Author: Cascade Policy Institute

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Why the Oregon Capital Gains Tax Should Be Repealed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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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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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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MSA: Master Settlement Atrocity?

Cascade Commentary

Summary

While supposedly a boon for tobacco prevention efforts, the Master Settlement Agreement is just another backroom deal between trial lawyers and state officials that primarily serves their own interests. The revenue for states is not legally tied to tobacco prevention efforts, and most settlement funds are used for General Obligation Bonds for Oregon’s state budget. (more…)

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Empowering Health Care

Bina PatelQuickPoint!

While the debate continues over top-down, government-provided health care vs. consumer-driven, grassroots health care, here are some interesting points to consider.

First, the government- provided approach. Many say that affordability would not be an issue, given a payroll tax to pay for universal coverage. However, any time a tax is levied, more of “middle America” loses earned income. This leads to an increasing burden on working families, without any guarantee of (more…)

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Opportunity Inequality

Bina PatelCascade Commentary

Summary

“Income inequality” is a central part of the debate surrounding poverty and economic growth. However, a better alternative to the term “income inequality” is “opportunity inequality.” Poverty is not about what or how much you consume but about limited opportunity and freedom. (more…)

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Spending to Stop Climate Change Flunks the Common Sense Test

Anthony StintonCascade Commentary

Summary

Al Gore’s recent Nobel Peace Prize for his work on climate change has intensified calls for drastic measures to slow “global warming.” However, the global climate is an incredibly complex system known to change throughout history. We need to ask some common-sense questions about the science of climate change and what are truly the best ways to deal with it. (more…)

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“Assets” Are More Than Just “Stuff”

Bina PatelQuickPoint!

Poverty, economic development and fairness are words often used when speaking about income inequality. “Income inequality” refers to the gap in consumption between the rich and the poor but fails to illustrate anything about well-being and long-term self-sufficiency.

The term “income inequality” is not particularly helpful. It focuses more on (more…)

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Advocate for Ownership

Bina PatelQuickPoint!

Presidential hopefuls, policy wonks and advocates from the Left have given the idea of ownership a bad rap. These are many of the same folks working on poverty alleviation. Unfortunately, they are missing a crucial element to helping the poor: Property rights and possession of assets are instrumental to poverty alleviation. Contrary to claims by critics that focusing on ownership breaks down communities and fosters an “everyone-for-himself” attitude, research shows asset ownership results in greater community and civic participation by the poor. (more…)

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Asset Ownership Is Life-Changing

Bina PatelCascade Commentary

Summary

An expansive amount of research from across the political spectrum demonstrates the importance of owing assets, particularly for minorities, women and low-income populations. Owning assets fosters better citizens. (more…)

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End Oregon’s Capital Gains Tax

Cascade Commentary

Summary

The more something is taxed, less of it is produced. The capital gains tax punishes the very thing that encourages growth in the economy. Consequently, less wealth is created to invest in worthy enterprises that benefit workers, business owners and investors alike. (more…)

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Who Owns Your Social Security? (hint: it’s not you)

Bina PatelCascade Commentary

Summary

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that retirees do not have an ownership claim to future unpaid Social Security benefits. Because you do not have a property right to your mandatory contributions, you may never be able to benefit from them. In over 30 countries, however, personal accounts are increasing long-term security and ensuring retirement benefits. (more…)

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NO SCHIP

Anthony StintonCascade Commentary

Summary

Congress wants to expand SCHIP to provide more uninsured children with health coverage. While exactly how much private insurance the expansion of public coverage will crowd out is uncertain, the Congressional Budget Office projects that if SCHIP is expanded, 25-50% of new participants would be children who already had private insurance. Instead, Congress and state governments should act to make insurance more affordable. (more…)

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Better Health Care Through Less Government

Daniel RoncariCascade Commentary

Summary

Many of the problems present in Oregon’s health care system associated with access and affordability would be alleviated by increasing the number of medical procedures that do not require a fully licensed physician and by allowing doctors licensed in another state to practice in Oregon. (more…)

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Tolls (not tax, spend and waste) to Fund Bridges

Anthony StintonQuickPoint!

