Year: 2008

Beware of Government Job Creation Schemes

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

To pull us out of the current recession, politicians on the state and federal level are jumping on the job creation bandwagon. Governor Kulongoski wants to spend a billion dollars on transportation infrastructure, in part to put Oregonians to work. President-elect Obama wants to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to create (more…)

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The Help that Fails

John A. Charles, Jr.QuickPoint!

Portland was recently chosen as one of five cities where the U.S. Small Business Administration will bring a program next year intended to boost urban businesses that have “high growth potential.” The program will select certain business owners for 26 weeks of free training on such topics as marketing and financial management. The goal will be to “generate new jobs, attract investment, and (more…)

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Oregon Greenhouse Gas Reduction Policies:The Economic and Fiscal Impact Challenges

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Todd Wynn
Tel.: 503-242-0900
Fax: 503-242-3822
E-mail: todd@cascadepolicy.org

Cascade Policy Institute has released a detailed economic analysis of the challenges of achieving Oregon’s greenhouse gas reduction goals. Oregon Greenhouse Gas Reduction Policies: The Economic and Fiscal Impact Challenges discusses the current goals in place and the possible effects of instituting the Western Climate Initiative’s (WCI) cap-and-trade program to help reach those goals.

(more…)

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Why the ASPIRE Act Has Not Become Law

Sreya Sarkar Cascade Commentary

Summary

Public policy advocates and lawmakers have proposed numerous programs allowing people to accumulate assets, as opposed to simply receiving cash benefits, in the hope of breaking cycles of poverty and government dependency. In the guise of an asset-building tool, the Federal ASPIRE Bill is actually another entitlement program. Policymakers realize this, and this is the reason it has not become law. (more…)

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Governor’s Global Warming “Solution” Would Cut Economic Growth in Half

Todd WynnQuickPoint!

Policymakers in Oregon have concluded that global warming is a crisis, that the use of fossil fuels is the primary cause of warming, and that state policies must be enacted to stabilize the global climate. Because of this, Oregon has adopted one of the most ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals in the world. Wide-ranging policy initiatives are being planned that will have large negative impacts on Oregon’s economy and standard of living.

In October 2008, Governor Kulongoski announced (more…)

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The Severe Economic Costs of Cap-and-Trade in Oregon

Todd WynnCascade Commentary

Summary

Greenhouse gas reduction strategies should strike a balance between economic costs of regulation and the benefits of mitigating costs that future climate change could impose. Unfortunately, the projections of future climate change are highly uncertain, and thus the estimated costs or benefits of not acting are highly suspect. Implementing a cap-and-trade program in Oregon would create economic burdens and provide little or no environmental benefit. (more…)

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Renewable Energy by Choice, Not Force

Todd WynnCascade Commentary

Summary

Existing voluntary green power programs can increase renewable energy generation without forcing unnecessary costs on the entire population. Just as with organic food, customers who value green power can purchase it. Unfortunately, Senate Bill 838 mandates utilities to provide renewable power that 98% of Oregonians currently choose not to purchase. (more…)

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Guiding Principles for Taxation in Oregon

Steve BucksteinCascade Commentary

Summary

With Oregon facing a $1-billion-and-counting budget deficit, the temptation exists for legislators to close the budget gap with tax increases. Before any conversation about raising taxes occurs, however, state officials should first agree to a set of guiding principles of taxation. (more…)

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Tough Times Call for Smart Spending

Cascade Commentary

Summary

Oregon state revenues are now projected to be $1 billion short of paying for existing services in the next biennial budget, and the economic downturn is putting pressure on all levels of government. The State Legislature will be faced with the challenge of satisfying unlimited demands with limited resources. Smart Spending, rather than new taxes, will be one step on the path out of our current crisis. (more…)

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Is Portland Flushing Its Money Away?

Jeff AlanQuickPoint!

In my wildest dreams I never thought I would be writing about the City of Portland designing and patenting a solar powered public toilet, not to mention actually trying to market it.

You may remember that Seattle bought several one-million-dollar public toilets. When they became a haven for drugs and prostitution, Seattle sold them for about $12,000 each, abandoning the project.

Portland thinks it has (more…)

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Oregon Greenhouse Gas Reduction Policies: The Economic and Fiscal Impact Challenges

Many policymakers in Oregon have concluded that global warming is a crisis, that human use of fossil fuels is the primary cause of climate change, and that state policies must be enacted to stabilize the global climate. Because of this, policy initiatives to regulate greenhouse gas emissions are fast becoming a dominant feature of statewide public policy. Oregon has adopted one of the most ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals in the world. (more…)

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Small Scholarships, Great Impact

Kathryn HickokQuickPoint!

Did you know that in the last ten years, over 600 Oregon children have received a “hand up” in their education through a privately funded scholarship program called the Children’s Scholarship Fund-Portland? The program’s mission is to maximize educational opportunity for students from Oregon families whose income is low to moderate.

