Shorthand is convenient, but sometimes it confuses. In the game of telephone, by which ideas evolve through repetition and iteration across generations, words can take on new meanings that diverge from the arguments they once advanced, and come to stand for ideas that lack support altogether. This has happened in the debate over 'economics' and 'culture,' which emerged during the last half-century's War on Poverty, to provide the lens through which partisans view many of America's most pressing social issues. It is a lens that now distorts more than it focuses—especially for conservatives, who draw from a problem's designation as 'cultural' the conclusion that public policy is powerless, when in fact it might often play a constructive role.
U.S. business leaders enthuse about the power of private-sector competition and innovation to overcome any challenge—except when that challenge is meeting their labor needs with American workers. But if some of the energy dedicated so successfully to generating enormous profit by avoiding American workers found an outlet in using productively the workers already here, available opportunities would improve for men on the sidelines. Nor would it hurt to have a public philosophy that treated less-educated men and their jobs as indispensable to the nation’s prosperity, rather than as a social and economic burden. An economy that underemploys nearly one in five prime-age men is failing in one of its primary roles. That the culture might make its task harder is no excuse.
At the Joint Economic Committee, we believe knowledge of social capital is vital to achieving our goal of expanding economic opportunity for all Americans. Join us as we invite hearing witnesses to engage in a deeper social capital conversation on The Social Capitalists Podcast: Post-hearing Discussions with the Joint Economic Committee Republicans.
We are concerned about work because connection to the labor force, the ability to support a household, and the opportunity to contribute productively to a community are fundamental to the flourishing of American citizens, the strength of their families, and the long-term trajectory of our economy.
What are the conditions in a society that affect how economic actors behave and what outcomes markets produce? Which of those conditions does public policy influence? And if we have a preference for certain outcomes — say, a labor market that allows workers of varied skills in varied places to support families, and a diversified economy capable of supporting the national defense — which public policies should we choose? This is the terrain on which many of American history's great public deliberations have unfolded, yielding policies from Hamilton’s Report on Manufactures to the 'internal improvements' of the early 1800s, the tariff debates between McKinley and Bryan, Teddy Roosevelt's trust-busting, Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, Kennedy's space race, and Reagan's import quotas. Property theft all of it, at gunpoint no less, if I understand Williamson correctly.
America’s economy has experienced a long, gradual recovery from the Great Recession of 2007–09, which was the nation’s sharpest downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Certainly, conditions are better than 10 years ago, when the unemployment rate peaked at 10%. But in any business cycle, the peak looks better than the trough; more meaningful is a comparison across cycles, between one peak and another. In that context, America’s current economic performance remains disappointing: the prime-age labor-force participation rate remains weak, wage growth lags historical levels, and productivity growth languishes near its all-time lows.
By comparison to the nadir of the Great Recession, current economic conditions appear exceptional. But better-than-terrible isn't the goal. By comparison to prior booms, this business cycle is continuing a downward trend; on many of the dimensions that matter most, current performance is below the average for recent decades (recessions included) and in some cases near all-time lows.
The first and second Industrial Revolutions seem to have differed less in the nature of technology and more in the degree to which businesses could replace the existing workforce with a cheaper and more pliant one. This left workers behind in one case, while raising them up in the other. Offshore factories and unskilled immigrants, not robots, are today’s analogy to the child labor of yore. Which workers the innovators can use affects greatly whether incumbent workers thrive. Fortunately, more so than the nature and rate of innovation, that is something that society and its policymakers can influence.
The fact that the larger project seems to carefully curate and validate progressive policies is peculiar, because the argument would surely be much richer, its audience broader, and its implications more startling if it could do more than reinforce a partisan agenda.
Jack and Paul talk with Oren Cass who is the author of a new book called The Once and Future Work: A Vision for the Renewal of Work in America. They talk about whether policymakers should emphasize economic growth, trade with China, wage subsides, the future of work, unionization, and a range of other policy issues.
Conservatives will be the advocates for such concessions because theirs is the perspective that sees no alternative, while progressives will more likely be attracted to the possibility that some novel configuration of society could work just as well. Conservatives will tend to view human nature and abilities as a constant to which policy must adapt, while progressives will see greater potential for transformation. Progressives will trust social and economic progress to provide the foundation for a healthy society, while conservatives will argue that a healthy society must instead provide the foundation for any progress.
Computer chips, potato chips, hair dryers, haircuts... the differences are enormous. Still, the case for industrial policy requires recognition not only of certain sectors' value, but also that the market will overlook the value in theory and that we are underinvesting in practice.
Good economic outcomes are a critical prerequisite to these expressed priorities. Exercising freedom of choice in how to live becomes difficult without the capability to achieve self-sufficiency. Financial stability itself suggests a degree of labor-market success. But in general, the American people appear to have a much richer and more nuanced view of the determinants of their quality of life than do many of their leaders, who have tended to equate prosperity with growth, material living standards, and equality of opportunity on the economic ladder.
Many hearts will recoil at the thought of taking money from our ivy-covered campuses and giving it to corporations. But while this isn't actually an old chestnut, perhaps someday it will be: What’s the difference between a private-sector employer and a public college? One is a self-interested enterprise filled with workers pursuing personal gain, even at the expense of customers. The other is a private-sector employer.
For many Americans—perhaps even the majority, who do not earn even a community-college degree—and for many career paths, positions that combine immediate on-the-job experience with employer-sponsored training offer the best opportunity to enter the workforce and build valuable skills. Such positions receive little to no public support, and employers often have little incentive to create them. A neutral approach for public policy toward workforce preparation would recognize that employers, not universities, often provide the most socially valuable form of training and would redirect public resources accordingly.
Yet sports and markets also share a common vulnerability: a general tendency exists for competitive strategy, through continual refinement, to evolve in ways unpredictable to the game's creators and fundamentally inconsistent with the game's structure and objectives. This occurs partly through trial and error, partly as the characteristics and abilities of the players become optimized and specialized, and partly as more sophisticated tools of analysis and execution identify and exploit ever more obscure opportunities for efficiency.
In either case, with training or technology, the effect is to improve productivity—the amount of output per unit of work. Such productivity gains, whatever the mechanism, are the key to rising wages for workers and rising material living standards for society as a whole. We react differently to the two stories because our intuition fills in differently what both stories omit. In each case, worker productivity doubled. But what does the firm do next?
Automation refers to the substitution of technology for human labor. As tasks become automated, fewer people are required to produce a given amount of output each hour—in other words, each worker becomes more productive. That rising productivity is the mechanism by which workers' wages rise over time and society as a whole becomes more prosperous. The same thing happens when a firm invests in training that allows each worker to produce more. No one says that training 'destroys jobs.'
Mona and Oren debate the underlying drivers of social dysfunction and the role that public policy can play in responding.
While warnings of climate catastrophe are not supported by the available evidence, climate change does pose real challenges that will require policy responses. Effective responses will be ones that approach climate change rationally and have the potential to substantially reduce climate-related costs, without using the issue as a pretext for tackling any number of ancillary priorities. In many cases, these policies will emphasize adaptation (that is, coping cost-effectively with the climate change that occurs) rather than mitigation (that is, trying to prevent climate change from occurring).
A complex range of social and economic factors have driven wages down and workers out. Restoring the labor market to health – not only reversing the trends, but also making up for lost time – will be the work of a generation. But in the short run, policymakers can begin to make progress in the most direct way possible: by putting more money in low-wage paychecks.
Options for the future shape of American conservatism are not confined to what came before Trump and what Trump himself represents. His role is not that of builder, constructing some compelling new vision to compete with the old one, but of earthquake, toppling everything built with flawed principles on shaky foundations and leaving open space in which to build anew. 'More earthquake' is not a rebuilding plan. The question is where old structures should be resurrected and what new ones should be preferred.
People's behavior, we learn, is guided not only by whom they connect to and how the people they connect to behave, but also by relationships that don't include them—that is, relationships between their connections. Supported relationships, in which the two people share other friends in common, exhibit higher levels of trust and tend to be much stronger. 'How one person treats another involves looking beyond the relationship to the network in which they are embedded,' Mr. Jackson observes. Yet as technology enables us to choose our relationships from a much larger pool and homophily encourages us to search far and wide for those most like ourselves, we are eroding the local clustering that is crucial to community health and equality of opportunity. 'Do we form the ‘right’ networks—ones that are best for our community or society?' asks Mr. Jackson. The book he has written suggests not.
