The Federal Tax System for the 2017 Tax Year

The Federal Tax System for the 2017 Tax Year. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Molly F. Sherlock,  Donald J. Marples. December 26, 2017

 The 115th Congress has passed legislation that substantially changes the U.S. federal tax system (H.R. 1). This report describes the federal tax structure, provides some statistics on the tax system as a whole, as of 2017.  

[PDF format, 29 pages].

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Testing the Value of the Postwar International Order

Testing the Value of the Postwar International Order. RAND Corporation.   Michael J. Mazarr, Ashley L. Rhoades. January 8, 2018.

 Since 1945, the United States has pursued its interests through the creation and maintenance of international economic institutions, global organizations including the United Nations and G-7, bilateral and regional security organizations including alliances, and liberal political norms that collectively are often referred to as the “international order.” In recent years, rising powers have begun to challenge aspects of this order. The purpose of this report is very specific: to evaluate the order’s value — to assess its role in promoting U.S. goals and interests, and to measure its possible economic benefits in a number of specific areas. To answer the question of the order’s value, we first had to define the components of the order that we proposed to evaluate for possible value to U.S. interests. We then reviewed broad assessments of the order, as well as detailed empirical work on its specific components. The resulting analysis produced five major findings: the postwar order offers significant value to U.S. interests and objectives; specifically in quantifiable and return-on-investment terms, the order contributes to outcomes with measurable value and appears to have a strongly positive cost-benefit calculus; the postwar order represents a leading U.S. competitive advantage; if the United States wants to continue to lead globally, some form of order is vital; and a functioning multilateral order will be essential to deal with emerging security and economic issues. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

 [PDF format, 124 pages, 1.09 MB].

Sustainable and Safe: A Vision and Guidance for Zero Road Deaths

Sustainable and Safe: A Vision and Guidance for Zero Road Deaths. World Resources Institute.  Ben Welle et al. January 2018

 More than 1.25 million people are killed on roads each year, the majority in developing countries, making traffic fatalities the tenth leading cause of death worldwide. Children, elderly and poor people are particularly vulnerable. Are drivers and pedestrians always to blame? Research from WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities and the Global Road Safety Facility of the World Bank finds that the most effective way to prevent traffic deaths is a systemic approach that shifts responsibility away from the drivers and pedestrians using roads to the city planners and officials designing them. Analysis in 53 countries found that those that have taken a “Safe System” based approach have achieved both the lowest rates of fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants and the greatest reduction in fatality levels over the past 20 years.  [Note: contains copyrighted material].

 [PDF format, 76 pages, 5.3 MB].

The Net Neutrality Debate: Access to Broadband Networks

The Net Neutrality Debate: Access to Broadband Networks.  Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Angele A. Gilroy. December 20, 2017

 As congressional policymakers continue to debate telecommunications reform, a major discussion point revolves around what approach should be taken to ensure unfettered access to the Internet. The move to place restrictions on the owners of the networks that compose and provide access to the Internet, to ensure equal access and nondiscriminatory treatment, is referred to as “net neutrality.” While there is no single accepted definition of “net neutrality,” most agree that any such definition should include the general principles that owners of the networks that compose and provide access to the Internet should not control how consumers lawfully use that network, and they should not be able to discriminate against content provider access to that network. 

 [PDF format, 28 pages].

Rethinking Cybersecurity: Strategy, Mass Effect, and States

Rethinking Cybersecurity: Strategy, Mass Effect, and States. Center for Strategic & International Studies. James Andrew Lewis. January 9, 2018

 Despite all the attention, cyberspace is far from secure. Why this is so reflects conceptual weaknesses as much as imperfect technologies. Two questions highlight shortcomings in the discussion of cybersecurity. The first is why, after more than two decades, we have not seen anything like a cyber Pearl Harbor, cyber 9/11, or cyber catastrophe, despite constant warnings. The second is why, despite the increasing quantity of recommendations, there has been so little improvement, even when these recommendations are implemented. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

 [PDF format, 50 pages].

Financing Graduate and Professional Education: How Students Pay

Financing Graduate and Professional Education: How Students Pay. Urban Institute. Sandy Baum, Patricia Steele. January 4, 2018

 This brief examines how students finance their graduate and professional education. It summarizes the sources of funds used to cover the tuition and fees universities charge, as well as living expenses. Institutions set a “cost of attendance” (COA) for students, estimating the average budget for one academic year (fall through spring). COA includes tuition and fees, books and supplies, room and board, transportation, and other living expenses, and it establishes the maximum amount students can borrow in federal student loans to attend a particular school. These official budgets serve as the foundation for the discussion that follows about how graduate and professional degree students pay for their education. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

 [PDF format, 16 pages, 806.37 KB].

Truth Decay: An Initial Exploration of the Diminishing Role of Facts and Analysis in American Public Life

Truth Decay: An Initial Exploration of the Diminishing Role of Facts and Analysis in American Public Life. RAND Corporation.   Jennifer Kavanagh, Michael D. Rich. January 16, 2018.

 Over the past two decades, national political and civil discourse in the United States has been characterized by “Truth Decay,” defined as a set of four interrelated trends: an increasing disagreement about facts and analytical interpretations of facts and data; a blurring of the line between opinion and fact; an increase in the relative volume, and resulting influence, of opinion and personal experience over fact; and lowered trust in formerly respected sources of factual information. These trends have many causes, but this report focuses on four: characteristics of human cognitive processing, such as cognitive bias; changes in the information system, including social media and the 24-hour news cycle; competing demands on the education system that diminish time spent on media literacy and critical thinking; and polarization, both political and demographic. The most damaging consequences of Truth Decay include the erosion of civil discourse, political paralysis, alienation and disengagement of individuals from political and civic institutions, and uncertainty over national policy.

This report explores the causes and consequences of Truth Decay and how they are interrelated, and examines past eras of U.S. history to identify evidence of Truth Decay’s four trends and observe similarities with and differences from the current period. It also outlines a research agenda, a strategy for investigating the causes of Truth Decay and determining what can be done to address its causes and consequences. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

 [PDF format, 324 pages, 2.6 MB].