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NAIC Considers Reforms In Personal Lines Regulation
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NAIC Considers Reforms In Personal Lines Regulation

BY E. E. MAZIER

As promised at the spring meeting of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners in March, the Improvements to State-Based Systems (EX) Working Group has begun looking into the possibility of modernizing the regulation of personal lines insurance. Insurance regulators, industry trade groups, consumer advocates and educators participated in an interim session in Kansas City, Mo. from April 30 through May 1. A day-and-a-half was devoted to panel presentations and the last half-day consisted of roundtable discussion.

05/21/2001
A GROWING FAMILY SEES REAL HELP FROM THE EXTRA MONEY
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A GROWING FAMILY SEES REAL HELP FROM THE EXTRA MONEY

BY JENNIFER A. DLOUHY AND CHARLES POPE

In the war on taxes, Shoreline residents Paul and Heather Savage are willing foot soldiers. Neither rich nor poor, they lead a modest but comfortable life that, like many families, revolves around their children, their community and their work. And like millions of middle-class families, the Savages eagerly embrace the idea of lower taxes. They were one of two dozen "tax families" enlisted by President Bush during the campaign to highlight the need for tax cuts, and like Bush, they believe lower taxes are fair and necessary.

05/21/2001
National Debt Overkill
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Press Release

National Debt Overkill

As published in The Washington Times, May 18, 2001 An important new white paper on the economy by Jack Kemp, published by Empower.org, should be must reading for all Americans.

05/18/2001
Congress's Virtual School Reform
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Press Release

Congress's Virtual School Reform

As published in The New York Times, May 18, 2001 The Senate will soon complete work on President Bush's education bill, just as the House begins to consider amendments to it. Without some fundamental changes, however, this once bold plan is scarcely worth enacting.

05/18/2001
Issue Analysis 118 - The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: To Drill or Not to Drill?
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Issue Analysis

Issue Analysis 118 - The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: To Drill or Not to Drill?

Oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) has become one of the most politically contentious provisions of the debate over national energy policy. Assessments show that there are likely to be significant quantities of oil in ANWR and that this could add appreciably to domestic supplies. However, recovering this oil is certain to have impacts on the region’s environment. The question for policymakers is whether these environmental impacts are so significant that they should preclude all exploration and production, or whether they are minimal and manageable.

05/17/2001
Alabama CSE Day at the Capitol: 150 Alabama CSE Activists Call for Choice and Competition For Prescription Drugs
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Press Release

Alabama CSE Day at the Capitol: 150 Alabama CSE Activists Call for Choice and Competition For Prescription Drugs

Montgomery, AL - In states across the country, CSE state chapters have brought grassroots activists to their respective capitols to lobby their legislators on core CSE issues such as tax-cuts, prescription drugs, the environment, technology issues, and tort reform. Alabama CSE was the sixth CSE state chapter to conduct its CSE Day at the Capitol in Montgomery, AL. Over 150 grassroots activists were bussed in from around the state in order to let their legislators know that they wanted less government, less taxes and more freedom.

05/17/2001
Tech Bytes- Tid Bits in Tech News: Bundling Redux
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Press Release

Tech Bytes- Tid Bits in Tech News: Bundling Redux

Although still five months from its scheduled ship date, Microsoft’s latest version of Windows has re-ignited the “tying” controversy that precipitated the antitrust case currently on appeal. However, this time Microsoft is not accused of leveraging its operating system “monopoly” to force consumers to accept other products. Instead, rivals contend that Microsoft is using the popularity of its Media Player to encourage consumers to upgrade to Windows XP.

05/17/2001
Real Debt Relief: Paying Back The American Taxpayer Should Be Job One
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Real Debt Relief: Paying Back The American Taxpayer Should Be Job One

BY James C. Miller III

For nearly three decades, annual outlays of the U.S. government exceeded annual receipts, and the federal debt rose steadily - until 1998. Since then, the federal government has run significant annual surpluses. Paying off a major portion of the debt within a decade appears not only feasible but altogether likely. This presents a set of questions heretofore not addressed. For example, what proportion of the national debt could be paid off without incurring unreasonable costs? At present, the public debt is $ 3.4 trillion. Even if the Treasury Department were to end the Savings Bond program, the state and local series, and other such programs, as well as suspended the issuance of longer-term debt, some $ 500 billion would mature after 2011. To pay down more, Treasury would have to engage in very aggressive "buy-back" strategies, and these can be costly. Using more reasonable assumptions about policy and economics, the Office of Management and Budget and the Congressional Budget Office project that roughly $ 1 trillion would be unavailable for redemption in 2011 - a concept Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan recently labeled the "irreducible minimum." Even assuming you could pay off the national debt, it would not make sense to end the program completely. First, the federal government needs to borrow in order to cope with month-to-month variances in receipts and outlays. Furthermore, it needs the ability to borrow on a substantial scale if circumstances demanded it. How much debt it would be prudent to pay down and whether to end the program forever are matters over which experts can endlessly disagree. But the more vital issue is what the federal government might do with this surplus once the debt was paid down to this "irreducible minimum." There are really no good answers to this question. The federal government could place these hundreds of billions, or even trillions, of dollars in bank accounts. The government presently maintains bank accounts in order to facilitate thousands of transactions each and every day. But it doesn't load up these accounts with massive balances, nor should it. Purchasing assets appears the obvious answer. But as Chairman Greenspan has cautioned, "It would be exceptionally difficult to insulate the government's investment decisions from political pressures." Moreover, disposing of such huge surpluses in this fashion would mean government controlling or outright owning substantial portions of the U.S. economy. Under CBO's and OMB's base lines, more than $ 3 trillion in such "excess surpluses or excess cash" are projected by 2011. If all were invested in equities, the U.S. government would be able to control roughly 10 percent of the total stock market in 2011. The prospects for harmful effects on economic efficiency, not to mention the potential for political chicanery, are chilling. If surpluses were to continue after the debt was retired, another course would be to create a system of personal investment accounts. These could be for the purpose of augmenting individuals' retirement accounts, health care coverage or even promoting other worthy goals like education. In effect, the government would be forcing people to pay according to the canons of the tax code and then guiding them in their purchase decisions. Our choice would be between creeping communism and creeping socialism! But the question has to be asked: Why run a surplus once the debt is paid? Why should the U.S. government, not to mention the American taxpayer, be put in such a bind? What reason is there for the government to accumulate substantial cash balances? It could create some sort of "rainy day fund," as some states have done. But surely the kind of balances we are talking about far exceed any reasonable need along those lines. Moreover, the "rainy day" device is not so important for the national government, which is subject to far less swings in revenues and outlays, and which has a much easier time of issuing debt if warranted. The obvious answer is to phase out the surplus in a thoughtful and cost-effective manner. As Chairman Greenspan recently testified, "it is far better . that the surpluses be lowered by tax reductions than by spending increases." In fact, to avoid a return to deficits, Congress and the president must take action to lower spending in the future. As for the debt, it should be placed on a glide path to reach the "irreducible minimum," and the remaining surplus should be returned to whom it belongs - the American taxpayer. James Miller is a former director of the Office of Management and Budget. He is now counselor to Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation, a market-oriented research and education organization in Washington, D.C.

