Month: February 2012

The Wild Gray Wolf―No Romance for Oregon Ranchers

The journey of the gray wolf known as “OR-7” from his home in Wallowa County, Oregon to south of the California border has become a minor modern wildlife epic. It is fascinating to witness the migration of a wild animal through Oregon’s wide-open spaces, tracked by wildlife biologists.

While OR-7’s travels have appeal as a classic Western tale of the wilderness and its perils, it is important to remember that wolves are, in fact, wild. Reintroducing wolves into rural Oregon affects the people and the livestock living there, particularly ranchers who suffer the intimidation, injury, and death of their animals. Wolves exact real costs on ranchers who lose livestock and contend with changes in animal behavior spurred by harassment from a natural predator.

The Oregonian reports that Idaho’s wolf population grew from 35 in 1996 to about 800 in ten years and that Oregon currently has 28 wolves. As Oregon’s wolf population grows, Oregon’s legislature and the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission need to listen to the experiences of rural Oregonians living in proximity to freely roaming predators. Ranchers need to be legally empowered to reasonably defend themselves, their families, and their animals.

OR-7’s exploration of the wilds of Oregon may be a true-life adventure for those who watch Internet videos of him from hundreds of miles away. But for rural Oregonians watching wolves cross onto their property near their cattle, the tale of the wild wolf is not so romantic.

***

Note: On Wednesday  the Oregon Legislature was scheduled to vote on House Bill 4005. If passed and signed by the governor, the law would allow ranchers who lose livestock to wolf depredation to receive some compensation in the form of a tax credit.

 

Read Blog Detail

John Charles interviewed by KHON-2 News in Honolulu, HI

This week John Charles is in Honolulu, HI where he will be speaking at two conferences related to a proposal there for a new light rail line. John will be explaining why so-called ‘transit-oriented development’ doesn’t work the way planners think it does.

Tuesday morning, John was interviewed by local TV station KHON-2 News where he spoke about the pros and cons of fixed rail transit versus “rubber tire” bus service and the benefits of one over the other for Hawaii and most locations around the world.

Click here to view the full 3-minute interview.

Read Blog Detail

Steve Buckstein talks with Mark and Dave about cold medicine report

KEX 1190 radio hosts Mark and Dave interview Cascade founder Steve Buckstein about Cascade’s report on the effects of Oregon requiring prescriptions for pseudoephedrine (PSE) on the number of meth labs in the state.

Read Blog Detail

Cold Medicine Prescriptions Have Not Reduced Meth Lab Incidents or Use in Oregon

The production and use of methamphetamine—a highly addictive drug often made with store-bought ingredients—continues to be a serious problem for many states around the country, including Oregon.

Curbing meth’s negative impacts on communities, individuals, and families is an important societal goal; and it is understandable why our state legislators sought to do something about it in 2005.

That year, Oregon adopted a law that included a prescription requirement for what were then over-the-counter medicines containing pseudoephedrine (PSE), such as Advil Cold & Sinus, Claritin-D, and Sudafed. Because PSE is also an ingredient used in the manufacture of meth, the idea behind the prescription requirement was to keep it out of the hands of meth cooks.

The problem is that since 2006, law-abiding Oregonians have had to obtain a prescription to treat minor cold or seasonal allergy symptoms, something consumers in 48 other states don’t have to bother with.

As a result, responsible Oregonians are now forced to take time off work, call a doctor, visit a hospital or clinic, and pick up a prescription—just to buy a box of Mucinex-D. Not only is that a significant hassle for most people, it also leads to higher health care costs, involuntary time away from work for individuals, and lower productivity for Oregon businesses.

Putting aside these considerable burdens, Cascade Policy Institute set out to determine whether the prescription mandate actually has been successful in reducing meth’s impact on the state.

Our study looked at meth trends in Oregon from 2004 to 2010 and compared what was happening here to similar states and the country as a whole. We found that while the number of meth lab related incidents in 2010 is down 97% from 2004, that doesn’t speak to the success of the prescription requirement.

Why not? Because six nearby states that don’t have a prescription requirement, including Washington State and California, experienced similar declines in meth lab incidents. In addition, almost all of Oregon’s 97% drop occurred between 2004 and 2006, before the prescription law even took effect.

The decline in illegal meth manufacturing also has not corresponded to a decline in meth use or availability in Oregon. The sad fact is that the reduction of one source of methamphetamine only leads to the increased availability of the drug from other sources, including Mexican super labs.

