Government Role

Energy Policy: The Dark Night?

The Bat-Signal
The Bat-Signal

Having saved the world from itself over 60 years ago and put a man on the Moon 25 years later, Americans are a proud lot. But, time waits on no one. As the country's vaunted financial infrastructure reports over $400 billion in write-offs and credit dries up, the transportation infrastructure watches its airlines charge for carrying a suitcase while bridges collapse, and its social security infrastructure sinks slowly into the abyss of insolvency, dare we ask, “what's next”? Try energy. Meeting America's energy needs and moving toward a low carbon future look increasingly distant.

This article could as easily be about the financial or transportation infrastructure as it is about energy. Or education or healthcare or immigration. We're reasonably good at fixing specific problems, considerably less adept at developing policy over broader areas. The reasons are many but one is key: our central government has sought—and failed—to fix and do everything. Blame it on the media, personalities, or simply good intentions gone bad. But, debate, compromise and principled consensus have become ever more difficult in Washington. The end result is the country's real challenges remain unsolved.

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Q&A: UT State Rep. Sheryl Allen

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Utah Representative Sheryl Allen isn't referring to maple syrup or frozen tundra when she lauds our neighbors to the north. She's talking about Canada's procedures for vetting and ratifying trade agreements. PT talks to her about free trade, gambling and Antigua.

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Jobs: States Compete in a Global Economy

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With America's Asian allies making better products at lower prices, state legislators debate ways to build a more competitive workforce.

The exodus of America's service jobs to low-wage countries is spurring policymakers and business leaders to rethink education reform and job creation and training.

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State Economies, Global Market

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"All for one, one for all" was fine for the King's Guards, but does it work for 50 states?

Canadian potatoes and Mexican truckers. Border states want them heavily regulated, but there's not much lawmakers can do. The Constitution gives legislators in Maine and Texas as much right to restrict trade as it gives Des Moines officials the ability to make agreements with South Korea over Iowa beef.

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The Fed on the Bubble

Policy Today magazine cover
November 2, 2005

No one denies that the U.S. housing market has been red-hot for several years. But here does the Federal Reserve come down on the issue of a possible "housing bubble"?

As Princeton Professor Benjamin Bernanke prepares to step into Alan Greenspan's storied shoes, he is undoubtedly aware that he will also inherit the legacy of Greenspan's largely successful two-decade run as the nation's central banker. But as the Federal Reserve chairman approaches retirement at the end of January 2006, it appears that the nation's hot housing market—an over-inflated "bubble" some would describe it—might pose a threat to his legacy, not to mention the overall economy. After all, the bursting of the stock market bubble in 2000 helped contribute to a subsequent recession in 2001.

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Economics: To Have and To Have Not

One hand giving, one hand receiving

Increasing wage disparity threatens to tear a hole in our social fabric. Several states are looking for ways to mend it.

The growing gap between the wealthiest in our society and everyone else is all in the numbers. The ratio of what the average CEO is paid, compared to the average worker, leapt incredibly from 30-1 in 2003 to 431-1 in 2004, according to the Institute for Policy Studies. Where has our society derailed in terms of wage equity and what can be done about it?

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CAFTA: Is "Free Trade" Enough?

Policy Today magazine cover
October 5, 2005

Should America's longstanding commitment to "free trade" also encompass support for the economic safeguards its workforce has won at home?

Over the past 60 years, the United States has entered a number of free trade agreements as the global economy has expanded: GATT, WTO, NAFTA, and most recently CAFTA—the Central American Free Trade Agreement. The primary goal of these treaties has been to reduce tariffs and to increase economic prosperity across the board.

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The Budget: We Are What We Spend

Budgets reflect priorities, but in our case, those aren't always clear.

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once said that anyone "who understands the problems of running a home will be nearer to understanding the problems of running a country." Indeed, when most people think about government, they often think about it in personal terms. When looking at the federal budget (and deficit)—it's tempting to think, "I have to balance my budget, why can't the government? Of course, that's not really true. Household debt currently stands at record levels. When it comes to living beyond one's means, America's elected representatives have long embraced the population's credit card mentality.

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Energy Bill: Compromise Without Consensus?

Policy Today magazine cover
October 5, 2005

The recently passed federal energy and highway bills have been celebrated for their bipartisan support, but is it at the expense of well-articulated policy goals?

With gas prices soaring, U.S. policymakers recently passed legislation meant to tackle the country's deepening energy crisis. The $12.3 billion energy bill was almost double its intended price. The federal highway bill rang up at $284 billion, boasting 6,371 special projects. The two massive appropriations bills—ostensibly designed to improve an aging highway infrastructure and wean the country from its dependence on (mostly imported) fossil fuels—offer insight into both policy and process.

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Sarbanes-Oxley: A Bridge too Far?

After four years of Sarbanes-Oxley, are we any better off?

America's most long-standing rivalry? You might guess Yankees vs. Red Sox. But the answer could just as easily be business vs. government, with brawls over taxes, regulation and subsidies erupting throughout the nation's history. The fracas dates from virtually day one of the republic, with the fight over creating a national bank (Hamilton's First Bank of the United States).

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