Blog Archives

Counterterrorism Spending

The Stimson Center’s new study group report found that the federal government spent about $2.8 trillion on counterterrorism (CT) activities since 9/11.  The report seeks to account for all federal government spending on CT efforts divided into the four broad categories of defense emergency and overseas contingency operations, war-related state/USAID, other foreign aid, and government-wide Homeland Security.  The defense emergency…
Posted in Uncategorized

Convicted of Violating a Law that Does Not Exist

Herman Gundy stands convicted of violating a law that, for all intents and purposes, doesn’t exist. You may recall from high school civics that the Constitution separates the powers of the federal government among three coordinate branches. You may also recall from “Schoolhouse Rock” that a bill becomes a law after it’s passed by the two houses of the legislative…
Posted in Uncategorized

For Lower Gas Prices, Scrap the Jones Act

Drawing attention to rising gas prices this week, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-New York) called for President Trump to ease pain at the pump by leveraging his relationships with key OPEC leaders as well as the presidential bully pulpit to exert pressure on oil companies. “These higher oil prices are translating directly to soaring gas prices, something we know…
Posted in Uncategorized

Alexandria, Virginia Gets Housing Affordability Wrong

Alexandria, Virginia’s city council successfully increased the meals tax on restaurants in its jurisdiction on May 10th. The Council’s plan is to dedicate the meals tax revenue to building affordable housing. There are a variety of issues with the city council’s plan to increase taxes and provide affordable housing. First, the tax is supposed to help low and moderate income…
Posted in Uncategorized

The Phillips Curve Is Dead (except in Federal Reserve and CBO models)

“Is the Phillips Curve Dead?” asked Princeton economist Alan Blinder in a May 3 Wall Street Journal article. The former Vice-Chairman of the Fed noted that “the correlation between unemployment and changes in inflation is nearly zero… Inflation has barely moved as unemployment rose and fell.” For a veteran Ivy League Keynesian like Blinder to doubt the Phillips Curve was…
Posted in Uncategorized

Government Claims It Has “Extensive” Analysis Backing the Travel Ban—It’s Not True

In justifying President Trump’s travel ban to the Supreme Court last month, his attorneys repeatedly referenced a confidential report. They told the Court that this “extensive” analysis of “every country in the world” resulted from a “worldwide multi-agency review” and proves that the president did not act with religious animus. Yet they refuse to release it, and the information that…
Posted in Uncategorized

Immigrant Welfare Consumption: A Response to Richwine

Jason Richwine recently published a short criticism of a new brief that Robert Orr and I wrote about immigrant and native benefit levels and use rates for means-tested welfare and entitlement programs.  This is another in a long series of blog post responses between those who support different methods for measuring native and immigrant welfare consumption so the response is…
Posted in Uncategorized

Free Trade Is Good for Both Americans and Non-Americans

Trade headlines are getting more and more absurd. The Commerce Department apparently will investigate whether car imports impair national security and thus require a 25% tariff, which one trade lawyer said would prompt “pant-wetting laughter — followed by retaliation” among U.S. trading partners. Although maybe, as the linked article suggests, this is all just to put pressure on Mexico during…
Posted in Uncategorized

That Time When They Censored Fahrenheit 451

The reviews of HBO’s “Fahrenheit 451” haven’t been so good, but at least the publicity should lead more people to read a great dystopian novel. Talking about the book many years later, Bradbury said, “I wasn’t worried about freedom, I was worried about people being turned into morons by TV…the moronic influence of popular culture through local TV news and…
Posted in Uncategorized

Trump Officials: We Want to “Enforce the Laws” But Only Certain Ones

Testifying before Congress this week with the heads of the other two immigration agencies, Immigration and Customs Enforcement head Thomas Homan asserted that “no one on this panel is anti-immigrant,” claiming that while he “feels bad for some of these people,” they are just “enforcing the law that Congress enacted.” Yet he and his copanelists spent much of the hearing…
Posted in Uncategorized

Show Me the (Education) Money, Finale!

Long-Term, National: Money and Employees Have Poured In Now that we’ve looked at scads of data—on spending, staffing, salaries—what can we conclude about the state of resources in public schools? First, we need to recognize that the period since the Great Recession has been an anomaly in nearly a century of education spending. Whether in total or on a per-pupil…
Posted in Uncategorized

Farm Bill Flop

Last week, the House voted down passage of the 2018 farm bill. The bill would have reauthorized farm programs and food stamps at a 10-year cost of $867 billion. Democrats voted in a block against the bill because they opposed expanded work requirements for food stamps. A group of Republicans voted against it because they were frustrated by a lack…
Posted in Uncategorized

While Politicians Cut Opioid Prescriptions, Fentanyl—With Help From the “Dark Web” and the USPS— Becomes the Number One Killer

