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  • Commentary posted October 3, 2016 by David B. Muhlhausen, Ph.D. Bring Back PART: The Case for Evidence-Based Fiscal Discipline

    Though tax revenues are at all-time highs, Washington continues to spend hundreds of billions of dollars more than it collects every year. As a result, the federal government now carries an enormous amount of debt: more than $19.5 trillion. It now owes more than our nation produces (i.e., debt far exceeds Gross National Product).   Clearly, Washington needs to reel in…

  • Backgrounder posted September 27, 2016 by David B. Muhlhausen, Ph.D. Evidence-Based Fiscal Discipline: The Case for PART 2.0

    Given that the federal government’s debt is over $19.4 trillion—$14.0 trillion in debt held by the public and nearly $5.4 trillion in intergovernmental holdings—every American should be concerned about the nation’s extraordinary level of debt.[1] Congress, which in recent years has seemed incapable of curbing spending and allocating resources effectively, needs to relearn…

  • Backgrounder posted December 10, 2015 by David B. Muhlhausen, Ph.D. Studies Cast Doubt on Effectiveness of Prisoner Reentry Programs

    In 2014, the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) issued a study on the recidivism rates of former prisoners released from 30 states in 2005.[1] The BJS found that 67.8 percent of released prisoners were arrested for a new crime within three years. The recidivism rate for the five-year period was 76.6 percent. This bad news should come as no surprise. A…

  • Commentary posted November 3, 2015 by David B. Muhlhausen, Ph.D. Government social programs: Triumph of hope over evidence

    It was one of the largest prisoner reentry programs ever undertaken. RExO (Re-Integration of Ex-Offenders) aimed to help ex-cons find jobs, thereby reducing recidivism. Over the years, the U.S. Labor Department poured almost $743 million into the program. Only one problem: it didn’t work. And there are plenty more federal programs whose effectiveness has never been…

  • Backgrounder posted October 15, 2015 by David B. Muhlhausen, Ph.D. Evidence-Based Policymaking: A Primer

    The federal government’s total debt exceeds $18.1 trillion.[1] However, even this huge figure understates the nation’s debt. Due to the absence of fiscal restraint after restoration of the debt limit in March 2015 at a level of $18.1 trillion, the Department of the Treasury has been forced to engage in extraordinary measures to continue borrowing, mainly raiding funds…

  • Commentary posted September 1, 2015 by David B. Muhlhausen, Ph.D. Do Federal Prisoner Reentry Grants Work?

    The Department of Labor has released the results of its two-year evaluation of the federal Reintegration of Ex-Offenders (RExO) grants, which are designed to help ex-offenders find employment and reduce recidivism. The findings shed important insight on how the nation helps the nearly 600,000 prisoners released back into society each year. The prognosis for these…

  • Backgrounder posted August 6, 2015 by David B. Muhlhausen, Ph.D. The Head Start CARES Demonstration: Another Failed Federal Early Childhood Education Program

    Calls for the federal government to fund universal preschool programs and expand early childhood education programs seem to never cease. The two small-scale studies—of the High/Scope Perry Preschool Project begun in 1962 and the Carolina Abecedarian Project begun in 1972—that were used to demonstrate the effectiveness of such interventions are now outdated.[1] Their…

  • Issue Brief posted April 28, 2015 by David B. Muhlhausen, Ph.D., James Sherk, John Gray Trade Adjustment Assistance Enhancement Act: Budget Gimmicks and Expanding an Ineffective and Wasteful “Job-Training” Program

    On Wednesday, April 22, 2015, the Senate Committee on Finance reported out of committee the Trade Adjustment Assistance Enhancement Act of 2015. The bill was sponsored by Senators Susan Collins (R–ME) and Ron Wyden (D–OR). A day later, a companion bill (H.R. 1892), sponsored by Representatives Dave G. Reichert (R–WA), Tom Reed (R–NY), and Patrick Meehan (R–PA), was…

  • Commentary posted March 25, 2015 by David B. Muhlhausen, Ph.D. Congress should know whether programs work; right now, it doesn’t

    Last week, the House Budget Committee proposed spending almost $3.8 trillion in Fiscal Year 2016 — one-fifth of the country’s total economic output. Yet much of that huge amount will be spent with little regard to efficiency and accountability. The sad truth is that, for many federal programs, we have no way of knowing whether they are working well, poorly or not at all.…

  • Testimony posted March 17, 2015 by David B. Muhlhausen, Ph.D. Evidence-Based Policymaking: An Idea Whose Time Has Come

    Testimony before the Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources United States House of Representatives March 17, 2015 David B. Muhlhausen, PhD Research Fellow in Empirical Policy Analysis The Heritage Foundation My name is David Muhlhausen. I am a Research Fellow in Empirical Policy Analysis in the Center for Data Analysis at The…

  • Issue Brief posted March 9, 2015 by David B. Muhlhausen, Ph.D. A Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking: A Step in the Right Direction

    The effectiveness of federal programs is often unknown. Many programs operate for decades without ever undergoing thorough scientific evaluations. One such example is Head Start, the pre-K education program for disadvantaged children. A large-scale evaluation using random assignment demonstrated that almost all the benefits of the program disappear by kindergarten.[1]…

  • Commentary posted December 5, 2014 by David B. Muhlhausen, Ph.D. How Many Social Programs Show Gold-Standard Evidence of Success? Almost None

    In a recent blog post, Brookings scholar Ron Haskins identifies five social programs as being highly effective and highlights the Obama administration’s “evidence based” policy efforts to fund effective federal social programs. Unfortunately, these five social programs — Career Academies, Nurse-Family Partnership, Carrera Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program, Success…

  • Issue Brief posted December 4, 2014 by David B. Muhlhausen, Ph.D., James Sherk Trade Adjustment Assistance: Let the Ineffective and Wasteful “Job-Training” Program Expire

    Members of Congress should be wary of reauthorizing the ineffective and wasteful Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program. Trade Adjustment Assistance should be considered on its own merits and not linked to legislative proposals, such as Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). Similarly, TPA should be evaluated independently based on its merits and not tied to unrelated…

  • Commentary posted October 21, 2014 by David B. Muhlhausen, Ph.D. Studies Confirm: Death Penalties Deter Many Murders at Far Less Cost

    On September 17, Texas executed Lisa Coleman for murdering a 9-year-old child. Death penalty opponents argue that, even in the most heinous cases, executions are just too costly, and that society would do better to substitute life-without-parole sentences for lethal injections. Before examining the death penalty’s costs and benefits, though, let’s consider why Coleman…

  • Commentary posted September 30, 2014 by David B. Muhlhausen, Ph.D. How the Death Penalty Saves Lives

    On Sept. 10, Earl Ringo Jr. was executed in Missouri. Before you decide whether or not this is right, consider what Ringo did. In July 1998, Ringo and an accomplice planned to rob a restaurant where Ringo had previously worked. Early one morning, they followed delivery truck driver Dennis Poyser and manager-in-training Joanna Baysinger into the building before…