Posts Tagged ‘CATO’
August 27th, 2016 at 9:44 am
SCOTUS: A Look Back and Ahead
Posted by Print

In an interview with CFIF, Ilya Shapiro, Senior Fellow in Constitutional Studies at the Cato Institute and Editor-in-Chief of the Cato Supreme Court Review, discusses some of the seminal cases from the October 2015 Term, how the October 2016 Term is shaping up, Justice Ginsburg’s mea culpa and Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination.

Listen to the interview here.

October 31st, 2012 at 8:15 pm
TSA Exempts Itself from Cancer Screening

Remember this story from Richard Rahn of the Cato Institute the next time you’re looking for an example of how ours is turning into a government of men, not laws:

Use of X-ray body scanners is an example of regulatory deception. If you work in the private sector and spend substantial time around machines or substances that emit radiation, you normally are required to wear tags that measure radiation doses. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has exempted itself from that requirement with the argument that the doses of radiation passengers and TSA employees receive from the X-ray body scanners (backscatters) at airports is so low as to cause no more than a trivial amount of extra cancers. They may well be right, but without measuring what employees and passengers actually receive from frequent and sometimes miscalibrated machines, no one knows for sure. Besides, the effect of radiation on the body is cumulative.

The European Union has prohibited backscatters, as have many countries, because of concern about health and safety. TSA has come under great criticism for the use of these machines, particularly when a safer and better technology is available. TSA has not admitted the danger but quietly has been replacing some of the backscatters with millimeter-wave scanners. These machines rely on low-energy radio waves like those in cell phones and thus are believed potentially not to damage a person’s DNA, unlike the backscatters. These new machines are faster because a computer analyzes the image, rather than a guard as with the X-ray machines. They are better at detection and provide greater personal privacy. Still, the question remains, why is TSA phasing out the X-ray machines so slowly and not providing its employees with radiation-detection tags? Private employers probably would be sued over such behavior.

June 14th, 2012 at 2:39 pm
CATO: Obama Admin Rewrites Cost-Effectiveness Rules Because Pet Projects Are Too Expensive

Look!  In the street!  Is it slow?  Is it expensive?  Then it must be a federally subsidized streetcar project!

Randal O’Toole (pdf), a transportation scholar at the Cato Institute, explains how the Obama Administration is literally rewriting the rules to make an inefficient mode of transportation easier to fund:

The Obama administration is currently rewriting the rules for Small Starts [a federal program to subsidize local mass transit projects], and the draft rules, issued January 25, 2012, effectively eliminate the cost-effectiveness requirement.  Instead, the administration proposes to judge projects by how well they promote “livability,” which Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHoood defines as, “If you don’t want an automobile, you don’t have to have one.”  In this case, it evidently also means, “If you don’t want to take a bus, taxpayers will provide an expensive rail alternative.”

Why the need to change the funding criteria?  O’Toole explains:

When the [Federal Transit Administration] applied the [cost-effectiveness] rules to the Small Starts program, however, streetcar advocates complained that the rules discriminated against streetcars because streetcars did not save time.  Instead, advocates argued, the FTA should evaluate streetcars based on their perceived contributions to livability and economic development.

Among other uses “livability” is code for “high density,” a term that translates into smaller living spaces crowded together in apartment buildings instead of single family homes with a yard.

California Governor Jerry Brown is notorious for preaching an “era of limits” that lets the state’s freeway system decay in order to force people into high density housing in the urban core.  With everybody living on top of each other, cars become unfeasible and mass transit suddenly becomes relevant.

But even in this Orwellian vision, streetcars like the ones favored by the Obama administration don’t make economic sense because buses can go faster, seat more people and cost less to operate because they don’t depend on railway lines to move.

No matter.  With the new rules in place 45 cities are lining up to qualify for streetcar subsidies.

If the Feds are paying, who cares about the costs?

June 5th, 2012 at 2:46 pm
CATO: Reform the Fed by Diversifying Board Members

Cato expert Mark A. Calabria suggests a simple reform that would make decisions by the Federal Reserve Board more responsive to America’s different regional economies – include at least one board member from each Federal Reserve region.

Congress imposed a “geographic diversity” requirement upon the Fed for good reason. Regions of the country do not move together. Nevada’s 11.7 percent unemployment rate, for example, is significantly above South Dakota’s 4.3 percent. If the Fed lacks a wide range of voices, then its policies are not likely to reflect the economic differences across our country. An interest rate policy that might be appropriate for New York City, and its financial sector, might not be appropriate for industrial Ohio. Just the fact that only one current Fed governor, Janet Yellen from San Francisco, is from west of the Mississippi raises questions as to the legitimacy of Fed decision-making.

Calabria points out that another benefit of diversifying board membership is that doing so follows the law.  The Federal Reserve Act requires that, regarding members of the board, “not more than one of whom shall be selected from any one Federal Reserve district,” so that those making monetary policy decisions “shall have due regard to a fair representation of… geographical divisions of the country.”

Unsurprisingly, this easy to apply standard was recently violated when President Barack Obama nominated and the liberal Senate confirmed new members from Massachusetts and Maryland, even though two current members also hail from those states.  Combine this with the New York Fed’s distinction as the only district with a permanent vote, and there is a regional – and arguably illegal – bias in favor of the Northeast.

Every region of the country should be represented equally when the Fed Governors decide how much money to print and where to peg the interest rate.  To be sure, it would be better if the free market was deciding these issues, but that’s not the reality of the 21st century’s administrative state.  With that in mind, perhaps the cry could be, “No manipulation without representation!”

February 10th, 2012 at 4:52 pm
Cato on Contraception Mandate: ‘We Should All be Exempt’

As a companion must-read article to Tim’s column on the ObamaCare birth control mandate, John Cochrane of Cato explains why President Barack Obama’s proposed compromise to exempt church-related institutions misses the point:

Our nation is divided on social issues. The natural compromise is simple: Birth control, abortion and other contentious practices are permitted. But those who object don’t have to pay for them. The federal takeover of medicine prevents us from reaching these natural compromises and needlessly divides our society.

The critics fell for a trap. By focusing on an exemption for church-related institutions, critics effectively admit that it is right for the rest of us to be subjected to this sort of mandate. They accept the horribly misnamed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and they resign themselves to chipping away at its edges. No, we should throw it out, and fix the terrible distortions in the health-insurance and health-care markets.

Sure, churches should be exempt. We should all be exempt.

August 17th, 2009 at 3:16 pm
Call it What You Want, It’s Still Government-Run Health Care

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius made headlines this weekend when she signaled that the Obama Administration is open to dropping the so-called “public option” from legislation to overhaul heath care in an effort to reach a compromise.   Appearing on CNN’s State of the Union yesterday, Sebelius said the public option “is not an essential element” of President Obama’s plan for health care reform.   

Almost immediately, the media’s attention turned its focus to “insurance cooperatives,” or co-ops,  as an alternative to a public option.   Don’t be fooled!

As Michael Tanner at the CATO Institute points out, “Government-run health care is government-run health care no matter what you call it.”  Tanner writes:

The health care “co-op” approach now embraced by the Obama administration will still give the federal government control over one-sixth of the U.S. economy, with a government-appointed board, taxpayer funding, and with bureaucrats setting premiums, benefits, and operating rules.