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JOBS POLICIES, ANALYSIS, AND RESOURCES

The Jobs and Infrastructure domain tracks and reports on policies that deal with job creation and employment, unemployment insurance and job retraining, and policies that support investments in infrastructure. This domain tracks policies emanating from the White House, the US Congress, the US Department of Labor, the US Department of Transportation, and state policies that respond to policies at the Federal level. Our Principal Analyst is Vaibhav Kumar who can be reached at vaibhav@usresistnews.org.

Latest Jobs Posts

 

US Makes Vaccine Available to Overseas Visitors

Brief #20 – Health and Gender
By S. Bhimji

Because of the high cost of healthcare in the USA, for much of the past 20 years, many Americans have sought medical care abroad going as far as India for heart surgery, Thailand for massage therapy, to Israel for liposuction, and so on. In addition, many Americans have undergone cosmetic and weight loss surgery in Central American countries and Europe. The cost of healthcare in these nations is only a fraction of what it would cost in the USA.

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Spyware Technology: A Global Threat top Democracy and Human Rights

Brief #58 – Technology Policy
By Scout Burchill

A flurry of articles have recently been published on the Israeli based cyber-surveillance company NSO Group thanks to a recent leak exposed by Forbidden Stories, a collaborative non-profit journalist organization, which revealed a list of about 50,000 phone numbers alleged to have been targeted by the company’s Pegasus surveillance software.

read more

Global Perspectives: Nigeria: A Case Study In The Slow Creep of Digital Authoritarianism

Brief #57 – Technology
By Scout Burchill

On June 4th, the Nigerian government announced an “indefinite suspension” of Twitter after the social media company deleted a controversial tweet by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari. The Nigerian government’s Twitter ban and its recent history of attempts to more stringently regulate online speech present a cautionary tale about the rise of digital authoritarianism.

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Moving Forward After U.S. Withdrawal in Afghanistan

Brief # 125 – Foreign Policy
By Avery Roe

Despite widespread criticism, The Biden Administration has restated its commitment that the United States military mission in Afghanistan will conclude on August 31st. This comes after the Trump Administration made an agreement with the Taliban to remove all American forces by May 1, 2021, a large part of the stated rationale for President Biden’s decision.

read more

Biden Ups The Ante on Car Fuel Standards

Brief #121 – Environment Policy
By Katelyn Lewis

President Joe Biden’s team is working on a vehicle emissions rule that will not only restore aggressive vehicle mileage standards set under then-President Barack Obama, but also reduce greenhouse gas emissions and significantly increase electric vehicle drivers in the U.S. by the end of the decade.

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New Vaccine Mandates Being Rolled Out

Brief # 119 – Health and Gender
By Siam Bhimji

A few months ago, Methodist Hospital in Texas mandated the covid vaccine for all its healthcare workers. About 150 healthcare workers including nurses refused citing a variety of non-medical reasons. Methodist fired them all; the workers filed a lawsuit and the case went to the Texas Federal court where a judge ruled that in private practice, the employees have to follow the rules of the employer. If they do not agree, they are welcome to find a job elsewhere. 

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Israel Update

Brief # 124 – Foreign Policy
By Reilly Fitzgerald

Early June saw the Israeli Parliament oust the former Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and replace him with a new coalition government and new Prime Minister. The new coalition government consists of nine differing political parties that were brought together in a loose alliance due to their shared displeasure of former PM Netanyahu.

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ENSURING FAIR ELECTIONS HELPS ENSURE DEMOCRACY

USRENEW NEWS EDITORIAL
By Ron Israel

The United States of America was intended by our founders to be a democratic republic. Our Declaration of Independence enshrines our commitment to the core values of equality, freedom, and self-government. As Abraham Lincoln said in his Gettysburg address, we are a government “of the people, for the people, and by the people.”

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US Makes Vaccine Available to Overseas Visitors

US Makes Vaccine Available to Overseas Visitors

US Makes Vaccine Available to Overseas Visitors

Health and Gender Policy Brief # 120 | By: S Bhimji | July 30, 2021

Header photo taken from: Reuters

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Photo taken from: CNET

Policy Summary

Because of the high cost of healthcare in the USA, for much of the past 20 years, many Americans have sought medical care abroad going as far as India for heart surgery, Thailand for massage therapy, to Israel for liposuction, and so on. In addition, many Americans have undergone cosmetic and weight loss surgery in  Central American countries and Europe. The cost of healthcare in these nations is only a fraction of what it would cost in the USA.

But now America has opened up its borders for foreigners in search of the COVID vaccine.. You can get the covid vaccine here for FREE- even if you cannot speak a word of English, and have never lived in America.

Policy Analysis

Reports indicate that most medical tourists who want the covid vaccine are from Central and South America. And for the past 7 months, the number of tourists arriving for the vaccine has increased dramatically. Just from Peru alone, 70,000 of its citizens made the trip north for vaccination. And airline owners in Latin America have noticed a major spike in trips to the USA, especially for the vaccine.

Latin America has a severe shortage of vaccines because of shipment delays and only 3% of Latinos have been fully vaccinated against covid 19.  For those who can afford the airfare and cost of a hotel stay, this is one way to solve the vaccine shortage.

Photo taken from: Daily Advent

Many South Americans feel that their governments are simply not doing enough and they have no choice but to come to the USA. The visitors who do get the vaccine are immensely grateful to America. It is not just the South Americans who are into vaccine tourism- many Canadians who reside in Florida have also got the vaccine for free in the US.

However those who do come here to get the vaccine are generally wealthy enough  to afford the associated  travel and other related expenses. While there is nothing wrong or illegal in providing them with a COVID shot once they arrive, they represent a small and privileged  segment of their country’s population. It would be better if the US could make more of its surplus vaccines available for the entire population of these counties.

  

Engagement Resources​

Click or tap on image to visit resource website.

Can Visitors Get Covid-19 Vaccine in the US?

https://www.visaplace.com/blog-immigration-law/vaccine-tourism/

Covid vaccines: Tourists head to the US to get vaccinated

https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-us-canada-58004253

Spyware Technology: A Global Threat top Democracy and Human Rights

Spyware Technology: A Global Threat top Democracy and Human Rights

Spyware Technology: A Global Threat Top Democracy and Human Rights

Technology Policy Brief # 58 | By: Scout Burchill | July 29, 2021

Header photo taken from: Middle East Eye

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Photo taken from: Human Rights Watch

Policy Summary

A flurry of articles have recently been published on  the Israeli based cyber-surveillance company NSO Group thanks to a recent leak exposed by Forbidden Stories, a collaborative non-profit journalist organization, which revealed a list of about 50,000 phone numbers alleged to have been targeted by the company’s Pegasus surveillance software.