That disruption and dynamism can deliver enormous benefits is certainly true. That poorly conceived policies can interfere with such benefits is equally true. But the concepts involved are so vaguely defined and correlate so weakly to their stated objectives that they obscure and compound rather than illuminate and address our economic choices and challenges. The problem is that disruption and dynamism are not ends unto themselves, but means to the ends of higher worker productivity and widely shared economic prosperity. And their effect is contingent on their form, and on the presence of accompanying and at times opposing forces.
The virtues of a reliable pathway from high school to a stable job and a middle-class life remain appealing in theory, but always, it seems, for someone else’s constituents and, ultimately, someone else's kids. What we’re left with is a public education system that stands among the nation’s most regressive institutions.
Here's the problem: we all swim, generally speaking, in the same cultural pond. If you want to see some real libertinism in this country, go visit a college campus. Yet somehow, for the minority of Americans who demonstrate the academic aptitude to complete college, the model of stable marriage and steady work remains almost entirely intact. It's only the people swimming in the portion of the cultural pond with a stagnant labor market who are experiencing these challenges. So, you could say, if you want, that it's just the people who don't have college degrees who have lost self-discipline and industry, that it's happened for cultural reasons, and only by irrelevant coincidence are they the ones facing the economic pressures. But I think it takes an almost willful blindness to assert that.
In each of these areas, America's choices have been misguided. We overtax and underinvest in less-skilled workers, make them costly and risky to employers, and discourage investment in the industries where they could work most productively. At the same time, we free employers from the constraints of using the existing domestic workforce, offering them instead an option of using much cheaper foreign workers overseas or bringing the cheaper workers here. The immediate effects of these policy choices have often appeared beneficial, even to the workers who now find themselves disadvantaged. But those policies have, over time, reshaped the economy’s contours in ways that have left too many people out.
Oren Cass joins the show today to talk about his new book The Once and Future Worker. Oren and Adam talk about the lack of appreciation for work in America and how the emphasis we've placed on consumer welfare has limited our economy throughout the years.
Raghuram Rajan comes both to praise community and to bury it. This University of Chicago professor and former chief economist for the International Monetary Fund wants his new book to 'reintroduce into the debate' the titular and neglected 'third pillar' of community alongside the pillars of market and state that dominate modern society. Rajan says he is seeking 'the right balance between them so that society prospers.' But he lacks the courage of his convictions. What begins as an incisive critique of how economists and policymakers abandoned community ends as a dismaying illustration of the problem.
The common thread in Galbraith's various criticisms is a fetish for the sclerotic institutions of labor, education, and welfare that have yielded, alongside a half century of appalling results, overwhelming political and financial support for the status quo. Perhaps having marinated in that style of politics for too long, Galbraith cannot help but perceive the present as ideal and thus any alternative as regressive—leading inexorably toward, in his words, a fixed social hierarchy of boss and worker, with tracked education, decentralized and degraded social services, low taxes, and union-free factories.
Imagine a button that would instantly double the productivity of the labor market’s most productive quintile, but also cause the least productive quintile to drop out of the labor force. Would you push the button?
Can the working class be saved? Should we fight China's trade war depredations? Will Jonah survive jet lag? Oren Cass, Manhattan Institute scholar and author of 'The Once and Future Worker,' joins 2019's first Remnant to answer these and other questions.
Technology isn’t the culprit behind job loss, nor will it be. To the contrary, robots can be workers’ best friends. The abandonment of the American worker, instead, has been a conscious choice on the part of policymakers. And while that’s depressing, to be sure, it is also cause for hope. If bad choices are creating our employment challenges, better choices can solve them. The future of work is within our control, and technology is part of the solution, not the problem.
Mary Poppins is a story about life’s tradeoffs and the importance of finding balance, understanding and fulfilling obligations, and subordinating personal ambition. In Mary Poppins Returns, we get only a celebration of inward-focused self-care in which actions have no consequences, adults have no accountability, and behaving more like a child offers the solution to whatever ails. Pish posh.
As your readers have probably noticed, as an interviewee I usually consider it my prerogative to take a question wherever I want. So, if I have something I want to say, I’ve probably said it.
Look at the stories told by the popular culture. In the 1970s and 1980s, the best-comedy Emmy went routinely to shows with blue-collar characters. . . . From 1992 to 2017, it went almost every year to a show about white-collar adults working in Los Angeles, Seattle, Boston, New York, or Washington, few of whom were raising children.
People often applaud vocational education in theory, provided it is for someone else’s kids. Those kids are most kids, and a false promise of college success does more harm than good. We owe them our focus and the best pathway that we can construct — one that carries them as close as possible to the destination their college-bound peers will reach, and sometimes beyond.
In a world that revolves around sound bites, headlines and tweets, the art of holding two ideas in one's head has lost its appeal. But that is what understanding this moment in America requires. The economy is booming, as most every metric will attest. But it is doing so in cyclical terms, in an upswing following a deep recession. The economy’s long-term trajectory, at least for less-educated Americans, remains downward. We have yet to grapple with the problems that have degraded the U.S. labor market for decades, so we have no right to expect improving results.
These critics are fighting the last war, without showing a clear sense of where the current dispute lies. Both men insist repeatedly that growth leads to rising material living standards, especially when paired with rising redistribution, a point no one is questioning here. This is the classic idea of the 'economic pie,' which policymakers seek to expand so that everyone can have a bigger slice. The Once and Future Worker’s core argument is that while this view—which I call Economic Piety—is self-evidently correct on its own terms, it is incorrect in the unstated assumption that present consumer welfare is the correct measure of prosperity.
A constructive definition of prosperity would look different in two ways. First, within the economic context, it would emphasize the ability to produce rather than the ability to consume. Second, it would attend to not only economic outcomes but also social foundations. Much modern policy analysis works from the assumption that only quantifiable economic impacts matter, either because economic growth, and the accompanying rise in consumption, is an end unto itself, or because growth and consumption can be trusted to benefit society more broadly. This is wrong: Economic policies have dramatic effects on family and community health, and the health of those social institutions in turn influences the economy profoundly.
We need to spread prosperity more widely, but we have little experience doing that well. Government efforts to spur development in a particular place tend to falter, with resources steered by the political process toward boondoggles that do little to buttress a region’s economic vitality. Most support ends up coming from our safety net’s transfer payments, which help to meet people’s immediate needs but perversely weaken the labor market in the process. There’s a better way, one with bipartisan pedigree, mechanisms for implementation in place and funding available. It's called a wage subsidy.
Any proposal to reduce spending on any anti-poverty program is invariably criticized as cruel to the poor, even when that money would be reallocated to other programs with the same goal. This default creates a bizarre political frame in which the more 'generous,' liberal position is to spend new money on new programs, while the 'miserly,' conservative position is to reallocate money toward more-effective programs. But allocating money effectively is not a proposal about spending at all, and proposals to reallocate are not stingy or anti-poor. Safety-net reforms could proceed much further if the spending debate between those wanting to increase and those wanting to decrease overall budget levels were put to one side and people across the political spectrum were to focus on the question of how best to spend the money already slated to go out the door.
This week on Banter, Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow Oren Cass joins the show to discuss his new book 'The Once and Future Worker: A Vision for the Renewal of Work in America.' The book encourages policymakers and the public to rethink the decades-long economic consensus that prioritized increased consumption. Cass argues for a new way of thinking that values production and provides opportunities for American workers to support their families and communities.
The bias is obvious if the value of staying home is not presented alongside the value of working. Why is there no opportunity-cost calculator for delegating your child’s upbringing? For that matter, why is there no opportunity-cost calculator for choosing to work at CAP instead of becoming a petroleum engineer?
The alternative would be to let employers and employees reach their own arrangements. The employer knows the cost in lost productivity of breaks at a given interval; the employee knows how much he values those breaks. Presumably, the result of their bargaining will not be individualized schedules for everyone. But each employer has a strong incentive to offer the package of pay and benefits to its workforce that delivers the greatest value at the lowest cost, and job seekers have a similarly strong incentive to find the packages that best meet their needs.
