The United States of America (USA) currently leads the 2016 Summer Olympic medal race with an overwhelming 85 medals, including 28 gold medals. The USA has dominated the Summer Olympic Games since the games began in 1896. According to an article by Satchel Price, a newsdesk contributor for SB Nation’s Midwest, at the start of the 2016 games, the United States has tallied exactly 2399 medals all time; 977 of those medals being gold.
Amidst the Olympic successes, we hear stories of athletes overcoming incredible odds such as Claressa Shields, also known as T-Rex, who made history in the 2012 London games. At 17 years old, she was the first U.S. woman to take home the gold for boxing allowing her to overcome poverty, crime, and under-employment. Jesse Owens, One of America’s most storied Track and Field competitors, was the son of a sharecropper, yet he achieved a stunning accomplishment winning four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin. The country as a whole still struggles with poverty, with nearly 5 million healthy, working-age adults on government support. Waste, fraud, and abuse are weakening a government aid program meant to help those who need a hand up rather than a hand out.
August 22 is the 20th anniversary of President Bill Clinton signing the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), better known as “Welfare Reform”. This landmark law instituted work requirements, imposed time limits, and gave states the freedom to innovate with their welfare programs through the newly formed Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. According to Heartland’s Logan Pike writing at The Hill, “The results speak for themselves. Since national welfare reform passed in the mid-1990s, roughly 9 million people have moved off of the TANF program.“
In 2008 and 2015, The Heartland Institute produced the 2015 Welfare Reform Report Card, the nation’s only comprehensive ranking of the states according to their welfare policies. States that performed the best were those that encouraged economic independence and were successful in reducing welfare rolls, poverty, and unemployment.
In 2015, Missouri passed a significant welfare reform bill, moving the state from 50th to 22nd in Heartland’s rankings. Arizona, Kansas, and Maine also made positive changes to their welfare policies based on recommendations in our report card. In 2016, other states considered anti-poverty welfare reforms, including Alabama, Georgia, Maine, Mississippi, and Missouri. The five policies recommended in the Report Card include integrating welfare and social services, requiring work or work-related activities immediately upon qualifying for aid, cash diversion programs, lifetime limits on aid, and effective sanctions.
For more information on anti-poverty performance and welfare reform policies in every state, we have created a website, https://heartland.org/welfare-reform, where you can download Heartland’s full 2015 Welfare Reform Report Card or your state’s individual report card. The Web version of each report card includes a page explaining the study’s methodology and what the state needs to do to improve its grades.
What We’re Working On
Budget & Tax
Research & Commentary: Gross Receipt Tax Proposal Would Make Oregon Noncompetitive
In this Research & Commentary, Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Glans examines gross receipt taxes and argues Oregon should reject a proposed gross receipt tax, as it over complicates the tax code. “The increased costs generated by GRTs are very harmful to economic competitiveness and a state’s ability to attract new businesses. Oregon should reject a gross receipt tax; it complicates the tax code and disincentivizes in-state investments,” Glans writes. Read more
A Brief Assessment of the Proposed Convention Rules Adopted by the Assembly of State Legislatures
In June 2016 the Assembly of State Legislatures (ASL) issued its “Rules for an Article V Convention for Proposing Amendment(s).” The document is a recommended set of rules for a future amendments convention under Article V of the U.S. Constitution. In this new Heartland Institute Policy Brief, constitutional scholar Rob Natelson gives the document two cheers, noting: “The ASL rules contain much that is useful and valuable, and a great deal of ASL’s time has been spent well. … Unfortunately, the ASL rules seem to have been drafted almost on a blank slate, with insufficient attention to the solid experience of prior conventions. Future rule drafters should, therefore, employ the ASL rules as a source of ideas rather than as a model or starting point for actual convention rules.”
Nevada Supreme Court to Decide Fate of Country’s Most Expansive School Choice Program
In this Heartlander article, News Reporter Kenneth Artz details how the Nevada Supreme Court will soon decide two cases brought against the state’s education savings account (ESA) program, the nation’s first universal ESA program. ESAs give parents access to all or a portion of the public funding allotted for their children’s education, allowing them to remove their children from public schools and use the ESA to pay for private school tuition, textbooks, tutoring, and other educational resources. So far, more than 7,000 parents have applied for a Nevada ESA. The ACLU of Nevada, who brought forward the lawsuit, is alleging the ESA program is unconstitutional because it uses public funds for religious purposes. Read more
Energy & Environment
Research & Commentary: North Carolina’s Renewable Portfolio Standards Are Too Costly
In this Research & Commentary, Policy Analyst Tim Benson writes about a new study from the Civitas Institute which argues North Carolina’s renewable portfolio standards (RPS) have had a negative impact on state taxpayers and ratepayers, as well as on the entire state economy. The study finds North Carolina’s renewable mandate will cost $3.9 billion in total value added in 2016, increasing electricity prices by over 10 percent and costing over 17,000 jobs. By 2020, net new RPS costs will reach $1.9 billion, while the total rise in electricity prices will be 42 percent and net job losses will reach over 51,000. By 2025, net new RPS costs will still be over $1.7 billion, and there will be decreased economic output totaling $6.6 billion, a loss of 44,000 jobs, and a 36 percent increase in electricity prices. By lowering electricity prices, Benson argues, repealing renewable power mandates will raise living standards, stimulate long-term economic growth, and create a substantial increase in net jobs. Read more
Research & Commentary: North Carolina Should Reject Onerous Maintenance of Certification
In this Research & Commentary, Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Glans examines the numerous problems maintenance of certification is causing in North Carolina and other states nationwide. “MOC certifications were designed with the intention of ensuring physicians are educated on the latest health research and methods, not to act as a profit center for medical board organizations. While a certain degree of certification will always be necessary, physicians should not be required to pass through a quagmire of costly and expensive tests that may be unnecessary,” Glans writes. Read more
From Our Free-Market Friends
Can Health Spending Be Reined In through Supply Constraints? An Evaluation of Certificate-of-Need Laws
The Mercatus Center at George Mason University recently released a research study on certificate-of-need laws (CON) titled, “Can Health Spending Be Reined In through Supply Constraints? An Evaluation of Certificate-of-Need Laws”. In this Study, Economist James Bailey finds that CON laws have largely failed in their original goal of reducing health care spending and actually increase costs for states and the federal government. Specifically, Bailey finds that CON laws raise total health care spending by 3.1 percent—and by 5 percent for physician care—in affected state; increase Medicare spending by 6.9 percent in affected states; and finally that states that have repealed CON laws have seen health care costs drop by 4 percent within 5 years. Read more