Pegasus is an exceptionally powerful surveillance and spying software that targets phones and can be used to steal account passwords, call records, emails, text messages, audio recordings and photos from unsuspecting targets. It can also monitor a user’s activity, take screenshots, and enable the phone’s camera and microphone, turning it into a real-time surveillance bug and hidden camera. But wait, it gets worse. The malicious software can be installed on phones remotely by merely sending a text message. This zero-click method does not even require the user to interact with the message. NSO Group claims that Pegasus is sold only to governments and law enforcement agencies that agree to use it “appropriately.”

Even though this is far from the first time that NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware has made headlines, the leaked “surveillance list” once again suggests that Pegasus spyware is routinely used by authoritarian governments to target journalists, dissidents, activists, academics, and opposition politicians. The NSO Group’s spyware has already been implicated in Saudi Arabia’s monitoring of dissidents abroad and in the tracking of Jamal Kashoggi before his murder in Istanbul. 

This new list, while not fully confirmed, includes: Roula Khalaf, the editor of the Financial Times, individuals and family close to Kashoggi, the assassinated Mexican reporter Cecilio Pineda Birto, a number of journalists from CNN, the AP, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg News and The New York Times, and perhaps most shockingly three sitting presidents, including French President Emanuel Macron, ten current and former prime ministers and the King of Morocco.

 Furthermore, journalists from countries such as Azerbaijan, France, Hungary, India and Morocco are believed to have been hacked by Pegasus spyware, and a source familiar with NSO contracts has revealed that NSO software has been sold to the governments of Azerbaijan, Bahrain, India, Mexico, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. NSO Group strongly denies accusations of wrongdoing.

Policy Analysis

The NSO Group’s recently leaked surveillance list comes as no surprise to those who have followed the steady stream of alarming articles written about the company over the past few years. The story of NSO Group highlights a steady and worrying trend that has only picked up steam in the digital age: the privatization of security industries by unregulated firms driven by pure profit. 

These industries have no qualms or ethical misgivings when it comes to empowering the most repressive and brutal regimes on earth and their business model seems to be working. The market for privatized spyware alone is estimated to be around $12 billion and is expected to continue to grow as more actors seek the services of these digital mercenaries.

Photo taken from: PBS

NSO Group is far from alone in this murky, global enterprise mired in secrecy. The firm’s success has inspired homegrown spin-offs like DarkMatter in the United Arab Emirates. 

DarkMatter has hired and continues to employ a number of former NSA and CIA officers, offering them hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for their valuable experience. The opaque and mysterious nature of these firms allows governments to contract out responsibility, further shielding their actions from the light of transparency.

With the amount of money and interested actors in the private spyware business, it is no surprise that NSO Group has deep ties in Washington. Anita Dunn, Biden’s former campaign manager who now works as a senior advisor to the president, lobbied on behalf of the firm through her company SKDK as recently as 2019. NSO Group also paid Jeremy Bash, the former chief of staff of the CIA turned MSNBC analyst, through his consulting company Beacon Global Strategies until early 2020.

Photo taken from: The Guardian 

Much like the global arms trade or the military contracting business, the global spyware market represents a lurid enterprise that must be faced head on. While it will not be easy to regulate, transparency and accountability are desperately needed. Beyond the horrific human cost exacted daily by these industries, the willingness of officials and representatives of democratic nations to transfer powerful technologies and tools of oppression to authoritarian regimes betrays an utter lack of principle and foresight. 

As these most recent leaks prove, it is only a matter of time before these technologies are used against the same democratic nations that are now complicit in selling away their expertise as well as their values. A 2019 United Nations report called for a moratorium on the sales of all spyware until stricter human rights protections are put in place. Unfortunately, there has been little follow through and spyware technologies continue to be sold and developed for the purposes of repressing and debasing the rights of individuals all over the globe.

Global Perspectives: Nigeria: A Case Study In The Slow Creep of Digital Authoritarianism

Global Perspectives: Nigeria: A Case Study In The Slow Creep of Digital Authoritarianism

Global Perspectives: Nigeria: A Case Study In The Slow Creep of Digital Authoritarianism

Technology Policy Brief # 57 | By: Scout Burchill | July 29, 2021

Header photo taken from: Foreign Policy

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Photo taken from: Media 24

Policy Summary

On June 4th, the Nigerian government announced an “indefinite suspension” of Twitter after the social media company deleted a controversial tweet by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari. The Nigerian government’s Twitter ban and its recent history of attempts to more stringently regulate online speech present a cautionary tale about the rise of digital authoritarianism.


Over the past year, Twitter has increasingly drawn the ire of the Buhari government. The social media platform proved to be instrumental in organizing and sustaining protests against police brutality during the #EndSARS movement that erupted throughout the country in October of 2020. Young Nigerians used Twitter to share information, organize demonstrations, and attract worldwide attention to their cause, which picked up steam in the wake of new revelations and videos revealing gross misconduct and extrajudicial executions by Nigeria’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). Hostilities between the Buhari government and Twitter became distinctly personal as the CEO of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, tweeted messages in support of government protesters.

The official ban comes two days after Twitter deleted a tweet by President Buhari in which he threatened separatist rebel groups believed to be behind recent attacks in Southeastern Nigeria by vowing to “treat them in the language they understand.” The issue of succession still stings like an open wound in Nigeria, a country which fought a civil war not too long ago and is still deeply divided along North/South lines. The Buhari government has often complained that Twitter is complicit in allowing separatist leaders living outside the country to freely campaign and drum up support for succession movements within Nigeria. According to the government, the censorship of President Buhari’s tweet, which was a direct quote from a speech he delivered earlier, provides proof that Twitter has a clear agenda that threatens the sovereignty of Nigeria.

Policy Analysis

Let’s put aside for now the thorny question of whether or not Twitter, an American company, should be deleting or moderating the tweets of democratically elected leaders, and particularly those from other countries. Whether or not the deletion of President Buhari’s tweet is warranted, Twitter and other social media companies’ notoriously arbitrary and ad-hoc content moderation decisions make it hard to argue that such an action is consistent with company standards.

One quick takeaway worth noting about Twitter in particular though is that Jack Dorsey has a real knack for making enemies out of heads of state. From Modi, to Buhari, to Trump, the level of animosity for Dorsey seems personally tinged by the egos of those involved. Case in point, Facebook also deleted Buhari’s post, but has yet to receive any consternation from the government and the company remains operational in the country. Now on to the bigger picture.