Furthermore, a new study by Jane Carlisle Maxwell of the University of Texas at Austin and Mary-Lynn Brecht of the University of California at Los Angeles found that Mexican meth manufacturers (in a country that imposed a ban on pseudoephedrine in 2008) are increasingly using alternative methods to make the drug, including the P2P method, which doesn’t rely on PSE.

In addition, Maxwell and Brecht pointed to findings from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration which indicate that Mexican meth cooks are also “looking to other areas in the world for the required chemicals and the ability of Asian manufacturers who use ephedrine and pseudoephedrine to produce large quantities of high quality methamphetamine which may become another source of the drug in the U.S.”

But independent of the new realities in the manufacturing of methamphetamine, Oregon’s own High Intensity Drug Area (HIDTA), reported in September 2011 that meth continues to be “highly available” and remains “the most serious drug threat in Oregon.” Maxwell and HIDTA’s findings are consistent with Cascade’s conclusions.

While legislators who voted for Oregon’s prescription requirement no doubt had good intentions, the bottom line is that it has been ineffective in achieving its intended purpose of significantly reducing meth production and use in the state.

Given that the law has fallen short of its goals, and because responsible Oregonians have been significantly affected by its prescription requirement, it’s time for Oregon lawmakers to revisit the six-year-old-law and, hopefully, repeal it.

Click here to read the full report.

 

Read Blog Detail

Terminate Illegitimate Government Programs…Before They Terminate Us

I recently heard that the Oregon legislature actually may kill a wasteful, non-productive, and from my perspective, illegitimate government program.

I won’t tell you which one, because that could give its supporters time to organize and to pressure legislators to keep squeezing taxpayers for more money to keep their gravy train alive. This program and many others wouldn’t have existed in the first place if we had kept true to the legitimate purpose of government in America.

Our founders gave us a government whose proper role is to protect our lives, liberty, and property, not to redistribute wealth, nor to offer us bread and circuses. However, modern day national, state, and local governments have morphed into much more than this.

The beneficiaries of these illegitimate government programs will keep coming back, until they get what they want from us. This reminds me of a famous line in the original 1984 Terminator movie. Here it is, spoken by the character Kyle Reese to Sarah Connor. Listen now, and understand what we’re up against:

Listen, and understand! That Terminator is out there! It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.

For Cascade Policy Institute, and every believer in limited government, I’m Steve Buckstein, and “I’ll be back.”

 

Read Blog Detail

Press Release: Requiring a Prescription for Cold Medicine Has Not Reduced Meth Use in Oregon

Media Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:

Steve Buckstein

Senior Policy Analyst
Cascade Policy Institute
Phone: (503) 242-0900

steven@cascadepolicy.org

February 21, 2012

Requiring a Prescription for Cold Medicine Has Not Reduced Meth Use in Oregon

Cascade Study Raises Questions about Real Impact of Oregon’s
Prescription-Only Requirement

PORTLAND, OR — Cascade Policy Institute released a study today which found the 2005 Oregon law which restricts access to medicines containing pseudoephedrine (PSE) has not made the illegal drug methamphetamine harder to get or reduced the number of people using it. The Oregon law makes any medication containing PSE available only via prescription (“Rx-only”).

“This study affirms what we predicted over six years ago: The law would not significantly curb meth use or production, but it would impose a considerable burden on legitimate users of cold and allergy medicines like Claritin-D and Sudafed,” said Steve Buckstein, Cascade’s founder and Senior Policy Analyst. “With other state and federal lawmakers considering following Oregon’s lead on this issue, we thought it was critical to find out what has actually happened here since the law went into effect.”

“The prescription requirement for cold and allergy medicines containing pseudoephedrine had no more of an impact on the reduction of meth lab incidents than other measures adopted in neighboring states. In fact, the rate of mobile meth lab reductions in Oregon is nearly identical to that of six neighboring and nearby states that do not have a prescription requirement. Moreover, meth addicts in Oregon can still get access to their drug of choice,” added Buckstein. “Overall, our study raises fundamental questions about the effectiveness of Oregon’s law and whether such a prescription mandate—which impacts all consumers in the state—is warranted.”

Key findings of the study:

  • Law enforcement in Oregon report that methamphetamine remains the state’s greatest drug threat, despite the reduction in in-state meth production, and contributes the most towards drug-related crime.
  • Methamphetamine lab incidents in Oregon declined more than 90 percent between 2004 and 2010. Most of this decline occurred before the prescription-only law went into effect in 2006.
  • Six neighboring states including Washington and California experienced similar declines in meth lab reductions without imposing a prescription requirement during the same time frame.
  • The number of methamphetamine admissions to substance abuse centers in Oregon declined about 23 percent from 2006 to 2009, the exact same rate as the rest of the United States. Usage was slightly higher in California at 29 percent and slightly lower in Washington at 20 percent.
  • Legitimate users of pseudoephedrine in Oregon incur additional costs as a result of this law, because it requires a doctor visit to get Sudafed and similar products that are available over-the-counter in 48 other states. Some of these additional costs are also borne by all taxpayers who fund government health care programs.

