Why Can’t Americans Have Nice Things?

Why Can’t Americans Have Nice Things?

By Joe Miller, The Century Foundation

Americans have it pretty good. We’re the third-richest nation on the planet. Scholars debate whether we’re a hyperpower (à la Rome in its heyday), or “merely” the world’s only superpower. We enjoy a level of personal freedom that is the envy of the world.

In fact, we have so much money and wield so much influence in the world that we spend millions of dollars each year to export our freedoms to those who weren’t fortunate enough to be born in the U.S.A.

Sadly, though, while we’re spending money protecting freedoms abroad, we’re slowly frittering them away back home.

Take voting rights, for example.

In fiscal year 2013, the U.S. will spend about $118 million funding a program called the National Endowment for Democracy, an organization “dedicated to the growth and strengthening of democratic institutions around the world.” Another $115 million will go to USAID’s Democracy Fund, which supports free and fair elections around the world. According to USAID, free elections have 10 necessary elements:

1. Impartial electoral frameworks
2. Credible electoral administration
3. Effective oversight of electoral processes
4. Informed and active citizens
5. Representative and competitive multi-party systems
6. Effective governance by elected leaders and bodies
7. Inclusion of women and disadvantaged groups
8. Effective transfer of political power
9. Consensus-building for democratic reform
10. Sustainable local engagement

Notice that 7th one? The one about the inclusion of disadvantaged groups?

We have some of those here in the U.S., too. They include pretty much everyone without white skin. And for a very long time, people without white skin were systematically disenfranchised throughout the South. So a generation or so ago, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act to make sure that elections in those same Southern states actually included disadvantaged groups.

And guess what? It turns out that people in the very states targeted by the Voting Rights Act are still more racist than their counterparts in other states.

So of course, earlier today, the Supreme Court of the United States invalidated the part of the Voting Rights Act that required federal approval of changes to voting requirements for the very states that lead the Most Racist Citizenry rankings.

Perhaps next year USAID can kick some of those funds for supporting free and fair elections down toward Mississippi. They’ll no doubt be needed.

Follow Joe Miller and The Century Foundation on Twitter at @jjosephmiller and @TCFdotorg

5 Things We Should Be Talking About Instead Of Pseudo-Scandals

by Joe Miller, The Century Foundation

So, apparently the IRS has illegally investigated the tax-exempt status of AP reporters who were calling Tea Party groups in Benghazi. Or something like that. It’s been a little hard to decipher my Twitter stream of late.

What’s much clearer is that Washington’s latest round of Much Ado About Nothing scandal-mongering has come at the perfect time to distract us from several important issues that were starting to gain some traction.

Here are five things we should be talking about right now, but aren’t.

1. Unemployment And The Budget.

Unemployment rate

Remember how not very long ago, everyone was running around predicting a budget doomsday, with mounting deficits signaling an imminent collapse of the economy? Debt hysteria brought us austerity measures, including massive budget cuts and the end of a pile of stimulus spending.

Only it turns out that the justification for austerity was based on an Excel error.

And yesterday, the Congressional Budget Office announced that the deficit for 2013 is $200 billion lower than its estimate in 2013, and that the 10-year cumulative number decreased by $618 billion.


So austerity is a mistake, and the deficit is improving anyway. Maybe it’s time to address the fact that the unemployment rate remains at 7.5%.

In February, the Congressional Progressive Caucus introduced a plan that addressed unemployment. That plan would replace sequestration with a number of short-term stimulus measures, all aimed at directly putting Americans back to work. Or we could go big, and embrace Century Foundation and Economic Policy Institute fellow Andrew Fieldhouse’s call for $2 trillion in new stimulus spending.

The media is busy reminding us that freedom of the press is the only thing guarding their ability to create fake scandals and lie about sources. A better use of time might involve reminding the Congress that 11.7 million Americans can’t find a job.

Graph: Bureau of Labor Statistics

2. The Worsening Crisis In Syria

Mideast Syria


Did you know there’s a civil war going on in Syria? Or that the number of Syrian refugees now exceeds the numbers in Darfur? Or that the Syrian government may well have used chemical weapons on its own people?

You’d be excused if you didn’t. Pundits who are busy obsessing over who wrote what email when about Bengahzi continue to ignore the Syrian crisis.

The conflict in Syria threatens to destabilize the entire region, and while there are some who say that may be a good thing, there is little question that we face a humanitarian disaster.

