Category: Commentaries

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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“Pell Grants for Kids” Highlights Need for School Choice

Kathryn HickokCascade Commentary

Summary

The demand for school choice is growing. The Children’s Scholarship Fund-Portland has a ten-year history of demonstrating the value of a small grant program in providing a “hand up” to grade school kids from low-to-moderate-income families. (more…)

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Business Taxation: A Loose Cannon on a Dark Night

William B. Conerly, Ph.D.Cascade Commentary

Summary

The slogan, “Business should pay its fair share,” misses the point. No business ever pays any tax. People pay taxes, and exactly which people pay a business tax is hard for economists to determine. (more…)

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Keys to Opportunity in Crook County

Sreya SarkarCascade Commentary

Summary

Welfare dependent people need access to physical, social and economic mobility to become self-sufficient. Opportunity Cars generates access to both physical and economic mobility through its financial fitness classes and car purchase program in Crook County, Oregon. (more…)

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EPA’s Rejection of California/Oregon Auto Emissions Standards: Much Ado About Nothing

John A. Charles, Jr.Cascade Commentary

Summary

Clean-up of pollution from motor vehicles has been one of the great American success stories in modern times, and the success will continue for decades due to technological innovation and auto fleet turnover. The best thing politicians can do for the environment is to let automakers and their investors bring the next generation of improvements to the world. (more…)

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A Market-Based Solution to the MAX Security Crisis

Sreya SarkarJohn A. Charles, Jr.Cascade Commentary

Summary

While TriMet has agreed to some reforms in the wake of the MAX security crisis, a much better solution would be to allow consumers to have real choices in transit service. Here in Portland, privately operated automobiles formerly served successfully as unsubsidized, flexible, quasi-public transportation directly responsive to popular demand. (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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The Public Knows Something Is Wrong with Education … and It’s Not Lack of Money

Matt WingardCascade Commentary

Summary

The polling data is trending toward school choice. As more and more parents experience choice through charter schools, vouchers, tax credits and the like, the idea of educational freedom becomes less scary, more real and urgently rational. (more…)

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The Dilemma of a Bifurcated Social Policy

Sreya SarkarCascade Commentary

Summary

The root of the contemporary American dilemma about how much to spend on welfare programs lies in the fact that, in this country, “social security” and “welfare” are manifestations of a fragmented and bifurcated social policy framework. Americans always have been ambivalent about nationalized social provisions, just as they are toward concentrated political authority. (more…)

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Kicker Envy

Steve BucksteinCascade Commentary

Summary

Individual Oregon income taxpayers are set to receive a record $1.1 billion in so-called kicker refunds just before Christmas. Whether the kicker law is good or bad public policy, it is an important brake on runaway government spending. Perhaps more importantly, the money belongs to those who earned it, not those who “need” it. (more…)

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Broadband Blunders in the Beaver State

Cascade Commentary

Summary

The development of municipal wireless broadband networks has been popular with local government officials across the country, including the city of Portland. However, a closer look at a southern Oregon city reveals “Muni Wi-Fi” could be the latest losing gamble for taxpayers. (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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Oregon Property Rights: “Vintage”

Matt WingardCascade Commentary

Summary

Property is more than land. Eroding Oregonians’ property rights jeopardizes all the other rights we cherish. (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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“The Most Important Guarantee of Freedom”

Cascade Commentary

Summary

Milton Friedman wrote:
“Nobody uses somebody else’s resources as carefully as he uses his own. So if you want efficiency and effectiveness,…you have to do it through…private property.” For nearly four decades, Oregon voters, legislators and courts have defined what powers property owners have with respect to private land. This November, Oregonians once again will vote on property rights by means of Measure 49.
(more…)

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Flexible Transit? Lessons from Bend

Sreya SarkarCascade Commentary

Summary

A committee representing the three Central Oregon Counties has created a regional framework to address a more efficient, effective and equitable use of alternative transportation services. They conducted the region’s first comprehensive survey of alternative transportation services and discovered overwhelming support for transit services based on real market demand. (more…)

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The “Perfect Logic” of Taxing Smokers