A May 22 story in Bloomberg News describes with painstaking detail the underground pipeline through which the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl floods the US market. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, while the Mexican cartel plays a role by using its well-established heroin and methamphetamine distribution networks, most of the fentanyl comes in to the US from China.  The raw…
Posted in Uncategorized

Mandatory E-Verify will Increase Identity Theft

Nancy Berryhill, an Acting Commissioner of Social Security, recently testified in front of the House Subcommittee on Social Security on the widespread use of Social Security Numbers (SSNs) beyond their intended function.  Most of her testimony concerned the history of SSNs, past security procedures, and proposed future ones.  In a bizarre sentence that contradicts much of the rest of her…
Posted in Uncategorized

Epic Systems v. Lewis: It’s OK To Calm Down About Arbitration

Yesterday’s 5-4 Supreme Court decision upholding agreements to individually arbitrate wage-and-hour claims was neither surprising nor novel as a legal matter. Nor – notwithstanding the variously breathless, furious, and apocalyptic reactions it has drawn from stage Left – is it objectionable as a matter of policy, or “anti-worker.” It is pro-liberty, pro-contract, and pro-respect for private ordering. On a practical…
Posted in Uncategorized

Chicago Police Don’t Need Facial Recognition Drones

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is backing legislation that passed the state Senate earlier this month that would allow Illinois police to use drones to monitor “large scale events,” including protests. This legislation would be worrying enough if the drones were merely outfitted with video and audio capability. However, these drones could one day be equipped with facial recognition tools, amplifying…
Posted in Uncategorized

How Jailing Drug Users Increases Opioid Overdoses

The standard view of the opioid epidemic blames pharmaceutical companies and doctors for excessive prescribing. An alternate view blames government for outlawing or restricting access to opioids.  In this view, users overdose not from medical use but from consuming diverted or black market opioids of unpredictable quality and potency. Current restrictions also causes overdoses by enforcing abstinence on people, who…
Posted in Uncategorized

Trump’s Trade Policy is a Disaster, But Postponing the China Trade War Was Smart

Reactions in the United States to the Trump administration’s announcement on Saturday that it would refrain from imposing new tariffs on imports from China for the time being have been decidedly negative. One would expect criticism from the unions, the steel producers, and old economy manufacturing trade associations. After all, many seemed not the least bit concerned about burdening the…
Posted in Uncategorized

Original Meaning Should Decide Arbitration Act Case on Independent Contractors

Some prefer to achieve their livelihood by being traditional employees, while others prefer to go the individual route and become proprietors and independent contractors. For centuries, the common law has distinguished between those two categories of individuals in order to ensure that independent contractors enjoy both the benefits and burdens of going into business for themselves. To that end, federal…
Posted in Uncategorized

The Case for Neglecting Transit

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) has just published a paper on the economic cost of failing to modernize transit, referring to the roughly $100 billion maintenance backlog built up by U.S. transit agencies, mostly for rail transit. In fact, a strong case can be made that—with the possible exception of New York—American cities shouldn’t restore deteriorating rail transit systems…
Posted in Uncategorized

Keep Calm and Summit On

Last Tuesday, North Korea canceled a high-level diplomatic meeting with South Korea and threatened to call off next month’s summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un. North Korea’s statements came just one week after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo returned from Pyongyang with three American citizens held prisoner by the Kim regime and the date for the Trump-Kim summit…
Posted in Uncategorized

Richard Pipes on Property as an Institution

Richard Pipes, the great Harvard historian, has died at 94. Best known for his clear-eyed work on Russia and its Bolshevik Revolution, a topic on which so many thinkers over the past century have fallen short, Pipes also wrote a terrific 1999 book on private property as a cornerstone of civilization, Property and Freedom: The Story of How through the…
Posted in Uncategorized

The Sugar Swamp Remains Undrained

Efforts to reform the U.S. sugar program fell short last week when an amendment to the farm bill offered by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-North Carolina) was voted down by the lopsided margin of 137-278. Foxx couldn’t even persuade a majority of her fellow Republicans to support the measure, with only 96 voting in favor and 132 in opposition. Democrats, meanwhile,…
Posted in Uncategorized

TSA Still Awful After 17 Years

It has been 17 years since the federal government took over security screening at the nation’s airports, and they still haven’t figured out how to schedule more screeners during busy times. The photo is yesterday afternoon in Denver. It took 26 minutes to get through the line. Leaving from Dulles a couple days earlier it took a ridiculous 46 minutes.…
Posted in Uncategorized

Show Me the (Education) Money, Part IV!