Century Foundation senior fellow Morton Abramowitz writes that President Obama’s upcoming meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is an excellent opportunity to forge a Turkish-American plan for Syria. That’s provided we can stop talking about phone records long enough to focus.

3. Obamacare Implementation

The Affordable Care Act

White House photo

Remember Obamacare? Despite House Republicans’ 37th vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, it remains the law of the land. In fact, many of its most important provisions are scheduled for implementation in 2014.

Just two weeks ago, progressives were beginning to give serious thought to how best to implement Obamacare. The implementation of new health insurance exchanges is a massive project that requires assembling a huge amount of data. And because many Republican governors have refused to implement any of its provisions, the federal government is left to do much of the heavy lifting.

Democrats were just beginning to talk about these difficulties, urging caution in implementation and educating Americans about what to expect. Those important conversations are now on hold while we obsess over fake scandals.

4. Guantánamo Bay

guantanamo infographic

There are currently 166 men imprisoned in Guantánamo Bay detention camp. They’ve been there for a decade now, and most of them have little hope of leaving. That fact is especially appalling given that only 6 of the 166 have actually faced formal charges. The rest remain in legal limbo; 86 have actually been cleared for release, but face little chance of leaving. A Century Foundation infographic from Abby Grimshaw and Thérèse Postel has all the gritty details.

As of Monday, 100 of the 166 detainees were on a hunger strike to protest their indefinite detention.

Twenty-nine are being force-fed in direct violation of the Geneva Conventions.

In the wake of increased media coverage last month, President Obama promised (again) to close Guantánamo Bay. The very next day, however, Obama reiterated his support for the very policy that prevents most of the cleared detainees from leaving.

Public pressure forced the president to grapple with an issue he pledged to resolve right after he took office in 2009. With our attention distracted by IRS overreach, Obama is once again free to ignore Gitmo.

5. Gun Control

gun kid

Photo: Brittany Randolph via Flickr.com

Remember Newtown? Did you know that 4,096 Americans have been killed by guns since the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School? Remember how even a very watered-down background-check bill and assault-weapon ban failed in the Senate?

The NRA certainly hasn’t forgotten.

But you can bet that they’re pretty pleased that everyone else seems to be so busy worrying about whether ABC glossed some emails properly that they’ve forgotten about children getting mowed down with assault weapons.

The Terror Of Gun Control

by Michael Cohen, @speechboy71

FellowThe Century Foundation, @tcfdotorg

The thriving metropolis of Boston was turned into a ghost town on an otherwise lovely Friday afternoon. Nearly a million Bostonians were asked to stay in their homes – and willingly complied. Schools were closed; business shuttered; trains, subways and roads were empty; usually busy streets eerily resembled a post-apocalyptic movie set; even baseball games and cultural events were cancelled – all in response to a 19-year-old fugitive, who was on foot and clearly identified by the news media. While Boston officials appeared to be acting out of an abundance of caution — and it’s appropriate for residents to be asked to take precautions or keep their eyes open — by letting one fugitive terrorist shut down a major American city, Boston not only bowed to outsize and irrational fears, but sent a dangerous message to every would-be terrorist. If you want to wreak havoc in the United States, intimidate its population and disrupt public order, here’s your instruction booklet.

In April, I wrote a piece for the Guardian arguing that the reaction to the Marathon bombing was dramatically at odds with American inertia over arms control. The infographic below illustrates some of my main points.

The Terror of Gun Control


If only Americans reacted the same way to the actual threats that exist in their country. Last year 17 Americans died in terrorist attacks; more than 30,000 died at the hands of guns. In fact, the same day of the Marathon bombing in Boston, 11 Americans were murdered by guns — a small percentage of the more than 3,500 Americans who have died in gun violence since the Newtown massacre in December. Yet, the same week as the Boston manhunt, the Senate blocked consideration of a gun control bill that would have strengthened background checks for potential buyers. Even though this reform is supported by more than 90% of Americans, and even though 56 out of 100 senators voted in favor of it, the Republican minority prevented even a vote being held on the bill because it would have allegedly violated the Second Amendment rights of “law-abiding Americans.”

So for those of you keeping score at home – locking down an American city: a proper reaction to the threat from one terrorist. A background check to prevent criminals or those with mental illness from purchasing guns: a dastardly attack on civil liberties.

The Conservative Quest to Eliminate Facts

The Conservative Quest to Eliminate Facts

by Joe Miller, @jjosephmiller

Director of Digital CommunicationsThe Century Foundation, @tcfdotorg

The very first post at FactCheck.org referenced that great line from the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan: “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion — but not their own facts.”