The Children’s Scholarship Fund-Portland has a ten-year history of demonstrating (more…)

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Cleaning Up Oregon’s Sloppy Voter Registration System

Jeff AlanCascade Commentary

Summary

When Cascade Policy Institute compared the Social Security Master Death List to the state’s voter registration rolls, we found over 1,100 active voters whom the government has reported to be deceased. Oregon’s new Secretary of State should take a hard look at the methods being used to keep voter registrations current and accurate. (more…)

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Wind Power: The “Green” Myth

Todd Wynn
Cascade Commentary

Summary

Wind power is touted as a “green” solution to Oregon?s increasing energy demand. However, as a power source, wind is inconsistent and intermittent, requiring inefficient and costly backup sources. In addition, various negative environmental externalities make wind power far from “environmentally friendly.” (more…)

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Can Transit Agencies Learn to Embrace Car Ownership?

Sreya Sarkar Cascade Commentary

Summary

Cascade Policy Institute submitted an innovative proposal to TriMet to cancel TriMet’s lowest performing bus routes and to use some of the savings to capitalize a loan fund to help finance car ownership for transit-dependent riders displaced by the bus line cancellations. (more…)

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Nuclear Power Can Help Oregon Meet Its Greenhouse Gas Reduction Goals

Todd WynnQuickPoint!

On October 27, 2008, Governor Ted Kulongoski announced his Climate Change Agenda to aggressively mitigate the impacts of global warming and put Oregon on track to achieve his goals of reducing greenhouse gas levels. These goals will be hard to reach without having an energy source that can meet upcoming energy demand and produce emission-free electricity. Nuclear could be that energy source.

Energy consumption in Oregon has (more…)

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Hey Buddy, Can You Spare a Charge?

Todd Wynn
Cascade Commentary

Summary

Advocates of plug-in vehicles profess that they will reduce air pollution, dependence on foreign oil and greenhouse gases. But while plug-ins may be good for the environment, the subsidies and tax credits attempting to jumpstart the adoption of the electric car are misguided, unnecessary, and even unjust. (more…)

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Driver’s License or Good Citizen’s Card?

Sreya SarkarCascade Commentary

Summary

The driver’s license was originally created to ensure public safety by setting driving standards. But when lawmakers treat the license as a “good citizen” trophy and suspend it for nondriving-related infractions, the consequences for low-income workers’ ability to maintain employment are serious. (more…)

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Non-Partisan Think Tanks Promote Solutions

Nancy WheatonQuickPoint!

Today we are all aware of the candidate who won our highest office, the next President of the United States. But as I am writing this the week before, it is still a mystery to me.

Whoever is the winner of this race, the policies and regulations governing the State of Oregon remain the primary concern at Cascade Policy Institute. As a non-partisan public policy research organization, we deal with policy, not politics. We focus on the policies that affect our citizens’ economic stability and individual freedoms from a free-market viewpoint.

This is not a stance that throws us into (more…)

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Voting by Mail: A Dead Issue?

Jeff Alan
Cascade Commentary

Summary

Cascade Policy Institute commissioned a study of registered voters in Oregon, comparing the Social Security Master Death List to the Oregon Voter Registration List, and shared our findings with the Oregon State Elections Division. As Oregon votes entirely by mail, a clean list of persons legitimately entitled to vote is crucial to the integrity of elections in Oregon. (more…)

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Portland Children’s Investment Fund: Taxation Is Not the Same As Charity

John A. Charles, Jr.Cascade Commentary

Summary

The proposed renewal of the five-year levy that created the Portland Children’s Investment Fund (PCIF) in 2002 is on the ballot this November. While the non-profits receiving grants from the PCIF may have worthy missions, this program attempts to act like a private charitable foundation without actually being one, raising issues of accountability, among other problems. (more…)

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Let the Free Market Decide When Oregon Is Ready for More Wind Power

Todd Wynn
Cascade Commentary

Summary

Wind power advocates claim that wind power is a cost effective source of energy. This is true at present only with market distortions caused by state and federal governments. Instead of imposing renewable energy technologies on consumers ahead of their time, let supply and demand guide their development and adoption by consumers. (more…)

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Voting by Mail: A Dead Issue?

QuickPoint!

Ten years ago Oregon became the first state to vote exclusively by mail. How is it working? Cascade Policy Institute commissioned a study of registered voters in Oregon. We compared the Social Security Master Death List to the Oregon Voter Registration List. We matched first and last names with dates of birth and last known Oregon zip codes. We excluded any duplicate names and any questionable results.

We found 6,142 people on the voter rolls who were reported as (more…)

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Can Social Insurance Be Reformed?

Sreya Sarkar Cascade Commentary

Summary

The financial liabilities of social insurance programs in the United States in the near future are staggering, but the Wall Street meltdown has many Americans worried about “private” solutions. Around the world, other countries are replacing traditional pay-as-you-go schemes with hybrid arrangements of government social insurance programs and individual-based accounts, which may be a workable solution to the crisis. (more…)

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Private Schools Are “Invaluable,” Says U.S. Dept. of Education

Kathryn HickokQuickPoint!

The U.S. Department of Education has released a report entitled “Preserving a Critical National Asset: America’s Disadvantaged Students and the Crisis in Faith-based Urban Schools.” Since 1999 nearly 1,200 faith-based urban schools have closed, displacing nearly 425,000 children.

The report states: “[T]he disappearance of these schools is having a tragic (more…)

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Why the Credit Unions Still Stand

Sreya SarkarQuickPoint!