Steve BucksteinCascade Commentary

Summary

Measure 50 on the November ballot would lock a tobacco tax into the state Constitution to provide health insurance to low-income children. But once the Healthy Kids Plan is in place, it may make no difference whether enough tobacco tax money exists to fund the program or not. Any shortfalls will lead to cries for other funding sources for a program that by then will be embedded in Oregon’s bureaucratic infrastructure. (more…)

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Oregon Wears the Union Label

Steve BucksteinCascade Commentary

Summary

Private sector unionism has declined to the point of irrelevance in America, while public sector unionism grows ever stronger. In Oregon, over 50 percent of public employees are unionized, much higher than the national average. Without competitive market restraint, this trend bodes ill for Oregon taxpayers. (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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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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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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What the Legislature Hath Wrought

Matt WingardCascade Commentary

Summary

The 2007 Oregon Legislative Session ended June 28. With very few exceptions, nothing the legislature did made Oregonians more free. Most of the legislation advanced government intervention into our lives, our economy and our interactions with each other. (more…)

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Social Security Reform: The Thrift Savings Way

Cascade Commentary

Summary

In just 10 years’ time, the Social Security system will begin to pay more each year in benefits than it receives in tax revenues. Giving every worker in America the same opportunity that federal workers have to save for retirement would allow everyone to create and fund their own protected retirement accounts that can never be taken away by Congress. (more…)

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Bandon Dunes Is a Private (Not Government) Success Story

Steve BucksteinCascade Commentary

Summary

The implication that private business success stories are really dependent on government subsidies needs to be looked at critically. Contrary to the impression made by a recent New York Times article, Bandon Dunes Golf Resort on the southern Oregon coast was developed and became successful due to private risk taking and entrepreneurial skill. (more…)

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“Workfare” Calls for Mobility of Low-Income Workers

Sreya SarkarCascade Commentary

Summary

Low-income workers need access to higher-skilled jobs to increase their income and independence. Addressing their real-life transportation needs will help post-TANF individuals transition into the mainstream workforce with stability and permanence. (more…)

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The politics of light rail pork

Steve BucksteinAlthough the phrase “light rail” wasn’t even mentioned in the hearing, it seemed to be the elephant in the room today when the Subcommittee on Transportation and Economic Development of the Joint Ways and Means Committee met to move forward a $100 lottery bond measure to fund transportation projects throughout Oregon.

As introduced in the House, HB 2278 would have required that at least 15 percent of the funding be allocated to each of five regions described in the bill. But when the bill reached this committee, the 15 percent number had somehow been reduced to (more…)

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A small dinghy of sanity in a roaring sea of legislative excess

Steve BucksteinFrom the 1840s through the 1860s more than 80,000 pioneers walked beside their covered wagons along the Oregon Trail from Missouri to Oregon. They came for progress. They came for opportunity. They came for freedom. The journey was long and dangerous. Some never made it, dying along the way.

Now, some legislators have mixed up preserving the physical path they followed with preserving the ideals which propelled them to make their harrowing journeys.

By a 23 to 6 vote, the Oregon Senate passed SB 823 A that would stop ALL development, including (more…)

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One Vote Short: House Education Committee Votes on HB 3010

Matt WingardCascade Commentary

Summary

One third of the legislature supported the Freedom to Choose My School Grant bill in the first year that we attempted to lobby at the state capitol. A number of others expressed off-the-record interest in our attempts to bring more choices to low-income and minority parents in Portland. Few bills get this kind of support during their first legislative session. (more…)

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One Vote Short

Matt WingardHouse Education Committee votes on our school choice proposal

On Friday, May 11, 2007 supporters of House Bill 3010 convinced the House Education Committee to vote on the issue of giving low-income minority parents a choice in their child’s education.

Using a procedural motion, we attempted to amend HB 3010 into a Senate bill (SB 334A) being considered by the Committee. Both School Choice Working Group board member Esther Hinson and I testified on the amendment.

We reminded committee members that drop-out and reading failure rates continue at alarming rates within (more…)

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Clean sweep or consumer rip-off?

Steve BucksteinWhile waiting to testify on another bill before the House Consumer Protection Committee, I listened to testimony in favor of a bill which would require anyone who cleans or inspects chimneys in Oregon to be licensed as a general contractor (SB 605).

A representative of the State Fire Marshall supported the bill and told the committee that over the last eight years there were 4,689 reported chimney fires in the state, nearly 600 a year.