During the years I spent at FactCheck, I certainly wittnessed my share of politicians trying to make up their own facts. And while I wasn’t allowed to say this at the time, it was always pretty clear (to me, anyway), that one side was making up a lot more facts than the other. Republicans have happily embraced half-truths and outright falsehoods. From “Death Panels” to climate change denialism to the austerity discussion to Paul Ryan’s budget math, the GOP appears to have embraced a policy of Making Stuff Up.

But now it seems that conservatives’ War on Facts has entered a new phase. If the facts are against you, just stop collecting them.

Rep. Jeff Duncan, a South Carolina Republican, has introduced a bill that would prevent the federal government from collecting data about the economy.

That’s right. The bill would require that the Census Bureau stop collecting the information that economists use to calculate (among other things) the unemployment rate, the labor force participation rate, housing construction rates, trade deficits, and much more.

So you might well be saying, “This sounds like a pain for economists, but why should I care if a bunch of stuffy economists are inconvenienced?”

The answer is that without this information, it will be impossible to tell how much any legislation coming out of the Congress costs.

When the Congressional Budget Office calculates the cost of a particular piece of legislation, they have to have something to compare it against. They do this by calculating a budget baseline—that is, they look at how much the federal government will spend and how much revenue it will collect under current law. It’s that last part that’s important here.

To know how much money the government will collect in taxes, you have to know a lot of things about the economy generally. Much of this is incredibly complicated, and a whole lot of extremely smart CBOers spend hundreds of person-hours each year trying to produce aneconomic forecast. Not being an economist, I can’t tell you exactly what goes into all of those models, but I do know one thing for sure. If you want to know how much tax revenue you’ll collect, you pretty much have to know how many people have jobs.

But, then, if you’re just planning to make up your own numbers anyway, you probably don’t much care whether the CBO has the data it needs to produce accurate estimates.

Image: kosheahan via Flickr.com

How the Senate Killed Gun Control, In One Map

by Benjamin Landy, @Ben_Landy

Policy Associate, The Century Foundation, @tcfdotorg

Despite broad support from the American public, the bipartisan Manchin-Toomey amendment to extend background checks died in the Senate, six ‘ayes’ short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican filibuster. But party divisions were only one reason why the gun vote failed. More important was the institutional structure of the Senate itself, which by its very design (two senators per state) gives disproportionate representation and political power to small populations in large, rural states.

If you re-adjust the map of the United States to reflect states’ actual populations, it becomes clearer that gun control legislation was defeated not only by a minority of senators, but also by an undemocratic minority of Americans.


“Of the senators from the 25 largest states, the Manchin-Toomey legislation received 33 aye votes and 17 nay votes — an almost 2:1 margin,” notes Wonkblog‘s Ezra Klein. “But of the senators from the 25 smallest states, it received only 21 aye votes and 29 nay votes.”

It’s typical to say that this is how the Senate’s always been. It’s also wrong. The filibuster didn’t emerge until decades after the first Congress, and its constant use is a thoroughly modern development.

As for the small state bias, that, too, has changed over time. During the first Congress, Virginia, the largest state, was roughly 12 times the size of Delaware, which was, at the time, the smallest state. Today, California is 66 times the size of Wyoming. That makes the Senate five times less proportionate today than it was at the founding.

Jonathan Cohn and Eric Kingsbury, writing at the New Republicwere also struck by how little the Senate vote reflected public polling, which in previous weeks showed that as many as 90 percent of Americans support background checks:

If you assume, for sake of argument, each senator represents half of his or her state’s population, then senators voting for the bill represented about 194 million people, while the senators voting against the bill represented about 118 million people. That’s getting close to a two-thirds majority in favor of the measure.

In a legislative body that didn’t give sparsely populated rural states the same representation as densely populated urban ones—and in which a minority of representatives lacked the power to block debate indefinitely—those kinds of numbers would be more than enough to pass something like the background check proposal.

This sort of political calculus is complicated, of course, by the influence of the National Rifle Association, which spent about $7.5 million on outside campaign spending during the 2012 election cycle — 99.6 percent of which went towards either supporting Republican candidates or defeating Democrats. That’s in addition to the $3 million the NRA paid to flood Congress with gun rights lobbyists.

Unfortunately, money is speech in Washington as elsewhere in the United States, and the NRA is a particularly loud voice — despite representing only about one percent of Americans. For many of the senators facing tough re-election campaigns in 2014, that alone was enough.