The first part of the study examines whether the manufacture and availability of methamphetamine in Oregon is substantially different from similar states and similar regions of the country. Part two examines trends in indicators that track methamphetamine production, such as Oregon’s lab incidents compared to other states. Part three examines trends in indicators of methamphetamine use, such as substance abuse-related admissions in Oregon compared to other geographies. And finally, part four explores the costs, financial and otherwise, to consumers.

The report’s findings are consistent with studies conducted by other independent groups, such as Oregon’s High Intensity Drug Area (HIDTA), which reported: Methamphetamine continues to be highly available and widely used throughout the HIDTA region and remains the most serious drug threat to Oregon” (“Threat Assessment & Counter-Drug Strategy,” 2011 Oregon High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) Report, Accessed 9/26/11).

Please visit the Cascade Policy Institute website to read the entire study, entitled

Making Cold Medicine Rx-Only Did Not Reduce Meth Use
Analyzing the Impact of Oregon’s Prescription-Only Pseudoephedrine Requirement

The study was conducted by Chris Stomberg, Ph.D., a Partner, and Arun Sharma, a Principal, in the Antitrust and Competition, and Healthcare practices at Bates White, LLC, an economic consulting firm based in Washington, D.C. Primary report author Chris Stomberg can be contacted at chris.stomberg@bateswhite.com or (202) 747-1421.

###

Read Blog Detail

Requiring a Prescription for Cold Medicine Has Not Reduced Meth Use in Oregon

A 2005 law which requires Oregonians to get a doctor’s prescription to use cold and allergy medicines containing pseudoephedrine has not significantly reduced meth lab incidents, made the illegal drug methamphetamine harder to get or reduced the number of people using it. What it has done is impose a considerable burden on legitimate users of medicines like Claritin-D and Sudafed. Anyone considering such a law in other states should read this study and avoid Oregon’s mistakes.

The study was conducted by Chris Stomberg, Ph.D., a Partner, and Arun Sharma, a Principal, in the Antitrust and Competition, and Healthcare practices at Bates White, LLC, an economic consulting firm based in Washington, D.C.

Click here to read the full report.
Click here to read the press release summary of the report.

 

Read Blog Detail

Corrupted Capitalism and the Housing Crisis

To say that our public discourse today stands in need of some improvement is undoubtedly an understatement, but perhaps no area of our common life requires more careful consideration than our political speech. All too often we find public discussions of political economy cast in stark terms, such as “socialism” versus “capitalism.” Very often these characterizations fall out along party lines, with Democrats branded as socialists by conservatives, and Republicans branded as free-market fundamentalists by progressives. But this basic paradigm is badly flawed, and helps obscure the true nature of the relationship between government and economics in America today.

In a recent essay, Edmund Phelps and Saifedean Ammous explore the need for increasingly nuanced and careful accounts of the social order by exposing the fallacies behind describing our contemporary order as “capitalism.” We are dealing instead today with a capitalist system that “has been corrupted.” Describing this system as “corporatism” rather than “capitalism,” Phelps and Ammous write, “The managerial state has assumed responsibility for looking after everything from the incomes of the middle class to the profitability of large corporations to industrial advancement.” To help understand some of the differences between corporatism and capitalism, we might point to some of the systems’ respective features.

Capitalism is (or was) an “economic system in which capital was privately owned and traded; owners of capital got to judge how best to use it, and could draw on the foresight and creative ideas of entrepreneurs and innovative thinkers.” The main dynamic of the market system is the relationship between the producer and the consumer. Corporatism, by contrast, brings to the fore the role of the “managerial state,” in which the government takes on an increasingly larger task in telling producers what they should produce and consumers what they should consume. This can be done in many ways, some more implicit and others more aggressive. Corporatism is distinct from socialism, because under corporatism the means of production (capital) remain in private hands. But the private firms are not simply free to respond to market signals. Instead, under a corporatist structure, the government directs firms in the ways in which they should employ their resources, sometimes through moral suasion, but more often through regulation, tax policy, and legal directives. Fascism, which uses coercion, bullying, and demagoguery to control private firms, is an extreme form of corporatism.