There was a time when large national banks were considered more stable and reliable than local financial institutions, but that is not always the case anymore. With a string of blockbuster acquisitions transforming the banking landscape, a huge share of American consumer deposits are now consolidated in three banking giants: Citigroup, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase. Consumers today are feeling uncomfortable about these big banks and have started shopping around for alternatives—like local credit unions. (more…)

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Can Pay-for-Performance Work in the Classroom?

Cascade Commentary

Summary

Absent serious structural reforms such as school-level competition, paying for performance in the classroom may be the best way to stimulate higher academic achievement among our K-12 public school students. (more…)

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Paying for Performance to Improve K-12 Student Achievement

Introduction and Executive Summary

This report examines the potential for using performance incentives to improve the K-12 classroom education experience. It uses principles derived from economic theory to identify what type of incentives might work and what form those incentives should take. The limited literature on performance incentive applications in K-12 education is then examined to see if the evidence is consistent with the economic prescriptions. (more…)

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Was the Sub-Prime Mortgage Crisis Caused by Lack of Regulations?

William B. Conerly, Ph.D.Cascade Commentary

Summary

Did lack of government regulation create the subprime mortgage crisis? Most likely, more regulation would have increased the problem. (more…)

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It’s 9 p.m. Election Night…Do You Know Where Your Ballot Is?

QuickPoint!

What happens to a ballot from the time you leave it at an official ballot drop site and the time it is counted? Many Oregon counties have used uniformed officers to transport your votes. But Washington County has used Kiwanis club members or volunteers to transport them. Cascade Policy Institute obtained a sworn affidavit from two women who were pressed into service in May to transport ballots in the trunk of their car. They never signed for them, and when they delivered the ballots (more…)

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Freedom and the Expansion of the EPA

QuickPoint!

In April 2007, the Supreme Court concluded that greenhouse gases (GHGs) meet the Clean Air Act’s definition of an air pollutant. Therefore, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been given authority to regulate all GHGs, including carbon dioxide from new motor vehicles. This decision may have profound effects on personal freedom in the United States.

The Clean Air Act did not authorize mandatory regulations to address global climate change, and (more…)

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Build It and They Will Come…or Not

Cascade Commentary

Summary

The Metro Council is scheduled to vote on a proposed Convention Center hotel in early October. This publicly subsidized project most likely will turn out to be a drastically unsound business decision, potentially wasting hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. When no hotel chain has been willing to build the hotel without subsidies, the market for a hotel in that location may not exist. (more…)

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Why Energy Efficiency Doesn’t Always Reduce Greenhouse Gases

Cascade Commentary

Summary

Economists know that energy consumption is directly related to energy prices. As energy prices rise, consumption declines. Energy efficiency upgrades will not help Oregon reach its greenhouse gas reduction goals because increases in energy efficiency lower energy prices, resulting in more consumption for the same price. (more…)

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Cascade Wins Friedman Foundation Innovation Grant

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

There is no more important topic in Oregon, and nationwide, than the state of K-12 education. High dropout rates, low achievement levels and soaring taxpayer costs often dominate the discussion.

Here at Cascade Policy Institute we believe that parents and students should be treated more like consumers and less like pawns in the battles between taxpayers and the education establishment. That’s why we are delighted to announce that we were just awarded the Friedman Foundation Innovation Grant for 2008. (more…)

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Lack of Innovation or Understanding?

Sreya SarkarQuickPoint!

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 converted a national entitlement program, AFDC, into a collection of block grants for the states called TANF, giving each state a greater flexibility and a chance to help move welfare recipients into workplace. Some states like Idaho and Maryland used this opportunity well and came out with flying colors, while others like Vermont and Missouri performed dismally.

According to Heartland Institute’s State Welfare Report Card 2008, Oregon’s overall rank is (more…)

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Westside MAX at 10: Measuring the Vision Against Implementation

John A. Charles, Jr.The Westside light rail line opened on September 12, 1998. Westside MAX was unlike any light rail line previously built in America: it was deliberately routed through vacant land in Washington County with the expectation that it would be a catalyst for so-called “Transit-Oriented Development” (TOD).

The total cost for the line was $963 million, of which federal taxpayers put up 73%. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) recommended against full funding for the project, on the grounds that the population density along the planned route was so light that the line would not attract sufficient ridership to justify federal funds. In the early 1990s the running joke line at FTA was, “How many deer and cows will ride Westside MAX?” (more…)

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The Drinking Age: A “Spirited” Debate

Cascade Commentary

Summary

Nearly 100 college presidents from around the nation have asked lawmakers to consider lowering the drinking age from 21 to 18. Could lowering the drinking age have a positive effect on college-age drinking? Some say yes, others say no. (more…)

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Al Gore’s Impossible Plan For 100% Renewable Energy

Cascade Commentary

Summary

Gore has challenged the nation to rely on 100% renewable energy sources within 10 years. Not only would this be one of the most capital-intensive construction projects in human history, but the plan is logistically unachievable and would not have any effect on global climate. (more…)

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Taxing the Poor

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

Looking for more tax revenue wherever they can find it, some legislators and special interest groups want to raise Oregon’s corporate income tax. But raising corporate taxes will have hidden, yet very real, detrimental effects, especially on Oregon’s poor.