I then asked to testify in order to clarify whether this bill would really protect consumers, or the chimney sweeps. Here’s a summary of my comments:

I reminded the legislators that they sit on the Consumer Protection Committee, not the (more…)

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Don’t Pork-Barrel Microenterprises

Sreya SarkarCascade Commentary

Summary

Microenterprises have much to offer to the poor in this country, but only if they take root in a natural way and are not imposed on the poor like other poverty reduction programs. Microenterprise is very different from the usual government-led poverty reduction programs and can only thrive in a deregulated and decentralized economic environment. (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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Sometimes Magic Happens

Matt WingardThursday, April 5, 2007, was a great day for me personally. I was very proud to be a part of this hearing, which you can listen to here (starting at 1:36:50):

A mostly African American delegation from Portland traveled to the Oregon State Capitol to testify in support of House Bill 3010, the Freedom to Choose My School Grant program. The bill would create a pilot project to allow 1,000 low-income students to take the state funding for their education and go to any school, public or private in Portland.

The bill got a hearing because State Rep. Betty Komp (D-Woodburn) believes that low-income residents of Portland deserve an opportunity to be heard, and she chairs the House Subcommittee on Education Innovation. (more…)

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Is "Single Payer" a dirty word?

Steve Buckstein

When Sally C. Pipes of the Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco gave invited testimony* before the House Health Care Committee last Wednesday, she briefly commented on the major health care reform bills before the legislature. She noted that all of them had the potential to devolve into a single payer system like the one she is so critical of in her native Canada.

Committee member Rep. Ben Cannon challenged Ms. Pipes, arguing that since none of the bills actually mentioned “single payer” that she might want to be more careful with her use of language. She responded by reiterating that whether or not they actually contained those words, their flawed approaches to health care reform could inevitably lead to a single payer system.

The very fact that a legislator seemed so concerned with keeping “single payer” out of the discussion may mean that those in favor of such a system have concluded that the public won’t go for it. Good news, if it’s true.

*Listen to the entire hearing. Ms. Pipes testimony occupies the first 23 minutes, then two state workers testify, then Ms. Pipes and the state workers answer questions beginning at 34:30 into the hearing. This portion of the hearing ends at 59:00 into the two hour session.

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Transporting Low-Income Workers to a Better Future in Rural Oregon

Sreya SarkarCascade Commentary

Summary

The growing number of low-income workers in Oregon’s rural counties calls attention to their diverse transportation needs. The sparse populations concentrated in these areas, combined with the types of occupations available, require flexible transportation arrangements that cannot be provided by fixed-route public transit. Private car ownership can empower these workers to reach jobs in our rural communities. (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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No Plan(ners) Required

Steve BucksteinCascade Commentary

Summary

Central economic planning suffers from the fallacy of composition: assuming that what is true of the parts is true of the whole. But there is no collective mind in a city, state or nation that can do for the whole what countless individuals and organizations can do better for themselves. Oregon should remove the central planners and let individuals and businesses make economic decisions based on real-world market and consumer signals. (more…)

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Legislative Leadership Forum – March 16, 2007

Ending Oregon’s War on the Poor
10 Strategies for Reducing Economic Barriers
Cascade Policy Institute
Legislative Leadership Forum
Presented in HR 50, State Capitol
Salem, Oregon noon-1pm
March 16, 2007

Oregon is often seen as a “progressive” state. But many of the state’s policies make it unnecessarily difficult for the lowest-income members of society to gain a foothold on the economic ladder.

In this legislative briefing, Cascade Policy Institute explores 10 simple ways to lower the tax and regulatory burdens on the poor. (more…)

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Economists DO NOT AGREE about elimination of the corporate kicker

Steve BucksteinThe legislative debate on whether to finance a rainy day fund by ending the corporate kicker, whether forever or just this year, is complex. Proponents of ending the kicker claim that economists of all stripes agree that the corporate kicker holds no economic benefit for the state.

Noted Oregon economist and Cascade Policy Institute academic advisor Randall Pozdena recently responded to one maker of that claim, Senator Ryan Deckert. Below, with his permission, is Dr. Pozdena’s email message:

—–Original Message—–
From: Randall Pozdena
Sent: Tuesday, March 06, 2007 12:37 PM
To: Senator Ryan Deckert
Subject: Economists DO NOT AGREE about elimination of the corporate kicker.