The book is about the role of the worker in our society—how we understand and value him or her, and how our public policy and culture either elevate and strengthen him, or do the reverse. America's prosperity was built on a foundation of workers who could support strong families and communities and through those institutions raise the next generation to do even better. Certainly, we have too much nostalgia for how work looked in the past and we shouldn’t expect it to look the same in the future. But we are also much too pessimistic about work's ability to play a comparable role in the future, however the economy evolves. And we're caught in a present where we stopped caring about work and are now paying the price.
In his new book The Once and Future Worker, Manhattan Institute scholar Oren Cass advances a new 'working hypothesis' that puts workers and families first. Challenging conventional wisdom on both sides of the political spectrum, Cass offers a bold new agenda to reform the labor market to meet society’s long-term needs. Cass recently previewed the book with an excerpt in our pages. This week, he joins the podcast to discuss it with Richard Aldous.
Through it all, 'The Job' remains ardently optimistic about the prospects for improving people's working lives regardless of whatever economic changes may come. The book’s quirky examples are best understood not as a blueprint but rather as part of the author’s argument that certain principles held inviolable may deserve a second look. Worker-owned businesses can operate effectively if they have strong community partners. A race to the bottom of the labor market is neither inevitable nor desirable.
The failure of social science to produce the results that the technocratic Left 'imagined hoping it would' has reached epidemic proportions. On many of our nation’s major domestic policy issues, intense efforts to construct a rigorous scaffolding for a more assertive centralized state have yielded only piles of debris. 'Evidence-based policymaking' was supposed to produce well-designed government programs with high returns on investment, justifying in turn further government engagement that would further lift the masses. Instead, it has shown how little we know, and how little our programs accomplish.
The contradiction is inescapable. The words 'tariff' and 'tax' are practically synonymous—indeed, some call a carbon tax a 'carbon tariff.' Like imports from China, fossil fuels are inputs to a wide array of goods and services used across the economy. And like a tariff on such imports, the entire premise of a carbon tax is to raise the cost of the affected goods and services in an effort to discourage their use and boost the competitiveness of more desirable alternatives.
Khanna's first proposal, a larger subsidy to low-wage workers, emerges logically from this view. If we want employers to offer these jobs and workers to take them, we should subsidize them. Not only does such a subsidy encourage the offering and taking of more such jobs; it also boosts workers' take-home pay, helps their families, and is preferable to keeping unemployed people on the dole. Call this the 'Support' view. In the second view, employers take advantage of the social safety net’s existence to reduce wages, counting on taxpayers to make up the difference through government programs. If their employees weren't receiving food stamps, housing vouchers, and tax credits, employers would have to pay higher salaries. Khanna's second proposal—making employers cover the cost of benefits claimed by workers—emerges from this perspective. If employers are penalized for having employees who receive food stamps, they'll give raises until the food stamps are unnecessary. Call this the 'Penalize' view.
Watching students move through it, America’s education system can seem to be functioning passably well. Most students complete high school on time. Most high school graduates go on to college. Most college enrollees will complete a degree. Most college graduates find their degrees useful in the labor market. But gazing back along the pipeline’s length yields a starkly different, distressing picture.
America’s education system, from kindergarten through the state university, is designed to produce college graduates. Those who stop short of at least a community-college diploma are widely regarded as failures, or at least victims of a failed system. Yet most Americans fall into this category, and current trends offer little hope for improvement. Politicians and policymakers are finally paying attention to this population—which, roughly speaking, comprises the working class—and calls for more vocational education and apprenticeships have become fashionable. But a more fundamental reordering of the nation’s misshapen educational infrastructure is necessary if alternatives to the college pipeline are to take their rightful place as coequal pathways to the workforce.
Groups are welcome to endorse and promote a carbon tax that they know conservatives should and will oppose. What they cannot do is pretend any longer that they are advancing conservative policy, or feign disappointment when conservatives fail to leap aboard their initiative.
There's a real problem with the argument that people don't understand how good things are. If the economic data are saying that things are wonderful and people in the country are saying things are not, we need to ask what the economic data is missing.
In Lowrey’s indignant telling, many perplexing problems of the human condition are merely a failure of political will or compassion. 'What we often think of as economic circumstance,' Lowrey explains, 'is largely a product of policy. The way things are is really the way we choose them to be.' She believes that 'poverty in the United States is a choice'-—not for those in poverty, but for the society that allows them to suffer. Guaranteeing that all households receive money in excess of the government-defined poverty threshold 'would, to state the obvious, end poverty.' To state the obvious, it would not.
This question of replacement versus augmentation is central to the future of work because of its implications for not only the predicted rate of change, but also the continued relevance of less-skilled workers. If firms need workers to make new technology function, then they can deploy it only as fast as they can train workers to use it. Firms thus remain constrained in their process improvements—automation included—by the supply of labor that actually exists and its ability to absorb change. That constraint may help to explain why productivity growth has been stalling, not accelerating.
The current system is not really trackless; it offers a single track, tailored toward those most likely to succeed anyway. If there is to be only one track, why not switch the default? Design the local high school for the needs of the median student, who won’t complete even community college. Those aiming for college could enroll in an after-school enrichment program three towns over. If that’s how 'no tracking' looked, many of tracking’s opponents would probably come around.
The common failure to consider adaptation has profound consequences for how people conceptualize climate change, leading to what I call climate catastrophism. If the entire brunt of a century of climate change were to land on civilization tomorrow—if a substantial share of agricultural output suddenly vanished, if sea levels were suddenly several feet higher, if regions accustomed to temperate summers suddenly experienced outdoor temperatures to which they were unaccustomed, if hundreds of millions of people were suddenly displaced—the result might well be catastrophic. But if those changes occur gradually (as they are expected to), if they emerge in a world far wealthier and more technologically advanced than today's (as we expect it to be), and if policymakers ensure that people have the information and incentives to plan well (something over which we have control), then climate change will impose real costs but ones that we should have confidence in our ability to manage.
On trade, President Trump is playing one-dimensional chess. Credit where due: At least Trump, unlike his predecessors, recognizes that a game is on and that America has opponents whose moves must be countered. But sliding a jumble of pieces forward and backward into collisions and retreats is no way to make progress.
If automation were rendering workers obsolete, we would see evidence in rising productivity, major capital investments, and a shift in the ratio of production workers to managerial workers. None of these things has occurred. If technology could render workers obsolete, the radical advancements of past generations should have done it. They did not. If this time is different, we should find evidence that a large share of current workers are uniquely vulnerable to the particular set of technologies on the horizon. We do not.
Debates over climate change are filled with dire estimates of its cost. This many trillions of dollars of damage, that large a share of gross domestic product destroyed, so-and-so many lives lost, etc. Where do such figures come from? Mostly from laughably bad economics.
Prominent recent studies that forecast the cost of human-caused climate change rely on statistical analyses of the effects of temperature variation. These correlation-based, temperature-impact studies start with present-day relationships between temperatures and outcomes such as mortality or economic growth. They extrapolate from those relationships a proportionally larger response to long-term projected climate warming and assign dollar values to the very large impacts that appear to emerge. Properly understood, temperature studies do not offer useful predictions of the future costs of projected human-caused climate change.
Any form of means-tested cash transfer may seem an odd fit for the conservative agenda, which traditionally emphasizes the tension between government benefits and paid work. But subsidizing work—whether through a tax credit like the EITC or a paycheck-based wage subsidy—differs from a typical welfare program. The benefit goes only to those who work, and it can grow as they work more. If either basic fairness or the social good requires redistribution, boosting take-home pay is the best way to create healthy economic incentives, reinforce a norm of self-sufficiency, and minimize government intervention.
A discussion at the University of Chicago Law School with Professor Jonathan Masur.
Vermonters can confidently reject nuclear, coal, gas and wind from the comfort of their warm and well-lit homes because shirking responsibility for their energy supply has few consequences. They can draw electricity from a regional power grid and import energy-intensive goods by exhaust-belching truck. Their 75%-renewable goal presumes the availability of someone else’s nonrenewable plants to keep the lights on when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining. Those plants will be operating affordably only if other states remain committed to a conventional grid.