The Tax Foundation recently launched the (more…)

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Western Climate Initiative Offers No Definable Benefit

QuickPoint!

If you haven’t heard of the Western Climate Initiative (WCI) yet, you soon will. WCI is a collaboration launched in 2007 by the governors of Arizona, California, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington that now also includes Utah, Montana and parts of Canada. WCI’s stated purpose is to develop a regional strategy to address climate change. The strategy is to force costly greenhouse gas reductions that may not address global warming at all.

WCI is designing a cap and trade regulatory policy which (more…)

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Keep “Double Majority” Voting Rule in Place

Steve BucksteinCascade Commentary

Summary

Critics of Oregon’s so-called “double majority” rule say it isn’t democratic because a simple majority of those voting may not be able to pass a tax measure. But in reality, just 25% of registered voters can raise taxes under “double-majority.” “Double majority” is a sensible taxpayer safeguard that should be kept, and even strengthened. (more…)

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C-Tran’s New Hybrid Buses: When Going “Green” Costs Lots of Green!

Cascade Commentary

Summary

Clark County’s new hybrid buses are costing lots of green for local taxpayers. The hybrids offer neither significant fuel efficiency gains nor significant emissions reductions but cost about 45% more. Over the lifetime of the buses, taxpayers will pay an additional $4.7 million dollars without any environmental benefit. (more…)

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It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas…

QuickPoint!

Green and red are the Christmas colors. It’s just like Christmas for hundreds of Oregon businesses looking to cash in on “green energy” tax credits. Oregon’s Business Energy Tax Credit is designed to encourage companies to initiate “renewable” and “alternative” energy projects. Two days before the Oregon Legislative Session adjourned in June, legislators passed a (more…)

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How to Keep Your Health Insurance, Even If You Lose Your Job

Anthony StintonCascade Commentary

Summary

Because employer-sponsored health insurance coverage is not taxable, the health insurance of 60% of covered Americans is tied to their job. Government should level the playing field in the tax code between employer-sponsored and individually purchased health insurance, eliminating a substantial bias for employer-sponsored health care which encourages employees to stake both their income and their health care on their job. (more…)

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Milton Friedman: The Most Influential Economist in History

Rob Kremer gave the following address at the Milton Friedman “Legacy of Freedom” luncheon at McMenamin’s Kennedy School on July 31, one of 50 events nationwide honoring the late Dr. Friedman on his 96th birthday.

I can’t tell you what an honor it is to be here today, and have the chance to pay tribute, on what would have been his 96th birthday, to a man who had a profound effect on my life. Though I never met him, I always felt as if my life and career was somehow steered by the power of Milton Friedman’s ideas.

Milton Friedman is my hero. (more…)

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Portland Continues Taxi Cartel

QuickPoint!

Imagine an industry where two companies control 75% of the market, price-competition is non-existent, and new firms are prohibited from entering. While economists refer to this as an oligopoly, taxi customers in Portland know it best as high prices and long wait times.

On April 9, 2008, the Private for Hire Transportation Review Board voted down a proposal to end the long-standing moratorium on (more…)

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Wanted: Asset Accounts, Not Income Transfers

Sreya SarkarCascade Commentary

Summary

Low-income Americans hear two contradictory messages: “Save” and “Don’t Save.” Converting some defined-benefit entitlements to asset accounts owned by individuals could include the poor in the trend toward asset ownership illustrated by the rise of IRAs and Health Savings Accounts. (more…)

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Fifty events to be held later this week to honor Dr. Milton Friedman

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Joe DiLaura
Tel.: 317-229-2128

INDIANAPOLIS (July 28, 2008) – Fifty events in 41 states and the District of Columbia will take place on Thursday of this week (July 31, 2008) honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Milton Friedman.

The Friedman Legacy for Freedom campaign is sponsored by the Indianapolis-based Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, who is partnering with groups throughout the country to celebrate his birthday and honor his impact on free markets and individual liberties. (more…)

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Replace Job Creation with Wealth Creation

Steve BucksteinCascade Commentary

Summary

Governor Kulongoski recently unveiled a new plan for creating “green” jobs in Oregon. While many people will focus on the “green” part of the governor?s plan, it may be more instructive to challenge the concept that our goal should be to create jobs at all. (more…)

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Say It Isn’t So, Barack

Matt WingardCascade Commentary

Summary

African-Americans support school choice at a rate higher than any other ethnic group. A recent Harvard poll showed 67% of blacks support school choice for low-income students and 52% support vouchers for all children in failing public schools. Yet, presidential candidate Barack Obama recently refused to stand up for the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program as Congress threatened to end it. (more…)

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A Corvette or a Toy Train?

QuickPoint!

I drive a car. Odds are, you do too. In fact, given the choice between the MAX, bus or car, 97% of Portland residents choose to drive every day. Why then did Metro unanimously vote to extend the MAX to Milwaukie at a cost of $1.4 billion, including a new $340 million downtown bridge without car lanes?

Even granting TriMet’s very generous estimate of (more…)

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Pour yourself another regulation!

QuickPoint!

