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The Lighthouse®

The Lighthouse® is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 18, Issue 43: October 25, 2016

  1. Reining In Runaway Federal Spending
  2. An Even Better Alternative to Obamacare than Trump’s Plan
  3. Trump and Clinton Propose Dangerous Plans for Syria
  4. Ridesharing Apps Improve Safety
  5. Independent Updates

1) Reining In Runaway Federal Spending

Rare is the news coverage that addresses what is arguably the great scandal of the 2016 election season: the failure of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to offer credible strategies for averting a financial meltdown triggered by our titanic, fast-growing, and unsustainable national debt. The problem is Made in America—Washington, DC, to be precise. But while Trump and Clinton haven’t proposed credible ideas, the solution can in principle emerge from the swamps of our nation’s capital. A new paper offers several ideas for how the next Congress could bring the nation closer to fiscal sanity.

The hardest part of threading the nation’s fiscal needle is controlling mandatory spending—on items like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, parts of the Affordable Care Act, and net interest on the national debt. Fortunately, as Independent Institute Research Fellow Craig Eyermann (creator of our Government Cost Calculator) explains, economists Rudolph Penner and Eugene Steurle in a new study offer several innovative steps for reining in runaway federal spending, including (but not limited to): creating fiscal triggers to slow entitlement growth; making it easier for members of Congress to propose Social Security reforms; subjecting government spending programs to periodic reauthorization; and requiring the president to speak annually on the Fiscal State of the Union.
“Penner and Steurle’s suggested reforms would be an important step toward ensuring that Congress has the tools needed to bring federal spending under control,” Eyermann writes. “But only if the U.S. Congress is willing to use them.”

New Ideas for Regaining Control over Mandatory Spending, by Craig Eyermann (MyGovCost News & Blog, 10/24/16) – Home of the Government Cost Calculator (free mobile app)

Love Gov: From First Date to Mandate


2) An Even Better Alternative to Obamacare than Trump’s Plan

Donald Trump says his proposal for replacing Obamacare, which he repeated Saturday in his Gettysburg speech, would provide better quality, universal coverage at no extra cost. The numbers, however, just don’t add up. Since it relies on giving people a tax deduction for buying health insurance, and since about half of the country doesn’t pay federal income tax, Trump’s plan would raise the number of uninsured from 33 million people, its current level, to as many as 58 million people, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow John C. Goodman. Fortunately, a bill introduced earlier this year offers a genuinely sound Obamacare alternative that would achieve Trump’s goals of better quality, universal coverage at no extra cost.

That plan is not the one offered by House Speaker Paul Ryan, which probably wouldn’t increase the number of people with coverage. It’s the plan sponsored by Sen. Bill Cassidy and Rep. Pete Sessions, and its central plank is a universal tax credit “roughly equal to the federal government’s contribution to efficient Medicaid,” Goodman writes.

The plan would drive down premiums in the individual market to about $100 a month, Goodman estimates. But how would it help low-income people who can’t afford that amount? “If people living below the poverty level claimed the credit and were given the state’s share of Medicaid spending, they should be able to buy insurance that looks like a well-managed, privately administered Medicaid plan for a few dollars a month, at most,” Goodman writes. “For anyone who chooses to voluntarily remain uninsured, there would be a contribution to a local safety net in case they could not pay their own medical bills. This is probably as close to universal coverage as we will ever get.”

A Health Plan for Donald Trump, by John C. Goodman (Forbes, 10/13/16)

The Sessions-Cassidy Health Plan, by John C. Goodman (8/25/16)

A Better Choice: Healthcare Solutions for America, by John C. Goodman

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


3) Trump and Clinton Propose Dangerous Plans for Syria

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have proposed lots of confused policies, and their plans for Syria and ISIS are no exception, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland. Both candidates advocate ideas that are “misguided and even dangerous,” he writes in his latest piece at

Clinton says she would keep U.S. troops out of Syria, but her call for a no-fly zone to protect anti-Assad groups would run the risk of plunging America into a hot war with Russia, Eland argues. And her call for increased U.S. aid to Kurdish forces opposing ISIS runs the risk of pushing American troops into another Middle Eastern quagmire.

Unlike Clinton, Trump has carefully avoided saying anything that Vladimir Putin would view as confrontational. Yet Trump also calls for reckless missteps in Iraq and Syria—notably his call to bomb ISIS into oblivion. Unlike Clinton and Trump, Eland writes, “a new president who is smart would use the change in administrations to get out before the quagmire deepens.”

Both Candidates Wrong on Syria, by Ivan Eland (, 10/18/16)

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

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

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


4) Ridesharing Apps Improve Safety

Uber and Lyft have transformed the way many of us get around—“taxi cabs on steroids,” is an apt phrase that comes to mind. It’s no wonder why the traditional taxi industry is irate. As Independent Institute Research Fellow Abigail Hall Blanco notes in Forbes, when new technologies become commercially successful, established firms too clumsy to adapt will often clamor that their new competitors are risky alternatives to the tried-and-true business as usual. But the claim that app-based vehicles are less safe just won’t roll.

In fact, the opposite is true. Uber and Lyft have improved public safety. A recent study by two scholars at Western Carolina University, Angela K. Dills and Sean E. Mulholland, “found that ridesharing led to a decrease in fatal car accidents, as well as declines in arrests for DUI, assault, and disorderly conduct,” Hall Blanco writes. “Moreover, the study found that the longer these services were available in a given area, the larger the declines.”

Politicians beholden to the established ways of doing things frequently call for new regulations on disruptive upstarts, often in the name of safety. But the precautionary principle itself entails risk—and not merely the risk associated with the status quo. It can also inculcate an overly cautious mindset that drives right over our impulse to innovate.

Economics, Safety, and Bureaucratic Logrolling, by Abigail Hall Blanco (Forbes, 10/6/16)

Future: Economic Peril or Prosperity?, edited by Robert M. Whaples, Christopher J. Coyne, and Michael C. Munger


5) Independent Updates
The Beacon: New Blog Posts MyGovCost: New Blog Posts Featured Video News Alert


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