We’ve looked at the K-12 spending trends both nationally and in restive states, broken down per-pupil expenditures into smaller bits, and added North Carolina. I had planned to finish this spending series with this post, but there are a lot of data to examine so I’m going to put off conclusions to the next—and final—post. We now look at total…
Posted in Uncategorized

ICE Scraps Plans For “Extreme Vetting” Prediction Tech

During his presidential campaign Donald Trump proposed the “extreme vetting” of immigrants. Civil libertarians criticized the proposal, not least because the Extreme Vetting Initiative mandated by one of President Trump’s first executive orders sought technology that would use machine learning to determine whether visa applicants would be likely to contribute to society and the national interest. Fortunately, Immigration and Customs…
Posted in Uncategorized

Is FDA Commissioner Realizing That America’s War on Opioids Has Become a War on Patients?

In a May 14 blog post, Food and Drug Commissioner Scott Gottlieb expressed concern about the effect the nation’s restrictive policy towards the manufacture and prescription of opioids is having on patients with chronic pain conditions. This is one of the first signs that someone in the administration has taken note of the unintended consequences of this misguided policy—a policy…
Posted in Uncategorized

The State of Immigration Enforcement

President Trump’s administration is ramping up immigration enforcement in the interior of the United States and along the border.  However, the near-half-century low in illegal border crossers, the longer-settled illegal immigrant population inside of the country, and resistance by state and local governments are hampering his administration’s efforts to boost deportation.  Try as he might, his administration will not be…
Posted in Uncategorized

Trump’s New Arms Sales Policy: What You Should Know

On April 19, 2018 the Trump administration released an updated version of the U.S. Conventional Arms Transfer Policy, the primary document outlining the strategy and guidelines for American arms sales abroad. Compared to the Obama- and Bush-era guidelines, the Trump administration’s policy emphasizes the economic benefits from arms sales. As a result, the new policy is focused on streamlining the…
Posted in Uncategorized

Public Schooling Battles: April Dispatch

With 25 conflicts added to the Battle Map, April was a busy month. So busy the Dispatch was delayed again. But better late than never, right? Just like March, April was heavy with conflicts revolving around guns, as the debate spurred by the Parkland shooting continued. But seemingly eternal hot-spots including Confederate flag displays, prayer in schools, and sex ed…
Posted in Uncategorized

Could Next Vice Chair Bring A New Rule to the Fed?

Richard Clarida had his nomination hearing to become Vice Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System before the Senate today.  He delivered a nearly mistake-free performance, giving articulate and concise answers to Banking Committee members’ questions.  His responses showed an understanding of both the Fed’s current normalization plans and some political concerns. Clarida is widely agreed…
Posted in Uncategorized

The Age of Discretion, As the Post Sees It

The Washington Post editorialized last month in favor of dropping the voting age to 16. I dashed off a letter to the editor, which they didn’t run, and is here adapted: At what point are young people to be entrusted with important life responsibilities? The Post has repeatedly opposed easing the drinking age from 21 so as to allow persons…
Posted in Uncategorized

Central Americans Assimilate Very Well

On Friday, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly justified the administration’s new policy of separating children from parents fleeing violence in Central America by explaining: They’re not MS-13… . But they’re also not people that would easily assimilate into the United States, into our modern society. They’re overwhelmingly rural people. In the countries they come from, fourth-, fifth-, sixth-grade…
Posted in Uncategorized

Show Me the (Education) Money, Tar Heel Edition!

North Carolina is becoming the latest hot spot in the education funding wildfire—thousands of protesting teachers are expected in Raleigh on Wednesday—so before I deliver the promised wrap up on my state spending series, I thought I’d add NC to the mix. As you can see on the following chart, North Carolina’s total spending per-pupil, which includes both operational and…
Posted in Uncategorized

Victory for Defendant Autonomy and the Criminal Jury Trial in McCoy v. Louisiana

Robert McCoy was charged with the murder of three of his family members in Bossier City, Louisiana. The state brought capital charges against him, but McCoy maintained his innocence—claiming he was not even in the state at the time of the murders—and demanded a jury trial. But in light of the evidence against him, McCoy’s lawyer thought the best trial…
Posted in Uncategorized

You Shouldn’t Need a License to Braid Hair

The Fourteenth Amendment states that “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” Passed during Reconstruction, these provisions held the promise that freedman would finally be granted the same rights…
Posted in Uncategorized

Federalism Wins Supreme Court Jackpot

The smart money was always on the Supreme Court to make the kind of ruling it did today, strike down a federal law that purported to tell states whether they could legalize sports betting. That doesn’t make it any less exciting or refreshing—and it’s deliciously apt as both the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights remain in the hunt for…
Posted in Uncategorized

Are “Fatal” Opioid Concentrations Really Fatal?