05/17/2001
Government Urged Not to Ignore -and to Value Fairly -Interests of U.S. Consumers, Workers as Canadian Lumber Trade Restr…
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Government Urged Not to Ignore -and to Value Fairly -Interests of U.S. Consumers, Workers as Canadian Lumber Trade Restr…

Even though the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) today voted to allow countervailing duty and antidumping petitions on Canadian softwood lumber imports into the U.S. to move forward, the concerns of millions of American consumers and workers must be the primary concern as the U.S. government deals with antidumping and countervailing duty issues in the coming months, said the American Consumers for Affordable Homes (ACAH), a 15-member alliance representing consumer groups, home builders and lumber dealers. "We are confident that in the long run the concerns of American consumers and more than 6 million U.S. workers in the homebuilding and related sectors will be considered," said Susan Petniunas, ACAH spokesperson. "If they are fairly evaluated, any attempts to impose future trade restraints on Canadian softwood lumber will end, and there will be free trade between our two countries for these products. Today's decision to continue the investigations is unfortunate." Two days after the U.S./Canada Softwood Lumber Agreement (SLA) expired on March 31, the Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports, a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying firm representing some U.S. lumber producers, filed countervailing duty and antidumping petitions. If the orders are imposed, they would result in a hidden tax on lumber amounting to up to 78 percent. Today's preliminary action by the ITC allows the investigations to move forward and receive further consideration by the Department of Commerce and the International Trade Commission (in the final phase of the Commission's injury investigation). "U.S. trade law sets a very low threshold for cases to move on to the next phase of consideration. While we are disappointed with the outcome, it was not unanticipated," Petniunas said. "We believe that it was a wrong decision, however." "The expiration of the SLA was a tremendous boost to the interests of American consumers and workers," said Petniunas. "It's essential that those interests are fairly evaluated and receive due consideration as this case moves forward." If orders are imposed, they could raise the cost of a typical new home by $2,000-$4,000, according to the ACAH. U. S. Census Bureau calculations indicate that an increase of this magnitude could drive nearly 1.2 million households out of the housing market each year. "Such action would have the most severe impact on the young, the elderly, and the less-wealthy," said Petniunas. "These people are likely to be deprived of the American dream of home ownership if these petitions are upheld." ACAH also explained that the investigations could impact thousands of American jobs. "U.S. workers who use softwood lumber in their employment outnumber those in the United States who supply lumber by 25 to 1," Petniunas said. "Placing a duty or tax on softwood lumber coming into the United States will negatively impact these workers and their families." In addition to the damage such results would have on individuals, enactment is likely to harm the national economy. "Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan recently testified before the Senate Finance Committee that slowing economic growth could spawn protectionist measures in the form of countervailing and antidumping suits that are 'unwise and surely self-defeating,'" said Petniunas. "The ITC in its final ruling and the Commerce Department will serve the interests of U.S. consumers, workers, and the national economy by rejecting the protectionist arguments in these petitions," Petniunas predicted. ACAH members include CHEP USA, Citizens for a Sound Economy, Consumers for World Trade, Free Trade Lumber Council, The Home Depot, International Mass Retail Association, International Sleep Products Association, Leggett & Platt Inc., Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform, Manufactured Housing Institute, National Association of Home Builders, National Black Chamber of Commerce, National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association, National Retail Federation, and the United States Hispanic Contractors Association.

05/16/2001
Alabama State Climatologist Speaks at Grassroots Rally for Sensible National Energy Plan
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Press Release

Alabama State Climatologist Speaks at Grassroots Rally for Sensible National Energy Plan

On May 15, 2001, Alabama state climatologist, Prof. John R. Christy, addressed more than 150 Alabama Citizens for a Sound Economy activists who gathered at the state Capitol to call for a national energy policy that is environmentally sensitive and economically sound. Prof. Christy discussed the impact of global warming and the present energy crisis on our economic prosperity.

05/16/2001

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