11/30/2022

News

A controversial California effort to fight climate change just got some good news

A controversial California climate program got a shot of good news this month when a study suggested it is successfully reducing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions and providing other environmental benefits on the side. The study, conducted by a trio of Stanford University researchers, concerns a California “carbon offset” program, which allows companies to pay to preserve carbon-storing forests instead of reducing their own emissions. According to the researchers’ findings, that program is protecting imperiled forests and preventing the carbon they store from being released into the atmosphere.

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A big Wall Street firm bets the American Dream is dying

A big Wall Street firm is betting that America is likely to become the United States of Renters.

On Thursday, private equity behemoth Blackstone announced a major merger of its own Invitation Homes Inc. with another company, Starwood Waypoint Homes. It’s the kind of news that makes most people’s eyes glaze over. But after the deal is done, Invitation Homes will be America’s biggest landlord of single-family homes, owning more than 82,000 houses, mostly in major cities like Chicago and Miami.

In plain speak, this means a top Wall Street company and a top real estate company think there’s a lot more money to be made renting property to Americans who either can’t afford to buy or don’t want to become homeowners.

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Medicare’s hospital trust fund will run out of money in 2029

he trust fund that pays Medicare’s hospital expenses will run out of money in 2029, a year later than was projected last year, according to a federal report. The Social Security program will remain solvent until 2034, a projection unchanged from last year. The report from the Social Security and Medicare board of trustees is an annual glimpse at the long-term solvency of the federal government’s two biggest entitlement programs. It comes as Republican lawmakers have introduced a new version of a health care bill that would make deep, long-term cuts to a different entitlement program, Medicaid.

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A ‘very credible’ new study on Seattle’s $15 minimum wage has bad news for liberals

When Seattle officials voted three years ago to incrementally boost the city’s minimum wage up to $15 an hour, they’d hoped to improve the lives of low-income workers. Yet according to a major new study that could force economists to reassess past research on the issue, the hike has had the opposite effect. The city is gradually increasing the hourly minimum to $15 over several years. Already, though, some employers have not been able to afford the increased minimums. They’ve cut their payrolls, putting off new hiring, reducing hours or letting their workers go, the study found. The costs to low-wage workers in Seattle outweighed the benefits by a ratio of three to one, according to the study, conducted by a group of economists at the University of Washington who were commissioned by the city.

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In this part of the Midwest, the problem isn’t China. It’s too many jobs.

But the shortage is particularly problematic in places such as Kosciusko County, where the unemployment rate rests at 2 percent. Of the county’s 41,136 adults who can work, 40,311 are employed, according to government statistics. This region — a land of clear lakes, duck farms and medical device makers — escaped the industrial decline that rocked other communities throughout the Rust Belt. It prospered, thanks to a local industry that proved largely immune to competition from China and Mexico. But without more people to grow Warsaw’s business, the chances of companies relocating is “extraordinarily high,” said Michael Hicks, a labor economist at Indiana’s Ball State University

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Half of Americans are responsible for only 3 percent of health care costs

The top 1 percent of health-care spenders use more resources, collectively, than the bottom 75 percent, according to a new study based on national surveys. Slice the data a different way, and the bottom half of spenders all together rack up only about 3 percent of overall health care spending — a pattern that hasn’t budged for decades. This creates a fundamental inequality in the country’s health spending that is the crux of the challenge policymakers face: They need a system that works for people who are ill, but is attractive to those who are healthy and spend little on health care.

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Nestlé to move U.S. headquarters to Arlington, bringing 750 jobs

The company’s current U.S. headquarters is in Glendale, Calif., where it has come under fire in recent years for bottling water during the state’s record multi-year drought. In 2015, Nestlé — which has nine brands of water, including Arrowhead — removed 36 million gallons of water from a natural forest in California to bottle and sell, prompting public criticism and at least one lawsuit.

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Big government is the new West Coast craze

The new West Coast Model is higher taxes on the rich, higher spending by the state and wide-scale efforts to lift the working poor, all in the pursuit of stronger and more evenly shared growth. It is on the ballot in three states: Californians are set to essentially make permanent an income tax surcharge on millionaires in order to fund education. Washington voters appear likely to raise their minimum wage statewide to $13.25 an hour, and to mandate paid sick leave for workers. . . The booms, though, have been slow to spread beyond major metro areas. Lawmakers have struggled to balance their budgets, slashing aid to higher education and straining to fund schools at what they consider to be adequate levels — a challenge that is often felt acutely in their vast, slower-growing rural regions, and among the poorest residents of the high-cost metro centers.

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Opinion: The decline of the middle class is causing even more economic damage than we realized

I have just come across an International Monetary Fund working paper on income polarization in the United States that makes an important contribution to the secular stagnation debate. The authors — Ali Alichi, Kory Kantenga and Juan Solé — use standard econometric techniques to estimate the impact of declines in middle class incomes on total consumer spending. They find that polarization has reduced consumer spending by more than 3 percent or about $400 billion annually. If these findings stand up to scrutiny, they deserve to have a policy impact.

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107 Nobel laureates sign letter blasting Greenpeace over GMOs

Nobel laureate Randy Schekman, a cell biologist at the University of California at Berkeley, told The Post, “I find it surprising that groups that are very supportive of science when it comes to global climate change, or even, for the most part, in the appreciation of the value of vaccination in preventing human disease, yet can be so dismissive of the general views of scientists when it comes to something as important as the world’s agricultural future.”

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The world is about to install 700 million air conditioners. Here’s what that means for the climate

In many other countries, however — including countries in much hotter climates — air conditioning is still a relative rarity. But as these countries boom in wealth and population, and extend electricity to more people even as the climate warms, the projections are clear: They are going to install mind-boggling amounts of air conditioning, not just for comfort but as a health necessity.

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Opinion: A New Theory of Equality

Thumbing through the annual report of the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) is always an education. This year’s 430-page edition is no exception. Crammed with tables and charts, it brims with useful facts and insights.

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After Weeks of Negotiations, Congress Finalizes 5-year Transportation Bill

In its first year, the approximately $300 billion bill increases spending on highways by $2.1 billion above current levels. By the final year, in 2020, the bump will be $6.1 billion above the approximately $50 billion that has been spent in recent years.

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Why Wage and Hour Litigation is Skyrocketing

The number of wage and hour cases filed in federal court rose to 8,871 for the year ending Sept. 30, up from 1,935 in 2000. That’s an increase of 358 percent, compared to the the federal judiciary’s overall intake volume, which rose only a total of about 7 percent over the same period.

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On Eve of Paris Climate Summit, Britain Pulls the Plug on Renewables

With breathtaking abruptness, the British government has in recent months slashed its support for solar power and other renewable forms of energy, leaving a once-promising industry with grim prospects and throwing into doubt the country’s commitment to clean power. . . Britain on Wednesday became the first major economy to propose a phase-out of coal-fired power plants, saying it intends to do so by 2025. But the government’s plan relies heavily on a switch to gas rather than cleaner alternatives.

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