Biodiesel has hit center stage in the Northwest, and proposals for government support of the fledgling industry abound. With corporate subsidies everywhere, it’s easy to see why alternative fuel advocates would step up to the trough. But biodiesel really needs less “help” from the government, not more.
The biggest obstacle for biodiesel is an insufficient (more…)
Oregon Superintendent of Public Instruction Susan Castillo decided last week that a key element of the state’s long-running school reform experiment should be scrapped. The Certificate of Initial Mastery (CIM) was supposed to demonstrate that 10th graders had mastered a certain degree of knowledge from their first ten years of schooling. It was earned by taking tests in basic subjects and completing classroom work samples. The 12th grade Certificate of Advanced Mastery (CAM) was never even implemented.
Cascade Policy Institute and others have opposed (more…)
Several studies on global climate change fall short on empirical data, relying instead on speculative scenarios about the future and often utilizing flawed methodology. (more…)
Now that Oregon’s economy is finally showing signs of life, we are again hearing arguments against the so-called “kicker law.” The law states that whenever personal or corporate income tax collections are more than 2 percent higher than state economists project, the excesses are rebated to taxpayers.
Those who think government can (more…)
Thanksgiving is the quintessential American holiday. We learned in grade school that it evolved from celebrations the early Pilgrims held to commemorate their bountiful harvests at Plymouth colony in the 1620s.
Can states solve their public education problems by directing a higher percentage of spending into the classroom? That’s the goal of a nationwide movement known as “the 65 percent solution.” It aims to pass a law in every state requiring school districts to spend at least 65 percent of their operating budgets in classrooms “for the benefit of teachers and kids.”
According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, Oregon spends (more…)
Remove Portland’s Business Income Tax to improve the city’s economy
The City of Portland is widely perceived as being anti-business. Stubbornly high unemployment rates and higher business taxes than surrounding communities feed this perception. Phasing out the city’s Business Income Tax (BIT) will do more than anything else to (more…)
Proposed legislation against “price gouging” is a bad idea. Rising prices in the wake of a disaster help to ration scarce resources and prevent shortages. Businesses that raise prices too high will lose customers, while bureaucratic attempts to fix prices are counterproductive and immoral. (more…)
The Portland Development Commission is close to spending millions of public dollars to subsidize a new Convention Center hotel. Cities around the country have been paying private developers to build such hotels on the theory that they will bring more visitors, thus turning losing convention centers into profitable businesses.
Two years ago my family began making our own homemade diesel out of used fryer grease. Now we are watching with interest as the biodiesel movement gains momentum in the Pacific Northwest.
Seed crushing and biodiesel processing plants are opening or planned in multiple Northwest cities and bills to advance the alterative fuel have been hot items in state legislatures and Congress. Legislation has focused primarily on financial incentives and use mandates.
While well-intentioned, policy-makers are on the wrong track (more…)
Hurricane Katrina’s 372,000 displaced school children have become pawns in a political game they never signed up for. While scores of public, private and religious schools have taken them in, the question before Congress is whether to reimburse all host schools, or just the public ones.
Louisiana’s Republican and Democrat Senators want (more…)
Oregon recently became the first state to require prescriptions for medications whose ingredients can be used to produce methamphetamine. While legislative motives were no doubt good, we now know that this law will likely backfire.
Oregon is repeating Prohibition-era mistakes with the state’s new meth laws. Regulating cold medicine and increasing punishments will not keep the drug off the streets. Honest drug education would be more effective than legislation. (more…)
Hurricane Katrina’s devastation is throwing a spotlight on federal regulations that could get in the way of reconstruction. Perhaps the biggest federal roadblock is the Davis-Bacon Act. It requires that contractors pay so-called “prevailing wages” on federally-funded construction projects, which are often higher than market-based wages in a given area. Enacted during the Great Depression, its real motive was to keep non-unionized African American workers from competing with white-only unions.
Today, Davis-Bacon still (more…)
Multnomah County Sheriff Bernie Guisto has suggested using the new and unused Wapato correctional facility in North Portland as a refugee center for displaced Gulf Coast residents. Portland officials should not hesitate to follow his advice. Hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens have been displaced from their homes, and this $58 million housing facility remains vacant.
Originally constructed as a medium security jail, there is no reason why (more…)
Imagine your door bell ringing at dinner time. It’s a politician asking for your vote. After some discussion, you realize she doesn’t share your views, so you tell her she won’t be getting your vote, or your campaign contribution.
