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How Poor Are America’s Poorest? U.S. $2 A Day Poverty In A Global Context

August 28, 2014 Comments off

How Poor Are America’s Poorest? U.S. $2 A Day Poverty In A Global Context
Source: Brookings Institution

In the United States, the official poverty rate for 2012 stood at 15 percent based on the national poverty line which is equivalent to around $16 per person per day. Of the 46.5 million Americans living in poverty, 20.4 million live under half the poverty line. This begs the question of just how poor America’s poorest people are.

Poverty, in one form or other, exists in every country. But the most acute, absolute manifestations of poverty are assumed to be limited to the developing world. This is reflected in the fact that rich countries tend to set higher poverty lines than poor countries, and that global poverty estimates have traditionally excluded industrialized countries and their populations altogether.

An important study on U.S. poverty by Luke Shaefer and Kathryn Edin gently challenges this assumption. Using an alternative dataset from the one employed for the official U.S. poverty measure, Shaefer and Edin show that millions of Americans live on less than $2 a day—a threshold commonly used to measure poverty in the developing world. Depending on the exact definitions used, they find that up to 5 percent of American households with children are shown to fall under this parsimonious poverty line.

These numbers are intended to shock—and they succeed. The United States is known for having higher inequality and a less generous social safety net than many affluent countries in Europe, but the acute deprivations that flow from this are less understood. A crude comparison of Shaefer and Edin’s estimates with the World Bank’s official $2 a day poverty estimates for developing economies would place the United States level with or behind a large set of countries, including Russia (0.1 percent), the West Bank and Gaza (0.3 percent), Jordan (1.6 percent), Albania (1.7 percent), urban Argentina (1.9 percent), urban China (3.5 percent), and Thailand (4.1 percent). Many of these countries are recipients of American foreign aid. However, methodologies for measuring poverty differ wildly both within and across countries, so such comparisons and their interpretation demand extreme care.

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DoD — Small Business and Strategic Sourcing: Lessons from Past Research and Current Data

August 28, 2014 Comments off

Small Business and Strategic Sourcing: Lessons from Past Research and Current Data
Source: RAND Corporation

The Department of Defense (DoD) may face challenges as it attempts to maintain its goal of spending about 23 percent of its prime-contract dollars for goods and services with small businesses and at the same time apply strategic-sourcing practices to reduce total costs and improve performance in ways that will not conflict with small-business goals while making DoD purchasing more effective and efficient. Strategic sourcing practices, for example, recommend consolidation of the supply base to reduce total costs, which can lead to fewer, larger, longer-term contracts with fewer and, often, larger suppliers.

Pension Reform Handbook: A Starter Guide for Reformers

August 27, 2014 Comments off

Pension Reform Handbook: A Starter Guide for Reformers
Source: Reason Foundation

Depending on what assumptions you use, current state and local government workers will earn between $4 trillion and $8 trillion in retirement benefits by the time they retire. But jurisdictions across the nation—from small special districts to large state governments—face a serious problem: in some cases, pension systems have only a fraction of the assets they need to meet their obligations. The existence of massive unfunded liabilities undermines the soundness of pension plans and threatens the fiscal stability of governments.

In almost every case, dealing with these serious problems is guaranteed to be a complex and politically contentious process. But the good news is that a number of jurisdictions have paved the way for substantive reform, and several state and local governments now stand as models from which others can learn.

This handbook aims to capture the experience of policymakers in those jurisdictions and bring together the best practices that have emerged from their reform efforts, as well as the important lessons learned. By presenting these alongside the general principles and approaches that work to reform public policy, this handbook represents a “what you need to know” starter guide for anyone planning to reform their jurisdiction’s pension system.

Consult, Command, Control, Contract: Adding a Fourth “C” to NATO’s Cyber Security

August 26, 2014 Comments off

Consult, Command, Control, Contract: Adding a Fourth “C” to NATO’s Cyber Security
Source: Centre for International Governance Innovation

The lines between civilian and military are increasingly blurred, creating ambiguity under international law when private contractors engage in offensive cyber-security operations on behalf of states. These private security companies (PSCs) are being contracted for cyber security to engage in offensive cyber operations, but states should not contract PSCs for offensive cyber operations. The next instalment of the 2014 Jr. Fellows Policy Briefs recognizes the benefits of cyber-security contracting and maintains that a transparent distinction should be established between PSCs and state militaries, whereby private actors would only be involved in defensive and supportive operations. The authors address the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to implement a contracting protocol that delineates appropriate classifications for the tasks and personnel required for private cyber-security contracts. They conclude that establishing an oversight organization and submitting a proposal to the International Law Commission to consider the roles of private security actors would create greater transparency and accountability for contracting.

Toward Improved Management of Officer Retention: A New Capability for Assessing Policy Options

August 26, 2014 Comments off

Toward Improved Management of Officer Retention: A New Capability for Assessing Policy Options
Source: RAND Corporation

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) needs the capability to assess alternative policies to enhance the retention of officers. This capability should be founded on empirically based estimates of behavioral response to policy and recognize that, when making decisions, members are forward-looking and take into account future opportunities and uncertainty and the outcomes of past decisions and policies. Further, the capability should enable DoD to simulate or predict the effects of alternative policies on officer retention and the costs of those policies. This report documents efforts to implement such a capability for officers and illustrates its use. The authors statistically estimate the parameters of a dynamic retention model of officer behavior and use the parameter estimates in a simulation model to help evaluate the effect that changes in compensation can have on the retention of officers and to show how policies that change the retention behavior of these officers can also change the aggregate retention of the population of officers at earlier or later years of their careers. The model can also be used to gauge the effect of alternative policies to enhance retention. In addition, the authors have created a spreadsheet version of the model that can provide quick estimates of the effect that bonuses, gate pays, and separation pays can have on retention in all years of service. This report provides the mathematical foundations and the source code for the spreadsheet model. The spreadsheet model is also available on request from the RAND Forces and Resources Policy Center.

Welfare Rules Databook: State TANF Policies as of July 2013

August 25, 2014 Comments off

Welfare Rules Databook: State TANF Policies as of July 2013
Source: Urban Institute

The Welfare Rules Databook provides tables containing key Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) policies for each state as of July 2013, as well as longitudinal tables describing selected state policies from 1996 through 2013. The tables are based on the information in the Welfare Rules Database (WRD), a publicly available, online database tracking state cash assistance policies over time and across the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The Databook summarizes a subset of the information in the WRD. Users interested in a greater level of detail are encouraged to use the full database, available at http://anfdata.urban.org/wrd.

Backgrounder — The China-North Korea Relationship

August 25, 2014 Comments off

Backgrounder — The China-North Korea Relationship
Source: Council on Foreign Relations

China is North Korea’s most important ally, biggest trading partner, and main source of food, arms, and energy. The country has helped sustain what is now Kim Jong-un’s regime, and has historically opposed harsh international sanctions on North Korea in the hope of avoiding regime collapse and a refugee influx across their border. But after Pyongyang’s third nuclear test in February 2013, analysts say that China’s patience with its ally may be wearing thin. This latest nuclear test, following previous ones in 2006 and 2009, has complicated North Korea’s relationship with Beijing, which has played a central role in the Six Party Talks, the multilateral framework aimed at denuclearizing North Korea. The December 2013 execution of Jang Song-taek, Kim Jong-un’s uncle and adviser with close ties to Beijing, spurred renewed concern from China about the stability and direction of the North Korean leadership. Furthermore, experts say that thawing relations between China and South Korea could shift the geopolitical dynamic in East Asia and undermine the China-North Korea alliance.

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