The collapse of the I-35 Bridge and loss of life in Minneapolis is a tragedy that prompts Oregonians to ask, could such a tragedy happen here, and how can we reduce our risk?

The first widespread reaction is to demand that our state and federal legislators appropriate more money for bridges and roads. Oregonians should think twice. Federal, state and local transportation appropriation processes regularly produce pork barrel spending (read about pork in the 2005 Federal Highway bill) and wasteful projects like the (more…)

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Consumer Protection from What?

Anthony StintonCascade Commentary

Summary

The payday lending interest rate cap passed by the Oregon legislature has reduced gross revenues on a typical loan by 70%, causing the closure of 102 stores. As a result, the Oregonians these regulations were meant to protect have less access to credit than they did before. (more…)

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The Private Sector Has More Incentive to Invest Wisely

Daniel RoncariQuickPoint!

Governor Kulongoski recently signed a series of bills that will spend a total of $28 million dollars on several industries and research centers. The Oregon Innovation Plan will “invest” in “innovation-based economic development,” supposedly to help make Oregon more competitive. Because the Oregon Innovation Plan is government-directed investment, it is inferior to private sector investment. That is because government decision makers, no matter how well-intentioned they may be, do not have as strong incentives to invest wisely.

Milton Friedman once said: “Nobody spends somebody else’s money as carefully as (more…)

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When Renewable Energy Isn’t

Jeffrey CarlsonCascade Commentary

Summary

By defining the state’s most abundant energy resource, running water, as “non-renewable,” Oregon’s new renewable energy portfolio standard proves to be arbitrary and punitive. Furthermore, the law excludes many renewable energy power plants in Oregon from counting towards the renewable energy goal for no environmentally significant reason. (more…)

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Another Path to Insuring More Oregonians

Anthony StintonCascade Commentary

Summary

While consumer choice is a proven cost-cutter, health insurance mandates raise premiums, resulting in fewer people covered. Oregon should try a pilot project allowing health insurers to offer mandate-free policies, allowing consumers to choose basic, or more elaborate, health insurance coverage suited to their needs and budgets. (more…)

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Portland’s Transportation Future: Back to the Past?

Jeffrey CarlsonQuickPoint!

In the optimistic decades of the 1950s and 60s, Americans had bold visions for the future. In the area of personal transportation, flying cars, spaceships, and even Star Trek transporters seemed just around the corner. Today those ideas might seem fanciful, but they were forward-thinking concepts.

Contrast these forward-thinking concepts to Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams’ vision presented to the City Club last Friday. Adams asked, “What would Portland look like if (more…)

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New Mandates, New Costs

Anthony StintonQuickPoint!

What do acupuncturists, drug abuse treatment, and non-custodial children have in common? Oregonians cannot buy private health insurance that does not pay for or cover all three. They represent three of the state’s 33 health insurance mandates. Mandates are benefits, providers, and persons that must be included in all private health insurance policies. The list of mandates is expanding: The legislature added contraceptives, prosthetics and orthotics, and treatment for intoxicant-related injuries in the recently-concluded 2007 session (House Bills 2700, 2517, and 2348 respectively).

Requiring insurers to cover more conditions seems like (more…)

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Emergency Price Controls: The Wrong Policy

Daniel RoncariQuickPoint!

Oregon has recently passed a new law (Senate Bill 118) in an attempt to prohibit so-called “price-gouging” after an emergency or natural disaster. Although the purpose of the bill is to protect Oregonians from being charged excessive prices after an emergency, the new law likely will make a bad situation worse.

The market has a built-in mechanism to ensure that goods are directed to where they are most needed. When a natural disaster or emergency occurs, demand for essential goods immediately (more…)

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Oregon schools get more money, but most isn’t for students

Jeffrey CarlsonQuickPoint!