Good news is hard to find at this year's United Nations climate conference in Bonn, Germany. Diplomats from nearly 200 countries have gathered to review progress made on the 'historic' Paris climate accords, signed two years ago. But as the champagne-fueled self-congratulation of Paris recedes into memory, the agreement's underlying fraud is becoming obvious.
We have a term for programs in which someone fills out surveys and in return becomes eligible for a cash prize, sometimes paid in installments. The term is not 'basic income'; it's 'promotional contest.' When the government runs the program, we usually charge a fee to participate and call it the lottery.
Oren Cass joins Brian Anderson to discuss labor unions, past and present, and to offer an alternative model for organized labor. This 10 Blocks episode is the third based on City Journal’s special issue, The Shape of Work to Come. The discussion draws on Oren's essay, 'More Perfect Unions.[
It isn’t crazy to think labor groups should focus on delivering benefits to workers instead of campaign contributions to politicians. Or to suggest employees in the modern economy have more to gain from collaboration with their bosses than from conflict. If Democrats and Republicans want robust civil society, competitive markets, widely shared prosperity, and a stronger safety net, they have more than enough reason to give organized labor—in a new form—a fresh look.
Democrats prize union bosses’ Midas-like ability to transform the dollars and energy of a bipartisan workforce into homogenous left-wing support. Thus, their response to plummeting union membership isn’t to promote substantive reform that might make organizing more attractive to workers but instead to push for procedural changes to help unions bring more workers into the existing system and ensure that donations keep flowing. Republicans seem content to frustrate such efforts and watch the system continue to wither. What a missed opportunity. Organized labor is neither inherently partisan nor inherently counterproductive economically.
This particular bout of American exceptionalism is a mistake. What sense does it make to treat the vast majority of high-schoolers as if they were prospective college graduates when they are not; to pretend that the sudden divergence of outcomes after high-school graduation did not in fact begin long before? Indeed, the best way to understand the U.S. system is not as trackless, but rather as committed to a single track tailored toward those most likely to succeed anyway.
Thirty-nine percent of Americans give at least 50-50 odds that 'global warming will cause humans to become extinct,' according to a poll released last week by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. This extreme view, unsupported by mainstream climate science, is more widely held than the belief that climate change either is 'caused mostly by natural changes in the environment' rather than human activity (30 percent), or else 'isn’t happening' at all (6 percent).
To use the Massachusetts study as evidence that a Medicaid expansion will reduce mortality, one must credit Medicaid increases in 2009–10 for mortality declines in 2007–08. That seems . . . unlikely. So the 'solid estimates firmly rooted in scientific evidence' rely entirely on one author’s study of four states, of which only New York appears to show that expanding Medicaid reduces mortality. Every other attempt to establish that conclusion has failed, and most point squarely against it.
The common thread in the shortcomings of evidence-based policy making is an implicit endorsement of the progressive view of the federal government as preferred problem-solver and a disregard for the entire range of concerns that prevent conservatives from sharing that view. Like Charlie Brown with his football, conservatives repeatedly lunge with enthusiasm at the idea that evidence will hold government accountable for results, only to be disappointed. Lauded as a tool of technocratic excellence, EBP more often offers a recipe for creeping statism.
Part 2 of my discussion with John Cook and Peter Jacobs, co-authors of the '97% consensus' climate study, about the state of climate communication and the meaning of the term 'climate denial.'
If climate catastrophism really rests on a fear of civilizational stagnation, that rather limits its applicability. I’d happily concede that the human condition after decades without progress will be quite poor and that we should avoid such a fate at all costs. (Climate policy, of course, is not the way to tackle that particular problem.)
John Cook and Peter Jacobs, co-authors of the '97% consensus' climate study, invite me to join their podcast and discuss how different meanings of 'scientific consensus' affect the climate debate.
Lukewarmism is an effort to provide much needed perspective and context on the climate debate. Importantly, it is a corrective to the outlandish claims of catastrophe, made by environmental activists, that bear no relationship to mainstream research — they can hardly complain that others are taking the time to point this out. If we want the public to interpret correctly the implications of climate change, the correct interpretation should be given a vigorous defense. Insisting that policy deliberations begin from an appropriate policy definition does not worsen the quality of those deliberations and is not 'running interference.'
Why would the United States remain party to such an agreement? We shouldn’t have accepted its terms in the first place, and in an important sense, we didn’t. The U.S. Constitution requires the Senate to approve any treaty by a two-thirds supermajority, in part to prevent a president from making rash, politically motivated promises on the international stage that lack consensus support back home. Obama, knowing he did not have the Senate’s consent, chose to push ahead anyway. If reversing that mistake enrages some foreign diplomats, they have only themselves and their former negotiating partners in the Obama administration to blame.
The giveaway for the Paris charade is the refusal to set baselines. If nations are to hold one another accountable for progress on greenhouse-gas emissions, surely they must agree on a starting point from which to progress. Yet the framework for Paris pointedly omitted this requirement. Countries could calculate their own baselines however they chose, or provide none at all. Now, the pledges have themselves become baselines, and each country receives applause or condemnation in inverse proportion to its seriousness.
Instead, the debate devolved into the kind one otherwise hears about the UN Human Rights Council, a forum no one mistakes for a serious effort to advance human rights. If other countries are going to sit around discussing the climate, shouldn’t we at least attend? This is what Millennials might call the 'FOMO' (Fear of Missing Out) defense.
S&H’s claim of consensus requires them to combine disparate answers. For instance, they describe an 89 percent 'consensus' from adding together the responses that the negative economic effect of climate change has already begun (41 percent), will begin by 2025 (22 percent), or will begin by 2050 (26 percent). This is like asking people whether they prefer apples, bananas, oranges, or pears and then reporting a 90 percent 'consensus' for 'apples, bananas, or oranges.'
How, then, are critics defining an acceptable level of anti-poverty spending versus one that is 'cruel and short-sighted,' to quote House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi? The only guiding principle appears to be 'More.' If today’s spending were 10 percent higher and the GOP proposed a cut to the current levels that Democrats now defend, that would be 'cruel and short-sighted.' Conversely, had spending in the past two decades grown at 3 percent instead of 3.6 percent, leaving it 10 percent lower, staying the course would be a responsible choice.
Science indicates that climate change is happening but says little about how well civilization will deal with it. In my recent article, I argue that those I term climate catastrophists -- observers who regard climate change as an unprecedented, existential threat—badly underestimate humanity’s capacity to cope with change and thus overreact to the problem. Michael Mann’s response does not so much refute this argument as disregard it.
Crying 'consensus' to defend absolutist assertions, climate activists are charging well beyond the threshold of what mainstream science can support. When they turn back toward the ledge to shout “denial” at anyone who has not leapt with them, the word no longer means what they think it does.
Activists, so eager to bar the gates to the public square and keep their opponents out, have instead locked themselves in. If everyone agrees with the 97 percent consensus, and that consensus does not dictate any particular policy outcome, they have nothing else to say. Perhaps this is for the best.
The U.S. has some of the cleanest air in the world, thanks to decades of steady progress that has persisted across Democratic and Republican administrations, as well as across EPA budget expansions and cuts. The EPA standard for fine particulate matter is more than twice as strict as Europe’s. The agency’s standard for ozone is so strict that some national parks exceed it and President Obama initially rejected it. While environmental activists will always demand larger budgets and tighter standards, Americans can rest assured that they will continue to benefit from outstanding air quality in the years to come.
If anything, now might seem an appropriate time to pause the tightening of the Clean Air Act's new-source ratchet and encourage industry to expand under the requirements applied to existing facilities. The World Health Organization reports that the average fine particulate matter concentration of 8.3 micrograms per cubic meter puts it just above the levels in Iceland (7.6) and New Zealand (8.0) and far below levels in comparable industrialized countries like France (12.1), the United Kingdom (12.2), Germany (13.5), and Japan (14.6). Levels in London, Paris, Amsterdam, and Berlin all violate the U.S. standard; Brussels would be the dirtiest city in America.
Perhaps the greatest mistake made by those who overinflate the risk of climate change is to forget that our society has a tremendous capacity to adapt and innovate. But it would also be a major mistake to forget that public policy can either foster or hinder that process. If President Trump dislikes his predecessor's approach to adaptation he should put forward an alternative. Ignoring the problem entirely is one of the few things he can do that really would make it worse.
