In real dollars, it is projected to spend $11 billion more in FY 2006 than in FY 2005. Although the Pentagon will be purchasing fewer Air Force F-22 fighter jets, Navy destroyers and amphibious assault ships, and retiring 12 aircraft carriers, the savings will be spent on U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, not on "research and development for future weapons," writes Eland.

"Thus, instead of focusing efforts on convincing the public that the deficit is being reduced by claiming fraudulent cuts in the defense budget, the Bush administration should invest its time in extricating the U.S. military from the imbroglios in Iraq and Afghanistan, which are draining away all of the increased Pentagon spending and consuming the seed corn for future U.S. security," Eland concludes.

See "Mortgaging the Future of Our Armed Forces," by Ivan Eland (1/3/05)
http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=1445

To purchase THE EMPIRE HAS NO CLOTHES: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, by Ivan Eland, see
http://www.independent.org/store/book_detail.asp?bookID=54

To purchase PUTTING "DEFENSE" BACK INTO U.S. DEFENSE POLICY: Rethinking U.S. Security in the Post-Cold War World, by Ivan Eland, see
http://www.independent.org/store/book_detail.asp?bookID=19

Center on Peace & Liberty
http://www.independent.org/research/copal/

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2) Reforming California's Politicized Pension Fund

California's public employee retirement system—CalPERS—has come under fire lately for its political activism. CalPERS has been accused of playing favorites in Safeway's labor dispute, in reconsidering its investments in companies that compete with government services, and in promoting an environmentalist agenda. The chairman of the fund was ousted last month partly due to his activist leadership, but the problem of political activism—favoritism, in other words—is perhaps inevitable in a multi-billion dollar fund whose board is appointed by politicians and by other board members.

"The best way to avoid future problems is to privatize the state pension system," writes Benjamin Powell, director of the Independent Institute's Center on Entrepreneurial Innovation. "Fortunately, the political influence of CalPERS can be eliminated without harming California's state employees."

CalPERS is currently structured as a defined benefit plan. The fund manages approximately $177 billion dollars for more than 1.4 million state employees. Convert the system to a defined contribution plan, with employee contributions matched by the state, going into individual retirement accounts, Powell explains, and the problem of a politically active board would vanish.

"Then individual employees, not the CalPERS board, would decide how assets were managed. Since many employees would choose different mutual funds or index funds, no one agency would have the power of CalPERS," writes Powell.

"Individual accounts should be established at the present value of what an employee is entitled to under the current system, thus ensuring that employees are not made worse off. To establish the accounts, assets should be sold and unfunded liabilities explicitly recognized.

"If done correctly, privatizing CalPERS could take the politics out of investment decisions without burdening state employees or taxpayers any more than they already are."

See "It's Time to Retire California's Politicized Pension System," by Benjamin Powell (12/22/04) http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=1442

For insights on a little-known episode in the history of pension fund reform, see "Privatization Of Public-Sector Pensions: The U.S. Navy Pension Fund, 1800-1842," by Robert Clark, Lee Craig, and Jack Wilson (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Spring 1999) http://www.independent.org/publications/tir/article.asp?issueID=26&articleID=316

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3) The Death Penality on Trial

“THE DEATH PENALTY ON TRIAL”
Bill Kurtis and Franklin Zimring on Capital Punishment (Oakland, Calif., 1/27/05)
http://www.independent.org/events/detail.asp?eventID=107

Few issues in public policy elicit as much heated debate as capital punishment. Historically, supporters and opponents of the death penalty have divided along conservative and liberal lines. In recent years, however, advances in forensic science have lead to the exoneration of numerous death-row inmates, prompting many people to re-think their positions. How can the criminal justice system be reformed to reduce the number of wrongful convictions and yet protect the innocent against violent crime? Please join us as BILL KURTIS, true-crime TV anchor ("Cold Case Files" and "American Justice") and author of the new book, THE DEATH PENALTY ON TRIAL, and U.C. Berkeley law professor Franklin Zimring, author of the new book, THE CONTRADICTIONS OF AMERICAN CAPITAL PUNISHMENT, address this life-or-death issue.

SPEAKERS:

—BILL KURTIS passed the Kansas Bar in 1966, but instead of practicing law he embarked on a thirty-year career as a correspondent and anchorman with CBS Television. In 1985, he formed his own production company, Kurtis Productions, which produces A&E's award-winning "Investigative Reports" and televisions original forensic series, "Cold Case Files." Kurtis also anchors A&E's "American Justice."

—FRANKLIN E. ZIMRING is the William G. Simon Professor of Law and Chair of the Criminal Justice Research Program at Boalt Hall School of Law, the University of California at Berkeley. His major fields of interest are criminal justice and family law, with special emphasis on the use of empirical research to inform legal policy. He is best known for his studies of the determinants of the death rate from violent attacks, the impact of pretrial diversion from the criminal justice system, and criminal sanctions.

WHEN:

Thursday, January 27, 2005
Reception and book signing: 6:30 p.m.
Program: 7:00-8:30 p.m.

WHERE:

The Independent Institute Conference Center
100 Swan Way
Oakland, CA 94621-1428
For a map and directions, see
http://www.independent.org/aboutus/map.asp

TICKETS: $15 per person ($10 for Independent Institute Members), or $35 for admission and a copy of THE DEATH PENALTY ON TRIAL. Reserve tickets by calling (510) 632-1366 or ordering online at http://www.independent.org/store/events/event_detail.asp?eventID=107.

Praise for THE DEATH PENALTY ON TRIAL: Crisis in American Justice, by Bill Kurtis (PublicAffairs):

“With a novelist's touch, an award-winning career in investigative reporting, and a moral to preach against capital punishment, Bill Kurtis has turned out an important message and a gripping read.”
—WALTER CRONKITE

“DEATH PENALTY ON TRIAL is an engrossing look at the American system of capital punishment through the lens of two startling death-penalty cases. It exhibits the classic hallmarks of the best journalism—meticulous investigation, lucid writing, and a nose for great stories—and makes addictive reading.”
—SCOTT TUROW, author of PRESUMED INNOCENT

Praise for THE CONTRADICTIONS OF AMERICAN CAPITAL PUNISHMENT, by Franklin E. Zimring (Oxford University Press):

“Zimring is doing more than making a case for or against; he's presenting an impressive array of facts, suggesting that the U.S. would be 'a better nation' if it exorcised those vigilante values.”
—LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK REVIEW

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