When medical examiners conclude that the cause of death is opioid overdose, they rely primarily on the opioid blood concentration level in comparison to a pre-determined “fatal” cutoff. This approach is potentially inaccurate; the fatal ranges used are wide, and they overlap significantly with the ranges for living opioid users. Numerous fatal ranges have been quoted for methadone: 220-3040μg/L (mean,…
Posted in Uncategorized

Unilateral Tariffs vs. The Rule of Trade Law: The Case of Trade Secrets

President Trump is seeking tariffs of $50 billion annually on more than 100 products imported from China. He is targeting telecommunications and other high-technology sectors where he and others contend that American companies have, in effect, been forced to turn over their technology to Chinese partners – in some cases by revealing their trade secrets – in exchange for being…
Posted in Uncategorized

America’s Finest: The Critics Respond

In a recent opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal I highlighted the plight of America’s Finest, a fishing vessel that, unless it is granted a waiver, will be prohibited from operating in U.S. waters due to its violation of the Jones Act. Although built in Washington state, the ship used steel, amounting to approximately 10 percent of the ship’s…
Posted in Uncategorized

Interrogations Done Right: A DESERT STORM Story

During yesterday’s Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) confirmation hearing on Gina Haspel’s nomination to become director of the CIA, I noted on Twitter that the Army and the CIA had literally walked away from the lessons and successes on detainee/POW interrogations learned during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. That prompted responses like this: Jason Beale ex-interrogator critique of PGE Fair critique or missing my point?…
Posted in Uncategorized

What Secretary Carson Should Know about Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH)

This week, housing activists sued Secretary Carson and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for delaying implementation of Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH), a controversial Obama-era HUD rule. The suit claims AFFH “was of great importance to Congress in enacting the [Fair Housing] Act.” But as I’ve outlined previously, there isn’t a linear relationship between the Fair Housing…
Posted in Uncategorized

The “Success Sequence” – What Does It Tell Us?

One story about poverty in the United States goes like this: Poverty is simple to escape. Finish high school. Get a job, even a menial one. Do not have kids until you’re married. And if you do all these things, you’re pretty unlikely to be poor. Conservatives like this story because it suggests that no significant social changes are needed…
Posted in Uncategorized

Pushing Back Against FCPA’s Punitive Moralism

Compliance Week invited me to write on what’s wrong with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Excerpt:  Scenario: an American city hires an Asian-based bank to float a bond deal. Scandal! Turns out the bank wined and dined the mayor and council and treated them to sports events. After an investigation, the Asian bank agrees to put things right by paying…
Posted in Uncategorized

Will Anwar Ibrahim Finally Make It from Prison to Prime Minister?

Anwar Ibrahim at CatoIn 2005 the Malaysian political leader Anwar Ibrahim visited the Cato Institute. In the photo at right, I’m giving him a copy of my book Libertarianism: A Primer, which he told me he had already read – in prison. What a thing for an author to hear! After becoming leader of the opposition People’s Justice Party, he was again imprisoned…
Posted in Uncategorized

Finally, Welcome Relief from the Unnecessary Burdens of Dodd-Frank

Congress looks set to pass long-awaited changes to the Dodd-Frank Act that would relieve small and medium-sized banks from some of the onerous burdens of the post-crisis financial legislation package, the Hill reports: The Senate in March passed a bipartisan bill to exempt dozens of banks from the stricter Federal Reserve oversight under Dodd-Frank and scores more from lending restrictions…
Posted in Uncategorized

New Research Reinforces Earlier Studies Suggesting PDMPs Are Adding to Opioid Overdose Rate

A study published last year by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania State University found that state Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs), a popular method used to drive down the opioid prescription rate, do not drive down opioid overdose death rates, but might have the unintended consequence of adding to them, by driving users to the underground market…
Posted in Uncategorized

Another Case for Taking the Second Amendment Seriously

Over a decade ago, Rickey Kanter’s company, Dr. Comfort, shipped diabetic shoe inserts to a podiatrist in Florida. Dr. Comfort sold the inserts as being Medicare-approved, but they were not. Because of these events, Kanter, to this day, cannot legally own a gun. U.S. and Wisconsin law prohibit anyone convicted of a crime “punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding…
Posted in Uncategorized

To Prevent Torture Redux, Look Beyond Haspel

On May 9, CIA Deputy Director Gina Haspel will get her chance to shape–or reshape–the narrative surrounding one particular episode in her 30+ year CIA career: her time running one of the now-infamous Agency “black site” interrogation centers used in the Bush administration’s torture program. Haspel’s challenge will be in getting Senators and the public to look beyond existing media…
Posted in Uncategorized

Does Marijuana Legalization Cause Pedestrian Fatalities?