The logic of catastrophism seems to run backward: from the conclusion that significant human influence on the climate must portend unprecedented danger to the search for facts to support that narrative. But forecasts on these scales of time and magnitude exceed common experience and thus defy intuition, which facilitates misinterpretation and frustrates self-correction. Placing the problem in proper perspective requires appreciating the long-term costs in the context of the distant future when they will arise, distinguishing costs spread over long time periods from those borne all at once and, finally, applying separate analyses to expected outcomes and worst case scenarios. Catastrophists get these things wrong.
Some parents do provide their children with a system of automatic support. We call the result a 'trust-fund baby.' The term is not usually synonymous with 'kind, well-adjusted, productive member of society.' The day when parents embrace trust-fundism as a child-rearing ideal is the day when the UBI will gain mainstream traction as a public policy.
But thanks to the roughly half of states that refused the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, a good control group exists. Surely the states that expanded Medicaid should at least perform better in this environment of rising mortality? Nope. Mortality in 2015 rose more than 50 percent faster in the 26 states (and Washington, D.C.) that expanded Medicaid during 2014 than in the 24 states that did not. Further, while two years is not enough time to evaluate a policy’s full effects, that is exactly the period over which the Massachusetts study found substantial mortality gains. Two years of gains from a different policy implemented by a single state a decade earlier can hardly be proof that the ACA saves lives when the ACA’s own two-year track record tells the opposite story.
The best statistical estimate for the number of lives saved each year by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is zero. Certainly, there are individuals who have benefited from various of its provisions. But attempts to claim broader effects on public health or thousands of lives saved rely upon extrapolation from past studies that focus on the value of private health insurance. The ACA, however, has expanded coverage through Medicaid, a public program that, according to several studies, has failed to improve health outcomes for recipients. In fact, public health trends since the implementation of the ACA have worsened, with 80,000 more deaths in 2015 than had mortality continued declining during 2014–15 at the rate achieved during 2000–2013.
Over time, higher minimum wages cannot help but drive capital away from business models that rely on low-productivity workers, whether that means moving the work overseas, automating it, or implementing operations that utilize higher-productivity workers instead. ... If society knew how to instill higher productivity in a worker, that could be good news. Unfortunately, our experience has been the opposite. Our education system struggles to prepare many young people for the job market. A proportion of those who enroll in higher education either fail to graduate or end up in a job that does not require their degree anyway. Government training programs perform poorly.
Some critics view Pruitt's lawsuits as 'anti-EPA,' but that is not how the American constitutional system works. The EPA said it had authority under the law, Pruitt (acting on behalf of Oklahoma) said it didn't, and the Supreme Court sided with Pruitt. He plainly understands the EPA's role at least as well as its own prior leaders did, if not better. Now, as EPA administrator, he won't have to pursue years of litigation to keep the EPA's behavior within its legal limits; he will have that control himself.
In the marketplace of ideas, the carbon tax behaves increasingly like a government-run utility. It doesn’t care about competition. It ignores complaint with impunity. Its business model depends on the strength of its political connections, not the quality of its product. Elder statesmen often sit on the boards of such entities. Rarely do they achieve positive change.
If there is to be an administrative state, it should be managed by a White House that establishes processes and standards, controls budgets and timelines, directs activities, and must provide final authorization for formal action. But the net effect should not be an aggrandizement of the presidency; rather, as discussed elsewhere in this report, reforms in the other branches are necessary to account for this more energized office and to cabin its reach. The end goal should be an executive branch with narrowed scope of authority but greater capacity to use effectively the authority granted.
If the least productive workers can just disappear, policymakers achieve 'success' by dismissing the challenge that deserves greatest attention. Instead, our conception of 'productivity growth' must impose accountability for labor-market exits, recognize the value of keeping low-productivity workers connected to the job market, and have an explicit goal of ensuring that those workers are included in progress. This is doubly true because productivity measures do not fully capture the value of a job, which offers substantial non-economic benefits to many workers and may also be the best avenue for them to gain new skills and thereby increase their productivity over time. A high-productivity job requires a highly productive worker. A future filled with such jobs will materialize only if today’s less productive workers become able to do them.
The unmooring of climate change from any conventional policy framework has been rhetorical rather than reasoned. It requires justification — otherwise, the obsessive and apocalyptic politics built atop it cannot be supported. Yes, climate change is a problem. But what kind of problem?
While Trump embarrasses himself and the country by calling climate change a 'hoax,' his climate policies mirror those outlined by his more conventional GOP primary opponents in 2016 and by GOP nominee Mitt Romney in 2012. Hyperbolic warnings about Trump that emphasize climate are not really about Trump at all -- they are about Democrats losing to Republicans. Paul Krugman reflected the morning after the election on 'the immense damage Trump will surely do, to climate above all.' The Atlantic's Peter Beinart listed climate change as the first 'enormous danger' posed by Trump that might justify the Electoral College in overriding the election's outcome and choosing Clinton. They should save their extreme rhetoric about Trump for the facets of Trump that are in fact extreme.
It’s time for a fresh look at U.S. energy and environmental policy. An agenda that maximizes the potential of America’s natural resources while striking a better balance between industry and environmental protection could unleash substantial economic growth and job creation at no cost to taxpayers. Here are four steps that Congress and the new Trump administration can take.
Florida Republican senator Marco Rubio, a member of the bipartisan congressional task force on Puerto Rico, has proposed a unique approach to these challenges. He is introducing the Economic Mobility for Productive Livelihoods and Expanding Opportunity ('EMPLEO') Act, which would effectively reduce the island’s minimum hourly wage to $5 and use a federal wage subsidy to close half the gap between the wage paid by an employer and a target wage of $10 per hour.
Roberts, amusingly, suggests the solution of incorporating surveys of “expert opinion” to inform “better, more representative modeling.” In other words, if substantive research in the field is not confirming people’s feelings about climate change, it is the research rather than the feelings that should change. And what better way to accomplish that goal than by simply using the feelings instead of analysis as the input? Inevitably, a “robust” new literature will emerge, teeming with models reverse-engineered to confirm pre-existing premonitions of doom. When it does, spare a thought for the earlier models created in pursuit of useful knowledge, whose verdicts were not nearly so dismal.
There is a consensus among climate scientists that human activity is contributing to climate change. However, claims that rising temperatures pose an existential threat to the human race or modern civilization are not well supported by climate science or economics; to the contrary, they are every bit as far from the mainstream as claims that climate change is not occurring or that it will be beneficial. Analyses consistently show that the costs of climate change are real but manageable. For instance, the prosperity that the world might achieve in 2100 without climate change may instead be delayed until 2102.
A Trump presidency offers many reasonable reasons to worry. But the fear that he will kill the planet, or even poor Zach, is at least one anxiety we can dispel.
I'm pretty sure everyone believes 'social mobility happens within rich communities' and wants to ensure all Americans have 'a secure social and emotional base.' The relevant question is how to do that. Are such communities best created through individual initiative and enterprise or large government interventions?
My Facebook feed is filled with posts from kind, intelligent people who are genuinely devastated that Trump could become president -- because of character, not policy. The Left would like nothing more than to channel that revulsion toward legitimate policy debates. Casting conservative policy as beyond the pale is nothing new, and the same pundits might be trying even if the president-elect were John Kasich, but Trump makes the task so much easier.
I was wrong to assume that it would be only the suburban white males who Clinton redirected. Many others seem to have clicked away in disgust. When the dust clears, the hot takes on the End of America cool, and the bags packed for Canada go back in the closet, Americans will realize that we aren't headed irrevocably toward a racially balkanized abyss.
India, for instance, can now take enormous credit for HFC emissions supposedly forgone at almost no cost, instead of taking difficult (and real) action on carbon-dioxide emissions. Even better for India, the agreement includes 'climate finance' from developed nations to mitigate whatever costs it does incur. Who is paying, and how much? That decision will have to wait until next year. But the diet is going to start right after that. And when it does, what a 'landmark? moment it will be.
