Industry: Economy
Oct. 21, 2017

Batteries have emerged as a critical front in China’s campaign to be the global leader in electric vehicles, but foreign auto makers and experts say it is rigging the market to favor domestic suppliers.

Tianjin Lishen Battery Co. here in eastern China recently agreed to sell its battery packs to Kia Motors for the EVs the South Korean company makes in China and is now in talks to supply General Motors , Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen , a supervisor for the Chinese company said.

But that is largely because Tianjin Lishen has little foreign competition.

Foreign batteries aren’t banned in China, but auto makers must use ones from a government-approved list to qualify for generous EV subsidies. The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology’s list includes 57 manufacturers, all of them Chinese.


California lawmakers have proposed more taxes and fees in the first half of the 2017-18 legislative session than in all of 2015 or 2016. If each proposal became law, the tax burden in California would increase by more than $373 billion per year. To put this in context, all revenue in the 2017-18 State Budget is expected to bring in $178.4 billion.


One of the few great inescapable facts in the field of economics is the reality of the business cycle. No matter how high-flying an economy might appear, another recession is coming sooner or later. It can be difficult, if not impossible, to regularly predict when one might occur, or how severe it may be, but recessions and their place in the business cycle are an accepted fact of economic life. Therefore, preparing for recessions is an equally inescapable concept.

It has been more than eight years since the end of the last recession, the third longest period of expansion in U.S. history, and many are rightfully beginning to look ahead to the next economic downturn. However, one of the most effective ways to look forward is to look back and make sure that we have adequately learned the lessons of the Great Recession. Nowhere is this type of postmortem more appropriate than for state and local governments.

Oct. 20, 2017

Issi Romem,'s chief economist has made a valuable contribution to the growing literature on the severe unaffordability of housing in a number of US metropolitan areas. The disparities between the severely unaffordable metropolitan areas (read San Jose, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, Portland, Denver, Miami, New York, Boston, Sacramento and Riverside-San Bernardino) and the many more affordable areas in America are described in

"Paying For Dirt: Where Have Home Values Detached From Construction Costs". Romem points out that: "In the expensive U.S. coastal metros, home prices have detached from construction costs and can be almost four times as high as the cost of rebuilding existing structures." "Paying for dirt" refers to the ballooning land costs that now comprise an unprecedented part of house values, such as in the severely unaffordable metropolitan markets above. This has created an environment where affordability is impossible. In many of these metropolitan areas, a modest house commands an exorbitant price well beyond the financial capacity of most middle income households. Land has become so expensive that it doesn't matter what is built on it, whether the average house or a tent, the price will be too high. The market distortions are so great that Romem is able to show that, for example, the average house value in Columbus, Ohio, a delightful metropolitan area, is less than the average land value per lot in Portland (Oregon).

Oct. 20, 2017

When California’s Gov. Jerry Brown signed a 10-year extension of the state’s cap-and-trade program this summer, it was heralded as a rebuke of President Trump, who had just announced he would withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord. While the nation was failing on climate change, the story went, states could succeed. The trouble is that California could leak—like a sieve.

In the decade since Mr. Brown’s predecessor, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, first signed the Global Warming Solutions Act, the cap-and-trade program has done little to abate carbon emissions, let alone planetary warming. Under the law, companies in California that emit carbon in their production processes must secure scarce permits for the right to do so. The theory is that this creates an incentive to invest in green power and energy efficiency.

Yet the law’s designers still have not confronted the central conundrum of trying to impose a state or regional climate policy: As firms compete for a limited supply of carbon permits, they are put at a disadvantage to out-of-state rivals. Production flees the state, taking jobs and tax revenues with it. Emissions “leak” outside California’s cap to other jurisdictions.

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