Our Governor envisions an “Innovation State” that leverages new technologies and attracts investment, yet the Oregon Liquor Control Commission has blocked that vision from becoming a reality for small business owners in the heart of Oregon’s wine country.

John Stuart, founder of the Agri-Vino Wine Center in Carlton, invested in a new wine preservation and dispensing technology, called Enomatic, to launch (more…)

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First you borrow, then you beg…

QuickPoint!

Many private banks and financial institutions are in trouble because they supplied the market with too many sub-prime mortgages. However, what has not been well understood is the Federal government’s mechanism for over stimulating sub-prime lending through government-sponsored enterprises like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which together now back $5.3 trillion of mortgage debt.

Sub-prime mortgages became a viable financial tool in the US due to (more…)

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Is Voting Enough?

QuickPoint!

As children, our parents have absolute responsibility for our lives. Without their willingness to constantly supervise and direct us we simply could not survive. However, once we attain a certain degree of economic self-sufficiency and maturity it simply becomes unacceptable to let anyone but ourselves take control of our lives. How many of us would (more…)

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Entrepreneurship as a Weapon Against Poverty

Sreya SarkarReview of Lessons from the Poor: Triumph of the Entrepreneurial Spirit, edited by Alvaro Vargas Llosa, The Independent Institute (2008).

There is a growing mass of literature discussing various facets of private industry becoming an involved and effective player in the realm of poverty alleviation. The poor have been considered the constituency of the government for a long time, but now that perception is changing. For example, Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus’ autobiography, Banker to the Poor, takes commercial banks to a clientele base they have never really served before. C.K. Prahalad’s The Future at the Bottom of the Pyramid is a rallying cry for big business to position serving the world’s four billion poorest people at the heart of their profit-making strategies. Lessons from the Poor: Triumph of the Entrepreneurial Spirit, edited by Alvaro Vargas Llosa, is one of the latest books in this category, adding one more dimension to this discussion. (more…)

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Oil: The Energy of the Future

QuickPoint!

Three years ago, two prominent scientists asked themselves which natural chemical makes the most efficient fuel. Their answer? Oil.

Using synthetic biology, LS9, Inc. has modified bacteria to turn plant sugars into (more…)

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The “Why Not Portland?” Initiative and Its Pricey Goals

QuickPoint!

“Why Not Portland?” This is the question raised by supporters of a health insurance initiative for the roughly 9,000 uninsured students in Portland public schools. Proponents of the initiative plan to use taxpayers’ money to make basic healthcare available to children whose family incomes are too high to qualify for the Oregon Health Plan, but too low to afford health insurance. The program would cost the City of Portland and the school districts serving Portland an estimated 4.05 million dollars annually.

If included and passed in the (more…)

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Lack of Transparency at the Oregon Health Plan: Simple Questions, Difficult Answers

Cascade Commentary

Summary

Before Oregonians are asked to approve any expansion of state-sponsored health care, we deserve to know how existing state programs are working. Transparency is crucial to government accountability for tax dollars spent. (more…)

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Keep the Profit Motive in Health Care

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

Why do many Oregonians think we should take the profit motive out of health care? At a public meeting in Portland last week, this theme was repeated and applauded over and over again.

Yet, when participants were asked about the recent trend toward $4 generic drug prescriptions, their views began to change. Why is (more…)

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Will Congress Put African-American Students in the Back of the Bus?

Matt WingardCascade Commentary

Summary

The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program enjoys broad bipartisan support, yet Congress is about to end this life-saving chance for a better future for 1,900 District children. Educational opportunity for all students, especially for the most disadvantaged, should not be allowed to be a partisan issue. (more…)

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Is There Freedom to Move?

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

Imagine you want to start a business, but the government says you can’t unless your competitors approve. If you want to start a moving company in Oregon, that’s the gauntlet you have to run. Not surprisingly, existing movers haven’t let a new kid onto their block in the last two years.

It’s this onerous requirement that caused Pacific Legal Foundation to file a federal lawsuit against the state of Oregon last week on the grounds that (more…)

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Does Oregon Spend Too Much?

Steve BucksteinCascade Commentary

Summary

Demographically benchmarking Oregon spending goes an important step beyond simply making government spending transparent. Without knowing how our spending compares to demographically similar states, we cannot even begin to answer the question “does Oregon spend too much?” (more…)

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The Ranking of Oregon State and Local Spending

Summary

This study updates past research to benchmark Oregon’s spending (Pozdena and Fruits 2004). Revenue and expenditure data are from the U.S. Census Bureau’s census of state and local governments for 2004–05 (Tables 1 and 2). Demographic data are from the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. (more…)

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Effective Asset-Building Coalitions Diversify

Sreya SarkarQuickPoint!

A recent report published by the Center for Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis discusses the importance of state-level asset-building coalitions in triggering public policies that support greater asset-building opportunities for people of all incomes.