Willamette Week recently touted Oregon’s congressional delegation as “winners” for bringing home $2.7 billion of federal bacon for road and transportation projects. Unfortunately, Oregon’s federal taxpayers are perennial losers. If you were robbed, and later recovered a few of your possessions, would you consider yourself a winner?
The federal government continually squanders resources on (more…)
Recently, there has been a lot of debate around Wal-Mart’s plans to open stores in Milwaukie, Gresham and Cedar Mill. Many are worried that a Wal-Mart would hurt the local economy, and are attempting to block the company’s plans. However, this does a disservice to the communities.
This week US Senate Majority leader Bill Frist took a position in favor of further federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Some observers felt morally betrayed, while others hailed it as a step toward scientific progress. However, the issue that has been lost in the discussion is whether the federal government should be subsidizing such research in the first place.
Contrary to popular belief, stem cell research is not (more…)
This week, the Oregon State Legislature will meet for the 200th calendar day this session. At a direct cost of $28,500 per day, these meetings have already cost Oregon taxpayers millions of dollars this year. Indirectly, the future cost to Oregonians will be even larger. Longer sessions give legislators more time to pass unnecessary laws and earmark unnecessary pet projects, while simultaneously making their activities less transparent.
Other states have figured this out, and have responded by (more…)
Canada’s single-payer health care system was dealt a near-fatal blow in June when that nation’s Supreme Court ruled Quebec’s ban on private health insurance led to unconstitutionally long waits for care. America effectively has a similar ban for Medicare patients, which should also be ended. (more…)
Companies buying hybrid gas-electric cars might be saving more on their taxes than on fuel. The State of Oregon now offers businesses tax credits worth thousands of dollars when they purchase hybrid vehicles. The underlying rationale has been to promote fuel-efficiency, yet cars with higher gas mileages are not rewarded with a larger tax credit. Instead, the size of the credit is based on the (more…)
Proponents of new and more extensive laws against discrimination seem to lack the courage of their convictions. They want to ban only certain kinds of decisions based on racial or other characteristics but not others. While there is no shortage of lofty sentiments expressed by those advocating enforceable civil rights for every group imaginable, these same advocates are strangely reluctant to apply their legal remedies broadly to Oregonians and American society generally. (more…)
A recent front-page photograph in The Oregonian featured two retired public school teachers, sunbathing and enjoying their full-pay retirements in Sun City, Arizona. The accompanying story revealed that Oregon taxpayers are paying 55 percent above the national average for school employee health and retirement benefits, an additional cost of $500 million per year.
Although this is great for some teachers and retirees, it’s fraught with (more…)
Government action often has unintended negative consequences. Of course, these consequences are generally forced upon powerless citizens, who are far removed from the eyesight of lofty judges and politicians. However, sometimes these consequences come back to haunt the very officials who created them. We may witness just such a scenario in the aftermath of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, Kelo v. New London, which cleared the way for private developers to seize your home.
Supreme Court Justice David Souter may soon regret (more…)
Occupational licensing boards often make licensing requirements arbitrarily difficult, limiting the competition within a profession. This drives up prices and keeps qualified individuals out of certain lines of work. Oregon should adopt a system of occupational certification, which give consumers the freedom to choose between certified and non-certified service providers. (more…)
Last week “the Supreme Court put a big UP FOR GRABS sign on your home.” That’s how the Castle Coalition, a national property rights group, summarized the Court decision that allows the city of New London, Connecticut to take homes and small businesses and give them to other private parties just because more taxes and jobs might be generated.
America’s founders made it clear that (more…)
Last Thursday, the Senate approved an energy plan requiring large utilities to generate 10% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020, financed in part by a small increase in electricity rates. Since renewables currently account for only 2 percent of electricity production, this would be a five-fold increase.
About half of all utility customers already have (more…)
Fraudulent unemployment insurance claims cost Oregon taxpayers $76.3 million in 2003, or 9.5 percent of all claims paid. Oregon’s fraudulent claims rate is higher than average, and it spends significantly more on processing claims than most states. Oregonians should demand better accountability from their Employment Department before spending more on this flawed system. (more…)
The Canadian Supreme Court recently dealt a serious blow to the notion that single-payer health care is better than a competitive market system. In a June 9th decision, the Court struck down a law banning private health insurance in Quebec province on the grounds that waiting lists had become so long that they violated patients’ “liberty, safety and security.”
The Court went on to say (more…)
Last year, Inc. magazine rated Portland the nation’s eighth worst metro area in which to do business. It also said that Portland has lost its sizzle as one of the “cities of the future.”
