Topic: Cato Publications

The Search for a Libertarian Democrat

In his writings about “libertarian Democrats,” Markos “Kos” Moulitsas always cites Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer as Exhibit A. In the current Cato Unbound symposium, he writes:

Mountain West Democrats are leading the charge. At the vanguard is Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, who won his governorship the same day George Bush was winning Montana 58 to 38 percent. While the theme of Republican corruption played a big role in Schweitzer’s victory, he also ran on a decidedly libertarian Democrat message.

Hope springs eternal. But alas, in Cato’s “Fiscal Policy Report Card on America’s Governors,” released Thursday, Schweitzer gets an F for his taxing and spending policies. Author Stephen Slivinski writes, “Spending in his first proposed budget exploded.” Plus he reinstated an expiring tax.

We’re still waiting for a libertarian Democrat. Really. We’d love to find one.

Grading the Governors

Today, the Cato Institute released the eighth biennial report card on the nation’s governors.  It provides an index of fiscal restraint for each governor based on multiple objective measures of fiscal performance.  This year there are 23 variables on which the governors are graded – more than the 15 variables of the 2004 report card.  The methodology has been improved this time, too.  You can find a copy of the report here.

The formula for success in the report card is simple: If a governor cuts taxes and spending the most, he will get a high grade. Raise taxes and spending the most, he’ll get a low grade.

Cutting taxes is important, at least, because doing so makes a state more economically competitive.  As I report in the study, between 1990 and 2005 the rates of growth in employment and personal income in the top 10 tax-raising states were lower than the national average. The tax-cutting states, on the other hand, saw economic growth faster than the national average.

Cutting taxes is also important because it reduces the amount of private-sector resources that the government can stake a claim to.  Yet that’s only part of the story.  While this sounds elementary, it’s a key point.  The report card tries to capture how fond a governor is of big government.  There are many governors who cut merely cut taxes and think it’s enough to get them a good grade.  But if they increase spending, they really haven’t cut the size of government.  Thus, the top grades will always go to the governors who keep taxes and spending under control simultaneously.  It’s something you rarely find among most governors, Republican or Democrat.  That’s why there are always so few “A” and “B” grades in the report card.

Newsflash: Politician Does Right Thing (Twice)

At Cato, we often point out when politicians do something wrong — and who can blame us given the target-rich environment? But we should also salute the rare politician who does something right (more or less). So let’s give two tips of the hat to New York mayor Michael Bloomberg for choosing not to inflame two recent situations that could easily have been exploited for political gain.

Last July, parts of Queens lost electricity for more than a week because several of the borough’s feeder cables failed, leaving about 100,000 people without power. During and after the blackout, several NY politicos piled on Consolidated Edison, which is a tried-and-true political tradition in New York City. But Bloomberg broke with tradition, publicly refusing to bash the utility. Instead, he worked to lower the political temperature, and he urged others to do the same.

Now, Bloomberg is also declining to bash yesterday’s announced $5.4 billion sale of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, two massive middle-income apartment complexes in Manhattan. Together, the complexes comprise more than 11,000 units in 110 buildings covering some 80 acres of the most lucrative real estate on the planet. The sale is reported to be the largest real estate deal in American history.

As the impending sale became public, many New York politicians and political activists ripped the deal because of fears of “gentrification.” But Bloomberg, to his credit, said simply, “MetLife owns it, and they have a right to sell it.”

Of course, housing affordability is a legitimate public concern. But the much-ballyhooed policy prescriptions — e.g., rent control, affordable housing mandates, “inclusionary zoning” — are window dressing at best and counterproductive at worst.

Fortunately, there is a far-superior policy response that also is market-friendly: government need only remove the restrictions preventing the market from satisfying the demand for affordable housing. This is argued well by Harvard economist Ed Glaeser and Wharton School economist Joe Gyourko in the Fall 2002 issue of Regulation.

If Bloomberg really wants to make my day, he should read Glaeser and Gyourko’s article and allow developers to build as much housing as the New York market demands.

C-SPAN Airs Medicare Meets Mephistopheles Forum

Never mind Fox NFL Sunday

Move over, Scrubs re-runs.

C-SPAN2’s Book TV will air the Cato Institute’s book forum for Medicare Meets Mephistopheles at 12pm and 11:30pm on Sunday, October 22.  The forum features the author, David Hyman, along with Yale University’s Ted Marmor and Washington & Lee University’s Robin Wilson.

Isn’t scandal fun?

Leonhardt on Health Care Spending, Part II

A few weeks ago, David Leonhardt of the New York Times wrestled with the problem of health care spending.  In his column today, he inches closer to the question he’s dying to ask: how can we reduce health care spending without increasing costs?  (Here I see the fingerprints of Cato’s Arnold Kling, whom Leonhardt cites, as well as GMU’s Tyler Cowen.)

Readers of Cato@Liberty know I’m skeptical of a solution that Leonhardt offers: having the Medicare bureaucracy pay more for what it considers “quality” medical care.  It’s not that I think “pay-for-performance” is a bad idea – I think it’s a good idea that Medicare will undoubtedly ruin

At a Cato policy forum on November 2, I will be joined by Harvard’s David Cutler, National Medical Association president Sandra Gadson, and former Medicare administrator Gail Wilensky to discuss whether that’s so.

Friday. Orange County. Property Rights.

This Friday afternoon the Federalist Society of Chapman University Law School in Orange, California, will present a seminar (.pdf) on property rights, eminent domain, and California’s Proposition 90. The leadoff speaker will be Timothy Sandefur, author of the new Cato book Cornerstone of Liberty: Property Rights in the 21st Century.

Here you can also find information about upcoming speaking events by Sandefur in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Berkeley.

Upcoming Cato Forum on Quality in Medicare

Just announced: the Cato Institute will host a forum on using “pay-for-performance” to improve quality in Medicare, the federal health care program for the elderly and disabled. The forum will feature Harvard’s David Cutler, National Medical Association president Sandra Gadson, Institute of Medicine Pay-for-Performance Advisory Committee co-chair Gail Wilensky, and yours truly. Date/time/location: Thursday, November 2, 4pm, the Cato Instiute. Interested parties can preregister or watch the forum online here.