Photo taken from: Human Rights Watch

Nigeria’s descent into digital authoritarianism is not a new or unforeseeable development, but it does present a worrying example of the future of online freedoms particularly in the developing world. As the former leader of a short-lived military junta in the 80’s, Buhari’s repressive inclinations were well-known before he was elected president in 2015. In 1984, Buhari passed the notorious Protection Against False Accusations Decree. Known as Decree 4, this decree remains the most restrictive press law ever enacted in Nigeria.

Since Buhari’s return to leadership, he has attempted to pass a number of laws reminiscent of Decree 4 that would allow Nigeria’s government to cut off internet access or block specific social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter. In 2019, the Buhari government introduced new legislation called the Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill, which would have granted the government sweeping authority to gag online speech and stifle dissent. Presented as a way of curbing misinformation and protecting the digital sovereignty of the nation, the bill failed to muster enough support in the face of widespread public opposition. Since the Twitter ban, however, a version of this bill is once again being circulated.

While parallels to Decree 4 seem to suggest that Nigeria is being haunted by ghosts of the past, the reality is that social media bans and repressive internet laws are becoming increasingly common in nations undergoing considerable democratic backsliding around the world. This worldwide wave of legal assaults on free speech and expression online is an example of how authoritarian-bent regimes can learn from one another, exporting both the technology and domestic policy strategies that help them tighten their grip on power and erode civil liberties.

Photo taken from: Telegraph India

Nigeria is clearly bolstered by and learning from other regimes keen on exerting more control over the digital sphere. Not long after Twitter was banned, government officials began promoting Koo, an India-based government-friendly alternative to Twitter, which has deep connections with Modi’s Hindu-nationalist movement. Koo is currently looking to expand its operations in Nigeria and replace Twitter’s massive footprint.

Zooming out a bit further, China’s growing investments in Africa, and especially in Nigeria, are heavily influencing digital practices both in Nigeria and across the continent. As the most sophisticated and experienced steward of digital censorship, the Chinese government is posturing itself as a potential partner to developing countries, with the ability to provide both financing for domestic projects and infrastructure as well as surveillance and monitoring technology. China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative is intended to further pull developing nations into the country’s orbit and for many would-be authoritarian regimes the opportunity to replicate China’s state control over the internet makes for an enticing bundle.

In more ways than than one, the question of whether or not authoritarian regimes can succeed economically in the digital age is a crucial one. China has proven that it is more possible than previously imagined and its success is guiding the way for others. To ensure that the world wide web stays the world wide web, and not a balkanized, fractured sphere where governments surveil and police their citizens, the United States needs to take seriously the example it sets both through domestic policy and international engagement.

It is clearer than ever now that digital rights constitute an essential aspect of human rights. The slow chipping away at digital rights and freedoms across the globe is in lockstep with the gradual deterioration of democracy. Accordingly, humane internet governance is built not on the professed need to protect society from danger, terrorism, or security threats, but rather on the preservation and protection of civil liberties and individual rights.

Moving Forward After U.S. Withdrawal in Afghanistan

Moving Forward After U.S. Withdrawal in Afghanistan

Moving Forward After U.S. Withdrawal in Afghanistan

Foreign Policy Policy Brief # 125 | By: Avery Roe | August 1, 2021

Header photo taken from: USA Today

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Photo taken from: Daily Advent

Policy Summary

Despite widespread criticism, The Biden Administration has restated its commitment that the United States military mission in Afghanistan will conclude on August 31st. This comes after the Trump Administration made an agreement with the Taliban to remove all American forces by May 1, 2021, a large part of the stated rationale for President Biden’s decision. In that agreement, the Taliban agreed to prevent other groups from using Afghan soil to support activities that threaten the United States or its allies, something that American leadership contends that they have not fulfilled.

During the same briefing, President Biden said that the United States has accomplished what it set out to do in Afghanistan, deliver justice to the terrorists responsible for 9/11, including Osama Bin Laden, and diminish the terrorist threat to keep Afghanistan from becoming a terrorist base. He specified that the United States did not go to Afghanistan to nation-build and that doing so is the responsibility of the Afghan people.

In the months since the initial announcement in April, the Taliban has more than tripled the number of districts in their control and is threatening to take more, in what top security officials have acknowledged is a “deteriorating security situation.” A recent United Nations report found that civilian casualties during the first half of 2021 are up approximately 47% compared to 2020.

The ways in which the United States will continue to be involved in Afghanistan are not yet clear, largely due to the uncertainty of the withdrawal’s aftermath. Currently, the United States has increased airstrikes in support of Afghan forces but has not made any comment if those will continue after August 31st. Military officials have said options will include remote training and training Afghan personnel in third countries. Diplomatically, President Biden has said that they will renew efforts to achieve an Inter-Afghan peace agreement. The exact ramifications of the Taliban taking Afghanistan are largely unknown but would likely require many changes to the current plan.

Policy Analysis

Photo taken from: The Times

While campaigning Biden said that he supported maintaining a force of no more than 2,000 troops on the ground in Afghanistan. 

Now it is unclear why he would be so stuck on following this continuation of Trump’s policy in honoring the withdrawal deal with the Taliban. Doing so now could give him some political cover with Democrats if things were to go poorly while allowing him to maintain the image of the President that pulled America out of the forever war. However, with Afghanistan especially unstable right now it appears to be an incredibly risky decision.

Moving forward, the Biden Administration needs to work with both Afghanistan and neighboring countries to re-shape America’s influence in a way that better aligns with the administration’s goals of rebuilding relationships and fostering international cooperation. 

Of course, that is only in the case that the Afghan government is able to maintain its power and doesn’t fall to the Taliban. In that instance, it is very likely that the United States will have to intervene militarily to support its ally in Afghanistan and protect itself from the terrorist threat that the Taliban would create.

While the immediate fall-out of this scenario would not inherently lead to a forever war, that is a possibility.

It is difficult to criticize a decision to get out of an endless war that had been criticized for nearly 20 years. It is also likely that there will never be an ideal, or even good, time to withdraw. 

The Biden Administration is protecting itself with the use of the agreement between the Trump Administration and the Taliban, potentially minimizing the political blowback if the worst-case scenario occurs, but also receiving the credit if things go well. While the results and legacy of this decision are still unclear, this will be a defining moment for the Biden Presidency.