A wage subsidy has the potential to both increase the earnings of low-skilled workers and expand the job opportunities available to them, helping to reduce poverty, increase labor-force participation, and boost economic growth. The ongoing economic crisis in Puerto Rico offers an ideal testing ground for the policy, and the policy offers an ideal tool for addressing the island's woes.
You need economic growth to create jobs but I think it's important to realize that economic growth is a necessary but not sufficient condition. That you can also get an awful lot of economic growth that doesn't create an awful lot of jobs. If you see it as part of the government's mandate to not just maximize GDP but actually make sure that people from their diverse backgrounds with their diverse talents and capabilities can find a place in our economy, then policy needs to do a lot more than just say what maximizes economic growth.
If an insurance salesman promises his policy is not-too-expensive but tells you nothing concrete about the benefits, walk away quickly. If Ip wants us to believe 'you'll be glad action was taken,' he would need to show (a) how much climate change would cost if not mitigated, and (b) how much mitigation his policy achieves. He doesn't, because he can't.
For Clinton and Obama, when the constitutional amendment at issue is the Fourth, it takes priority; when it is the Second, it must be carefully balanced. If a police officer thinks you look suspicious, your Fourth Amendment rights remain inviolate; if the FBI places you on a terror watch-list, your Second Amendment rights evaporate. Stop-and-frisk must end because it fails to deliver 'the kind of impact that we would want' in Clinton's words; but for gun-control measures, according to Obama, the standard should be that 'maybe we could try to stop one act of evil, one act of violence.'
The 'long-term, holistic' studies that Carroll prefers show coverage for expectant mothers produced better health outcomes in their children and that children themselves receiving coverage had better health, educational, and financial outcomes. That's all great news, but there's one problem: Obamacare's Medicaid expansion does not target pregnant women or children.
Donald, you did well in your primary fight / But the general electorate ain't the alt-right / Race-baiting for your base is rating poorly in the polls / You gotta be swing-stating, not elating Russian trolls
Why not extend an olive branch toward the conservative voters she needs to attract, offering to include ideas from across the ideological spectrum in pursuit of major bipartisan reform? Instead, we get only cautious platitudes all the way down. Perhaps with a bit more focus on the stated passion for helping women and children, she might also get further with the exhibited passion for becoming president.
Are employers who choose to offer even more flexibility than the law requires therefore undercutting women even further? And how should gender discrimination be policed if federal employment policies are a cause of disparities in pay and promotion and the employers offering women the most generous options are the worst offenders? The especially committed social engineer might decide to tackle this challenge by attempting to force women's life choices to conform to men's, or vice versa. Good luck. Sweden has even tried paying couples to use equal amounts of leave, to little effect.
Nuclear power consumption actually declined between 2008 and 2015. (It grew during the Bush administration.) Wind and solar power consumption increased by only 1.6 quadrillion BTUs, or less than 2 percent of the total American energy mix. (Its growth rate was higher during the Bush administration, albeit from a much lower base.) Natural gas consumption, meanwhile, increased by 4.5 quadrillion BTUs--three times the increase for nuclear, wind, and solar combined. All told, natural gas has reduced carbon-dioxide emissions ten times faster than solar power has.
Is Medicaid worthless?' is the quintessentially liberal battleground and a ridiculous lens through which to evaluate policy. Furman's defense, for instance, amounts to a claim that providing Medicaid is probably better than not providing Medicaid. The Oregon experiment tested the same question--Medicaid only had to defeat 'no Medicaid,' and even then it largely failed. But the right question to ask is whether this is a good allocation of scarce resources--not 'is Medicaid worthless?', but 'is Medicaid best?' The critical study is not the Oregon experiment, but one that gives Medicaid to Group A while offering Group B a wage subsidy, housing voucher, or used car of equal value. Good luck to Medicaid achieving superior outcomes in terms of health, upward mobility, or any other measure of well-being in that match-up.
Because of Medicaid, the safety net feels weaker as it grows heavier, exposing bigger gaps even as it spreads. Bad design and political pressure have allowed this one program to dominate our ever-expanding anti-poverty system. Medicaid now accounts for most of what we spend to aid the poor, even though the program aligns badly with the needs of low-income households and offers stunningly little value for its cost. The opportunity to improve support for the poor without increasing spending by reallocating funds from Medicaid to better uses is great.
The most absurd plank to appear in either party's platform this year is the Democrats' call to 'raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour over time and index it.' It is policy written for the nation's very wealthiest enclaves, but incoherent for economically distressed regions. Looked at from El Paso, Texas, where the median hourly wage is only $12.70, a national $15-per-hour minimum sounds no saner than a $29-per-hour minimum would in Washington, D.C.
Complaints about the U.S. minimum typically focus on just the federal level, and by that standard we do indeed lag other developed, free-market economies--compare our minimum-to-median ratio of 0.41 ($7.25/hr vs. $17.40/hr) to the 0.46 average for Japan, Korea, Canada, United Kingdom, Netherlands, and Australia. But to account for the size and diversity of our national labor market, we allow state local governments to set higher minimums and they have taken up that offer--for instance, the 13 states with the highest median wages have all set minimums at least $1 above the federal minimum. Taking into account the prevailing minimum wage in each local market, the U.S. minimum-to-median ratio is actually 0.47, slightly above peers.
The size and diversity of the U.S. labor market make a national lens inappropriate for evaluating minimum-wage policy. A dramatic increase in the federal minimum wage--to $15 or even $12 per hour--would replace a system that tailors policy to local conditions with a system that imposes a single standard from America's most prosperous cities on less affluent areas that can ill afford it.
In a world of fixed resources, Clinton's model inevitably undermines the idea of equal protection under the law, pits groups against one another, and leaves some explicitly favored by government as winners. It also normalizes subjective standards for government action.
But if we shift from rhetorical one-upmanship to a more fair-minded analysis of the divide, it seems to emerge primarily over how to help those segments of society currently facing social collapse and economic struggle. High levels of trade and immigration are presumably not the ends unto themselves. Rather they are, in the view of the Openers, critical pre-requisites of a flourishing society that will work for everyone. Many opponents see value in trade and immigration as well, but they emphasize that the current approach is not working for those who need help most and we have not proven any ability to make it work.
America's safety net is thicker and wider than ever: antipoverty spending in real terms more than doubled between 1995 and 2015. True, Congress froze federal spending for the specific welfare cash-assistance program targeted by the 1996 welfare reform, causing its budget to decline in real terms; but that decline represented less than 1 percent of the safety net with total spending of more than $1 trillion in 2015.
Clearly defined responsibilities, from educating children to caring for the elderly to fighting in wars, are fundamental to a society's character. They establish the terms of relationships, the scope and role of civil society, and the expectations against which people judge one another. And few are as important or pervasive as the responsibility of providing--for oneself, for one's family, and for future generations.
The 35 pages contain plenty of good ideas, but they place enormous faith in the federal technocracy to get things right where it has failed so many times before. Rather than a comprehensive strategy for improving America's safety net and promoting economic opportunity, the document reads like a description of how the current safety net might work better if only we had better bureaucrats. The title of proposal #8 (out of 41) sums up the approach: 'Pay More for the Good Stuff, Less for Everything Else.'
The social safety net provides more than $1 trillion a year for low-income households. Yet no coherent antipoverty strategy allocates the spending. As the various programs have been created, their individual funding streams have pooled resources haphazardly and inefficiently. Medicaid, in particular, dominates the safety net. From 1975 to 2015, total safety-net spending per American in poverty doubled, in 2015 dollars, from $11,600 to $23,400. Of that increase, 91 percent was the result of higher health-care spending -- nearly all for Medicaid, whose costs rose tenfold to $568 billion.
Levin is at his best when making the secular case for social conservatism--describing how 'expressive individualism,? in coming to dominate American culture, has eviscerated many of society's critical institutions, and what an alternative built on relational obligations and 'morally meaningful communities? might look like. While declaring it 'rather obvious . . . that cultural and economic factors are inseparable,? Levin views 'family breakdown, cultural dysfunction, and the polarization of norms? to be the primary culprits impairing opportunity. His formula of subsidiarity, however, makes an awkward fit for this challenge.
