Direct Democracy’s Disaster

Source: John Straayer, State Legislatures, Vol. 33 no. 3, March 2007
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Through the initiative process, Colorado recently passed a law with loads of unintended consequences.

Colorado’s Amendment 41 carried the short title, “Standards of Conduct in Government,” and passed with 62.6 percent of the vote. A constitutional amendment, 41 was intended to restrict gift-giving by interest groups and lobbyists to elected public officials and others in positions of public trust. It was also designed to prevent legislators from immediately becoming lobbyists after their terms of office.

But its consequences to date include issuance of official opinions to the effect that scholarships for children of public employees and performance awards for employees are probably illegal; the resignation of more than a half-dozen legislators; questions as to whether the newly elected governor may legally recruit legislators for positions in his cabinet; and the curtailment of Capitol breakfasts, which had been enjoyed by legislators, staffers and student interns for decades.

Plunging into the Gene Pool

Source: Alissa Johnson, State Legislatures, Vol. 33 no. 3, March 2007
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Even though the legal landscape has changed, concerns about the abuse of genetic testing persist.

Is your genetic information safe? Sixteen years have passed since Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson signed the first state law to prevent genetic discrimination in March 1991. A tidal wave of genetics legislation followed, propelled by the anticipated completion of the Human Genome Project to sequence and map the genes that make up a human being. Public fears continue, however, over the possible abuse of genetic testing technology.

Tough Act to Follow

Source: Linda Sikkema and Melissa Savage, State Legislatures, Vol. 33 no. 3, March 2007
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As the Federal government wrestles with its role in controlling greenhouse gasses, one state hasn’t hesitated to attack global warming.

Massachusetts is suing the Environmental Protection Agency to force regulation of greenhouse gas emissions in a case that is before the U.S. Supreme Court. At issue is whether the Clean Air Act requires EPA to control these gases, which contribute to global warming. States are split on either side of the issue in Massachusetts v. EPA, with 11 states siding with Massachusetts and 10 with the federal government.

Consumer-Directed Plans Cost Women $1,000 More Per Year Than Men

Source: BNA Pension & Benefits Reporter, Vol. 36 no. 16, April 17, 2007
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Consumer-directed health care plans cost working-age women about $1,000 more per year out of pocket than men, and are therefore “discriminatory” against women, according to a report by Harvard Researchers at Cambridge Health Alliance. CDHPs also cost middle-aged adults far more than younger participants, and raise costs substantially for those with even mild chronic conditions, the report says.

Don’t Whistle While You Work

Source: Daniel Schulman, Mother Jones, Vol. 32 no. 3, May/June 2007

A series of court rulings, legal changes, and new security and secrecy policies have made it easier than at any time since the Nixon era to punish whistleblowers; the climate has deteriorated in recent years with the Bush administration’s emphasis plugging leaks and locking down government information.

The Incredible Future of Home Care and Hospice

Source: Robert Fazzi and Lynn Harlow, Caring, Vol. 26 no. 3, March 2007

If you thought the past of home care and hospice was something, wait until you see the future. Home care and hospice are going to grow in the number of people they serve, and in the scope, clinical, and programmatic sophistication of their services. We will do more, serve more, and play a far bigger role in the future of health care than most people can imagine, and it’s inevitable.

Before you start thinking that these are the dreams of home care and hospice professionals, consider what the United States Department of Labor (2005) says; “The home health care services industry, which provides such in-home services as nursing and physical therapy, has the distinction of becoming the nation’s fastest growing employer by 2014.”

U.S. Multinational Activity Abroad and U.S. Jobs: Substitutes or Complements?

Source: Ann E. Harrison, Margaret S. Mcmillan, and Clair Null, Industrial Relations, Vol. 46 no. 2, April 2007
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Critics of globalization claim that firms are being driven by the prospects of cheaper labor and lower labor standards to shift employment abroad. Yet the evidence, beyond anecdotes, is slim. This paper reports stylized facts on the activities of U.S. multinationals at home and abroad for the years 1977 to 1999. We focus on firms in manufacturing and services, two sectors that have received extensive media attention for supposedly exporting jobs. Using firm-level data collected by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) in Washington, D.C., we report correlations between U.S. multinational employment at home and abroad. Preliminary evidence based on the operations of these multinationals suggests that the sign of the correlation depends on the crucial distinction between affiliates in high-income and low-income countries. For affiliates in high-income countries there is a positive correlation between jobs at home and abroad, suggesting that foreign employment of U.S. multinationals is complementary to domestic employment. For firms that operate in developing countries, employment has been cut in the United States, and affiliate employment has increased. To account for firm size, substitution across firms and entry and exit, we aggregate our data to the industry level. This exercise reveals that the observed “complementarity” between U.S. and foreign jobs has been driven largely by a contraction across all manufacturing sectors. It also reveals that foreign employment in developing countries has substituted for U.S. employment in several highly visible industries, including computers, electronics, and transportation. The fact that there were U.S. jobs lost to foreign affiliates in key sectors, despite broad complementarity in hiring and firing decisions between U.S. parents and their affiliates, helps explain why economists view the impact of globalization on U.S. jobs as benign despite negative news coverage for declining industries.

Globalization and Declining Unionization in the United States

Source: Matthew J. Slaughter, Industrial Relations, Vol. 46 no. 2, April 2007
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For decades, the private-sector unionization rate in the United States has been falling. At the same time, the integration of the United States into the world economy has been rising. Many anecdotes suggest the latter has played a role in that decline, with unions feeling pressured to reduce employment and/or compensation demands in the face of rising cross-border activity of employers. To investigate this possibility econometrically, in this paper I assembled a panel of U.S. manufacturing industries that matches union-coverage rates with measures of global engagement such as exports, imports, tariffs, transportation costs, and foreign direct investment. The main finding is a statistically and economically significant correlation between falling union coverage and greater numbers of inward FDI transactions. Possible interpretations of this finding are then discussed. Because U.S. affiliates of foreign multinationals have higher unionization rates than U.S.-based firms do, this correlation does not reflect just a compositional shift toward these affiliates. Instead, it may reflect pressure of international capital mobility on U.S.-based companies, consistent with research on how rising capital mobility raises labor-demand elasticities and alters bargaining power.