Engagement Resources​

Click or tap on image to visit resource website.

https://womenforafghanwomen.org/afghanistan/ – Women for Afghan Women works to empower women, children, and families to change the norms of violence and oppression.

https://www.amnesty.org/en/search/?country=38342 – Amnesty International has up-to-date reports on the human rights issues occurring in Afghanistan.

The Need To Overhaul the Nation’s Aging Electric Grid Is Urgent But Challenging

The Need To Overhaul the Nation’s Aging Electric Grid Is Urgent But Challenging

The Need To Overhaul the Nation’s Aging Electric Grid Is Urgent But Challenging

Environment Policy Brief # 122 | By: Todd J. Broadman | July 30, 2021

Header photo taken from: Power Grid News

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Photo taken from: E&E News 

Policy Summary

Biden’s foundational policy objectives of carbon-free power by 2035 and net-zero emissions by 2050 serve as the basis for his $2.25 trillion green infrastructure plan. The overarching question is “how” – particularly when nationwide carbon-free power effectively means tripling the size of the U.S. transmission system.

As U. S. engineering feats go, the current national grid of over 650,000 miles of high voltage transmission lines, millions of miles of distribution lines, and thousands of generators is a marvel, but a dated one; the system was mostly designed and built in the 1950s and 60s. 

The parts are aging and system failures are now common, and this at a time of immense system stresses. Most of the infrastructure repairs are being done reactively, in response to severe events, rather a more costly proactive replacement strategy. Underscoring the complexity of a replacement strategy is the fact that power transmission construction projects usually take more than a decade to complete.

With the fairly recent energy crisis and subsequent deaths in Texas as a backdrop, the ability for the grid to be enmeshed and shared across regions adds to the argument for investment in an upgraded transmission system. The intermittency of solar and wind power – when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine – adds to the engineering challenge of building such an electric grid.

Sides have been squaring off, debating how the increased need for electricity in our cities and suburbs can be met by distant wind turbines and solar farms. While increases in consumption are driven by electric vehicles, urbanization, and more frequent extreme weather patterns, the necessary construction of thousands of miles of additional power lines to meet those needs is a point of contention for local and environmental groups, as well as the big carbon-energy corporations.

Mr. Biden’s campaign platform to upgrade the national grid won him the nod of the utility industry. In order for utilities to be 100% carbon-free by 2035, they will require a massive transmission line upgrade aimed at distributing clean energy between states. (Contributions to his campaign from utilities as a whole were $1.4 million). 

Biden’s administration is in lock-step, making industry friendly statements: Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said, “We need to make a big national plan to ensure that electricity is delivered from where it is generated to where it is needed,” and this is echoed by Patricia Hoffman, acting assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity, “As we’ve seen more hurricanes, and more challenging environmental issues from severe weather, we want to have a resilient system.”

Photo taken from: The Free Press

As was anticipated, big energy and utility companies who advocate for new transmission lines are contending with environmental interests. For example, in the state of Maine, there is an environmental campaign to block the plan to bring hydropower from Quebec to Massachusetts. 

“This transmission line will have a significant impact on Maine’s environment and wildlife habitat,” said Sandra Howard, a local activist. Her sentiment finds favor with those who prefer that federal dollars support widespread adoption of local, residential solar panels and storage batteries.

With his proposal for investment tax credits, Biden is also trying to win favor with smaller communities who have scaled ambitions for local rooftop solar grids and microgrids; this allows towns and neighbors to generate and use their own electricity. Yet again, in terms of meeting the 2035 goal, the administration views a centralized approach with massive investment in transmission lines as essential.

Policy Analysis

Coal and gas power plants are being phased out and are actively being replaced by large wind and solar power plants located hundreds of miles from urban energy consumers. Replacement at the scale required though is a daunting task considering environmental opposition, the cost, and that legal siting authority is with the states, not the federal government. 

Then there is scale: the current transmission system cannot support even half of the nation’s power coming from clean or zero-carbon sources, let alone 100%. Average household electricity bills have increased by about 14% over the last decade, despite an increase in average household energy use of just over 1%.

Photo taken from: NASA Visible Earth

Photo taken from: ETEnergyworld.com

To date, Biden has secured $73 billion for thousands of miles of new power lines in an infrastructure proposal that won bipartisan support. To help with the obstacle of siting authority, the deal involves the establishment of a federal “grid development agency” to speed up transmission line approval. These monies are in line with the centralized approach favored by large utilities. 

For added public support, they point to the Texas disaster in which so many died, largely due to having an isolated grid, unable to import the needed electricity from neighboring states.

Other countries though, are paving a decentralized path. For example, Australia is developing what it says will be the world’s largest Virtual Power Plant (VPP) system, connecting 50,000 home batteries. VPPs are networks of decentralized, medium-scale power generating units such as wind farms, solar parks, and storage systems. Green Mountain Power in the state of Vermont has also built a microgrid VPP; they have contracted with more than 2,000 homes in one of the largest utility-coordinated home battery programs in the country.

The complexity of the task ahead speaks to hybrid solutions, some decentralized, in communities that want to invest in that approach. Large scale infrastructure upgrades will only come with federal financial subsidies, and the jobs they will bring will continue to garner bipartisan support. Unfortunately, there is not discussion about re-sizing or scaling down consumption, or even an effort to make plain that both solar and wind energy for all their benefits, have considerable energy downsides in their construction and long-term maintenance. We are soon to realize that the post-carbon energy environment will come with serious sacrifices that aren’t politically palatable.

Engagement Resources​

Click or tap on image to visit resource website.

https://www.solarpowerworldonline.com/ is the premier media outlet for the U.S. solar market.

https://www.energy.gov/ is the federal agency that addresses U.S.’s energy, environmental and nuclear challenges through transformative science and technology solutions.

https://cleanpower.org/ is a leading federation of renewable energy companies expediting the advancement of clean energy

https://www.utilitydive.com/  provides in-depth journalism and insight into the most impactful news and trends shaping the utility industry.

Biden Ups The Ante on Car Fuel Standards

Biden Ups The Ante on Car Fuel Standards

Biden Ups The Ante on Car Fuel Standards

Environment Policy Brief # 121 | By: Katelyn Lewis | July 29, 2021

Header photo taken from: NBC News

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Photo taken from: MSN

Policy Summary

President Joe Biden’s team is working on a vehicle emissions rule that will not only restore aggressive vehicle mileage standards set under then-President Barack Obama, but also reduce greenhouse gas emissions and significantly increase electric vehicle drivers in the U.S. by the end of the decade.

