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By David Levine
Posted on: September 23, 2014
It can be frustrating watching Congress fail to act when it comes to climate change. Simple fixes with bipartisan support, like ending tax subsidies to oil companies and passing energy efficiency legislation have gone down to defeat, while potential climate-busters like the Keystone pipeline continue somehow to be seriously debated. Even if Congress isn’t acting, sustainable businesses have an opportunity to make their voices heard. Financial markets, as we have seen from the successful history of reducing S02 emissions, can be an effective vehicle when it comes to moving us towards a clean... read more
By David Brodwin
Posted on: September 19, 2014
Imagine a cruise ship hitting a rock and sinking two miles offshore. Due to poor maintenance, many of the lifeboats can’t be launched. Hundreds drown. But two sturdy souls who have been blessed with physical strength, a calm disposition and experience on the high school swim team are able to swim to safety. What would we conclude from this disaster? Most would call for an inquiry to understand why the lifeboats weren’t usable when needed. They would demand that rules be tightened to make sure that sufficient lifeboats were always available. But some people will argue that the fact that two of... read more
By David Brodwin
Posted on: September 12, 2014
Whenever people have a lot of money at stake, they are tempted to take risks they shouldn’t. It’s human nature. When individuals cut corners in their own lives, the costs can be small. But when corporations cut corners, the costs can be immense — both for the corporations and for the public. Two of the biggest corner-cutters this decade – BP and Pacific Gas & Electric Co. – got their comeuppance this week for disasters they caused back in 2010. For both companies, self-interest wasn’t enough to compel prudent and responsible action. Their experience shows how good and well-enforced... read more
By Chris Hanson
Posted on: September 8, 2014
Maybe you have the next billion dollar idea or business, but in the real world, the data tells a very different story. The Kauffman Firm Survey (KFS) is the largest longitudinal survey ever done with small businesses anywhere in the world. According to the data collected on some 5,000 businesses beginning in 2004, less than 3% of them received any type of outside equity investment. Other estimates put the percentage anywhere from .01% - 3%. Whatever figure you use, this means over 97% of businesses will never be on the front page of Inc. magazine talking about their venture funding. The... read more
By Zach Bernstein
Posted on: September 2, 2014
The irony is delicious: The next time you go to a Burger King drive-thru, you might be spending money on a company that won’t contribute financially to road-building projects. That’s because Burger King announced recently that it planned to buy Canadian chain Tim Horton’s, and move the new combined company’s headquarters to Canada, where taxes can be lower. The upshot is this: When you pay for a Whopper and fries at your local Burger King, that profit may not be taxed in the United States. All American businesses rely on our national infrastructure, and Burger King is no exception. Without... read more
By David Brodwin
Posted on: September 1, 2014
This summer, the Environmental Protection Agency took aim at coal-fired power plants, which pump out more than a third of America’s heat-trapping carbon dioxide. The EPA’s approach is controversial, but frankly it is President Barack Obama’s only option given the deadlock in Congress. Many economists argue that the best approach to climate change is simply to enact a tax on carbon. Economists like William Nordhaus at Yale argue that a tax of around $30 per ton of carbon (about 25 cents per gallon of gasoline) would be enough, as long as it was implemented worldwide. A tax of $30 per ton would... read more
By David Brodwin
Posted on: August 29, 2014
Even as unemployment falls and wages firm up, more young adults are moving back with their parents and staying there. This trend was reaffirmed recently in a Goldman Sachs report, which confirmed earlier data from Pew. Upwards of 36 percent of 18 to 31-year-olds now live with their parents (or in college dorms at their parent’s expense), significantly more than a decade ago, and breaking a 40-year record. Many commentators misunderstand this trend. Some attribute it to the recession and the difficulty of getting decent jobs. But the recession is now more than five years behind us, and the... read more
By David Brodwin
Posted on: August 28, 2014
One of Aesop’s classic fables describes a magical goose that lays a golden egg every day. After years of being cared for by a wise and patient owner, the unfortunate goose slipped under the control of new management. The new owners figured they could get rich quick by slaughtering the goose and getting a lot of gold all at once, but they miscalculated: All they got was one last golden egg and a plate of goose flesh. (O.K., a bit of foie gras, too.) Businesses get slaughtered too, for the same short-sighted reasons. Slaughtering a business triggers a transfer of wealth between society at large... read more
By David Brodwin
Posted on: August 15, 2014
Toledo, Ohio residents had no water to drink for 56 hours this week, thanks to a massive bloom of toxic algae in Lake Erie, the city’s source of drinking water. The economic damages are still being tallied, but they are big, probably around $40 million. Lost revenues to restaurants alone will likely top $10 million. The rest of the damage reflects losses incurred by other water-using businesses, lost wages to the employees of these businesses, and productive hours lost by Toledo’s half-million residents as they scrambled to queue for scarce bottled water. Events like these bring out the... read more
By Richard Eidlin
Posted on: August 8, 2014
The Obama Administration sent a clear message on the importance of good workplace practices last week when the President signed the Executive Order on fair pay and safe workplaces. Although its impact is limited to federal contractors, it is still an important step towards bringing the country’s workplaces into the 21st century. The order says that prospective federal contractors must disclose labor law violations, and it gives federal agencies more guidance on how to consider those violations when awarding contracts. It will also better protect workers whose paychecks are inaccurate, or... read more