A recent report from the Governors Highway Safety Alliance suggests that the legalization of recreational marijuana in many U.S. states has been associated with increases in pedestrian traffic fatalities. To substantiate this claim, the report cites that: “[t]he seven states (Alaska, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington) and DC that legalized recreational use of marijuana between 2012 and 2016 reported…
Posted in Uncategorized

Upcoming Book Forum: Psychology of a Superpower: Security and Dominance in U.S. Foreign Policy

Christopher Fettweis will be at Cato on Monday, May 14, at noon to present and discuss his new book, Psychology of a Superpower: Security and Dominance in U.S. Foreign Policy. Columbia University’s Warner Schilling once observed that “at the summit of foreign policy, one always finds simplicity and spook.” In his lively book, Fettweis elaborates and underscores that observation. Things…
Posted in Uncategorized

Kill the Iran Deal, Open Pandora’s Box

This afternoon, Donald Trump made an announcement regarding the future of the Iran nuclear deal. Ahead of a self-imposed May 12th deadline, the President announced that he will not be waiving the sanctions. This decision places the United States in violation of the deal. But while it may not kill the JCPOA completely – European states and Iran could decide…
Posted in Uncategorized

On #TeacherAppreciationDay, Are Teacher Uprisings Justified?

Here’s a quick Cato Daily Podcast chat with Neal McCluskey about the recent teacher uprisings in Oklahoma, Colorado, Arizona, Kentucky, and West Virginia. How justified are they? Neal goes through some of the data here, here, and here.…
Posted in Uncategorized

GOP to Boost Food Stamp Bureaucracy

The Republicans have so forgotten how to control spending, even when they try something conservative it is not really conservative. Consider the House GOP’s proposed reforms to the food stamp program in the upcoming farm bill. The GOP wants to put work requirements on a small share of food stamp (“SNAP”) recipients. The Congressional Budget Office says: “starting in 2021…
Posted in Uncategorized

Congress Tees Up an $867 Billion Farm Bill

If you thought that the congressional spending orgy would slow down after the bloated omnibus bill passed in March, you were wrong. Republicans are preparing to bring to the House floor a farm bill that will cost taxpayers at least $867 billion over 10 years. While this is a “farm bill,” one-quarter of the spending will be for farm subsidies…
Posted in Uncategorized

California Picks on Fruit Pickers

Contract law is premised on a “meeting of the minds”: the common agreement between two parties to strike a mutually beneficial bargain to which they both assent. When unions and employers spar over wages and working conditions, they align their divergent interests in a manner that is fair to both parties. California, alone among the 50 states, is dissatisfied with…
Posted in Uncategorized

A Fair Look at Possible Changes to Rental Assistance

Last week Secretary Carson’s Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) proposed changes to federal rental assistance programs. There were a variety of changes in the HUD proposal, but so far reactions have focused mainly on tenant rents. This narrow focus on a single element of the proposal doesn’t do the full proposal justice. The three major changes are the…
Posted in Uncategorized

Ukraine, Trump, and Javelin Missiles

Yesterday the New York Times reported that in early April Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, ordered his chief federal prosecutor to halt four anticorruption investigations involving Ukrainians connected to Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman and a central figure in Robert Mueller’s investigations here in the United States. Perhaps not coincidentally, Ukraine announced on April 30 that it had received…
Posted in Uncategorized

Proof That The Government Is Cheating Legal Immigrants

I have previously laid out the case that the government has cheated legal immigrants for decades by erroneously counting the spouses and children of immigrants against the quotas for immigration, thereby reducing the total amount of immigration substantially. My argument relied primarily on the text of the law and not the legislative history. But I have recently come across evidence…
Posted in Uncategorized

Are Patents Property Rights?

Are patents property rights, or are they governmentally created privileges that can be altered without judicial proceedings?  The Supreme Court recently decided in Oil States Energy Services v. Greene’s Energy Group for the latter view and upheld the constitutionality of an administrative review process that opponents say violates the right to a trial by jury.  The current issue of Regulation…
Posted in Uncategorized

Average Tax Rates by Income Group

For months, news articles and commentaries have decried the supposedly huge tax cuts for the rich passed by Republicans in December. In a classic rhetorical formulation, a New York Times editorial in February said, “Republicans designed the law to principally benefit wealthy families while offering crumbs to low-income and middle class families.” Actually, the largest relative tax cuts went to…
Posted in Uncategorized

Why I Think Conservatives Have the Alfie Evans Case All Wrong

Conservatives are railing against dual decisions by the British government to prevent Alfie Evans’ parents from transporting him to Italy for further treatment, and to order Alfie’s doctors to withdrawal life support from Alfie, which they did, and which soon led to Alfie’s death. Conservatives are claiming this is what you get under socialized medicine: heartless government will override parental…
Posted in Uncategorized

More Immigrants Come From Democracies Today Than Prior Waves

During my panel at the Conservative Political Action Conference, conservative columnist Ralph Hallow said that the United States is “bringing in people with no experience with our idea that the individual has ultimate worth and that the government exists only because we say it can.” For the past couple of months, I gathered data to test this claim. Here’s what…
Posted in Uncategorized