Such coalitions call for diverse representation from around the state and inclusion of (more…)

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Ready to Learn, Ready to Work in Salem-Keizer

Sreya SarkarCascade Commentary

Summary

The Salem-area Ready to Learn-Ready to Work program helps high school students meet career-related learning standards and develop skills they need to succeed in the workforce or in college. This private-sector-led project is the kind of successful workforce training solution parents, employers, colleges and communities statewide are all looking for. (more…)

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Testimony Before the House Environment and Energy Committee, House Revenue Committee, Regarding Proposed Global Warming Legislation

John A. Charles, Jr.My name is John Charles, president and CEO of Cascade Policy Institute. Cascade is a nonpartisan policy research center working to promote economic opportunity in Oregon. I have been involved professionally with environmental policy for the past 30 years and am familiar with the politics of climate change. In recent months I have focused a fair amount of time examining claims made about carbon offset projects in the Pacific Northwest. My comments today reflect that work.

I have been asked to speak about two conceptual approaches to global warming legislation: a carbon tax, and a regulatory limit on greenhouse gases (GHGs). Before I begin, however, I would like to place this issue in the context of the GHG reduction goals embodied in HB 3543. (more…)

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Carfree Dreaming in Portland

John A. Charles, Jr.QuickPoint!

In three weeks Portland State University will proudly host the annual “Towards Carfree Cities” conference. This is certainly appropriate, given that Portland plans to build a new bridge over the Willamette River for light rail, the streetcar, cyclists, pedestrians and skateboarders – but not motorists.

However, as seductive as pedestrian malls are in the abstract, they don’t work in the United States. For instance, in 1971 (more…)

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Sustainability is a State of Mind

John A. Charles, Jr.Cascade Commentary

Summary

Sustainability advocates believe that a free-market economy is “unsustainable,” but free societies have the “intangible capital” needed to create more wealth with less pollution and less consumption of natural resources. (more…)

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School Choice for More Children, Says Georgia

Kathryn HickokQuickPoint!

Last week Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue signed legislation enacting a new school choice program for Georgia children. The new law provides for education tax credits on both personal and corporate income taxes for donations made to privately run non-profit Student Scholarship Organizations.

Unlike some other school choice programs nationwide, Georgia’s new law has (more…)

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A Market-Based Approach to the Columbia River Crossing

John A. Charles, Jr.Cascade Commentary

Summary

Portland’s population is expanding, but our highway and bridge network is crumbling. Market-based road pricing and de-regulated transit are the only sustainable solution, financially and environmentally, to Portland’s transportation crisis. (more…)

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Only 12% of Idahoans Would Choose a Public School for Their Children

Kathryn HickokQuickPoint!

The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice recently released a poll of 1,000 likely voters in Idaho. If they “could select any type of school,” a whopping 12% would choose a “regular public school,” little more than half the number who would choose homeschooling (21%). Private schools were most popular, at 39%, followed by charter schools (25%).

According to the Friedman Foundation, only 4% of (more…)

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Suffer the Little Children: How lack of transparency in a state agency endangers children

Cascade Commentary

Summary

A federal review found Oregon’s Child Welfare program to be in “substantial conformity” with NONE of the national standards for seven client outcome measures. The most important mission of DHS is protecting children from harm. Government transparency requires that DHS meet the benchmarks demanded by Governor Kulongoski and release relevant proof to the public. (more…)

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In Oregon, Words Matter, Results Don’t

Matt WingardQuickPoint!

Does planning have to work to be successful?

We Oregonians believe many myths about ourselves that just don’t happen to be true. As a visioning group created by the Governor put it not too long ago: We Love Dreamers!

For instance, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton recently came to town and congratulated Portland on reducing its carbon emissions to 1990 levels. Portland has asked for and received world-wide recognition for (more…)

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Kids Can’t Wait

Cascade Commentary

Summary

Why has Governor Ted Kulongoski left at-risk and abused kids waiting during six years of his administration? His rallying cry is “Kids can’t wait,” but a close look at Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) Child Welfare programs uncovers the troubling fact that his administration certainly has allowed many children to wait. (more…)

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How Much Does State Government Cost Each Oregonian?

Steve BucksteinCascade Commentary

Summary

Ask even reasonably knowledgeable people how big the Oregon state budget is this biennium, and they likely will tell you that it’s around $15 billion, which is actually just the General Fund. The All Funds Budget is $48 billion—$6,376 per year for every man, woman and child in Oregon. Taxpayers deserve to know exactly how much their government is spending. (more…)

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The high cost of “free” health care

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

Those who advocate using the federal Medicare program as a model for “universal health care” in America claim that it only spends two percent of its budget on administrative functions.

But that pales in comparison to what Harvard professor Malcolm Sparrow believes may be the 20 percent eaten up in fraud and mismanagement. Parade magazine recently reported that Sparrow sees $70 billion of Medicare’s 400 billion dollar budget going toward (more…)

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Food or Fuel?

Sreya SarkarQuickPoint!

Last year the Oregon legislature passed three bills (HB 2210, 2211 and 2212) to subsidize and to provide incentives to Oregonians to produce biofuels. Promotion of homegrown ethanol and similar biofuels was seen as an answer to high global oil prices and supply worries. The Oregon Environmental Council predicted 100 million gallons would be produced annually by the year 2010.

Now, a brewing world food crisis has hit the headlines. World food prices have (more…)

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How Much Does Oregon Spend Per Student?

