Issue Brief posted December 11, 2013
Coal in the Global Energy Landscape
An abundant, affordable energy resource, coal provides 30 percent of the world’s energy, 41 percent of the world’s electricity generation and factors into 70 percent of the world’s steel production. While coal is by no means the only source of energy developed across the globe, it is a critical resource to driving economic growth all over the world and will continue to…
Backgrounder posted December 5, 2013
EPA Power Plant Regulations: A Backdoor Energy Tax
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has re-proposed its desired regulation of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for future power plants. The agency also plans to finalize standards for existing plants by summer 2015. If implemented and combined with other proposed and newly implemented regulations, these GHG regulations would significantly…
Issue Brief posted December 4, 2013
Eight Things to Watch for in the Farm Bill
The House and Senate are working out differences between their farm bills. Since both bills are seriously flawed, any bill that the negotiators produce is also likely to have major problems. The following is a list of major questions to consider if the negotiators do come up with a farm bill.
1. Will Congress Continue to Play Politics with the Farm Bill by Combining…
Issue Brief posted November 26, 2013
Necessary Reforms in the Water Resources Development Act Conference Bill
Congressional leaders intend to produce a final Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) bill this year, and House and Senate conferees have begun formally meeting to discuss reconciling their respective bills. Neither chamber passed a true reform WRDA bill, though the House lawmakers adopted the “reform” moniker in the H.R. 3080 title, the Water Resources Reform and…
Backgrounder posted November 20, 2013
Cutting the U.S. Budget Would Help the Economy Grow
Austerity is the result of countries’ democratic decisions to wait until the last minute before acting, under the pressure of the markets, mainly by raising taxes rather than implementing long-waited reforms.
—Lorenzo Bini Smaghi, former member of the executive board of the European Central Bank.
Members of the Senate and the House of Representatives have convened the…
Issue Brief posted November 19, 2013
Protecting the States’ Ability to Regulate Fracking
The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is working to finalize a rule that would put in place more stringent federal regulations for hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) on federal and Indian lands. At the same time, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is conducting a study on the potential impacts of fracking on groundwater.
Issue Brief posted November 18, 2013
Yellen Hearing Exposes Fed’s Regulatory Fault Lines
Janet Yellen, President Obama’s nominee to chair the Federal Reserve, told the Senate Banking Committee on November 14 that she is prepared to exercise a full range of regulatory “tools” to alter the actions of major financial institutions. Her remarks underscored the considerable expansion of the Fed’s regulatory powers under the Dodd–Frank law, as well as some of the…
Issue Brief posted November 15, 2013
Empowering the States by Turning over the Federal Highway Program
Senator Mike Lee (R–UT) and Representative Tom Graves (R–GA) have introduced companion pieces of legislation, the Transportation Empowerment Act (S. 1702 and H.R. 3486), that would incrementally lower the federal gas tax and the size of the federal highway program over several years. In turn, states would be empowered to assume this taxing authority and use their highway…
Issue Brief posted November 12, 2013
Principles for the Budget Conference
For the first time in years, lawmakers have agreed to convene in a budget conference to reconcile differences between their respective budget proposals, as presented by House Budget Committee chair Paul Ryan (R–WI) and Senate Budget Committee chair Patty Murray (D–WA). The two chambers’ budgets differ wildly in terms of taxes and the size of government.
Issue Brief posted November 12, 2013
GSE Reform: Affordable Housing Goals and the “Duty” to Provide Mortgage Financing
As Congress considers legislation to eliminate the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, advocacy groups are pressuring financial institutions to adhere to a “duty to serve” their markets rather than to meet specific affordable housing goals.
The “duty to serve” is a nebulous concept that codifies the idea that the GSEs (and lenders) have a…
Issue Brief posted November 7, 2013
GSE Reform: Trust Funds or Slush Funds?
Should Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac—the two government-sponsored housing enterprises (GSEs) in federal conservatorship since 2008—be required to use taxpayer money to fund housing advocacy groups’ activities? Five years ago, Congress answered “yes” to this question. The requirement has been in limbo since the GSEs collapsed, but that is only because Ed DeMarco, the acting…
Backgrounder posted November 7, 2013
Fannie and Freddie: What Record of Success?
The fact that Fannie Mae has been around since the 1930s has led some to suggest the U.S. housing system functioned beautifully until the recent crisis. One policy analyst recently stated that under the system of government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs), “Mortgage credit was continuously available well into the late-1990s under terms and at prices that put sustainable…