Graph: Can Congress Be Trusted With Tax Reform?

by Benjamin Landy

Policy Associate, The Century Foundation

With the possibility of comprehensive tax reform finally on the horizon, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT)—the man in charge of overseeing any revision to the nation’s tax code—has found himself in the harsh glare of the national spotlight. Several media profiles in the past month have called into question the senator’s relationships with the corporate interest groups most likely to be affected by any tax changes emanating from his office. Indeed, a list of his top campaign donors, obtained from the nonpartisan Center on Responsive Politics, reads like a veritable “who’s who” of Big Business:

Equally troubling are the 28 former Baucus aides currently lobbying on tax issues on Capitol Hill—more than any other current member of Congress, according to a recent New York Times exposé. “K Street is literally littered with former Baucus staffers,” brags one executive who retained the services of Mary Burke Baker, a former staffer who helped pave the way for millions in corporate tax perks secured by the senator as part of last year’s fiscal cliff deal.

“Sean Neary, spokesman for Baucus, does an able job defending his boss, offering examples of times when ex-Baucus aides lobbied for tax changes that Baucus ultimately rejected,” writes Ezra Klein in an expert analysis of the ongoing controversy. “And Neary is right: Baucus doubtlessly ignores endless entreaties from former staffers and current contributors. But the point of hiring Baucus’s former aides isn’t that they can seamlessly insert any language they want into the final legislation. It’s that they have a direct line to Baucus, and to the people around Baucus, and that gives them a huge advantage.”

The fact is that human beings are more likely to find arguments convincing when they’re coming from friends rather than strangers or enemies. That’s the key to most of the lobbying in Washington. It’s not about leveraging bribes so much as it’s about leveraging relationships—and that makes it harder to stamp out.

In that sense, there’s nothing particularly unique about the Baucus affair. Money has always acted as a megaphone in Washington, giving outsized influence to those interests—corporate or otherwise—that can “pay to play.” But it does call into question whether Congress is even capable of the real tax reform that would truly benefit the public at the expense of their political patrons.

No, New Tax Cuts Will Not Pay For Themselves

By Andrew Fieldhouse

Originally posted at The Century Foundation

If the Laffer curve hypothesis is the first commandment of the modern conservative movement, then its economist namesake, Arthur Laffer, is its chief apostle. Laffer argued that it is theoretically possible to raise more government revenue by lowering tax rates, thereby offering a “free lunch” for legislators. The understandable political allure of Laffer’s suggestion is directly responsible for a three-decade experiment with “supply-side” economics, an experiment whose failure has eroded inflation-adjusted incomes and living standards of the vast majority.

But the Laffer curve is merely an economic model, one originally sketched out on a napkin. The model has zero scope for informing good public policy without rigorous, accompanying empirical research on behavioral responses to tax changes.

And modern economic research isn’t on Laffer’s side.

Laffer’s proposition is based on the simple observation that the government will collect zero revenue if the tax rate is at either zero or at 100 percent. A revenue maximizing rate must lie between these bounds, and the Laffer curve is typically depicted as a symmetrical, concave function between these revenueless rates (implying a revenue-maximizing rate of 50 percent). In practice, invoking the Laffer curve has assumed de facto that U.S. tax rates were so high that they were on the “wrong side” of the revenue maximizing rate.

laffer curve 1

But after decades of tax cutting, economic research clearly suggests that top U.S. income tax rates are well shy of revenue maximization. The top tax rate would be below the revenue-maximizing rate if the Laffer curve were symmetrically distributed, but research suggests that the Laffer curve is asymmetrically distributed, with a revenue-maximizing rate well above 50 percent.

laffer curve2

In fact, economists Peter Diamond and Emmanuel Saez estimate that the revenue-maximizing income tax rate is actually 73 percent.

Diamond and Saez base their figure on an extensive review of research on the subject, and their estimated rate combines federal, state, and local taxes. As I explain in a new paper, these estimates imply that policymakers could raise the top federal statutory income tax rate from 39.6 percent to roughly 66 percent before reaching revenue maximization, all without unduly burdening economic growth.

That tax cuts do not pay for themselves may be news to conservative politicians, but this is hardly disputed by credible conservative economists. After Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) baselessly asserted that the Bush-era tax cuts “increased revenue, because of the vibrancy of these tax cuts,” supply-side apostate Bruce Bartlett chronicled numerous Bush administration economists flatly rejecting such “free lunch” arguments.

