The resurgence of populism and protectionism in the western world is emblematic of a middle class that feels increasingly vulnerable to changes in the economic landscape. Middle income jobs are relocating, changing, and offering a lower standard of living than in the past. In this environment many workers feel ill equipped to make the transitions required to compete in the altered job market.

In response, instincts to focus on basic needs and return to familiarity, compounded by a reluctance to upset existing norms and institutions, have narrowed and misdirected the actions of policy makers. At a time where it is more important than ever to experiment with new policy solutions and invest in the workforce of the future, policy makers too often revert to efforts to retain obsolete jobs or/and deal with the ramifications rather than the cause of poverty. …


Building blocks, train sets, cars, and airplanes are staples of childhood play. These toys introduce children to concepts of infrastructure at a young age. Deepening human understanding of how people and goods get from one location to the next is fundamental to understanding the modern world. Nevertheless, in adulthood infrastructure and transportation are often taken for granted. Once people become acquainted with status quo they frequently neglect to push back against failures to improve and build upon the roads, bridges, trains, and airports that characterize much of modern day life.

This series has set out to explore how the United States, despite increased spending, has failed to invest in a competitive, sustainable future. The previous article explored the role policy makers play in both establishing a strategic vision and supporting research and innovation. This second article will explore how infrastructure investment contributes to national competitiveness and spurs economic development. …


With election season upon us, politicians on both sides of the aisle are especially motivated to avoid the distraction of yet another budget debacle. Thus, in August 2019 a two-year budget deal was agreed to and signed. To ensure its passage, both political parties blatantly surrendered to any and all spending requests made on either side of the aisle in a spectacular abdication of fiscal responsibility. Unsurprisingly, the bill is illustrative of many themes discussed on this website. It raises concerns related to the long term viability of our budget deficits. It illustrates shortcomings in today’s taxation system. …


As the tax season came to a close, many Americans scrambled to file their returns in advance of the April 15th deadline. I myself am often part of this financial frenzy. Having been an accountant, my lack of appreciation for the time value of money is perplexing. Rather than getting ahead of the filing process, I instead chose to write this article on the Tax Cut and Jobs Act (TCJA). While I find the annual reconciliation of my finances tedious, I find tax policy and the economic implications fascinating.

Politicians campaigning for the passage of the TCJA wrote some pretty big checks that the bill has struggled to cash, both metaphorically and literally. Supporters argued that the bill would raise wages, create jobs, spur business investment, and put more money into the pockets of middle and low income earners. …


Last month Health and Human Services (HHS) issued its latest guidance on combatting the opioid epidemic. The first measure proposed within the guidance encourages physicians to begin co-prescribing naloxone (the overdose reversal drug) to all patients receiving opioid prescriptions. This government sponsored union proves that Taco Bell no longer holds the corner market on disturbing co-branding campaigns. For those unfamiliar with the delicacies of Taco Bell, and consequentially the above premise, you can read more on the company’s cobranding initiatives here, here, and here

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If the drafters of this guidance set their sights on banking regulations, we might soon see a proposal to combat predatory lending by recommending that institutions found guilty of loan sharking be required to equip loan recipients with fliers for law firms specializing in chapter 13 bankruptcy. And, as will be discussed later, it wouldn’t be a perfect analogy unless the lending institution also owned the law firm. …


Preventable death should in no doubt be a bipartisan issue. Unfortunately, perspectives on how to address gun related violence have remained highly polarized. In the wake of mass shootings and studies on escalating crime rates, news circuits have overwhelming focused on the national impact of gun accessibility in the United States. This article will take a second approach and look at the impact of US gun regulations on the rest of the world.

A failure to recognize the global impact of US gun regulations has left politicians espousing platforms that are inherently contradictory. …


It is joked that the acceptable level of unemployment is the rate at which the economist who finds the level to be acceptable still has a job. While the joke clearly intends to make light of a general sentiment that academics and politicians do not have a firm grasp on the plight of the public, it also speaks to a second truism when it comes to measuring the health of the job market.

People’s perceptions of the job market are generally biased towards what they can observe in their local environment. Computer science majors in Denver Colorado view the job market very differently than energy workers in West Virginia. Compound this relativity with a plethora of different unemployment statistics, and you get a voter base that is likely to accept whatever line of political rhetoric that best fits what they can observe in their community. …


In May 2018 the administration published its blue print to make good on a Trump campaign promise to take on escalating prescription drug prices. While there are certainly a number of initiatives worth getting excited about, there are several provisions giving reason for concern. Consulting the blue print and watching the June 12th and 26th hearings covering the issue, makes evident the influence pharmaceutical lobbyists have had in yet another attempt at prescription drug price reform.

Regardless of the administration, it is generally a good idea to exercise a healthy level of skepticism when new pharmaceutical legislation is debated. Pharmaceutical companies are remarkably successful in lobbying for legislation that works in their favor. This is not a right versus left issue. Protectionist and lobbied for drug policy can be found in nearly every transformational piece of healthcare legislation passed under administrations both republican and democrat. …


For anyone who may have fallen behind on their MyC-SPAN recommended watch list this summer, you may have missed the June 12th and June 26th hearings where Health and Human Services secretary, Alex Azar, testified on the administration’s new plan to combat drug prices. (Yes MyC-SPAN is a thing, yes I have an account, no you don’t have to invite me to your dinner parties).

First, it goes without saying, there are many senators who are well versed on the complex healthcare-related issues facing the United States. Nevertheless, several of the statements made and questions asked during the hearings make it abundantly clear that many congressional representatives are lacking the depth of information necessary to adequately explore the actions being proposed. …


This article is the third in a three-part series dedicated to taking an objective and detailed look at one of the most consequential pieces of healthcare legislation in the 21st century. The series will address several components of the bill as well as provide history and context where relevant. This third article will discuss other important measures introduced by the bill that were not within the scope of the first two articles.

COVERAGE FOR DEPENDENTS

The ACA includes a provision requiring insurance companies to cover the dependents of policy holders until the age of 26. The purpose of this provision was to make insurance accessible to students and individuals working to establish themselves in a long-term career. Allowing these individuals to remain on their parents’ insurance until the age of 26 increases these individuals’ spending power and ability to make important investments in their future. Such investments include pursuing higher education, obtaining specialty training, making investments in a home, or putting money away for retirement. …

About

Jessi Olsen

Examining the fine print of political, economic, and social decision making. Bridging the gap between rhetoric and reality.

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