The consequences of contemporary corporatism can be seen most strikingly in the recent growth and collapse of the housing market bubble. It would be hard to overstate the role of the government in fostering the conditions leading up to the collapse. For decades politicians have been extolling the ideal of home ownership as constitutive of the “American dream,” in speeches and in concrete policy. George W. Bush made his vision of the “ownership society” a critical component of his domestic agenda, and in his most recent State of the Union address, President Barack Obama echoed this emphasis, calling its survival part of “the defining issue of our time.” The president described “the basic American promise that if you worked hard, you could do well enough to raise a family, own a home, send your kids to college, and put a little away for retirement.”

But beyond presidential rhetoric, various administrations and legislative sessions have pursued domestic policies that intend to make good on the American promise of homeownership for all. Whether or not homeownership is something that is good for everyone was never seriously questioned; the only question was the way in which the government could persuade, incentivize, and even coerce individuals and institutions to become home mortgage borrowers and lenders. The phrase “ownership society” takes on a much more tragic connotation when uttered on this side of the millions of foreclosures that occurred during this crisis.

The role of the government in promoting home ownership is indicative of a corporatist system, a system whose assumptions need to undergo close scrutiny. As Robert Bridges wrote in the Wall Street Journal last year, “we have put excessive emphasis on owner-occupied housing for social objectives, mistakenly relied on homebuilding for economic stimulus, and fostered misconceptions about homeownership and financial independence. We’ve diverted capital from more productive investments and misallocated scarce public resources.” This misallocation laid the foundations for the housing crisis.

There are, in fact, many reasons that home ownership is not a good idea for many, many Americans. In a 2009 interview with APM’s Marketplace, Edmund Phelps discussed the problems with American homeownership “obsession.” When you rent, said Phelps, “You don’t have to pay any interest to anybody. You don’t have to pay any maintenance costs to anybody. You don’t have to worry about whether the boiler is going to break down.” But when you own a home or have a mortgage, “you have a hundred aggravations. Maybe the roof will leak while you’re overseas.” Anyone who has ever owned a home knows the constant worry and potential financial exposure that follow signing those mortgage papers. Indeed, comparing renting and owning, Phelps concludes, “In strict money terms, there is no reason to think there is a systematic, long-run, sustainable, durable difference between the two.”

Politicians, and perhaps current and would-be presidents most especially, need to abandon the dominant logic of corporatism and the crises that inevitably result. The Declaration of Independence wisely left the “pursuit of happiness” indeterminate, linking it instead with the attendant rights of “life” and “liberty.” These rights involve the freedom of self-determination in defining happiness and the means to achieving it. As Lord Acton put it, “liberty is not a means to a higher political end. It is itself the highest political end.” This political protection of liberty stands diametrically opposed to corporatism, and is instead instrumental to, not determinative of, “the pursuit of the highest objects of civil society, and of private life.” The American people do not need politicians to tell them what happiness is and how it should be pursued. These are functions that our families, churches, and friendships fulfill.

Author Credit: Jordan J. Ballor, Ph.D. is a research fellow at the Acton Institute in Grand Rapids, Michigan and serves as executive editor of the Journal of Markets & Morality. He is a guest contributor for Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research center. Dr. Ballor’s article originally appeared as an Acton Commentary.

 

Read Blog Detail

SunShot Makes Solar Energy a Long Shot

President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget includes $310 million for an ongoing energy research program called SunShot. The goal of the program is to use taxpayer subsidies to reduce the total installed cost of solar energy by 75% by the end of this decade, making it cost-competitive with other sources.

This is an admirable goal, but linking it to ongoing subsidies virtually guarantees that it won’t be met. There is no reason for private companies to develop inexpensive technology when politicians keep giving away money each year for research.

We’ve already seen this approach fail in Oregon. In 1999, the state legislature passed a law requiring that most consumers pay a three percent surcharge on their monthly electric bills to subsidize “market transformation” for renewable energy. Legislators and lobbyists agreed that the tax – which came to be known as the “Public Purpose Charge” – would go away after ten years, at which time green power was expected to be cost-competitive with coal and natural gas.

The ten-year anniversary of the Public Purpose tax will arrive on March 1, and solar energy is still wildly uncompetitive with other sources. And not surprisingly, politicians have reneged on the promise to end the tax; it was quietly extended five years ago to 2026 by the legislature, with no public discussion. This will cost consumers billions of dollars.

Politicians never seem to learn: Subsidizing failure simply begets more failure.

 

Read Blog Detail