The proposed rule, first reported by the Associated Press, would start with the 2023 car model year and would follow standards set by the California deal, an agreement reached among five leading automakers and the Golden State that “increases the mileage standard and cuts greenhouse gases by 3.7% per year.”

That fuel economy percentage would grow to a 5% annual increase, with a similar cut in emissions, by 2025, and then increase up to 6 or 7% for the 2026 vehicle models under the new rule. Industry and administration officials who spoke to AP on the condition of anonymity said the EPA would “likely … make a nonbinding statement that the requirements will ramp up even faster starting in 2027, forcing the industry to sell more zero-emissions electric vehicles.”

The goal of the new rule is for 40% of all new car sales to be electric by 2030 – a large increase from the 2% of new car sales they constitute in the U.S. in 2021.

The proposed rule assembled by the Environmental Protection Agency and Transportation Department is expected to be released in full as soon as next week, AP reports.

Policy Analysis

A common and unsurprising theme so far in the Biden administration has been to reverse the rollbacks established under the Trump administration that have impaired efforts to reduce anthropogenic-caused environmental distress and air quality-related public health issues.

The proposed rules to increase fuel economy standards once more therefore align well with Biden’s pledge to address climate change and with his goal of decreasing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by at least half by 2030.

But some environmental groups argue the proposed rules may be a little too lenient on the auto industry at a time when the country is behind on cutting its pollution levels.

Photo taken from: LA Times

“The West is baking, forests are ablaze, storms are worsening, so this is not the time for weaker standards and promises of doing better tomorrow,” Dan Becker, the Safe Climate Transportation Campaign director for the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “Half steps won’t save us from climate catastrophe.”

In 2012, the Obama administration finalized clean car standards to “increase fuel economy to the equivalent of 54.5 mpg for cars and light-duty trucks by Model Year 2025,” with an annual required 5% increase in fuel economy between 2021 and 2025, according to an archived White House statement. The 2012 rule significantly increased Obama’s 2009 fuel standards, which required an average fuel economy of 39 mpg for cars and 30 mpg for trucks by 2016. USRENEW NEWS estimates that the standards proposed by Biden equal 45 mpg.

Photo taken from: TED Ideas

In 2020, the Trump administration decreased the extent of the vehicle mileage standards, reducing the growth rate to an annual 1.5% increase in fuel efficiency. In other words, the looser standards under the Trump administration would require automakers to average a fuel economy standard of about 40.4 mpg by 2026, rather than the ​​46.7 mpg the Obama-era rule would have demanded, according to Reuters.

With the more gradual mileage increase – 3.7% for 2023 models, 5% for 2025 models, and so on – in Biden’s proposed rule, supporters argue it will enable more automakers to meet the environmental policy demands while remaining competitive in the industry.

But critics argue that it won’t cause the same emission pollution cuts in the near term that the U.S. would have experienced had former President Donald Trump not rolled back the standards set by former President Barack Obama. In addition, it would require additional rulemaking to establish tougher standards to continue cutting down emissions.

And the question remains whether the proposed rule, in its efforts to appease both environmental groups and automakers, will be able to help meet the reduced emissions goals set for the U.S. under the Paris climate agreement.

Engagement Resources​

Click or tap on image to visit resource website.

Sierra Club – https://www.sierraclub.org/

Center for Biological Diversity – https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/

Earthjustice – https://earthjustice.org/

Sources

Click or tap on image to visit resource website.

Associated Press – New Trump mileage standards to gut Obama climate effort (Mar. 30, 2020) – https://apnews.com/article/virus-outbreak-donald-trump-ap-top-news-corry-schiermeyer-climate-change-f1b244a36bccfa314448e5ffa90b4ff7

Associated Press – EXCLUSIVE: Biden mileage rule to exceed Obama climate goal (July 27, 2021) – https://apnews.com/article/technology-joe-biden-government-and-politics-climate-change-climate-dd404e566e5f849f2aa05662f4752e8a

E&E News / ClimateWire – Biden car rules won’t account for Trump-era CO2 (July 28, 2021) – https://www.eenews.net/articles/biden-car-rules-wont-account-for-trump-era-co2/

Politico – Obama announces new fuel standards (May 18, 2009) – https://www.politico.com/story/2009/05/obama-announces-new-fuel-standards-022650

Reuters – Trump finalizes rollback of Obama-era vehicle fuel efficiency standards (Mar. 31, 2020) – https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-autos-emissions/trump-finalizes-rollback-of-obama-era-vehicle-fuel-efficiency-standards-idUSKBN21I25S

The Washington Post – Trump administration to freeze fuel-efficiency requirements in move likely to spur legal battle with states (Aug. 2, 2018) – https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/2018/08/01/90c818ac-9125-11e8-8322-b5482bf5e0f5_story.html

The Washington Post – Major automakers strike climate deal with California, rebuffing Trump on proposed mileage freeze (July 25, 2019) – https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2019/07/25/major-automakers-strike-climate-deal-with-california-rebuffing-trump-proposed-mileage-freeze/

The Washington Post – Biden Plan would tighten mileage for new cars over the next four years (July 27, 2021) – https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2021/07/27/biden-plan-would-tighten-mileage-new-cars-over-next-four-years/

The White House of President Barack Obama – Obama Administration Finalizes Historic 54.5 MPG Fuel Efficiency Standards (Aug. 28, 2012) – https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2012/08/28/obama-administration-finalizes-historic-545-MPG-fuel-efficiency-standard

New Vaccine Mandates Being Rolled Out

New Vaccine Mandates Being Rolled Out

New Vaccine Mandates Being Rolled Out

Health & Gender Policy Brief # 119 | By: S. Bhimji | July 28, 2021

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Photo taken from: National Geographic

Policy Summary

A few months ago, Methodist Hospital in Texas mandated the covid vaccine for all its healthcare workers. About 150 healthcare workers including nurses refused citing a variety of non-medical reasons. Methodist fired them all; the workers filed a lawsuit and the case went to the Texas Federal court where a judge ruled that in private practice, the employees have to follow the rules of the employer. If they do not agree, they are welcome to find a job elsewhere. 

Since then many hospitals have followed the Methodist example making vaccines mandatory for their healthcare workers. 

Fast forward, with the dreaded spread of the delta variant, some governmental agencies are following the same Methodist Hospital’s footsteps.

Just a few days ago, The Dept of Veterans Affairs, which operates one of the nation’s largest healthcare systems, announced that it is making a new vaccine mandate for its employees in New Your City, California, the Mayo Clinic, and many other VA hospitals. The VA is the first federal agency to make this mandate signaling what many experts below will soon become a nationwide trend. 