Matt WingardCascade Commentary

Summary

Calculating the true per-student cost of public education in Oregon is complicated, but taxpayers have a right to expect government to be transparent about spending and to provide honest figures — calculated from a taxpayer’s perspective. (more…)

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Clean Air, and Getting Cleaner

John A. Charles, Jr.QuickPoint!

Recently the Environmental Protection Agency tightened the standard for ground-level ozone by 11 percent. Ozone is formed by the mixing of certain pollutants such as car exhaust in the presence of sunlight, and can irritate lungs and damage crops.

Predictably, local environmentalists immediately complained that the reduction didn’t (more…)

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Poverty Is About People, Not Money

Bina PatelCascade Commentary

Summary

Journalist Andrew Gumble recently wrote in The Independent (UK): “Poverty deepens when the wealthy don’t care. Poverty deepens when the super wealthy simply get greedy. No other explanation is possible.” In fact, many other explanations are possible. (more…)

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But Who’s Counting?

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

A recent analysis by two prominent economists pegs the eventual cost of our war in Iraq at a mind-boggling three trillion dollars. Only World War II topped that, at a current dollar cost of $3.2 trillion. For comparison, the Vietnam War cost us only $650 billion, less than one-third as much.

Opponents of the war argue that there are more important things to (more…)

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Taking a Private Route Out of the Workforce Crisis

Sreya SarkarCascade Commentary

Summary

Oregon’s economy will create an estimated 250,000 new jobs over the next decade, and 20,000 jobs are currently unfilled in the Portland area. But employers are having a tough time finding qualified candidates to replace retirees and to fill new positions. The private and nonprofit sectors can help. (more…)

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Change: The Only Constant

Nancy WheatonQuickPoint!

Starting with the beginnings of life on earth, change has been a constant and mysterious catalyst for growth. We humans would not exist if it weren’t for change. The comforts we are privileged to enjoy are results of the quest to make a change for the better. Science and the study of historical patterns can benefit the well-being of humans in myriad ways. The science of agriculture allowed our early ancestors to feed more people without the necessity of a nomadic lifestyle; change that encouraged the growth of culture and community.

We humans embrace the idea of (more…)

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Strike Two for Portland’s Voter Owned Elections

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

The Portland City Council, in its collective wisdom, imposed a system of public campaign financing in 2005. The goal was to reduce the impact of large special interest dollars on campaigns for city offices. So how’s that working out?

First, in 2006, Emily Boyles received $145,000 in (more…)

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Parking Space Tax Fails the Transparency Test

Steve BucksteinCascade Commentary

Summary

The governor’s Task Force on Comprehensive Revenue Restructuring recently discussed imposing a tax on commercial parking spaces to raise revenue for Oregon’s highway transportation system. The argument was made that businesses, not consumers, would pay; but ultimately this is yet another hidden tax that likely will be passed along to consumers in the form of higher prices. If we want to tax shoppers, then we should tax them openly and not make business our hidden tax collector. (more…)

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Whose Interests Does the Board of Education Serve?

Matt WingardQuickPoint!

Recently, the Oregon Board of Education took up the issue of whether and how to regulate online or “virtual” charter schools. A state law, passed in 2005 at the request of the teachers union, places severe restrictions on virtual charter schools that would essentially prevent them from operating without a waiver from the Board. The law gives the Board the power to set the conditions under which any online charter school can operate.

After much deliberation, the Board decided last week to (more…)

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Union to Oregon Foster Parents: You’re Next!

Paul GuppyCascade Commentary

Summary

As if helping kids weren’t hard enough, Oregon foster parents may one day be forced to join the powerful public-sector unions. Oregon’s legislature passed a bill to unionize home health care workers last year, and a bill in Washington State already has been introduced to treat foster parents like state employees. (more…)

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Man and Machine Can Be Friends

Sreya SarkarQuickPoint!

In the early 1980s federal investment in research and development of agricultural machines was suspended because of a political campaign by the prominent United Farm Workers leader Cesar Chavez to protect farm workers’ jobs and the technological challenges of that time.

Today the situation has changed. Now American farms are seriously disturbed about (more…)

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The Katrina Miracle

Matt WingardCascade Commentary

Summary

A Portland delegation saw what real education reform looks like on a recent visit to the Big Easy. (more…)

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My Dinner with William F. Buckley, Jr.

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

William F. Buckley, Jr. died last week at his home in Connecticut. He was 82.

Known as a founder of the modern conservative movement, Buckley had a great impact on many people over the years, both through his books, articles, National Review magazine and Firing Line television show that ran for 33 years, the longest-running public affairs show in TV history with a single host. (more…)

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The Financial Impact of Regulation? Almost Half Your Home Price

Matt WingardQuickPoint!

A recent study suggested that nearly half of the cost of a home in the Seattle area is due to land-use regulations.

The study, by University of Washington Economics professor Theo Eicher, was highlighted in a recent article in the Seattle Times.

