Economy

New Marijuana Laws: Just a Smokescreen

Flickr/Rupert Ganzer

Before Washington state voters legalized marijuana in the 2012 election, pot was easy enough to access on the black market. Five percent of state residents have used the drug in one form or another while burning through a remarkable 187,000 pounds per year, according to estimates by Washington’s Office of Financial Management. Getting high without getting arrested wasn’t much of a problem, either. Washington decriminalized medical marijuana 15 years ago, and today dozens of dispensaries are operating under protection of state law. In addition, Washington’s biggest city, Seattle, had instructed its police force to treat personal possession of marijuana as the lowest law-enforcement priority.

A More Perfect European Union

David Cameron's speech has its fair share of detractors, but it should be embraced as an impetus to take Europe's governance to the next level.

Flickr/vsaid

As President Barack Obama embarks on his second term, he and many other global leaders hoping for economic recovery paid close attention to the recent speech given by British Prime Minister David Cameron about whether he would lead the UK out of the European Union. Europe is the largest trading partner with both the United States and China, so the continent’s recession and the restructuring of its basic institutions is no academic matter. What happens there affects the rest of the world.

Equality of Flying Time

Poking holes in the arguments that appear on The Wall Street Journal’s editorial pages bears a close resemblance, I admit, to shooting fish in a barrel, but an op-ed in Thursday’s Journal makes points so idiotic I cannot restrain myself.

Remember Your Salary Doubling? Oh Wait...

Flickr/Rich Johnson

Brace yourself. In coming weeks you’ll hear there’s no serious alternative to cutting Social Security and Medicare, raising taxes on the middle class, and decimating what’s left of the federal government’s discretionary spending on everything from education and job training to highways and basic research.

“We” must make these sacrifices, it will be said, in order to deal with our mushrooming budget deficit and cumulative debt. 

Equality, Brought to You by U.S. Airways?

Flickr/Robertsharp

Poking holes in the arguments that appear on The Wall Street Journal’s editorial pages bears a close resemblance, I admit, to shooting fish in a barrel, but an op-ed in Thursday’s Journal makes points so idiotic I cannot restrain myself.

Keystone XL: A Year in Review

What has happened with the pipeline in the year since the Obama administration rejected TransCanada's original permit?

Flickr/Bold Nebraska

Flickr/M.V. Jantzen

Deficits: The End of an Obsession

AP Photo/Alan Diaz

The consensus around debt reduction is beginning to crumble. Some straws in the wind are more careful attention to the actual numbers, as well as public conversions by such key players as Larry Summers and Peter Orszag, two former top aides to President Obama, who only yesterday were key members of the deflate-your-way-to-recovery club.

Summers wrote a piece in Wednesday’s Financial Times titled “End the Damaging Obsession with the Budget Deficit,” pointing out that the more serious deficits were in jobs, wages, and infrastructure.

David Cameron's Malaise Speech

Europe is not impressed with the British P.M.'s plan to loosen the country from the E.U.'s grip.

Rex Features via AP Images

Rex Features via AP Images)

Prime Minister David Cameron giving the keynote speech on Britain's future in Europe, Bloomberg head office, London, Britain.

Workers, Not Babysitters

There's still a long way to go to ensure domestic workers have the same protections as other workers, but progress is coming. 

Flickr/brk in bklyn

Some very welcome news may break soon for the domestic workforce: the White House appears to be close to announcing a rule change to the Federal Labor Standards Act, finally including home health aides—those who bathe, nurse, toilet, and care for the elderly and disabled in their homes—in its protections. It may sound out of another century, and it is, but home health care workers had been excluded from federal overtime and minimum wage protections through a companionship exemption. It was designed to leave out only those who provided company, but had become so widely interpreted as to encompass a vital, booming workforce.

Labor, and Middle Class, Still Shrinking

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

Can we at least agree to stop using the term “Big Labor?” Whatever else may be said of the American union movement, it’s not really big any more.

Why Balance the Budget?

Google

I mentioned in the previous post that Republicans have pledged to craft a plan that balances the budget in ten years. As a political matter, it’s easy to see why they would do this—Americans like the idea of a balanced budget. As an economic issue, however, the question is less clear. Here’s Matthew Yglesias asking if there’s anything—anything at all—that we gain from having a balanced budget:

There is No Spending Crisis

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Most GOP rhetoric centers on the notion the United States is facing a “spending crisis” that will ruin its fiscal solvency. Setting aside the fact that this is impossible—a country with fiat currency (held in reserve by most of the world) can’t “run out” of money, and can’t have a “debt crisis”—it’s also true that the government just isn’t spending as much as Republicans think. Economic stimulus aside, Obama has presided over modest growth in federal outlays. Here’s Bloomberg with more:

Invisible Workers, Global Struggles

Flickr/Janinsanfran

Like countless other migrant girls toiling far from home, her life was invisible—except for the chilling way it ended. Earlier this month, Rizana Nafeek, a young Sri Lankan migrant in Saudi Arabia, was executed after being convicted of killing a baby in her care. The case drew international condemnation not only because of the severe punishment and opacity of the legal proceedings—she was reportedly just 17 at the time, not 23 as her falsified passport indicated, and advocates said her confession had been coerced—but also because the girl’s brief life exposed the consequences of the invisible struggles facing domestic workers in the Middle East and beyond.

The Truth about Student Debt

In 40 percent of cases where a student loan debtor sought forgiveness of their loans as part of a bankruptcy case, the judge granted at least some relief. Only 0.1 percent took the bait.

Flickr/Occupy Student Debt Campaign

There are a few ready talking points when discussing the student-loan crisis: the collective $1 trillion burden of debt, how student debt is now larger than credit card debt in this country, the fact that the 90-day delinquency rate spiked to 11 percent last year, meaning over one in ten borrowers are behind on their payments—all facts that don’t give much hope to those with loans, or those trying to resolve the financial crisis.

The Truth about Student Debt

Flickr/Occupy Student Debt Campaign

There are a few ready talking points when discussing the student-loan crisis: the collective $1 trillion burden of debt, how student debt is now larger than credit card debt in this country, the fact that the 90-day delinquency rate spiked to 11 percent last year, meaning over one in ten borrowers are behind on their payments—all facts that don’t give much hope to those with loans, or those trying to resolve the financial crisis.

Pages