The Oregon Legislature recently passed a 6.2 billion dollar budget for K-12 education for the 2007-2009 biennium, a 14 percent increase over the last two years and the largest in Oregon history. This funding will enable some districts to expand music and physical education programs, and decrease class sizes. However, over half of the additional funds will be used to pay for rapidly rising health-care costs and teachers’ salaries. These funds come without any state mandate for school districts to prove they are using their money efficiently.

Parents’ calls for school spending accountability seem to have fallen on (more…)

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The Tax Burden of the Working Poor (and a way to help)

Bina PatelCascade Commentary

Summary

Protecting the earned income of low-income families is a proven method of concretely reducing poverty and increasing economic equity. The Earned Income Tax Credit, first enacted in 1975, encourages individuals to remain employed rather than depend on unearned income such as welfare programs. Within the asset building field, it is essential to advance the concept of “making work pay” via public policies and community programs. (more…)

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Health Insurance for the Few: The “Lexus” Model of Benefits

Bina PatelCascade Commentary

Summary

Government health insurance mandates intended to increase health care coverage for all, especially for lowerincome Oregonians, actually make insurance coverage more expensive and reduce low-cost benefits available to low-wage workers. Basic packages should be offered to allow more individuals to have some level of insurance, rather than mandating “deluxe” insurance packages employers and employees alike cannot afford. (more…)

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Testimony on HB 2700

Bina PatelThe Cascade Policy Institute, a non-partisan free-market think tank, would like to present information on the economic impacts of increasing health insurance mandates. This question is focused not only the economic consequences, but also on the larger question facing policymakers: are we seeking universal health insurance, or expansive benefit coverage for the few?

  1. Insurance by definition is designed to provide security against unpredictable risks that a group of individuals share and pay premiums for in the event such a risk may occur. The principles of insurance include that risks covered are unpredictable and unintentional. Insurance is not an effective mechanism to provide maximum coverage to all for every foreseeable event. When predictable and regular costs are billed to insurance, in addition to occurrences for those experiencing an unpredictable risk, the cost of insurance increases — that is, more funds are needed to cover both risks and predicted events. In this case, health insurance in fact appears more as a “health benefits package”.

(more…)

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Farm and Freedom Friendly Policies for Oregon

Angela Eckhardt

Preserving Farmland Without Farmers

Since 1969, Oregon has pursued a stated policy objective of preserving farmland. Oregonians have paid dearly for this commitment. Rural landowners have lost important property rights and seen their land values plummet as a result. Housing costs are unnecessarily high across the state due to the artificially high prices for developed and buildable land.

The state has endured three decades of fierce battles over (more…)

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(In)security and Safety Nets

Bina PatelCascade Commentary

Summary

Public benefit programs to support families in crisis have become distorted into entitlements, and yet government has little, if any, obligation to pay out future benefits. Policy ideas like individual asset accounts offer common ground for policymakers to collaborate on revamping outdated programs, while concretely enhancing the financial security of individuals. (more…)

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Assets and Inequality

Bina PatelCascade Commentary

Summary

While instrumental in maintaining some degree of stability for lower-income persons, the traditional welfare system was not designed to promote inclusion or self-sufficiency. In contrast, building assets allows those once marginalized to become self-sufficient and provides hope for the future. (more…)

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Warning: “Sin Taxes” May Be Hazardous to the State

Cascade Commentary

Summary

Oregon’s cigarette tax has become an “essential” source of funding for government programs and services completely unrelated to smoking, a prime example of why a “sin tax” is bad public policy. (more…)

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Prevailing Wage Laws: Legislating Inequity

Cascade Commentary

Summary

Prevailing wage laws discriminate against one group of workers in favor of another, mandating wage rates which should be determined by the market. They limit employment opportunities for lowerskilled workers and inflate the cost of government construction projects at taxpayers’ expense. (more…)

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Prevailing Wage Laws: Legislating Inequity

Oregon Economic Opportunity Project

Introduction and Summary

“Prevailing” wage legislation requires that a particular wage rate be paid to laborers working on government construction projects. The rate is determined through government surveys and is usually found to be substantially higher than the market rate. Many politicians and unions argue that paying the “prevailing” wage rate is beneficial and fair because it provides a just wage for hard-working families, results in quality construction and provides a responsible example for construction firms paying lower rates on private projects.