So policymakers invoking the Laffer curve hypothesis are truly calling for further increases in the top income tax rate—wittingly or unwittingly. There’s no free lunch to be had, but there is substantial scope for further raising top rates to increase revenue without unduly burdening economic growth.

March Madness: Obama 108, Ryan 0

March Madness: Obama 108, Ryan 0

By Michael Liksoky, Senior Fellow, The Century Foundation

Many reviews of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget have found it lacking – mostly due to oversights or slights to poor and working Americans.  But the social safety net isn’t the only thing largely ignored in the Ryan budget.

It seems he overlooked a little something called infrastructure investment – done by either public or private entities.

Modernizing America’s infrastructure is a bipartisan preference in Congress, with governors and mayors, and among global businesses.  Just this week, a Gallup poll found that 77 percent of Americans support more infrastructure expenditures.  That 77 percent includes majorities of both parties and Independents.

President Obama made clear in his State of the Union address that infrastructure is a centerpiece of his economic plan going forward. In his 2013 budget, Obama mentioned infrastructure 108 times in 256 pages.  The idea is often to fuel greater private investment.

Representative Ryan is, by comparison, less supportive.

In his 91-page “The Path to Prosperity: Blueprint for American Renewal,” Ryan fails to mention infrastructure investment at all.  This is down from his 98-page 2013 budget, which mentioned infrastructure all of twice. And infrastructure did get one (1) mention in the Ryan-inspired budget plan that the House of Representatives approved this week.

The Ryan plan appears out of step not only with the broader citizenry, but also his own party – which has largely recognized the need for and benefits of infrastructure investments.  It seems everyone, perhaps with the exception of Ryan and some who supported his budget, realizes that few things help business and grow our economy more than investing in infrastructure.

It worth at least noting that the “renewal” Ryan writes about in his budget does not appear to include the arteries of commerce — our ports, rail lines, roads, bridges, or waterways.

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File

Iraq Wasn’t About Policy, It Was About Ethics

Iraq Wasn’t About Policy, It Was About Ethics

by Joe Miller, The Century Foundation

Ten years ago today, the United States invaded Iraq, kicking off what is variously known as the Iraq War and the Second Gulf War.

The policy blogosphere has spent much of the past week engaging in public mea culpas from those who supported the war back in 2003, and some gloating from those who spoke out it against it at the time.

I have two small things I’d like to add to the conversation.

I got it right.

Okay, so I’m not beyond a bit of gloating. Back in 2004, I published an article arguing that the war in Iraq was illegal and that military officers were morally obligated to refuse to go. I argued that officers are morally accountable for decisions about whether they fight, and not just about how they fight, and that the Bush Doctrine’s embrace of pre-emptive war was both unjust and illegal.

That argument was not particularly well received when I first began articulating it in March, 2003. West Point cadets do not take kindly to the suggestion that they have a moral obligation to refuse direct orders, even when that suggestion is coming from the philosopher charged with teaching their just war theory course. Neither do their commanding officers, some of whom contacted me to “express concerns” about our class discussions.

My argument did not turn on the question of whether Iraq actually possessed any weapons of mass destruction, though my skepticism on that front turned out to be justified. Too many others were taken in by a combination of flimsy evidence and jingoism. My friend and colleague paid dearly for our collective gullibility, as did thousands of others with equally valuable, unique and wonderful lives.

Look through the very many Iraq retrospectives, and you’ll see all kinds of conversations about lessons to be learned:

—Why we all were taken in by nonexistent weapons of mass destruction.

—How our eagerness to exact revenge on someone for 9/11 led us to war with the wrong people.

—Why we fell for the crazy belief that Gen. Petraeus and COIN could make military occupation work.

—How failing to prepare for the peace hopelessly poisoned the well for post-invasion success.

The lists of “Why We Fell For It” and “What We Learned” all miss one simple truth.

The Second Gulf War was an unjust war.

Wars are truly terrible things. Philosophers and theologians have argued about when a nation is justified in going to war ever since Augustine first wrote about the topic in the early days of the 5th century. As you might expect from a question that philosophers and theologians are allowed to get their hands on, there’s some disagreement. But there is pretty broad agreement on one basic principle.

Wars are justified when they are in self-defense.

That means you have to be under attack. Or you have to be coming to the aid of someone else who is under attack. Iraq didn’t attack anyone. Iraq wasn’t really even capable of attacking anyone, but even if they had been, they had not actually done so. That made our invasion of Iraq unjust.

Had Iraq possessed WMDs, the war would still have been unjust.