Dear Senator Deckert: (more…)

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Protecting the "victims"

Steve Buckstein

There’s no one right or wrong way to hold an election in a democracy. Three times since 1996 Oregon voters have approved the so-called “double majority rule” for local property tax measures in other than general elections. Basically, the rule requires that for a tax measure to pass at least half of all eligible voters must vote, and half of those voting must vote Yes.

In my testimony* before a Senate committee against moves to eliminate the double majority rule, I renamed it the “25 percent rule” because what it really does is require that at least 25 percent of all eligible voters approve a tax increase on everyone else (one-half of all eligible voters showing up multiplied by one-half of those voting Yes = 25 percent).

The Majority Leader of the Oregon House testified before me at the same hearing. In his view, the double majority rule has created a number of “victims,” namely (more…)

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An inconvenient truth (about prevailing wages, not global warming)

Steve Buckstein

Cascade has researched, written and testified about what’s wrong with prevailing wage laws for a long time. Basically, these laws require that higher than market wages be paid to workers on “public works” projects such as roads, schools, courthouses, etc.

Supporters of Oregon’s prevailing wage laws, primairly trade unions, defend them by claiming that the prevailing wage is really just the market wage for a given skill in a given region of the state. The wage rates are set after a compulsory survey is returned to the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries stating wages paid by the responding construction firms.

Now, a bill before the Legislature seeks to exempt certain projects, primarily the construction of low-income housing units. Both agencies commissioning such projects and trade unions testified in favor of this exemption. What isn’t clear is why (more…)

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Evidence-Based War on Poverty

Sreya SarkarCascade Commentary

Summary

Forty-three years after President Johnson declared the War on Poverty, Americans are questioning the effective-ness of government welfare dollars. Evidence-based policymaking seeks to bridge the gap between policy makers and social scientists in finding solutions to poverty that are effective in the real world. (more…)

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Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Wi-Fi

Cascade Commentary

Summary

As Thomas Sowell once wrote, “What is politically defined as economic ‘planning’ is the forcible superseding of other people’s plans by government officials.” The city of San Francisco is a case in point. If Mayor Gavin Newsom wanted San Francisco to benefit from a robust and inexpensive wireless market, he would abandon TechConnect and devote his energy to the removal of any existing barriers to competition. (more…)

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Oregon Legislative Update

Matt WingardCascade Commentary

Summary

The 2007 Oregon State Legislature is in full swing and it’s getting ugly fast for those of us who believe in individual liberty, economic opportunity and personal responsibility. Stay tuned for more updates from Cascade Policy Institute. (more…)

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Luddites against Internet learning

Steve Buckstein

Oregon currently has 70 public charter schools which provide for some diversity in the often too regimented public school system. A law passed in 2005 recognizes the value of allowing new, innovative and more flexible ways of educating children within the public school system, yet one provision is hobbling this clear legislative intent.

The law requires that at least half of all students enrolled in an online charter school must live within the school district that charters that school. A bill has been introduced in this legislative session with the sole purpose of removing that artificial barrier to Internet learning. I testified* before the House Education Innovation Subcommittee on February 6th and seemed to get some traction for my position that such a restriction is based on similar fears that the nineteenth century English Luddites had about losing their textile jobs to the new steam powered looms. Today, public school teachers are afraid of losing their jobs if too many students figure out ways to learn online.

The only witness testifying to keep the 50 percent residency rule was, no surprise, a representative of Oregon’s largest teachers union. We’ll be watching this situation closely to see whether Oregon legislators are more concerned about helping kids learn, or about protecting public employee jobs.

*Listen to the entire hearing. My testimony begins at 57:32 into the hearing, followed by some interesting questions from committee members and my responses.

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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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Alternative Energy: Not Yet Ready for Prime Time

Cascade Commentary

Summary

In his 2006 Action Plan for Energy, Governor Ted Kulongoski says he wants Oregon to meet 25% of its energy needs with renewable energy by 2025. However, alternative energy technologies are not yet viable on the market and should succeed or fail on their own merits, not because government officials and lobbyists favor them. (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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Nobel Prize “drives” home idea to help Oregon’s low-income population

Sreya SarkarCascade Commentary

Summary

Lack of reliable transportation is a crucial barrier for low-income and welfare dependent people in escaping intergenerational cycles of poverty. For these individuals and families, car ownership plays a positive role in acquiring employment, raising income and participating more fully in family and community life. (more…)

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Metro’s Natural Area Bond Measure: Open Space for Whom?