The federal “prevailing” wage law was adopted in (more…)

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Tobacco Revenues Prove Addictive

Oregon Economic Opportunity Project

Preface

In 1765, the British Parliament passed the Stamp Act, taxing every sheet of printed paper used in the American colonies. The proceeds were to be used to help pay the rising cost of stationing thousands of British troops on the Appalachian frontier to defend the colonies. Many colonists found this tax to be outrageous not because of its economic cost (which was small), but because it was explicitly being used by England to raise revenues without the approval of the colonies. The resulting opposition to the Stamp Act was so great that a year later, the tax was repealed.

Like the Stamp Act, revenues from Oregon’s cigarette tax (more…)

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Taxing Oregon’s Tourists

Oregon Economic Opportunity Project

Summary

Oregon state and local governments levy over $268 million a year in lodging taxes, supposedly to benefit tourism and economic development. The unseen costs of such taxes, which include deterring tourists from visiting high-tax areas, and the arguable unconstitutionality of such “forced speech” levies should be reasons enough to repeal them. Private businesses and tourism organizations have great incentives to promote tourism themselves, and they will likely do a better job than government agencies if allowed to do so. (more…)

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Declaring Independence from Kelo

QuickPoint!

Last week, President Bush responded to the US Supreme Court’s decision on eminent domain, known as Kelo, with a decision of his own: an executive order to limit the federal government’s ability to take private property in order to transfer it to another private owner.

However, the order contained significant (more…)

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HOPEing for Healthcare

QuickPoint!

The high cost of healthcare these days is astounding, and so is the rate of uninsured Oregonians. There are some good ideas out there but a proposal that invents a “right” to healthcare by amending the Oregon Constitution should make everyone wary.

Backers of the so-called HOPE initiative stress that the (more…)

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Promoting Biodiesel is Easy: Set Farmers Free to Sell It

Angela EckhardtCascade Commentary

Summary

Though efforts to promote biodiesel have focused on subsidies and use mandates, the solution is far more simple: remove the unnecessary and costly Environmental Protection Agency regulations on this clean-burning fuel. (more…)

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Self-Serve Ban Undermines Self-Reliance

Angela EckhardtQuickPoint!

The revelation that Portland recently had the lowest average gasoline price in the country led The Oregonian to editorialize on Monday that Oregon’s ban on self-serve gas does not raise prices and is therefore acceptable public policy. The opinion poked fun at conspiracy theories surrounding industry motives for lowering the region’s prices.

Clearly, cutting operating costs could push prices even lower, but cost is a minor issue compared to the (more…)

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Aiding poverty in Africa: Giving ‘til it hurts

Cascade Commentary

Summary

International commitments to increase foreign aid to African nations ignore the causes of poverty in those countries: corrupt governments and a lack of economic freedom. So long as those problems aren’t addressed, foreign aid will fail to improve the situation. (more…)

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Biodiesel Needs Less Government, Not More

Angela EckhardtQuickPoint!

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…)

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Freedom Fuel: How and Why Biodiesel Policy Should Reflect Freedom

Angela EckhardtRural Oregon Freedom Project

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…)

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Meth laws need a good dose of sanity

Angela EckhardtCascade Commentary

Summary

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…)

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In Defense of Wal-Mart

QuickPoint!

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.

As a recent New York Times article points out, instead of (more…)

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Freedom requires real free markets

Angela EckhardtCascade Commentary

Summary

A Fourth of July flea market is a fitting celebration for the holiday because free trade is an integral part of freedom. But our modern version of capitalism shouldn’t be confused with a truly free market economy. (more…)

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Hybrid Tax Credits Promote Inefficiency

QuickPoint!