Despite Growing Tensions, There Is Still Scope to Avert a U.S-China Trade War

If 2017 was the year of fiery trade talk, 2018 has been the year of provocative trade actions. During the first four months, President Trump imposed or announced intentions to impose tariffs on thousands of products stemming from five investigations conducted under three different, seldom-used laws. Talk of trade war is rampant and, as May begins, the troops are in…
Posted in Uncategorized

The 14 Most Common Arguments against Immigration and Why They’re Wrong

Arguments against immigration come across my desk every day but I rarely encounter a unique one.  In 2016, I wrote a blog responding to the most common arguments with links to different research.  Since then, academics and policy analysts have produced new research that should be included.  These are the main arguments against immigration, my quick responses to them, and…
Posted in Uncategorized

Tax Competition in Action

A Wall Street Journal story today captures the power of interstate tax competition: One of the oldest names on Wall Street is moving to one of the fastest-growing cities in the South, reinforcing a recent shift in finance jobs to cheaper parts of the U.S. AllianceBernstein Holding LP plans to relocate its headquarters, chief executive and most of its New…
Posted in Uncategorized

Has Ray Ozzie Solved the “Going Dark” Problem?

Has the thorny problem of providing law enforcement with access to encrypted data without fatally compromising user security finally been solved?  That’s the bold thesis advanced by a piece at Wired that garnered an enormous amount of attention last week by suggesting that renowned computer scientist Ray Ozzie, formerly a top engineer at Microsoft, had developed an “exceptional access” proposal…
Posted in Uncategorized

The Pressing Need for Meaningful Prosecutorial Accountability

From 2004 to January 2013, Massachusetts state chemist Sonja Farak used drugs that she stole from or manufactured in an Amherst crime lab, causing thousands of people to be wrongfully convicted of drug crimes based on unreliable evidence. To make matters worse, prosecutors from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office (“AGO”), have engaged in persistent misconduct to cover up and minimize…
Posted in Uncategorized

Did the Kennedy Tax Cuts Cause Rising Inflation?

Wall Street Journal columnist Greg Ip, among others, has repeatedly warned that “this year’s tax cut may overheat an economy already near full employment.”    This equivocal prediction relies on a theory that inflation is caused by combining low unemployment and large structural (cyclically-adjusted) budget deficits. Inflation is assumed to be a national rather than global phenomenon, and its cause is…
Posted in Uncategorized

Show Me the (Education) Money, Part III!

With “Red for Ed” walkouts continuing in Arizona, and ongoing discussion about how well public K-12 schooling has been funded nationwide, here’s part three of our impromptu series on spending. As promised last week, this post presents the total spending charts for the five states that have been most in the news over funding: Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and West…
Posted in Uncategorized

The Medicaid Mess

DownsizingGovernment.org has released a new study on Medicaid. The piece discusses basic problems with the program, examines the rapid rise in spending, and proposes reforms to reduce costs and improve quality. Medicaid is a joint federal-state program that funds medical services and long-term care for people with moderate incomes. It is one of the largest and fastest-growing items in the…
Posted in Uncategorized

Maintaining Peace Is the End, Denuclearization Is the Means

Demonstrating the capacity to surprise, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un acted like a modern statesman when he ventured into the Republic of Korea for his summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. That doesn’t mean Kim and his heavily armed nation are not potentially dangerous. But after watching Kim in action, as Margaret Thatcher said of Mikhail Gorbachev, “we can do…
Posted in Uncategorized

CBP Drones: Inefficient and a Threat to Privacy

My colleague David Bier and I have written a policy brief on the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) flown by Customs and Border Protection (CBP). We argue that CBP’s fleet of Predator B drones are a threat to the privacy of Americans living along the border and an inefficient tool for locating illegal border crossers and illegal drugs. In addition, state…
Posted in Uncategorized

Supreme Court Has Opportunity to Shut Down Federal Land Grab

hab·i·tat ˈhabəˌtat/ noun: The natural environment of an organism, the place that is natural for the life and growth of an organism; the natural home or environment of an animal, plant, or other organism. Seems straightforward, right? Unless, of course, you’re the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), which in its role administering the Endangered Species Act (ESA) classified land…
Posted in Uncategorized

Trump’s Decision: the JCPOA or Something Else?

