March/April 2013

The Institute’s Scholars Weigh In on January’s Hot-Button Issues

Last year, the Cato Institute dedicated considerable resources to enlarging our footprint through a successful capital campaign. Now, with that expanded platform, our scholars are tackling the issues that matter most with a flurry of op-eds, broadcast appearances, and studies. Here is a small sample of what we focused on in January:

Gun Control
In the wake of the tragedy at Newtown, a growing number of policy proposals for stricter gun control began circulating. Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, associate policy analyst David Kopel said that “the demands for symbolic but useless anti-gun laws are accompanied by an aggressive culture war against dissenters.” In the short run, he added, more concealed carry laws are the best way to save lives. In forums from NPR and Fox to Univision and the National Law Journal, Cato scholars explained the meaning of the Second Amendment and the results of previous gun control measures.

In their groundbreaking study called Tough Targets, Clayton Cramer and David Burnett gather dozens of stories of defensive gun use. While they acknowledged that arms are not always the solution, it is impossible to deny that “a great number of tragedies — murders, rapes, assaults, robberies — have been thwarted by self-defense gun uses.” As such, the fundamental right to bear arms is especially crucial in times like these. “Robust policies to prevent legal gun ownership only translate to guns being overwhelmingly possessed by those willing to break the law,” Cato senior fellow Ilya Shapiro wrote in the Star-Ledger.

Immigration
In January, the so-called “Gang of Eight” senators revealed a blueprint for a new immigration reform bill. Though the proposal wisely created a pathway to citizenship for immigrants already living in the country, Alex Nowrasteh, Cato’s immigration policy analyst, explained in his most recent Policy Analysis that the current guest worker visa system is hampered by expensive regulations, restrictive laws, and an uncaring bureaucracy. “Only a timely, cheap, and lawful way to enter and work in the United States will stanch unauthorized immigration and grow our economy.”

C-SPAN’s Washington Journal cited Cato’s research arguing that a program of mass deportation, on the other hand, would cost the economy $2.6 trillion. As Nowrasteh wrote in Reuters, “an immigration bill that does not create a vehicle for legal migrants to enter the country is not real reform.” Bloomberg TV added that, according to the Institute’s latest numbers, comprehensive reform would boost GDP by 0.84 percent a year, adding $1.5 trillion to the economy over 10 years.

The Fiscal Crisis
Ihe United States faces two economic challenges: slow growth and ballooning debt. While many policymakers believe the solutions to these problems are at odds, Cato senior fellow Jeffrey Miron argues in his new policy analysis that they are a non dilemma. “The United States has a simple path to a brighter economic future: slash expenditures and keep tax rates low,” he writes. As President Obama prepared to deliver his State of the Union Address, Cato’s media team released two new studies on the efficacy of Keynesian stimulus and the burgeoning cost of entitlements programs.

For those serious about fiscal restraint, DownsizingGovernment.org continues to act as the go-to resource for major spending reforms. The website offers a department-by-department blueprint for specific cuts in an era of trillion-dollar deficits. In addition, our scholars made great strides in getting this message out. As a guest host on CNBC’s Squawk Box, Cato CEO John Allison noted that, with regulatory costs, government expenditures now exceed 50 percent of GDP. “A country that operates at that level ends up with much slower growth rates,” he said. “The compound effect of that is to radically reduce the quality of our lives in 15 or 20 years.”