And the VA is not alone; the White House is also supporting the call by Medical Associations that are mandating vaccines for their healthcare workers.

In the face of the rapid growth of the delta variant, Both the State of California and the city of New York are giving the workers a choice- Get vaccinated or face weekly testing.

Policy Analysis

Healthcare leaders say this recent move by the VA is perhaps the best way to fight the coronavirus. It is hoped that this mandate will encourage millions of Americans to get vaccinated. Seven months since the covid vaccines were approved for emergency use, there are still millions of Americans  who remain unvaccinated. 

The VA mandate will apply to more than 100,00 front-line workers; in NY city it will apply to over 45,000 city contractors and employees, and in California, it will apply to more than 2.2 million state employees and healthcare workers.

This is perhaps the tipping point in the fight against covid 19. Despite all the incentives, nearly 45%-50% of Americans have adamantly refused to get vaccinated but now if they want to remain employed, they will have to make a choice.

As of July 21, 2021, the delta variant accounted for nearly 61% of cases, many of which have occurred in unvaccinated individuals. In most cases, the infection has been severe enough to require hospitalization. 

Photo taken from: Becker’s Hospital Review

With the schools set to open in about a month, it is time for the Government to start being aggressive about the vaccine protocol.

Nationwide the number of covid infections have rapidly increased from about 13,000 cases per day at the beginning of July to nearly 54,000/day in the middle of July. Experts in infectious disease are urging people to get vaccinated since the shots can prevent severe infection and even death.

For the past few months, healthcare workers have been asking the government to make the vaccine mandatory and finally, with the VA mandate, the rates of vaccination may start to increase.

But despite the urgency of the situation, the Biden Administration has said it will not impose a national mandate on the vaccine but will support employers who will have the absolute right to create new requirements for their workers. It also is considering mandating vaccinations for all federal workers.

The number of healthcare workers who remain unvaccinated varies from 20-30% but the majority of them are nursing home staff, nurses, and a few doctors who look after patients at risk for covid.

Photo taken from: Fortune

The key reason why some hospitals have avoided vaccine mandates is the fear of litigation or defection of staff. But with the Federal Court ruling for Methodist hospital in Texas, most hospitals have started to adopt the same approach. As usual, unions that represent nurses and other healthcare staff argue against vaccine mandates but provide no valid reasons. 

However, outside of nurses, almost all healthcare workers including pharmacists, therapists, doctors, and healthcare leaders are encouraging vaccine mandates before the delta variant overwhelms the healthcare system. Similarly, most universities and colleges are also imposing vaccine mandates for their students.

An argument in favor of vaccination is that with millions of Americans already vaccinated, it is now known that the vaccines are very safe and should not be a reason for refusal.  

Administration of the covid vaccine has not caused the sky to fall and the unvaccinated individuals should take note. With courts upholding vaccine mandates, the unvaccinated will have to make a choice – have a job or stay at home. The nation has run out of patience with these folks.

Engagement Resources​

Click or tap on image to visit resource website.

New Vaccine Mandates Are Coming For Government Employees And Health Care Workers

https://www.npr.org/2021/07/26/1020709931/nyc-will-require-vaccines-or-weekly-tests-for-hundreds-of-thousands-of-city-work

Israel Update

Israel Update

Israel Update

Foreign Policy Brief # 124 | By: Reilly Fitzgerald | July 22, 2021

Header photo taken from: Halal Watch World News

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Photo taken from: News Break

Policy Summary

Early June saw the Israeli Parliament oust the former Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and replace him with a new coalition government and new Prime Minister. The new coalition government consists of nine differing political parties that were brought together in a loose alliance due to their shared displeasure of former PM Netanyahu. The parties are wide ranging in political beliefs from more conservative Jewish groups, to even including the Arabist Ra’am Party.

The election of the Coalition Government was a reaction to decreased public acceptance of the former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and to the spring war with Gaza that killed numerous Palestinians. The coalition government was seen as  a hopeful opportunity to reset Israeli public policy.; However, it was expected to be a huge challenge to govern with a coalition of such broad views.

The recent weeks have seen tensions rise again as the Knesset denied the new coalition government an opportunity to renew and extend a controversial law that would deny citizenship to thousands of Palestinians, married to Israeli citizens, their own Israeli citizenship status. The renewal of the  law  failed to pass  via a 59-59 vote that saw members of the new coalition government vote against their own government; it saw members of the new Prime Minister’s Party vote against the Prime Minister; and  saw the Ra’am Party split their votes in half with two voters against the law while two voters abstained.

This month also has seen Israel and Lebanon firing rockets at each other, technically a violation of  spring ceasefire following the war with Hamas over Gaza. The past week also  has seen an increase in tensions  over Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream decision to ban sales of their product in Israeli occupied territories.

Israel and Lebanon have exchanged rocket fire this month for the first time since the ceasefire was instituted this spring following the war in Gaza. The exchange, it appears, was started by Lebanese militants who fired rockets into Israel. It is a solid reminder, to all parties involved in finding peace in the region, that the situation there is quite tense even with a ceasefire.

The Jewish holiday of Tisha B’Av over a thousand Jewish citizens praying at the Temple Mount which has for recent history seen a ban on religious prayers at the site due to the contentious nature of it being a part of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. Prime Minister Bennett took an interesting course of action when he applauded the Israeli security forces for “maintaining freedom of worship for Jews” on the Temple Mount during a recent Jewish holiday (which was later walked back by PM Naftali). Obviously, religion has often been a source of contention in the region; and the display of religion has been contentious for decades. 

The Ra’am Party, the Israeli Islamist party mentioned earlier, loudly voiced criticism stating that the al-Aqsa Mosque (part of the Temple Mount site) was “solely the property of Muslims, and no one else has any right to it”. The Ra’am Party even threatened a potential “catastrophic religious war” due to the tensions this event could spark throughout the region. Neighboring countries have all voiced their displeasure and anger with Israel’s leadership to allow this to happen. The Jordanian Foreign Minister said “The Israeli actions against the mosque are unacceptable and condemnable. They represent a violation of the historical and legal status quo, international law, and Israel’s obligations as an occupying power in East Jerusalem”.

Policy Analysis

The new coalition government faces major challenges. Can it keep the diverse parties within it from splitting apart over political issues.The Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, needs to figure out a way to deal with the tensions of the region and the role they play on Israeli policy while also finding a way to keep the coalition intact without it imploding and sabotaging itself as was seen during the citizenship law vote. 