In his surprise speech today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented what he described as Iran’s “nuclear files,” promising to show proof that Iran has cheated on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 diplomatic agreement better known as the Iranian nuclear deal. Instead, what he presented was a curious mix of details on the extent of Iran’s…
Posted in Uncategorized

“Genetic Informants” and the Hunt for the Golden State Killer

Last week officers with the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department arrested Joseph James DeAngelo, the suspected Golden State Killer who allegedly committed a dozen murders, at least 50 rapes, and more than 100 burglaries in California between 1976 and 1986. Police made the arrest after uploading DeAngelo’s “discarded DNA” to one of the increasingly popular genealogy websites. Using information from the…
Posted in Uncategorized

Anniversary of a Fed Blunder

In the long, tragic chronicle of the Great Recession, April 30, 2008, doesn’t resonate as an infamous date. It lacks the notoriety of March 16, 2008, when, by guaranteeing $30 billion of Bear Stearns’ assets, the Federal Reserve crossed a last-resort lending Rubicon, extending its safety net to an investment bank for the very first time. Nor does it conjure…
Posted in Uncategorized

“America’s Finest” Is Another Casualty of the Jones Act

Cato trade policy analyst Colin Grabow explains the sordid details in today’s Wall Street Journal: America’s Finest, a brand-new 264-foot fishing trawler, ought to be the pride of the fleet. As a newspaper in its birthplace of Anacortes, Wash., explained, the ship features an “on-board mechanized factory, fuel-efficient hull, and worker safety improvements”—priceless features for fishermen operating in the treacherous…
Posted in Uncategorized

Did Trump’s “Maximum Pressure” Bring North Korea to the Table?

Direct diplomacy between North and South Korea has picked up in recent weeks, culminating on Friday in a summit meeting between North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un and South Korean president Moon Jae-in. The Panmunjom Declaration, a joint statement detailing goals and objectives for ongoing negotiations, included language about “denuclearization” as well as a commitment to work toward formally ending the…
Posted in Uncategorized

What 19 in 20 Americans Don’t Know About World Poverty

An overwhelming majority—95 percent—of Americans are confused about the state of global poverty. A survey from the late Hans Rosling’s web project Gapminder assessed the public’s knowledge on that subject. The survey asked twelve thousand people in fourteen countries if, over the last two decades, the proportion of the world’s population living in extreme poverty has a) almost doubled, b)…
Posted in Uncategorized

Sometimes Factories Move Abroad. That’s OK.

Writing in the New York Times recently, Louis Uchitelle calls for labor unions to be strengthened in order to prevent American firms from closing factories in the United States and shifting production abroad. Implicit in his argument is the notion that factories and the employment they provide are inherently desirable and the more the merrier. Before addressing this point, however,…
Posted in Uncategorized

Leland Yeager, R.I.P.

On Monday morning (April 23, 2018), the Grim Reaper cut down Leland Yeager—a great scholar, collaborator, and friend. I share the sentiments about Leland that have already been expressed by David Gordon, David Henderson, and George Selgin. To fill in the picture, I will recount my first encounter with Leland, which took place in the summer of 1967. Then, I…
Posted in Uncategorized

Must Rising Oil Prices Compel the Fed to Tighten More?

As crude oil prices recently approached $68 a barrel, a Wall Street Journal writer concluded that “inflation fears got an added jolt this week as oil prices rose to a three-year high.” Two other Wall Street Journal writers added that “If crude continues to move higher, it could begin to stifle economic growth.”  They suggest that “higher consumer prices for…
Posted in Uncategorized

In Seeking Good Body Camera Policy, Look to Lawmakers, Not Ethics Boards

When it comes to increasing police accountability and transparency it’s policy, not technology, that does the heavy lifting. Police body cameras, tools that are overwhelmingly popular among the public, are sometimes cited as a valuable resource for addressing police misconduct and secrecy. They can be, but only if the right policies are in place. Absent policies that balance privacy interests…
Posted in Uncategorized

The War On The Poor Has Many Fronts And Armies, Professor Krugman

Paul Krugman’s column yesterday lamented Republican policy towards the poor. He has particular gripes with Ben Carson’s changes to housing subsidies, increased work requirements for those seeking food stamps, and waivers granted to states to enable new work requirements for Medicaid. I’m not going to get into these specific policy changes here. But let’s take Krugman’s analysis of the changes…
Posted in Uncategorized

Feds Try To Force Church Cafeteria To Pay Volunteers As Employees

The Grace Cathedral church near Akron, Ohio, found itself in big legal trouble for running a (money-losing) cafeteria open to the public in which much of the labor was provided free by volunteer members of the congregation. Beginning in 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor investigated and then sued it on the grounds that for an enterprise, church or otherwise,…
Posted in Uncategorized

Show Me the (Education) Money, Part II!

Last week I put up a post with charts showing total, per-pupil, public school spending between the 1999-00 and 2014-15 school years, as well as breaking out spending for a handful of states facing notable education unrest. Due to popular demand—if that’s what you call very mild comments from a few people on Twitter and Facebook—this post is going to…
Posted in Uncategorized

The Department of Labor Determines that ESG Efforts are not in the Fiduciary Best Interests of Investors

For the last few years a number of financial managers have been spending increasing resources to prod the companies they invest in to adopt more environmentally conscious and socially aware policies in their businesses. Many publicly-held corporations have had to deal with multiple shareholder resolutions annually intended to force them to adopt more socially or environmentally aware perspectives. Other investment…
Posted in Uncategorized

Leland Yeager, R.I.P.