The American social safety net's overwhelming emphasis on health care is the unintentional result of skewed incentives, leading to an ineffective antipoverty strategy poorly aligned with the needs and preferences of low-income Americans. Reforms that allow states to reroute substantial sums from Medicaid to other programs would better meet the needs of the poor at no additional cost to taxpayers, marking the first step toward a more flexible and effective safety net.
The choices aren't complicated: support Trump, support Clinton, support someone else with the understanding that you're likely leaving the choice of winner to those supporting either Trump or Clinton, or declare yourself undecided while the race ripens. The complicated part is the first-order question, unique to a party so deeply divided over its own nominee: how many of these choices should be acceptable on the right, both morally and politically? Or, when isn't it despicable to support someone you find despicable?
If the question is what resources will America and the world need ten, twenty, or thirty years from now, the answer is that no one knows. But if the question is what course to pursue, we do know: innovation and exploration have always benefited the nation and in hindsight we are always glad they occurred. The moment when new supply seems least critical is no less a moment when future investment should be invited.
Unfortunately, not everyone was in on the joke. Determined to display 'leadership,? President Obama made the classic mistake of the kid who hears everyone is going skinny-dipping, strips naked, plunges into the water, and then turns to find his dry and still-modest peers laughing from the shore as they run off with his clothes. While everyone else both literally and figuratively mailed in their commitments, the president pledged a dramatic reduction in U.S. emissions.
President Obama's policies for tackling climate change would impose heavy costs borne disproportionately by lower-income U.S. households. His Clean Power Plan (CPP) and proposal for a $10.25-per-barrel oil tax are the equivalent of a $25?$30-per-ton carbon tax, which would cost America's poorest families tens of billions of dollars per year.
Our current model of regulation resembles a game of darts, in which we hope to equip (or constrain, depending on one's point of view) the regulator with tools to ensure he strikes a hypothetical bulls-eye that maximizes welfare. But this produces a central-planning regime in which the policymakers deny the existence of tradeoffs, claiming they can achieve their regulatory goals while simultaneously improving on the market's economic outcomes. There is no such bulls-eye in the real world, and even if there were, the regulators would not hit it anyway.
The only problem is that British Columbia's carbon tax did not reduce emissions. True, emissions declined upon implementation of the tax in 2008. But something else happened in 2008 ? a global recession that sent GDP (and, with it, energy use) declining in British Columbia and around the world. Emissions then grew in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014.
Regardless of where he lands, Donald Trump has already ruptured the GOP and posed a major challenge to American conservatism. But with postmortems for both party and movement already underway, we shouldn't make the mistake of developing 'solutions' that fight the last war. Conservatives should be developing good policy and a compelling message, not something-that-would-have-stopped-Trump.
Hold still, low-wage America, the editors of the New York Times would like to perform an experiment on you. They want to turn the minimum-wage dial all the way up to $15 per hour and see what happens. It is, in their view, a matter of 'human rights.? Will such a massive shock to the system hurt? Of course not. Or yes. The truth is, the New York Times has no idea.
The real difference is that Romney held himself each day to the highest standards of decency and felt keenly the burdens of leadership, while Trump is an entertainer committed to delivering whatever irrational blather of insults, threats, and lies will earn the most retweets. Sometimes the blather may take the form of a 'policy? proposal like mass deportation or a ban on Muslims, but that is still part of the show ? not a suggestion for how to run the country.
The dangerous and novel phenomenon of 2016 is not irresponsible politicians or an inflamed electorate, but rather the unprecedented concentration of power awaiting the election's ultimate winner. Ironically, many of the now-panicking elites are the very ones who made the presidency so powerful. If they can learn the right lesson from the recent chaos, the specter--even fleeting--of a President Trump or a President Sanders could provide the needed spur to restore balance to our constitutional system.
The federal government should package up the money it spends so ineffectively and send it back to states in proportion to their populations, to allocate as they see fit. Doing so will satisfy neither the Left's enthusiasm for expansive new programs nor the Right's appetite for shrinking government. But the American people would benefit enormously.
Goalposts move all the time, but rarely are they disassembled and carted away, leaving the teams to circle aimlessly while the crowd roars and the commentators prattle on as if nothing had changed. That's what happened at the just-concluded Paris climate talks, which managed to produce an agreement but also marked the collapse of a 25-year effort to catalyze collective global action on climate change.
Kerry argued the deal had to be weak because anything stronger would require congressional approval and Congress would not approve. In other words, President Obama lacked popular support to pursue a climate deal, so he had to do a deal even worse than the one for which there was no support. How absurd.
If successfully spurring robust international action is the sine qua non of this nation's climate policy, and that is failing, then we have non. Yet proponents continue to argue that new regulations, subsidies, and mandates are ends unto themselves--that even if the mitigation of carbon-dioxide emissions will not itself produce meaningful benefits, we should regulate anyway because the impositions on the nation's energy sector will be good for the economy. This argument defies both common sense and empirical evidence. Climate policy that does not help the climate is not good policy.
If the West believed combatting climate change merits hobbling poorer countries against their will, it could coerce emissions cuts with threats of embargo or military force. Obviously, that should not and will not happen. But without it, dramatic cuts depend on as-yet-unidentified technological breakthroughs that a developing economy might prefer to fossil fuels.
To understand how the world's pledges can amount to essentially nothing, look at what developing countries--who will account for four-fifths of emissions this century--have offered. China committed its emissions will peak 'around 2030.? OK, but the federal government's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory suggested four years ago that China was already on pace to do just that.
The climate negotiators have no clothes. If making that observation and refusing to go along causes some embarrassment, those parading around naked have only themselves to blame.
My primary message to the committee is this: international climate negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) no longer bear a substantial relationship to the goal of sharply reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Rather, the only likely achievement of the upcoming Paris conference (COP21) is a commitment by developed nations including the United States to transfer large sums of wealth to poorer nations.
U.S. greenhouse gas emissions have fallen significantly since their peak in 2007--more than in any other country. The biggest cause is America's fracking-led natural gas boom: solar power is responsible for 1 percent of the decline in U.S. carbon-dioxide emissions; natural gas is responsible for nearly 20 percent.
America spends nearly $1 trillion on anti-poverty programs, yet no one seems happy with the results. Mindlessly writing another, bigger check is not evidence of 'caring.' Pursuing substantive reform within the existing budget is not an attempt to 'ignore' anything.
If civilization hangs in the balance, then the developing world must somehow be coerced into emissions reductions. For instance, if coal plants are truly 'factories of death,' shouldn't a Coalition of the Willing bomb any plant that a country dares try to build? Archbishop Desmond Tutu has equated the 'immoral system[s]' of Apartheid and fossil-fuel consumption. If he's right, shouldn't an embargo, at least, be in the offing?
Fundamental economic and political challenges suggest that there is no plausible path to an agreement premised on collective action or compensation: developing nations that must bear the brunt of emissions reductions in any successful scenario cannot achieve those reductions while pursuing rapid economic growth; developed nations cannot sufficiently compensate developing ones for forgoing such growth. Evidence from recent negotiations, as well as preparations for the next round of talks, reinforces this conclusion.
Ensuring that even those with very low human capital enter and remain in the workforce offers one of the highest leverage points for breaking the cycle of social decay. A job provides not just a wage, but also structure, skills and social engagement. It gets someone onto the first rung of the economic ladder, which is the first step to climbing any higher. New policies should aim for this outcome -- making work pay, not paying regardless of work.
The China problem is that 'cap-and-trade? matters for the cap, not the trade. Pundits are celebrating the proposed trading system, even though China made no new commitments to capping emissions, and its pre-existing commitments are essentially worthless.
America's 'lower class,? for lack of a better term, is undergoing an unprecedented social collapse that threatens to destabilize core American principles. The data on marriage, parenting, employment, civic engagement, and basic values show a widening and sometimes accelerating gap between classes. This form of inequality is far more consequential than income inequality because strong families and communities, unlike high incomes, are the cornerstones of a free and fair society.
Politically, there is much for both the left and the right to like about a wage subsidy. It does not discourage hiring or raise prices, some of the right's main complaints about the minimum-wage increase. But it also lifts paychecks directly, which is what the left likes so much about raising the minimum wage. Best of all, it would use current government spending in a way that helps the poor find work and better helps the working poor -- which should make everyone happy.