Prime Minister Naftali has the unfortunate position of being caught between governing and political rivalries that pre-date his coalition. As noted previously in this brief, the coalition consists of nine different political parties all with their own agendas. 

The coalition, clearly, does not share a consensus on a particular vision for moving Israel away from the days of Prime Minister Netanyahu. The clearest piece of policy that these parties share is the simple dislike of former PM Netanyahu, which is one of the major reasons that they were able to succeed him in the first place. The views range from the conservative Jewish Yemina Party (PM Naftali’s party) to the Ra’am Party (Arabist party) and everywhere in between.

Photo taken from: BBC

According to CNN, on July 6th,  The Citizenship and Entry Into Israel Law was created in 2003. The government was worried that Palestinians (or other Muslims from outside of Israel) would marry into citizenship with the goal of carrying out terror attacks inside the country. 

Citizenship for Palestinian spouses might also affect Israel’s desire to be identified as a Jewish state. Now that the Law has not been renewed (as it had been every year since 2003), the Interior Minister will have to review all cases related to Israeli citizenship.

 The vote saw the coalition government splinter, not voting with any real consensus, as the nine parties all voted their own ways (some for, some against, and some abstaining); even members of the Prime Minister’s own party voted against the desire of the new Prime Minister.

Photo taken from: The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project

According to the Atlantic, Ben and Jerry’s decision to end the sale of their ice cream in Israeli occupied territories is that “it’s symbolic … but symbolism is huge.” The decision does not change much in the everyday life of Israeli citizens or the Israeli government. However Israelis often feel that “criticism from abroad of their policies is anti-Israel, it’s anti-Zionist, and it’s anti-Jewish, or anti-Semitic.”

We  also have started to see the internal problems that Ben and Jerry’s is creating within the United States for this decision with politicians (on the left and the right) taking positions either in support of or in criticism of Ben and Jerry’s. Some states, such as Texas, are going as far as proposing a ban on Ben and Jerry’s due to the company’s ban on sales in Israeli occupied territories.

The US State Department spokesman Ned Price said, on July 20th, that “we firmly reject the BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) movement, which unfairly singles out Israel…. the United States will be a strong partner in fighting efforts around the world that potentially seek to delegitimize Israel and will work tirelessly to support Israel’s further integration into the international community.” However, the State Department still has not yet condemned Ben and Jerry, or commits to commenting on the actions of a private company.

Engagement Resources​

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US State Department Press Briefings (https://www.state.gov/department-press-briefings/) – 

The United States State Department Press Briefings page is updated every few days with official commentary from the State Department on issues taking place all over the world. The transcripts are provided for public consumption.

ENSURING FAIR ELECTIONS HELPS ENSURE DEMOCRACY

ENSURING FAIR ELECTIONS HELPS ENSURE DEMOCRACY

ENSURING FAIR ELECTIONS HELPS ENSURE DEMOCRACY

USRENEW NEWS EDITORIAL | By: Ron Israel, Managing Editor | July 26, 2021

Header photo taken from: Center for American Progress

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Photo taken from: Fair and Just Prosecution

The United States of America was intended by our founders to be a democratic republic. Our Declaration of Independence enshrines our commitment to the core values of equality, freedom, and self-government. As Abraham Lincoln said in his Gettysburg address, we are a government “of the people, for the people, and by the people.” Those who govern America are accountable to the citizens they serve. This accountability gets renewed on a regular basis through an election system that is intended to be fair and transparent, with all citizens being given the opportunity to vote.

Over the past decade our electoral system has come under attack, first by Supreme Court decisions that diminished the effectiveness of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and by a recent series of state level voting laws that are  targeted at placing restrictions on minority voting rights ; second by  the increasing use of state-level partisan gerrymandering to reapportion the way Congressional seats are chosen,  third   through a decision by the Supreme Court that allows corporations to make election contributions and allow  unlimited special amounts of money to be spent , thereby favoring candidates supported and tethered to  interests; and fourth by continued reliance on the outdated, undemocratic  use of an electoral college system for determining the outcome presidential elections.

The Biden administration urgently needs to take steps to address these threats to our election system that in turn threaten to weaken our democracy. USRENEW NEWS views the need to restore the equity and fairness of our voting system as more important than any other issue on President Biden’s agenda. We recommend that the administration put its utmost energies into passage of the following electoral reforms.

1.) Pass Federal voting rights legislation that ensures voting rights and easy access to the ballot box for all

First and foremost, this means passage of the For The People Voting Rights Bill (HR 1) and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act now before Congress.  The For the People Bill would  expand voting rights, change campaign finance laws to reduce the influence of money in politics, ban partisan gerrymandering, and create new ethics rules for federal officeholders. 

Photo taken from: Brennan Center for Justice

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement would restore the 1965 Voting Rights Act back to its original and full power which would prevent future discriminatory bills from being passed. The passage of these 2 bills will pre-empt ongoing Republican backed efforts to pass state level bills that severely restrict voting rights, especially for minorities, the disabled and young people.

Photo taken from: Center for American Progress

2) Support efforts to establish state level non-partisan independent commissions responsible for re-districting.

The success of such commissions is largely dependent on their structure and i internal system of checks and balances. Carefully designing a commission to promote core values like independence, inclusivity, good-faith negotiation, and transparency is critical to fair redistricting that guards against partisan and racial gerrymandering.

Currently, 21 U.S. states have some form of non-partisan or bipartisan redistricting commission. Of these 21 states, 13 use redistricting commissions to exclusively draw electoral district boundaries. In 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that redistricting commissions, whose redistricting commission process is independent of the state legislature, were constitutional.

Learn more at https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/policy-solutions/better-way-draw-districts

3) Initiate a legal challenge to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

The idea is that a city or state can create a law cracking down on some of the big-money election tactics that have become commonplace, expecting that that law will then be challenged. Once challenged, the fight will advance through the court system and advocates hope, ultimately reach the Supreme Court.

At that point, the court will have the opportunity to reconsider the legal framework of the Citizens’ United case.

Photo taken from: Common Dreams

It also should be noted that a provision of the For the People Act-see # 1—above—calls for public financing of elections and support for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United Decision.

Learn more at www.defendourdemocracy.org.

4) Support the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact aimed at deciding presidential elections by popular vote.

The Compact will guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It ensures that every vote, in every state, will matter in every presidential election. The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact will go into effect when enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes—that is, enough to elect a President (270 of 538).