The world has lost one of its greatest monetary economists ever: Leland Yeager (b. 1924) has passed away, and boy will I miss him. Leland’s writings on monetary economics taught me a big chunk of all that I know about the subject. Among other things, they gave me a better understanding of just what “money” means; of what banks do…
Posted in Uncategorized

Kim Jong-un’s New Line and U.S. Negotiating Strategy

If President Trump wants to have a successful summit with Kim Jong-un then it’s important to understand the domestic political incentives that will shape Kim’s approach to negotiations. On April 20th, Kim gave a major speech at a plenum meeting of the Workers’ Party of Korea. Most U.S. media outlets focused on the announcement that the North would dismantle its…
Posted in Uncategorized

Pretextual Stops and the General Warrant: Stopping the March of the Whren Doctrine

The specific language of the Fourth Amendment was largely a product of the colonists’ experience with the noxious institution of the general warrant. Historically, general warrants—and specifically, writs of assistance—gave law enforcement broad discretion to search wherever and whatever they deemed necessary, without the need to establish specific probable cause before a judicial officer. Such broad discretion enabled abusive, selective…
Posted in Uncategorized

Nicaragua and the Irony behind its Orthodox Economic Policies

Nicaragua is in flames as the 11-year-old kleptocracy of Daniel Ortega is rocked by massive protests that threaten its continuity. The unrest began after the government announced some adjustments to its bankrupted social security system. Ironically, for a self-proclaimed socialist who constantly rails against U.S. imperialism, Ortega was implementing the recommendations of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Ortega’s second spell…
Posted in Uncategorized

Some More Insensitivity about Global Warming

Hot off the press, in yesterday’s Journal of Climate, Nic Lewis and Judith Curry have re-calculated the equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS) based upon the historical uptake of heat into the ocean and human emissions of greenhouse gases and aerosols. ECS is the net warming one expects for doubled atmospheric carbon dioxide. Their ECS ranges from 1.50 to 1.56 degrees Celsius.…
Posted in Uncategorized

Still No Crisis At the Border

This month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Department of Justice would institute a “zero-tolerance policy” along the Southwest border, stating that he wants to criminally prosecute 100 percent of all illegal entries. Sessions claimed that “a crisis has erupted at our Southwest Border that necessitates an escalated effort to prosecute those who choose to illegally cross our border.”…
Posted in Uncategorized

A Troubling Nomination to the U.S. Sentencing Commission

One of the jobs of a think tanker is to synthesize information from other sources and put it in the context of his or her particular field. Hard data are particularly important to our work because data are measurable outcomes from policy and practice in the real world. No one cares what anyone at Cato “feels.” Feelings have their place,…
Posted in Uncategorized

Travel Ban Argument: Weird Cases Make for Bad Law

I was in the courtroom for this morning’s argument in Trump v. Hawaii, otherwise known as the “travel ban” case. Recall that this is Travel Ban 3.0, which is the most detailed executive action regarding entry restrictions yet. Indeed, Solicitor General Noel Francisco called it the most detailed immigration proclamation ever (in contrast to earlier ones by President Carter regarding…
Posted in Uncategorized

Will Regulations Create Big Marijuana?

I wrote last month that new regulations and taxes in California’s legalized marijuana regime are likely to result in a situation in which a few people are going to get rich in the California marijuana industry, and fewer small growers are going to earn a modest but comfortable income. Just one of the many ways that regulation contributes to inequality.…
Posted in Uncategorized

A Preliminary Assessment of the Amended KORUS FTA

Several weeks ago, the United States and Korea reached an “agreement in principle” on an amended Korea-US Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA). This amendment process was minor enough that the Trump administration believed it could undertake it without having Congress vote on the changes (there will be a consultation with Congress on some tariff changes, as described here). Congress could…
Posted in Uncategorized

Clarida Nomination Completes the Fed’s Triumvirate

Last week the White House announced that Richard Clarida will be nominated to become Vice Chair of the Federal Reserve Board. More than a month ago, Clarida became the front-runner for the role. He is widely seen as a centrist and a pragmatist holding mostly conventional views on monetary policy. Mostly. As Vice Chair, Clarida will be the third pillar…
Posted in Uncategorized

A Jobs Guaranteed Economic Disaster

Democrats are plugging new energy into an old idea: a federal “Jobs Guarantee” program. Senator Cory Booker previously introduced legislation for a pilot in high unemployment communities. Now Senator Bernie Sanders will announce a plan guaranteeing a job or training paying $15 an hour and health-care benefits to every American worker “who wants or needs one,” in a host of…
Posted in Uncategorized