Two wage-support tools typically receive consideration: the minimum wage and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Both have the potential to significantly increase disposable income for at least some low-income workers. But their mechanisms--and impact--differ dramatically. The minimum wage, a price floor under wages, performs well vis-?-vis an individual worker but poorly in its labor-market and distributional effects. The EITC, a subsidy for income earned, has strengths and weaknesses roughly the opposite. The drawbacks of both tools prevent them from delivering fully on their antipoverty goals. Any discussion of wage-support options should include a third policy tool with the potential to deliver the best of both worlds: a wage subsidy delivered directly to low-wage workers, via their paychecks, as additional dollars per hour for every hour worked.
An ideal policy would look to workers like an increased minimum wage (more pay for every hour worked) but to the labor market and broader society like an expanded EITC (a government subsidy to support the low-income worker). A wage subsidy would do just that.
The real plan, simply put, is to pay for other countries to reduce their emissions through an unprecedented transfer of wealth from the developed world to the developing world. This plan emerged from the international climate negotiations in Copenhagen in 2009, at which then-Secretary Clinton pledged the United States would help create a Green Climate Fund of at least $100 billion in annual aid ? a commitment comparable in scale to all existing development aid from OECD countries.
In his August 2008 energy speech, then-candidate Barack Obama mocked offshore drilling as the solution to America's challenges. 'George Bush's own Energy Department has said that if we opened up new areas to drilling today, we wouldn't see a single drop of oil for seven years,' he said, repeating 'seven years' for emphasis. Amazing how quickly 'seven years' becomes 'next month.'
Of course, under the popular rules of the climate debate, anyone downplaying climate risks is a 'denier,' while anyone overstating them is a 'passionate leader.' But even among those charging down that uneven playing field, de Blasio stands out for allowing his rhetorical momentum to carry him past the goal line, through the fence, under the bleachers--and off into the woods.
Improving America's energy regulatory environment will amplify today's boom by encouraging resources to be used more efficiently. Opening federal land and waters to development over the next decade will extend the boom. Together, such reforms will further the country's energy advantage and make it an enduring fixture of U.S. prosperity.
If a U.S. carbon tax depends on global impacts, and the only global impact comes not from the tax but from a different policy (wealth transfers) that has not been defended, the benefits are hard to see.
If Boston's bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics were the central narrative device in a tragedy about urban development in twenty-first-century America, it would be too perfect.
A good policy does not repeatedly hide in the alternative. When the carbon-tax shells finally stop moving, one turns them over to find a sharply regressive tax likely to harm the economy while failing to meaningfully reduce emissions or insure against catastrophe, poorly suited to the important goals of spurring innovation and protecting public health, and deeply unpopular and inconsistent with basic principles of policymaking.
To opponents of action, the encyclical restates arguments heard before. To supporters, it poses uncomfortable questions about tradeoffs they prefer to hide from view.
There are political points to score with a carbon tax, and profits to capture, too. But these won't benefit society; they will come at its expense.
The official unemployment rate instead makes each dropout from the labor force as great a success as a new hire and depicts a 'recovery? that never occurred. Only if held directly to the job growth rate, or to an unemployment rate that back-dates labor force participation to the end of the recession, will policymakers focus on the economic growth and job creation that the economy still needs. The unemployment rate today is nearly 10 percent; what are we doing about it?
There is no reason to limit this mode of thinking to energy policy. The bureaucrats could build an economic model claiming to identify externalities in any market and insist that theirs is the one, true price. From this perspective, market prices are artificial and inefficient, while administrative reports know what prices should be. Any elected official who dares to deviate from a report's conclusions simply by choosing not to take new government action on behalf of the bureaucratic agenda shall be branded a distorter of markets.
Time magazine reported that focusing on the health effects of climate change, particularly on children, 'produces the most emotionally compelling response.' But that makes it no less illogical -- only more manipulative. Air quality and children's asthma are not reasons to #ActOnClimate, and the claim only adds to the bad information and confusion characterizing the climate issue.
Claims of 'revenue neutrality' make a carbon tax sound like a free lunch, even though it imposes costs on the economy very similar to those that accompany cap-and-trade plans or command-and-control regulation.
If we revisit the economic-environmental balance that our policies strike in light of the economic and environmental conditions we now face, we will find great opportunities for a rebalancing that preserves progress made while pursuing the economic growth we need.
Instead of vilifying low-wage employers and low-wage subsidies, we should recognize the valuable role they play in our economy. The more we can reorient anti-poverty spending to function as a subsidy for low-wage work, the more effective it will be.
The clean Air Act, by virtue of decisions made and priorities chosen decades ago, is forcing Americans to accept substantial economic sacrifices that they cannot afford, in pursuit of environmental gains that they do not need and that are not worth the cost. Through sheer inertia it is continuing to tighten the screws on industry and energy in pursuit of ever greater environmental quality, even though the broad consensus supporting such a tradeoff has disintegrated and most Americans today see the former as a greater concern than the latter.
Any of the proposals working from these principles is a major improvement both on what conservatives have offered in the recent past and on the never-changing more-programs-more-spending approach from the other side. As more policymakers work from these principles toward innovative reforms the proposals will only get stronger.
My goal was to explain the flaws in that view, so it is disappointing that the response is simply to have it shouted back louder. At times I thought I was reading a defense of NAFTA. To understand just how narrow and incomplete their response is, it might be helpful to break the debate down into three discrete questions: First, what policies is China pursuing? Second, what is the impact of these policies on the United States? Third, to the extent that the impact is negative, what should the United States do?
The United States need not allow itself to be taken advantage of forever, or assume that China and its followers are irrevocably committed to their course. To the contrary, America and her allies have the opportunity to make clear that they will no longer play on these terms, that they would rather take their ball and go home than continue to compete on a tilted playing field, and that it is the cheaters who must decide whether they will finally comply with the rules or be ejected from the game. Forcing such a decision is not 'starting a trade war' any more than committing to the defense of one's borders constitutes an invasion. Indeed, far from being protectionist, threatening nations like China with severe trade sanctions is critical to ensuring a prosperous future for the global economy.
Too often, particularly among conservatives, the anti-poverty issue is actually used as a budget issue, that when we think we're talking about anti-poverty programs, we're actually talking about ways to cut the budget deficit. And that's a fine conversation to have if you're looking across places to cut from the budget ? anti-poverty programs may be one of them, given how big they are ? but it's not a solution to the poverty crisis to cut dollars.
An effective anti-poverty program requires reform in two ways: first, restructuring the funding system to give state-level policymakers the incentives and authorities they will need if substantive reforms are to succeed; second, sharply dividing programs designed to provide a safety net for those not working from programs designed to increase the incomes of those who are working, coupled with reestablishing an income gap by increasing the relative generosity of the latter.
Flimsy arguments for emissions reductions have become mainstream because they stand unopposed. Conservatives have allowed the debate to be framed as a binary choice between 'climate activism' and 'climate skepticism,' and they have associated themselves with the latter -- a position that becomes less and less tenable as more and more scientific evidence accumulates. This has been a serious mistake.
He makes the same argument about drug companies, noting that they gladly sell their products in price-controlled markets overseas: 'those regulated profit margins outside the U.S. remain high enough that Grifols, Baxter and other drug companies still aggressively sell their products there.? Apparently he missed the day in Economics 101 that reviewed the difference between average and marginal cost. Seriously, there is typically a day dedicated to the topic because it is a hard one; a lot of students intuitively make the same mistake Brill does.
Good policy emphasizes basic and applied research at the pre-commercial stages, perhaps up to the point of demonstration projects. Such government funding is worthwhile across a range of industries because returns from early-stage research are often too speculative and long-term to attract private investment, and because the knowledge created by breakthroughs is spread widely instead of being captured by the inventor. It is doubly worthwhile in the context of climate change, where the societal benefits of success would far exceed the private gains.
If carbon emissions actually had a quantifiable, linear, ton-by-ton cost then the Sophisticated Objection would make no sense because the value of action at home could be measured independent of what action was or was not taken abroad. If we gain the same benefit every time we reduce emissions by another ton, why would we care what China does? But of course, as Sunstein acknowledges by taking the Objection seriously in the first place, this is not how climate change works.