Archives: 11/2010

More Supreme Court Review on the Road

In case any of you are regretting not having been able to attend any of my September-October speaking events, here’s my public schedule for November-December (not counting a spirited Obamacare debate against Columbia’s Gillian Metzger last night at the University of Maryland Law School in Baltimore) (events sponsored by the Federalist Society asterisked):

  • Nov. 8 at noon – “Oh, That Rent-Seeking Mickey Mouse: Intellectual Property and Public Choice Theory” – Texas-Wesleyan (Fort Worth) Law School*
  • Nov. 9 at noon – Debate, “The Arizona Immigration Law: Constitutional?  Good Policy?” – St. Mary’s University (San Antonio) Law School*
  • Nov. 10 at noon – Debate on the Use of Foreign Law in Constitutional Intepretation – Florida International University (Miami) Law School*
  • Nov.11 at noon – “How I Got My Green Card or Why the Immigration System Is the Worst Part of the U.S. Government (and How to Reform It)” – St. Thomas University (Miami) Law School*
  • Nov.12 at 9:45am – Panel as part of all-day law review symposium, “Cure, Botch or Opiate?  Law, Politics, & the Constitutionality of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” – Florida International University Law School
  • Nov. 15 at noon – Constitutionality of Obamacare – University of Alabama Law School*
  • Nov. 16 at 11:30am – Panel, “Obamacare: Is it Constitutional?” Cumberland University (Birmingham) Law School*
  • Nov. 17 at noon - Debate on the Arizona Scholarship Tax Credit Case – Catholic University (Washington, DC) Law School
  • Nov. 22 at noon – Debate, “The Health Care Reform Act: What It Means for the Market, the Constitution, and You,” University of Michigan Law School*
  • Nov. 22 at 4pm – “The Sweet Mystery of Anthony Kennedy,” Detroit-Mercy Law School*
  • Nov. 23 at noon – “The Chrysler Bailout: Subverting the Constitution, Bankruptcy Law, and Good Sense,” Thomas M. Cooley Law School (Auburn Hills, MI)*
  • Dec. 1 at 10am – Panel, “Everything You Wanted to Know About Health Reform, But Were Afraid to Ask,” American Legislative Exchange Council’s 2010 States and Nation Policy Summit (Washington, DC).
  • Dec. 4 at 8:30am – Debate, “Point\Counterpoint: Diagnosing the Constitutionality of Federal Health Care Reforms,” Council of State Governments National Conference, Providence.  

As always, if you attend any of these events, please do come up and introduce yourself.

The Mudville Revolt

The Wall Street Journal reports, “From New York to Florida to Arizona, some taxpayers are opposing agreements to fund baseball projects after a decadeslong boom in publicly financed ballparks. The fights are complicating plans for stadiums, pitting residents against one another and driving some local governments to turn to U.S. stimulus programs.”

Well, it’s good to know that if local taxpayers don’t want to line the pockets of millionaire players and billionaire owners, the U.S. government’s stimulus program stands ready to oblige.

Several Cato studies over the years have looked at the absurd economic claims of stadium advocates. In “Sports Pork: The Costly Relationship between Major League Sports and Government,” Raymond Keating finds:

The lone beneficiaries of sports subsidies are team owners and players. The existence of what economists call the “substitution effect” (in terms of the stadium game, leisure dollars will be spent one way or another whether a stadium exists or not), the dubiousness of the Keynesian multiplier, the offsetting impact of a negative multiplier, the inefficiency of government, and the negatives of higher taxes all argue against government sports subsidies. Indeed, the results of studies on changes in the economy resulting from the presence of stadiums, arenas, and sports teams show no positive economic impact from professional sports — or a possible negative effect.

In Regulation magazine, (.pdf) Dennis Coates and Brad Humphreys found that the economic literature on stadium subsidies comes to consistent conclusions:

The evidence suggests that attracting a professional sports franchise to a city and building that franchise a new stadium or arena will have no effect on the growth rate of real per capita income and may reduce the level of real per capita income in that city.

And in “Caught Stealing: Debunking the Economic Case for D.C. Baseball,” Coates and Humphreys looked specifically at the economics of the new baseball stadium in Washington, D.C., and found similar results:

Our conclusion, and that of nearly all academic economists studying this issue, is that professional sports generally have little, if any, positive effect on a city’s economy. The net economic impact of professional sports in Washington, D.C., and the 36 other cities that hosted professional sports teams over nearly 30 years, was a reduction in real per capita income over the entire metropolitan area.

