By Akash A. Desai, Beghou Consulting
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is a federally funded program in the United States that provides grants to states for supplemental food, education, and referral services to low-income pregnant, postpartum women, and to infants and children up to 5 years of age found to be at risk of nutritional deficiencies. Supplemental food packages are the cornerstone of the WIC program and accounted for approximately 69% of total program costs in 2014.
As opposed to traditional cash-value vouchers, food packages are mainly provided to WIC eligible participants through food vouchers. Participants are given vouchers for specific combinations of food at zero out-of-pocket cost. Consumers may generally pick any brand of food products regardless of the price for the items as long as the WIC-allowed item(s) meet the voucher criteria and are purchased in WIC authorized stores. This means that if there is a $5 gallon and a $3 gallon of milk at a WIC authorized store, consumers can generally pick either; even if there is no nutritional difference between the two. A notable exception to this policy is the WIC program in the state of Texas, which generally requires that consumers pick the least expensive food item available. Texas, by no coincidence, has the lowest food cost per participant of any state. Continue reading
By Eric E. Hack, Walden University
The global perception of the death penalty is definitely changing. Capital punishment is an age old response to certain crimes. Some crimes punishable by death once included adultery, blasphemy, and questioning the government (Roth 2011). In most countries in the world today, especially in free societies, adultery and blasphemy are not crimes at all and speaking out against the government is a protected right. Crimes such as murder, however, are as illegal now as they were millennia ago. But a global shift in how to punish crimes like murder has steadily altered perceptions on criminal justice and corrections policy.
To date, the abolition of capital punishment has become so popular that 140 nations around the world have formally abolished it partially or entirely (DPIC 2015). The charter of the European Union (2000) requires the abolition of the death penalty as a price for becoming a state-party to the union. Human rights organizations such as Amnesty International (2015) view capital punishment as a human rights violation (centrally because it denies people the right to life), and argue that the death penalty has done nothing to deter crime. In 2014, the UN General Assembly called a fifth time for a moratorium of the death penalty (Cornell 2015). UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon declared capital punishment to be a “cruel and inhumane practice” (UN News Centre 2014). Even while the United States federal government maintains capital punishment as a legal practice, several states have banned the death penalty (Roth 2011). Continue reading
By Eric E. Hack, Walden University
American society has benefited in odd ways from the “War on Drugs.” Middle-class, middle-aged, suburbanite property owners clearly feel safer knowing the American government is willing to throw the book at outsiders in possession of small amounts of marijuana. I suppose that level of security and the peace of mind is an indicator of success in the fight against drugs. It allows said people the time to focus on winning yard of the month. Prison populations have exploded as a result of the “war,” creating a need for more prisons, which has helped establish the prison industrial complex (HRW, 2000; Stohr, Walsh, & Hemmens, 2013). A complex that is predominantly privatized, meaning incarcerating people is the business and, therefore, people must be incarcerated in order for the business to stay profitable. The federal government has profited from the “war” by tapping into the drug trade in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War and Southwest Asia during the War on Terror in order to finance black operations around the world, by not destroying the drugs (namely heroine) but selling the drugs (McCoy, 2003; Weiner, 2008). This exploitation of the drug market has benefited the American tax payers by reducing the amount of the bill they pick up. Additionally, the federal government has profited immensely in South America from the “war” by partnering with specific cartels and dictators to allocate power and the flow of money into the correct and just pockets of the very U.S. organizations sworn to defeat these groups (Weiner, 2008; Villar & Cottle, 2011). Continue reading
By Nayef Al-Rodhan (@SustainHistory), University of Oxford[i]
Studies of human behavior and psychology have received extensive attention in public policy. Economists, social theorists and philosophers have long analyzed the incentives of human actions, decision making, rationality, motivation, and other cognitive processes. More recently, the study of happiness furthered the debate in public policy, as many governments brought up the necessity for new measures of social progress. The discussion was bolstered when the UN passed a critical resolution in July 2011 inviting member countries to measure the happiness of their people as a tool to help guide public policies. It was also hoped that discussions about happiness would serve to refine the wider debate about the UN Sustainable Development Goals for 2015-2030 and the standards for measuring and understanding well-being. The World Happiness Report, a recent initiative, attempts to analyze and rate happiness as an indicator to track social progress.
By Charleen Chiong, Oxford University
Singapore’s education system attracts great interest from educationalists all over the world. Despite being a relatively small, young country with few natural resources, Singapore – also popularly called the ‘Lion City’ by its politicians and people – has consistently remained amongst the top performers since it joined the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests in 2009. The Singapore system has, however, faced public criticism that academic drills and rote-learning are the key elements responsible for its success. As criticality and creativity are increasingly seen as crucial for the 21st-century workplace, how are Singapore’s policymakers preparing students to succeed in changing conditions?