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…)

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A License to Kill (Competition)

Cascade Commentary

Summary

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…)

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Congress Tilts at Windmills

QuickPoint!

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…)

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Halfway There: Measure 5 and the Road Ahead

Preface

Watershed events often become dividing lines in history. Twenty-five years ago, Californians created such a line when they voted to reduce their property tax burden through Proposition 13. Thirteen years ago, Oregonians drew a similar line when they voted for Measure 5 to reduce their property tax burden.

Mythology surrounds such events, and Measure 5 is no exception. (more…)

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Now Playing: Tax to the Future

QuickPoint!

Why should doing something that is legal today land you in jail tomorrow? It shouldn’t, and the framers of our U.S. Constitution made that abundantly clear.

Article 1 Section 9 reads, “No … ex post facto Law shall be passed” by Congress; Article 1 Section 10 declares, “No State shall … pass … any ex post facto Law …” The Oregon Constitution Section 21 concurs, “No ex post facto law … shall ever be passed …” There can be little doubt that (more…)

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Lincoln County schools clean up

QuickPoint!

Salem-Keizer School District board members just learned that they could have reduced expenses $2 million a year by contracting out bus services to a private company. That’s the good news.

Unfortunately, the district committee that studied the private bids did not notify the school board about the potential savings; rather, it recommended (more…)

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Wildfires show need to decentralize federal lands

Angela EckhardtQuickPoint!

In the 1970s the U.S. Forest Service came to look at fires as a natural part of a healthy forest ecosystem and officially ended its long-standing policy of putting out all fires by 10 a.m. Unfortunately, the policy change was only on paper.

There are bureaucratic obstacles to letting fires burn. In addition, the Forest Service receives a blank check for fire suppression-needed revenue in light of the 80 percent decline in timber sales that occurred in the ’90s. Thus, the Forest Service continues to suppress (more…)

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What if they held an election and no one came?

Angela EckhardtQuickPoint!

Voter apathy is the popular explanation for low voter turnout. As the director of publications at a public policy think tank, I am as far from apathetic as you can get. I withheld my vote on purpose for several good, responsible reasons.

I do not participate in the party primaries because the (more…)

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PERS: Let’s talk solutions

Angela EckhardtQuickPoint!

Gubernatorial candidate Ron Saxton deserves praise for making the state’s financially insolvent Public Employees Retirement System a campaign issue. The fact that PERS threatens to bankrupt Oregon cities, counties and school districts is not news to elected officials. Previous reforms have left the fundamentally flawed structure of PERS intact, and the mounting debt is getting harder to ignore. Let’s talk real solutions.

Last year Cascade Policy Institute asked one of the (more…)

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Extend Enron scrutiny to government programs

Angela EckhardtQuickPoint!

The collapse of Enron has been grabbing headlines for months. Politicians are on a warpath to get to the bottom of the scandal. Their outrage is justified, but their vigilance shouldn’t end with Enron. Federal, state, and local governments are guilty of egregious fiscal mismanagement-on a much larger scale.

Worried about the lost retirement funds of Enron employees? It pales in comparison to (more…)

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Urban renewal gets another black eye

Angela EckhardtQuickPoint!

The Portland Development Commission has put 70 urban renewal projects on hold due to the recent Oregon Supreme Court decision in Shilo Inn v. Multnomah County. Amidst the collective hand wringing over the loss of funds, few are discussing the public financing sleight of hand that has been exposed thanks to Shilo.

The court determined that some property taxes dedicated to urban renewal projects were (more…)

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Term limits decision threatens initiative rights

Angela EckhardtQuickPoint!

Oregonians’ ability to make meaningful changes to their Constitution was further eroded when the Oregon Supreme Court struck down voter-approved term limits January 11 on a technicality. The court cited a newly recognized requirement for separate votes on proposed changes that are not “closely related.” The popular initiative originally applied term limits to both state and federal offices. Apparently the Court failed to see the connection.

This ruling leaves past initiatives open to challenge and (more…)

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