The House has voted to repeal the estate tax. Viewed in partisan terms, the reaction from the left was predictable: “Today's vote to repeal the estate tax is just the Republicans' last attempt to tilt the U.S. tax code in favor of the ultra-wealthy campaign donors,” said Washington State Congressman Jim McDermott.
Elizabeth Warren was at it again yesterday, calling for breaking up the big banks, lower interest rates on student loans, closing tax provisions described as Wall Street loopholes, and further limiting the ability of the Federal Reserve to be the lender-of-last-resort in a financial crisis.
It is April 15; the day each year on which policy bloggers, newsletters, and the vast punditry compete to humorously display the vast failings of the U.S. tax code. I won’t do it. I’m on strike.
Federal regulators announced a new rule regarding the “blowout protectors” required for offshore drilling rigs. The failure of the blowout protector was a key part of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill. However, in the wake of the incident stakeholders collaborated to improve oversight, best practices, and technology.
Trade Promotion Authority is essential for negotiating effective trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which have the potential to greatly benefit the U.S. As part of the process of passage through the Congress, however, expect demands for extension and expansion of Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA).
The H-1B program is successful and enjoys bipartisan support. It permits employers to locate workers with specialized knowledge — scientists, engineers, computer programmers — and is often associated with the tech industry. As it turns out, over 300,000 applications are typically filed. The bad news is that there is a cap of roughly 65,000 H-1B visas. They are in such short supply that this year’s quota was snapped up in one week.
The Highway Trust Fund (HTF) will run out of money on May 31 and out of all the options for dealing with the issue, the most likely outcome is a short-term patch that kicks the can down the road. Among traditionalists, this is policy apostasy. In that view of the world, the “right” thing to do is simply raise the federal gas tax, pour the funds into the HTF and fully-fund the “right” amount of highway and transit spending. Not so fast.
The lights went out in DC yesterday — literally. It turned out to be a coincidence that it immediately followed Rand Paul’s declaration that the “Washington machine must be stopped,” but it did raise the question: how reliable is the electric grid? As it turns out, the majority of power outages are weather-related, but there are two potential systemic threats on the horizon.
They want to increase Social Security benefits, which — like puppies, kittens, and sunshine — sounds great. Unfortunately, the program is already on shaky ground. It will run increasingly large cash-flow deficits — reaching over $500 billion annually — until in the early 2030s when the ironically-named Trust Fund is exhausted.
The Nuclear Waste Policy Act amendments of 1987 designated the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository (Yucca Mountain) to be a repository for spent nuclear fuel and other high level radioactive waste. After years of research and billions spent in preparation, it was approved in 2002.