Had we planned adequately for the peace,the war would still have been unjust.

Had counter-insurgency (COIN) and Gen. David Petraeus rescued the occupation and turned Iraq around,the war would still have been unjust.

Had the occupation turned Iraq into a shining example of a wealthy liberal democracy, the war would still have been unjust.

Tomorrow I’ll go back to talking about progressive policy. But today, just for a moment, I want to recognize that the real lesson of Iraq isn’t about policy at all. It’s about ethics.

We chose to wage an unjust war. As a nation, we have to learn to live with that fact.

And we have to mourn those who won’t get that chance.

Joe Miller is the Director of Digital Communications for The Century Foundation. From 2001–2003, he was an assistant professor of philosophy at the United States Military Academy, where he taught classes in ethics, just war theory, and logic. He holds a PhD in political philosophy from the University of Virginia.

5 Truths You Won’t Hear At CPAC

5 Truths You Won’t Hear At CPAC

From The Century Foundation

It’s that time of year again. That glorious weekend when thousands of uniquely dressed conservatives descend on Washington, D.C. to celebrate being the political advocates for upper-class, white, heterosexual Americans.

For those of you who were not invited and will be watching from home, here are five truths you won’t hear at CPAC:

1. We need more government spending, not less.

The U.S. is currently suffering from too little investment, not too much. As a result, economic growth remains sluggish, and unemployment is still high. Economists refer to this as a “liquidity trap,” and cutting spending, or austerity, is the wrong answer. Deficit hawks in the U.K. continue to demonstrate that austerity budgets during periods of sluggish demand push countries into recession.

The way out of a liquidity trap is increased government spending. What the economy really needs right now, according to Century Foundation and Economic Policy Institute fellow Andrew Fieldhouse, is a $2 trillion stimulus, not spending cuts. Fieldhouse suggests that an additional $2 trillion in spending could increase GDP by $8.4 trillion.

Of course, that $2 trillion needs to be invested in “high bang-per-buck” spending. Which brings us to…

2. Government spending on infrastructure helps business and creates jobs.

Government spending on infrastructure projects boosts the overall economy. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says that each $1 spent on infrastructure can boost the economy by as much as $2.20.

And, as President Obama reminded us in his State of the Union address:

“Ask any CEO where they’d rather locate and hire: a country with deteriorating roads and bridges, or one with high-speed rail and Internet, high-tech schools, and self-healing power grids?”

The most promising infrastructure investments are those involving public-private partnerships – projects in which private companies team up with federal, state, or local governments. Private companies usually do the building but they also invest in the project. Century Foundation senior fellow Michael Likosky says these public-private partnerships are the main way to “drive down the cost of doing business” on major infrastructure projects.

When the government can leverage spending with private money to build public projects that grows the economy and creates jobs, it’s a win all around.

3. Obamacare cuts the deficit. Repealing it will make the deficit larger.

Never mind that the ideas that became Obamacare originated from the conservative Heritage Foundation. Conservatives want it repealed because, they claim, it will add trillions to the deficit.

That’s not true.

The CBO has said that the Affordable Care Act (the official name of Obamacare) will in fact reduce deficits. As it turns out, the Act will actually reduce deficits by even more than CBO initially estimated.

In fact, CBO says thatrepealing Obamacare would actually increase deficits by $109 billion by 2022.

4. Universal pre-K is affordable and effective.

You’re probably not going to hear any CPAC attendees acknowledge the merits of President Obama’s proposal “to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America.”

If you do hear anyone talk about universal preschool at CPAC, they’re more likely to claim that it’s just too costly. But there’s a lot of reason to think that such programs can provide enormous returns on investment.

The Century Foundation’s Greg Anrig sorts out the early childhood research and points to a program in Chicago that provided a total return to society of $10.83 for every dollar invested. Anrig argues that the research “reinforces Obama’s case that effective early childhood education can be implemented on a wide scale.”

5. Mass shootings increased after the assault weapons ban expired.

CPAC convenes in a city the NRA says continues to have very strict gun control laws. But you won’t hear anyone there admit that gun control saves lives.

However, the fact is that mass shootings have increased by over 200 percent since the Assault Weapons Ban expired in 2004.

According to The Century Foundation’s Thérèse Postel, there have been a total of 28 mass shooting events since September 14, 2004. That’s an average of 3.5 per year. In the 10-year period during which the ban was in effect (a period which included Columbine and four other copycat shootings in the immediate aftermath), the rate was much lower – just 1.5 per year.

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr.com