John A. Charles, Jr.Cascade Commentary

Summary

Metro’s $227.4 million bond measure on the ballot this November (Measure 26-80) would provide financing for the purchase of natural areas throughout the region, along with a limited number of capital improvement projects in local parks and neighborhoods. However, those who feel that the region needs more public access to natural areas, closer to where people actually live, may find the Metro measure to be a poor investment. (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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Unpacking Oregon’s Judiciary

Cascade Commentary

Summary

The ways in which Oregon judges are selected and held accountable lead to exaggerated partisan control of thecourts. Reforming the selection process would restore Oregonians’ confidence in the fairness of the judiciary. (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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Oregon’s New Umbrella: The Rainy Day Amendment

Steve BucksteinCascade Commentary

Summary

The Rainy Day Amendment responds to the fact that Oregon’s state budget grew twice as fast as population and inflation over the past ten years. It offers the best features of the Colorado spending limitation, which led to strong economic growth during the boom, while avoiding the worst features that kept Colorado from easily adjusting to the bust. (more…)

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“Right” to health care violates individual rights

Michael Barton, Ph.D.Cascade Commentary

Summary

Three state lawmakers have turned the philosophy of individual rights on its head by declaring that all Oregonians have a fundamental right to health care. (more…)

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Taxation is Uncivilized

Steve Buckstein

Cascade Commentary

Click here to read the report in PDF format

 

This year, as you endure the inconvenience and dread of filling out your federal and state income tax forms, consider looking at Tax Day in a new and revealing light.

Look beyond your relief at getting your forms in the mail before the midnight deadline. Look beyond the fact that you either underpaid all year and now must write a check to the government, or you overpaid and the government will eventually give you back some of your own hard earned money.
(more…)

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Health Mandates Price Some Out of Insurance Market

Michael Barton, Ph.D.Cascade Commentary

Summary

The 2005 Oregon Legislature sought to improve health insurance by adding to the list of procedures and conditions that must be covered. Despite good intentions, insurance mandates increase the costs of health insurance policies, pricing some people out of the market entirely. (more…)

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Stupid in Oregon

Steve BucksteinCascade Commentary

Summary

John Stossel’s recent TV special, “Stupid in America” energized the debate about what’s wrong with our public school system. European kids do better than Americans on standardized tests because they have school choice and we don’t. Teachers unions are a big part of the problem. Oregonians must choose between putting more money into the same school monopolies, or more school choice. (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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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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The Case for Price Gouging

Michael Barton, Ph.D.Cascade Commentary

Summary

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…)

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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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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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Socialized Medicine: A powerful symbol of national identity?

Steve BucksteinCascade Commentary

Summary

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…)

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Forcing people to be good

Michael Barton, Ph.D.Cascade Commentary

Summary

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…)

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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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Oregon Unemployment Insurance Overpayments

William B. Conerly, Ph.D.Cascade Commentary

Summary

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…)

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Must this Teacher be Fired?

Michael Barton, Ph.D.Cascade Commentary

Summary

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…)

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Deconsolidate Oregon’s School Districts

Cascade Commentary

Summary

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…)

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Price Gouging is Not the Problem

Cascade Commentary

Summary

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…)

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Public School Monopoly Fails Latino Children

Cascade Commentary

Summary

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…)

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Job Seekers Need Wheels to Wealth

John A. Charles, Jr.Cascade Commentary

Summary

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…)

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Do Schools Need More Money?

Steve Buckstein

Cascade Commentary

Click here to read the report in PDF format

 

The most pervasive public policy myth in Oregon is that we are not spending enough money on public education. This supposed lack of funding drives legislative and school board debates across the state. It also drives the constant calls for “tax reform,” which are veiled attempts to raise taxes.

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Better, Cheaper Health care for Oregonians

Steve Buckstein

Cascade Commentary

Click here to read the full report in PDF format

 

As the last decade ended, healthcare spending by Oregon’s state and local governments was 57 percent higher than in demographically comparable states. This startling statistic, from Cascade’s just-released report, How Does Oregon Government Spending Rank? should energize policy makers to look for better, cheaper ways to deliver healthcare services to Oregonians.