The first issue of the year is now out in print! This means you have a little time to read and download it free here–until the end of April. This issue includes:
Gendered diffusion on gendered issues: the case of human trafficking: By Vanessa Bouché and Dana E. Wittmer
High profile rape trials and policy advocacy: By Kristine Coulter and David S. Meyer
Who saw it coming? The UK’s great financial crisis: By Andrew Hindmoor and Allan McConnell
Intergovernmental climate change mitigation policies: theory and outcomes: By Hal T. Nelson, Adam Rose, Dan Wei, Thomas Peterson, and Jeffrey Wennberg
Policy beyond politics? Public opinion, party politics and the French pro-nuclear energy policy: By Sylvain Brouard and Isabelle Guinaudeau
By David Hollanders, University of Amsterdam
For all their varieties, a common feature of pension reforms in the last decades has been the shifting of risks from employers to employees. Closely accompanying this shift is a discussion of the desirability to shift control to employees as well, that is, to increase individual choice in pension plans at the possible expense of collective solidarity and risk sharing. This discussion would better be informed by behavioral economic research that has focused on pension plan participants’ choice behavior. Three main conclusions are presented here. Together, they suggest that a majority of people are unable or unmotivated, or both, to choose. The implication for pension plan design is that a well-designed default option should be available.
(1) CHOICES ARE INFLUENCED BY FRAMING
Often people react to a choice-problem differently depending on how it is presented. This is called a framing effect if non-essential changes in presentation—not affecting the underlying choice in substance—leads to substantial differences in outcomes. Recent empirical research has focused on framing effects in the pension domain. It could be argued a priori that framing effects do not occur in those domains that involve large monetary stakes and that consequently ‘penalize’ framing effects dearly. This assumption is however not confirmed by recent research. The main outcome, on the contrary, is that framing effects abound in the pension domain. Continue reading
By Jian Feng (@1instathink), Instathink
Education in Singapore has traditionally been focused on excellence, with an emphasis on mathematics and science and students performing well on international tests. Having a focus on excellence based on Confucian1 ethics like hard work is desirable in a country that has to rely on developing its human capital to maintain competitiveness. However, it should be asked: Is there an unforeseen and undesirable cost to it? According to a news report,2 total household expenditures on private tuition rose to S$1.1 billion in 2014. It might be asked if the notion of inequalities might be compounded by the differences in time and type of education students receive outside of the formal education system. For those who can afford it, more individualised education is available, which helps those receiving it do better academically than they might have otherwise. But, for those who cannot afford it, the opportunity to do better may be lost, which may play a role in perpetuating inequalities and uneven starting grounds. Also, unnecessary burdens may be placed on students to do better.
Fortunately, changes are being made in the education system based on feedback from the wider discourse that may reduce burdens on students. These include removing precise scoring for students in primary levels, focusing more on developing students’ curiosity and love for learning,3 creating the opportunities for students to develop their talents in holistic areas such as art and music, and supporting them socio-emotionally to allow them to develop their potential. This reflects a balance between the capitalistic goals of educational excellence and more holistic goals. Continue reading
By Alessandra Cepparulo, Francesca Gastaldi, Luisa Giuriato, & Agnese Sacchi of IDEAS
The importance of fiscal forecasting
The importance of public finance control has increased over time, as many developed countries are currently facing record debt and deficit levels associated with structural economic imbalances. These circumstances enhance the necessity of sound institutional system growth and highlight the need to reinforce budgetary procedures. But, no procedure is effective without reliable fiscal forecasts. Fiscal forecasts are, in fact, the main signals relied upon by forward-looking private agents, forecasters and analysts and for implementing fiscal discipline under domestic and supranational fiscal rules, such as the Stability and Growth Pact for Economic and Monetary Union countries.
Unfortunately, forecast errors in budgetary variables are frequent. When systematic, they are a source of concern, as they signal misconduct in fiscal policymaking, undermine the government’s credibility and compromise long-term fiscal sustainability. In this respect, Italy shows a tendency towards biased forecasts: since 2000, the country’s actual deficit has systematically deviated from its planned value, with average variations of about 10% of the target value (Figure 1). Even though a large and growing literature has analysed the nature and the causes of errors in fiscal forecasting – mainly by comparing aggregate revenues, expenditures and budget balances in different countries – little attention has been paid to the forecasts of single budgetary lines and the detailed modelling of the different stages of the budget process. Continue reading
By Paul M. Heywood (@pmheywood) & Jonathan Rose, University of Nottingham
The World Economic Forum estimates the cost of corruption to be more than 5% of global GDP (US $2.6 trillion), and the World Bank believes over $1 trillion is paid in bribes each year. Of course, given the secretive nature of corrupt exchanges, we cannot know the true value of how much is actually lost, but there can be little doubt that corruption represents a major cost to the public. Given such staggering numbers, it is understandable that both academics and policymakers would want to develop measures of corruption. These measures aim to show how much corruption exists in the world and where it occurs, and ultimately provide guidance about how to stop it. Unfortunately, currently available measures of corruption are beset by conceptual, methodological, or political problems (or a combination of all three) that constrain their utility as a guide to developing effective anti-corruption policies. Continue reading