Critics are complaining that corporations pay less than their fare share of taxes in Oregon. They note that business sector taxes accounted for 14 percent of state revenue in 1980, but will only be 4 percent by the end of this decade due to tax law changes.
What the critics fail to understand is that (more…)
As the debate over Social Security reform heats up, one area of disagreement is whether younger workers should be allowed to voluntarily divert a portion of their payroll taxes into their own personal retirement accounts.
Critics argue that such accounts are too risky; that Social Security should be a sure thing. Advocates explain that Social Security carries its own (more…)
Oregon food processors are the latest business interests flocking to Salem seeking tax relief to keep their industry afloat. They support two legislative bills that would give them tax credits to reduce the burden of their property taxes and seasonal labor costs. The processors argue Oregon’s high taxes and second highest minimum wage rate in the county leave them particularly vulnerable to foreign competition.
In this battle, both sides have (more…)
Oregon’s teacher certification process keeps accomplished individuals from teaching their subjects in our public schools. Rather than providing information and methods needed to teach, it acts more like a gauntlet that discourages those with other options from entering the teaching profession. (more…)
The opposition to globalization and free trade is now evident in a new movement called Buy Local First. Its proponents argue that we will all be better off if we simply shop at local stores and buy locally made products. They complain that Wal-Mart, for example, pays its workers too little and drives local merchants out of business.
Economists have exposed the (more…)
Not too many years ago, the Public Broadcasting Service asked this provocative question: “If PBS doesn’t do it, who will?” Now, with the explosion of cable and satellite programming, that question has been answered. The History Channel, Biography, C-Span, A&E, National Geographic, the Learning Channel and many other outlets offer the kinds of cultural, news, and educational programming once thought to be the exclusive territory of public broadcasting.
As alternatives have proliferated, government (more…)
Consolidating school districts sounds like a good idea, but in reality costs actually go up and efficiency actually goes down. Bigger districts suck power upward and away from parents and students. Accountability declines and special interests, including teacher unions, gain more power. To control costs and improve student performance, Oregon should go in the opposite direction and deconsolidate districts. (more…)
Imposing price controls to protect consumers is one of the worst things government can do in an emergency. Rapidly rising prices signal those outside the affected area to conserve scarce products, and they signal producers to ship more of those products into the affected area quickly. Price controls short circuit such signals, turning a natural disaster into a political one. (more…)
It’s not hard to understand why many parents and students believe that Oregon’s public school system needs more money. They see crowded classrooms, outdated textbooks and shrinking course options. What they don’t see is all the money that isn’t getting down to the classroom.
The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments today in a case that will help define property rights nationwide. The City of New London, Connecticut is using the power of eminent domain to condemn private homes and small businesses to allow a commercial development. The city argues that greater tax revenue from the development is a public purpose worthy of taking the homes of people who, in some cases, have lived their all their lives.
Eminent domain is supposed to be (more…)
Oregon’s Education Service Districts administer state and federal programs and provide services such as purchasing, testing and administrative work for local school districts. In theory, they help smaller districts obtain these services more cost-effectively by preventing duplication of effort. Some legislators and the governor have recently suggested that the state could save money by consolidating the 20 ESDs down to eight, on the theory that bigger organizations have lower administrative costs per student.
However, economists understand that (more…)
A new national report card funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts finds that Oregon state government doesn’t manage its money very well. Only Oregon and California earned D’s. Oregon may well deserve its D, but not for the reasons this report gives.
Both nationwide and in Oregon, Latino students score far below their white classmates on standardized tests and are also much more likely to drop out before finishing school. Latino parents understand that education is one of the keys to achieving the American Dream, but our public school system is failing their children. School vouchers are an effective, empowering and democratic reform that will help Latino families achieve their dreams for their children’s futures. (more…)
If no changes are made to the Social Security system, it will be $11.9 trillion short of being able to pay retirees their benefits over the next 75 years.
This is because Social Security depends on the contributions of current workers to fund current retirees’ benefits. Sixteen workers supported each retiree in 1950, but only three do today. By 2030, there will be only two. This demographic trend guarantees that (more…)
Many public policies are designed to “get people out of their cars,” but recent research has shown that owning a car greatly increases a poor person’s ability to find better-paying work. Over the next year, Cascade Policy Institute’s Wheels to Wealth project will study the travel patterns of low-income families in Portland and educate journalists and policymakers about the value of private car ownership. (more…)