So far, The National Popular Vote Compact has been endorsed by 16 jurisdictions possessing 195 electoral votes, including 4 small states (DE, HI, RI, VT), 8 medium-sized states (CO, CT, MD, MA, NJ, NM, OR, WA), 3 big states (CA, IL, NY), and the District of Columbia. The bill will take effect when enacted by states with 75 more electoral votes.  

Learn more at www.nationalpopularvote.com

Learn more at www.defendourdemocracy.org.

Photo taken from: Fairvote

Implementing these electoral reform proposals pose a challenge for the Biden administration, given our current highly charged political atmosphere. But it is a challenge well worth taking on if we are to preserve the democratic values and principles upon which our country and government stand.

Big Tech Antitrust Efforts Take a Step Forward

Big Tech Antitrust Efforts Take a Step Forward

Big Tech Antitrust Efforts
Take a Step Forward

Technology Policy Brief # 56
By: Scout Burchill | July 26, 2021

Header photo taken from: Market Watch

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Photo taken from: The Verge

Policy Summary

The world of antitrust and Big Tech regulation has been brimming with developments lately, and all signs point to a transformational shift underway in Washington. Last month, in a rare show of bipartisanship, the Senate voted overwhelmingly to approve Lina Khan’s nomination to the Federal Trade Commission. A young, progressive antitrust scholar, Khan’s appointment at the FTC, along with the recent nomination of Jonathan Kanter to head the antitrust division at the Department of Justice, signifies a sea change in institutional attitudes towards Big Tech and Big Business.

Furthermore, late last month a bipartisan House Judiciary Committee approved a collection of six bills aimed at modernizing century-old antitrust laws in an effort to better equip the government to take on the anticompetitive practices of Big Tech companies. Shortly after these six bills passed their first hurdle in the House, the necessity of updating existing legal frameworks was put on full display as a federal judge handed Facebook a major legal win by dismissing two antitrust complaints against the company. Facebook’s legal woes are far from over, but the ruling still sent the company’s shares up 4%, and for the first time ever Facebook reached a market capitalization of $1 trillion.

Finally, on July 9th, President Biden signed a sweeping 72 point Executive Order aimed at curbing the power of corporations and delivered a remarkable speech condemning the past forty years of antitrust enforcement and policy. Channeling his role model Franklin D. Roosevelt, Biden bluntly asserted that, “capitalism without competition isn’t capitalism; it’s exploitation.” After signing the Executive Orders he handed his pen over to Lina Khan, a symbolic passing of the mantle intended to signify the beginning of a new era of governance in which reigning in the excesses of Big Tech are high on the agenda.

Policy Analysis

While Facebook may have parried away a major legal challenge, the developments of the past few weeks signal that the battle against Big Tech behemoths and Big Business giants is just ramping up. 

A new consensus is taking shape in Washington with the potential to dramatically redefine the government’s role in regulating corporate power and safeguarding the interests of workers, individuals, small businesses, and competitors. 

For starters, the appointment of Lina Khan to the FTC speaks volumes about how the Big Tech backlash is beginning to be reflected in American institutions.

Khan has become somewhat of a hero in progressive circles for her aggressive, straightforward stance on the necessity of curbing the dominance of Big Tech companies.

Photo taken from: The Seattle Times

However, her appeal extends beyond the left, as a number of Republicans have warmed to her hawkish approach. 

In fact, Josh Hawley, the fist-pumping purveyor of election lies, was among the first to jump to Khan’s defense in response to a number of hit pieces published by the Wall Street Journal, her number one critic so far.

As Khan’s reign at the helm of the FTC portends to usher in a new era of antitrust regulation and enforcement, the Judiciary Committee’s six new bills attempting to modernize and update our current antitrust framework would add wind to her sails. The first two bills are relatively straightforward and are expected to receive the least amount of pushback. 

The first would increase the FTC’s budget and resources by raising premerger filing fees on companies. The second would forbid companies from routinely moving cases to courts friendly to their interests. The remaining four bills specifically target Big Tech companies. They crack down on mergers, non-competitive behavior restricting interoperability between systems, the self-preferencing of a company’s products over those of competitors, and finally there is a bill that would allow Big Tech companies to be broken up if they own a business that presents a conflict of interest. 

These laws would allow the government to crack down on some of the anti-competitive business practices of Big Tech that do not easily fit into the consumer welfare framework.

Photo taken from: Reuters

Although these bills will surely face an uphill battle in the legislative process to come, they are significant because they represent one of the most ambitious attempts in over forty years to modernize our current antitrust legal framework. They are in lockstep with the burgeoning movement taking shape in Washington to revitalize antitrust laws and update the existing consumer welfare framework, and most importantly, they would equip Khan’s FTC and Kanter’s antitrust division at the DOJ with the tools to take on the Big Tech behemoths.

You may wonder what this new antitrust era will look like, and the answer is that it is still too early to say. Our current legal framework is so entrenched in decades of rulings founded on the old consumer welfare framework. In his speech and sweeping 72 point executive order, Biden intentionally harkens back to FDR’s vision of an economy that prioritizes the power of workers, small businesses and competition over that of corporate greed.

 In an effort to rebuild the American economy, the Biden Administration is attempting to position itself as both a spiritual successor to FDR’s New Deal politics and a repudiation of the past 40 years of neoliberal Reaganomics. Antitrust policy is quickly becoming one of the areas in which this radical rethinking may prove most successful, thanks in large part to the bipartisan nature of the Big Tech backlash. If history is to repeat itself, Big Tech may eventually succumb to the same fate as Rockefeller’s Standard Oil and other titans of the Gilded Age.

While Big Tech may represent only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the odious influence of concentrated corporate power over our economy and society, it really is no surprise that these companies in particular have come to epitomize all that is wrong in our current antitrust framework. They control vast swaths of the economy and exert immense influence over our society with little to no accountability or oversight, they vigorously stifle competition and exploit labor laws, they have decimated local industries like journalism, and their influence and culpability is global in scope. 

While a revolution in antitrust enforcement and philosophy can help guide the way to a more competitive and dynamic marketplace in all sectors of the economy, it surely seems the case that Silicon Valley, for better or worse, will bear the brunt of this new crusade. Even though they are far from alone in amassing tremendous power and wealth through unscrupulous and exploitative business practices, in the minds of lawmakers and the public they certainly appear to be worthy successors to the robber barons of the Gilded Age.

Engagement Resources​

Click or tap on image to visit resource website.

American Economic Liberties Project

https://www.economicliberties.us/

Center for Digital Democracy

https://www.democraticmedia.org/

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