Steel is the lifeblood of industrialized nations: the alloy is a key component in buildings, cars, railroads, ships, solar panels, and wind turbines. In 2017, the US steel industry accounted for more than $520 billion in economic output, generated $56 billion in federal, state, and local taxes, and supported nearly two million jobs. Given this mammoth impact on the economy, it’s only natural that policymakers work to support and encourage this vital industry. The Trump administration took this step in 2018 by implementing tariffs under Section 232 of the 1962 Trade Act, which have so far been upheld by the Biden Administration. Over the past three years, these tariffs have succeeded in helping to increase the competitiveness of the US steel industry, bolstered national security, and benefited the US economy, and for these reasons ought to remain in place for the near future.
The Green New Deal (GND), a resolution sponsored by House Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Edward Markey, proposes a sweeping reform of the nation’s environmental and social policies. Its bold proposals, while popular among voters, have already soured the faces of congressional leaders. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has dismissed the proposed deal as “a dream, or whatever they call it,” while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell plans to hold a vote on the GND to portray Democrats who support it as naïve and radical. Something these leaders have in common? At roughly 80 years of age, they will never live to see the worst effects of climate change devastate communities across the globe.
In the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) landmark report last year, the panel noted that failing to keep the world from warming 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures, as opposed to a more ambitious target of 1.5 degrees, will impose devastating consequences. The extra 0.5 degrees of warming could expose 10 million more people to risks associated with sea level rise, increase the number of people living under water stress by 50 percent, and put several hundred million more people at the simultaneous risk of poverty and climate change-related harm. Right now, the Climate Action Tracker projects that the world is nowhere close to preventing these devastating effects and is in fact on track to warm a catastrophic 3 degrees Celsius.
At the same time, the United States is grappling with economic inequality and widespread social injustice. It is no secret that wages for everyday Americans are stagnating, while the top 1 percent of earners continue to capture most of the nation’s wealth. No less troubling, racial and gender pay gaps show few signs of budging.
In the face of this troubling evidence that environmental, economic, and social well-being are on a rapid decline, the Green New Deal is a welcome call to action. By addressing both the climate and socio-economic crises in one plan, the resolution encourages us to consider the possibility of complete transformation rather than piecemeal reform. Leaders are reasonable to call its feasibility into question, but dismissing it out of hand is equally short-sighted.
The news industry has had a rough go of it in recent years. While some news outlets are able to sustain themselves on a healthy dose of subscriptions and advertising revenues, many digital newsrooms and local outlets have suffered. Quality reporting at the state and local levels is particularly vulnerable. News deserts, areas without any local newsrooms, are widespread throughout the country. If implemented, a Universal Basic Income (UBI), what is in essence a universal supplemental income program or “Social Security for All,” may be the policy to help revive local reporting.
Proponents of UBI often remark that such a policy would help to establish a baseline of economic security in a world of underemployment, the gig/service economy, and wage stagnation. If this argument proves true, a UBI may also serve to allow local journalists and newsrooms to sustain themselves despite economic uncertainty, transforming news deserts into fertile ground for local reporting.
To clarify, I am not referring to a UBI or a wage subsidy specifically for journalists or a scheme like the UK’s BBC. Such a system might lead to punitive actions being taken against journalists for reporting that government officials do not like. I am speaking more broadly about how a UBI may affect journalists.
It is worth noting that UBI gives many people hesitation. UBI is not well-studied, but efforts are underway to better understand its potential impacts. Preliminary work out of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy & Practice shows promising results.
Nearly everyone has heard from the political left and progressives for plans to create a single-payer healthcare system, Medicare for all, or Medicare-optional programs. However, even many well-informed people don’t know about Maryland’s strategy to fight out of control healthcare costs: the all-payer model. This model, in place for nearly forty years, exempts the state from the Inpatient Prospective Payment System (IPPS) and Outpatient Prospective Payment System (OPPS) and allows Maryland to set rates for these services for Medicare, Medicaid, and Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) recipients. As part of an agreement with the national Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), Maryland must limit inpatient and outpatient hospital per capita growth to 3.58 percent and save $330 million in Medicare costs over a five-year period. Additionally, they must meet several quality measures: matching national Medicare 30-day readmissions rates, reduce potentially preventable complications by 30 percent over five years, and submit annual reports on population health measures. 
Ensuring American Competitiveness in a 21st Century Economy: Solar Panel & Washing Machine Tariffs
American solar panel and washing machine manufacturers struggle to compete with imports from China and developing countries. In January of this year, the Trump Administration enacted tariffs on imported solar panels, washing machines, and washing machine parts to protect American industries. These tariffs include a 30 percent tax on imported solar panels in the first year and a gradual decline to 15 percent by the fourth year. The first 1.2 million annual units of washing machines experience a 20 percent tariff and 50 percent thereafter. Washing machine parts have a flat 50 percent tariff. So why enact these tariffs?
The Chinese solar panel industry has dominated the last decade of international trade, expanding from seven percent of global market share in 2005 to 61 percent in 2012. China achieved this by providing tax credits, utilizing a cheap labor advantage, investing as much as $47 billion in infrastructure to overcome barriers to entry, and other subsidies. China became the largest market for solar panels, and US companies like First Solar and Sun Power saw their stock values drop to 13 percent and six percent, respectively, of their former stock values. So we know that American industries struggle to compete as a result of this, but is this the Trump Administration’s only option?
The federal government can impose tariffs and/or quotas, subsidize and invest in its domestic market, or take China to the World Trade Organization (WTO) under a dispute settlement. In fact, the literature shows that the effectiveness of tariffs can be mixed. Blonigen, Liebman, Pierce, & Wilson (2013) found that counter-veiling duties (tariffs) do not appear to change overall market share in a domestic market. Additionally, small steel mills were moderately harmed by tariffs, while large mills did not appear to have any evidence of an effect. These same findings also saw a strong and positive effect for quotas as a form of protecting or strengthening domestic market share. However, research on the reduction of tariffs in 1989-1999 and 1996-2006 showed that increased trade from tariff reduction was fairly small; for every percentage point drop in tariff rates, the probability of import increases only raised by 1.1 percent. These reductions in tariffs only accounted for five percent and 12 percent of the increased imports, respective to the two time periods (Debaere & Mostashari 2010). This means that tariffs must be large, such as 50 percent, to be effective.
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