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News
Oct. 25, 2017

Stockton, California, announced last week that it will try out a new anti-poverty program that provides $500 per month for a small subset of eligible residents. Earlier this month, the province of Ontario mailed its first monthly checks to 400 lucky Canadians. Advocates for a “universal basic income” (UBI) call these programs “experiments,” or “pilots,” and they hope that positive results will build support for their proposals. But these governments are not testing a UBI; they are running a free lottery. No one should be impressed or persuaded if its winners prove to be fans.

. . . Treating this program as a useful test of the UBI, however, is a marketing gimmick that borders on fraud. The experiments ignore the UBI’s disquieting aspects. It’s generally accepted that people in need should receive short-term support. But limited, means-tested government support is not the same thing as rearranging cultural expectations and economic incentives by making self-reliance optional, which would devalue work, weaken families and communities, discourage young people from launching their adult lives, and subsidize an expanding and idle underclass.

News
Oct. 23, 2017

While a lot of attention is paid to state sales tax rates, many localities impose their own tax, leading to relatively high tax rates in several major U.S. cities.

Last year, Chicago, Illinois, vaulted to the top of the list of cities imposing the highest combined state and local sales tax when a county tax increase brought the total rate to 10.25 percent, a dubious distinction it now shares with Long Beach, California, which reached 10.25 percent on July 1, 2017.

News
Oct. 23, 2017

How important was international trade for each US state’s economy in 2016? The map and table above help to answer that question. The table above shows GDP for each US state (data here) in 2016, the total trade volume (exports + imports, data here for merchandise trade only, data on trade in services aren’t available by state) last year, and the volume of international trade activities as a share of each state’s GDP, ranked from highest to lowest. Ignoring the District of Columbia, the average trade share for US states in 2015 was 16.7%, and ranged from a low of 4.7% for South Dakota to a high of nearly 39.0% for Michigan. The trade shares by state are also displayed graphically in the map above — the greater the share of state trade activities (exports + imports) in relation to state GDP, the darker the shade of blue.

News
Oct. 23, 2017

It takes a lot of juice to grow pot indoors, so Sacramento’s major electric utility is gearing up for the heavy demands of recreational marijuana growers come January.

That’s when growing cannabis for non-medical purposes becomes legal in California, though cities and counties retain some control.

Sacramento city officials have moved quickly to welcome the new industry by accepting dozens of applications and issuing permits for pot farms in warehouses citywide.

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District is getting ready, too, by doing research it hopes will conserve energy and reduce the load on aging infrastructure. SMUD researchers are testing LED lighting and air-conditioning systems in cooperation with the city’s current crop of legal, medical pot producers.

News
Oct. 22, 2017

Electric-car maker Tesla has reached an agreement to set up its own manufacturing facility in Shanghai, according to people briefed on the plan, a move that could help it gain traction in China's fast-growing market for electric vehicles.

The deal with Shanghai's government will allow the Silicon Valley auto maker to build a wholly owned factory in the city's free-trade zone, these people said. This arrangement, the first of its kind for a foreign auto maker, could enable Tesla to slash production costs, but it would still likely incur China's 25% import tariff.

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Nov. 17, 2017 / Andrew Khouri

Nov. 17, 2017 / The Editorial Board