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Who is Bankrupting America?

Steve Buckstein

Cascade Commentary

Click here to read the report in PDF format

 

Conventional wisdom tells us that Republicans fight for balanced budgets and smaller government. Not true, according to Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman and host of MSNBC’s Scarborough Country.

Congressman Joe, as his constituents called him, helped take control of the House of Representatives when 73 “barbarians” were elected to “storm the gleaming gates of Congress” in 1994. Led by newly appointed Speaker Newt Gingrich, they pledged to balance the budget and reduce the role of government in the lives of Americans. Ten years later, and out of office for three, Scarborough blows the whistle on members of his own party in his new book, Rome Wasn’t Burnt in a Day.

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De-politicizing Science

Cascade CommentaryFred W. Decker

Politicians often use science as a source of statements to place their policy proposals beyond debate. One of their policy goals is to minimize risk. Nothing is without risk, but politicians and policy advocates often treat risk as an absolute hazard to eliminate at all costs, not as one factor to weigh with a proposal’s other detriments and rewards. A politician can gain greatly by uncovering a risk and lose greatly by championing a risky proposal, even if its benefits far outweigh its risks. When politicians can’t manipulate and exploit science to support their policy proposals, they will sometimes try to suppress its findings. Scientists can play the risk game, too, usually when writing proposals for government-funded research.

The new book, Politicizing Science: The Alchemy of Policymaking, contains essays by eleven scientists telling how political uses of science too often corrupt the scientific search for truth. The Hoover Institution and the George C. Marshall Institute published the book in the hope that its insights will promote the beneficial use of science and “discourage purely opportunistic behavior.”

Unproven assertions of risk are accepted as fact because it is impossible to prove the negative that contradicts them. Editor Michael Gough observes that, lacking a means of such verification, the “consensus” of some committee is often promoted to support eliminating a particular risk.

The most avid activists advance the “precautionary principle,” which reasons that if something’s dangers are unknown, it should be banned completely, just to be on the safe side. Believers in the precautionary principle ignore any potential benefits of a device or substance. DDT saved hundreds of millions of human lives by killing the mosquitoes that spread malaria, but was banned because of its potential to harm certain birds.

Politicizing Science includes many accounts of science-abusing processes in public policy and government regulation, covering issues ranging from nuclear power generation to “global warming.” A chapter on chemical use in Sweden tells how scientific guidance was displaced by the precautionary principle, resulting in significant over-regulation.

In his essay “Science or Political Science,” Patrick J. Michaels evaluates the U. S. National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change (USNA), the document that alleges the existence of ongoing “global warming” and which is so often used by alarmists to urge ratification of the Kyoto protocol. Prof. Michaels compared the USNA’s climate-change models with the actual observed temperatures during the 20th century and found the models did “worse than no model at all” in predicting temperatures. Because science consists of seeing whether predictions made from an asserted hypothesis do indeed happen, a true scientific model of climate change would actually predict climate change. Michaels observes that the present USNA is “clearly not science” and more like a “politically based polemic.” He recommends that a new USNA be created by a team of objective-minded scientists.

Other essays in Politicizing Science address such topics as spotted owls, lynx, wolves, DDT, dioxins, PCBs, endocrine disrupters, carcinogens, pharmaceuticals, herbicides, pesticides, Agent Orange, cold fusion and the competition for water. “Science Gored” recounts the bizarre claims and “unprecedented interference” by Al Gore in anti-technology actions.

The final essay rivals a detective story for suspense as Dr. S. Fred Singer reveals what was uncovered in pre-trial discovery when Dr. Singer found it necessary to defend himself and the late Dr. Roger Revelle by suing a Harvard scientist for libel. The very last page prints the retraction and apology statement from a scientist who had served as a political henchman against doctors Revelle and Singer. Dr. Singer’s account inspires the hope that legitimate science will meet worthy advocates in court and in public opinion.

Fred W. Decker, Ph.D. is a forensic meteorologist on the Emeritus Faculty of
Oregon State University; a Lt. Col., USAFR-Ret, from duty with the Air Weather
Service; was a senior education executive in the Reagan administration and is an
academic advisor to Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland, Oregon think tank.
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