This Week in Government Failure

Over at Downsizing the Federal Government, we focused on the following issues this week:

  • Unfortunately, the party favored by tea party supporters at the moment has no interest in shuttering the Department of Education.
  • Columnist Robert Samuelson is right: the Obama administration’s high-speed rail dreams “represent shortsighted, thoughtless government at its worst.”
  • Attention GOP: the electorate wants spending cuts, and they will support the policymakers who take the lead on cuts if they are pursued in a forthright and serious-minded manner.
  • New Republican members of Congress will be looking for ways to cut the budget deficit and also to increase economic growth. One way to do both is to privatize government assets.
  • Will the House Republican leadership embrace spending cuts proposed by their own members in the conservative Republican Study Committee?

Commercial Ties with India Are An Opportunity, Mr. President—Not A Problem

During his visit to India, President Obama should bury once and for all his divisive rhetoric about American companies shipping jobs overseas. Our growing commercial ties with India are a great opportunity, not a problem. U.S. exports to India have doubled in the past four years. American companies that have set up shop in India have helped to fuel demand in that country for U.S. products and services. The president should be celebrating rather than demonizing our deeper economic ties with India.

Too Top-Down…Even for the Chinese Government!

It’s not surprising that Treasury Secretary Geithner’s recent G-20 proposal that governments agree to keep their current-account balances (either surplus or deficit) within 4 percent of GDP has met with resistance. After all, it assumes governments can and should manage the buying, selling, and investment decisions of hundreds of millions of Americans and billions of people worldwide. But I marvel at how deeply Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai’s tongue must have been planted in cheek when he uttered this rich rejection of Geithner’s idea: “The artificial setting of a numerical target cannot but remind us of the days of a planned economy.” If the shoe fits….

Harlan Institute’s Innovative Approach to Constitutional Education

With the Constitution – and its limits on government – playing such an outsized role in Tuesday’s elections and American political discourse generally, this would be a good time to mention a new program that teaches high school students about our founding document. 

My sometime co-author Josh Blackman, who is the founder of the Harlan Institute (a constitutional education non-profit for which, full disclosure, I serve on the board of directors) recently launched this year’s version of FantasySCOTUS.org, a Supreme Court fantasy league that was featured (along with Harlan) in yesterday’s Washington Post.  In FantasySCOTUS, students learn about and make predictions for pending Supreme Court cases, including recent headliners Snyder v. Phelps (the funeral protest case) and Schwarzenegger v. EMA (the violent video game case).  The project, among other Harlan Institute initiatives, is already being used by teachers in over 100 schools across the country, and is growing rapidly. 

Anyone interested in getting involved should consider participating in the Harlan Institute’s “virtual mentoring program.” On November 11, Harlan Institute will be holding the inaugural SCOTUS Skype-Teach-A-Thon:

As a complement to FantasySCOTUS.org, the Harlan Institute has trained a group of Mentors to to deliver virtual lectures to classrooms using Skype video chats.

If you are an attorney or law student interested in volunteering with us, please fill out this form. The time commitment would probably be about 1 hour on November 11. Our mentors consist of attorneys, law professors, and law students who are all committed to raising awareness of the Constitution and the Supreme Court.

For an entertaining and informative testimonial about Harlan and FantasySCOTUS, see this clip:


The Seen and the Unseen

Quote of the day from outgoing Chairman (and soon-to-be Ranking Member) of the House Agriculture Committee, Collin Peterson (D., MN):

“I’ll be able to take care of sugar, that’s not even a question,” Peterson said. “We’ll keep the same program; it doesn’t cost anything. That won’t be hard.”

(Source: the North Dakota InForum, which has many more gems from the Chairman about why the election is not a problem for Big Ag)

Au contraire, Mr Peterson.  The U.S. sugar program costs sugar consumers, including food manufacturers, billions of dollars a year, by the government’s own figures.

I just love the way that so many politicians (and bureaucrats) assume that if something doesn’t show up as a line item in the budget, then it is essentially free.  Tens of thousands of pages added to the Federal Register every year, placing staggering regulatory burdens on business? Costless! The immense inconvenience to travellers and business people from debilitating lines at airports because of security measures? No need to consider those costs against any supposed security benefits; they’re paid for by the fairies. And the sugar program, which shifts the burden of supporting sugar prices onto consumers rather than taxpayers? Well, it simply “doesn’t cost anything.”

For more of Cato’s work on sugar policy, see here,  here, and here.