Professor Eicher’s research shows that the (more…)

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The SMART Way To Save Social Security

Bina PatelCascade Commentary

Summary

For over 25 years, an increasing number of other countries have established some form of personally held accounts in response to their own social security and pension crises. Following their lead is a smart and sustainable way to reform our own Social Security system before it is too late. (more…)

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Why the Oregon Capital Gains Tax Should Be Repealed

Introduction

In a world where taxes are used to finance government, possibilities for revenue include sales taxes, flat taxes and others. But among the many competing options, some are decidedly worse than others. The capital gains tax is one of the worst sources of revenue, since it taxes the very tool used ultimately to create higher wages for workers and increased standards of living. (more…)

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Oregonians Can Help Reform Social Security

Steve BucksteinCascade Commentary

Summary

The Social Security System worked well when there were sixteen workers to support each retiree, back in 1950. Now there are only three workers supporting each retiree, and soon there will only be two. The system is headed toward financial disaster. Congress must address these concerns, and Oregonians should lead the way toward reforming the system. (more…)

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Freedom for All

Bina PatelQuickPoint!

A recent article in Resurgence Magazine (December 2007) makes the claim that our free-market economy “lacks a moral compass” and is “value-free.” The author proposes a moral compass for the economy based on values pointing towards the environment and fulfilling human needs.

However, this sort of economy overlooks the (more…)

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Global Warming Skeptics Prepare for International Conference

International Conference on Climate Change - New York, March 2-4, 2008

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: James M. Taylor
E-mail: taylor@heartland.org

Hundreds of the world’s leading “skeptics” of the theory of man-made global warming will meet in New York City March 2-4, 2008 to present their case and discuss the latest scientific, economic and political research on climate change. (more…)

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Oregon’s Ethanol Mandate: Failure by Design

John A. Charles, Jr.QuickPoint!

Within the last week, two major news stories have demonstrated why politicians should not try to plan the economy. First, Science magazine published the results of several studies showing that the mad rush to promote ethanol and other biofules as a tool for “fighting global warming” is generating a substantial net increase in greenhouse gas emissions. The studies found that clearing rainforest or grasslands for conversion to croplands (necessary as the feedstock for ethanol production) releases large amounts of carbon.

The second news story, published in The Oregonian, focused on (more…)

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What Real School Board Leadership Can Look Like

Cascade Commentary

Summary

Dick Stamm’s experience on an Illinois school board shows what four dedicated people can do to improve education in their district. During his tenure, test scores rose from the 54th percentile to the 90th. (more…)

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Inform consumers, don’t limit their options

Steve Buckstein

In response to the recent problems in the home mortgage market, the Oregon legislature is considering several bills aimed at protecting consumers from unscrupulous or fraudulent business practices.

On Wednesday February 6th I testfied before the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee and the House Consumer Protection Committee regarding three bills, SB 1064, SB 1090 and HB 3630. Below is the written testimony I submitted to both committees. In each case, my testimony resulted in good questions from committee members and helped focus the debate on how to provide full disclosure to consumers, rather than shut down choices consumer have in the marketplace.

Testimony on Mortgage Loan and Foreclosure Consultant bills in the February Special Session of the Oregon Legislature

My name is Steve Buckstein. I’m Senior Policy Analyst and founder of Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland-based think tank that promotes individual liberty, personal responsibility and economic opportunity in Oregon.

Before you pass new laws attempting to protect home loan borrowers, I hope you’ll take a step back and think about how such laws can backfire.

The 2007 Oregon legislature capped interest rates on payday loans, effectively putting the lenders out of business. What happens now to the people who relied on those loans? While it’s too early to know for sure in Oregon, we do have some data about what happened in two other states that banned such loans in 2004 and 2005. The preliminary conclusions strengthen my concern that such laws can do more harm than good.

Let me read you the abstract of a report* by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York:

Payday loans are widely condemned as a “predatory debt trap.” We test that claim by researching how households in Georgia and North Carolina have fared since those states banned payday loans in May 2004 and December 2005. Compared with households in all other states, households in Georgia have bounced more checks, complained more to the Federal Trade Commission about lenders and debt collectors, and filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection at a higher rate. North Carolina households have fared about the same. This negative correlation—reduced payday credit supply, increased credit problems—contradicts the debt trap critique of payday lending, but is consistent with the hypothesis that payday credit is preferable to substitutes such as the bounced-check “protection” sold by credit unions and banks or loans from pawnshops.

It appears that banning these borrowing opportunities, even if they appeared to be bad opportunities to lawmakers, ended up hurting the very consumers the bans were meant to help.

I have little problem with bills that require full disclosure and reporting of loan and foreclosure activities. But I urge you to resist substituting your judgment for that of borrowers, lenders and consultants when it comes to the actual terms of such transactions. Chances are you’ll make things worse, not better, for those you’re trying to help.

* Payday Holiday: How Households Fare after Payday Credit Bans, Federal Reserve Bank of New York Staff Report no. 309, Donald P. Morgan and Michael R. Strain, November 2007

Audio of the both hearings are here:

Senate Commerce and Labor My testimony begins at 31:12.

House Consumer Protection My testimony begins at 1:38:55.

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A Drive Toward Social Inclusion

Sreya SarkarQuickPoint!

Last year two important developments took place in Oregon that favored low-income workers’ access to mobility, but they did not receive much media coverage.

First, automobiles were included in the transformative asset category of Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) to facilitate asset-building opportunities for low-income Oregonians.

Second, a car ownership program called Opportunity Cars was (more…)

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