The George Osborne Policy Paper Project was created to support student investigation of economic policy issues. Students, under the guidance of faculty mentors, researched an economic policy issue and developed a position paper. A key element of the Project was to develop a paper for an audience of citizens interested in economic policy and its impact. The economic analysis and evidence was to be presented in a fashion that was understandable and useful to the interested reader.
Four students completed policy papers on three different issues. Paper topics debated the implementation of a value added tax in the USA, examined Arizona’s newly implemented and contentious immigration bill, and analyzed security issues resulting from current US government ethanol policies.
Corinne Andriola and Shanglun Wang presented their individual policies and opposite views on the implementation of a value-added tax in the United States. Corinne believed the large United States federal government debt was a concern for many people. One way to reduce this national debt would be to increase tax revenue. If the U.S. adopted a federal consumption tax, it could increase tax revenue, and do so in such an efficient manner that income tax rates could be reduced. Her paper proposed the United States adopt a federal value-added tax using the credit-invoice system common in the developed world. Shanglun argued that despite claimed benefits of the tax, adopting the value-added tax to reduce the United States national debt would be harmful overall due to problems such as fraud and the regressive nature of the value-added tax.
Spring Lonneker’s policy suggestion was to repeal Arizona’s State immigration reform Bill 1070 entirely, as well as federal 287(g) programs, as they are economically and socially harmful immigration policies. Alternative policies would focus on inclusion rather than direct removal through deportation, avoiding negative effects of harsh immigration policies such as breaks in cohesion between police and immigrant communities, and economic losses due to decreases in presence and involvement of the immigrant population. A successful immigration policy would focus on a way to legally include undocumented immigrants who are currently facing serious obstacles to their participation in their communities and the state.
Alex Zendeh’s analysis of the links between energy security and the United States government ethanol policy gave ample support to his policy prescription. He noted claims that corn-based ethanol boosts American energy security are used as the primary justification by United States policymakers for ethanol policy. Any national policy that seeks to guarantee American energy security should reconsider its attachment to corn-based ethanol and the three main ethanol market policy interventions should be eliminated. This would provide several benefits to US energy security. It would free up government resources that could be utilized more effectively to reduce oil consumption. It would avoid unintended policy consequences that may overall increase consumption of gasoline. Finally, it would allow the importation of cheaper and less risky alternatives to corn-based ethanol. These three policies are both an unproductive use of tax-payer dollars and counterproductive to US energy security goals.
All the papers provided strong support for stated positions. Policy positions in each paper were supported by ideal points, stylized facts, or empirical and anecdotal evidence. It is left to the reader to agree or disagree with the arguments presented and to provide constructive criticism if not in agreement with the conclusions reached. One of the values of the George Osborne Policy Paper Project is not in reaching a final conclusion with a suggested policy but to begin an intellectual discussion that will lead to the most competent and efficient policy for society. The greatest value of the GOPPP has been to establish an opportunity for students to commence on their journey into the world beyond academics by focusing their knowledge and intellectual skills on a “real world” policy. This venture is a true expression of their liberal arts training.