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By David Brodwin
Posted on: June 9, 2015
Every five years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services reconsider what Americans should eat. Their Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee makes recommendations, but the process of approving these inevitably gets politicized: The USDA defends large, politically connected agricultural corporations whereas HHS seeks to combat diabetes and other diet-related illnesses. As with everything political, money is involved: USDA considers the profits of agribusiness; HHS considers how diet-related illness drives up America's health care costs.Meanwhile,... read more
By Alan Lewis
Posted on: June 3, 2015
When I asked Congressman Mike Pompeo’s office for a meeting to discuss the “DARK ACT”, the phone went silent. After a few moments, a voice sternly replied, “We don’t know anything about a dark act, but we would be happy to discuss the Safe and Affordable Food Act.”It’s actually the same legislation - “DARK Act” stands for Deny Americans the Right to Know. Whatever you call it, this legislation would prevent states from enacting laws that require labeling of foods made from genetically engineered ingredients. Proponents include the companies that sell the seeds, services and pesticides... read more
By David Brodwin
Posted on: May 29, 2015
The U.S. is esteemed worldwide for entrepreneurship. Talented, ambitious people come here to start companies, grow them and (if they're lucky) take them public. This process creates jobs for millions and real wealth for entrepreneurs, their senior staff and their investors.But at the same time, the U.S. is criticized for rising inequality. Since 2000, most of the gains in productivity were claimed by the top 10 percent. Incomes for the other 90 percent were stagnant and actually declined once the real estate bubble is factored out.Some say that inequality and entrepreneurship go hand in hand... read more
By David Brodwin
Posted on: May 22, 2015
This week's wreck of Amtrak Train No. 188 in Philadelphia killed 8 people and injured more than 200. The train was moving at 106 miles per hour through a tight curve with a speed limit of 50 mph. The train literally flew off the tracks.Why was it going so fast? Was the operator asleep? Did the throttle stick? We'll have to wait weeks to find out.Odds are, operator inattention or error caused the crash. This is not the first such accident. In 2013, an Amtrak engineer dozed off at the controls; his train was moving at 82 mph when it derailed on a curve rated for 30 mph.Accidents like these don'... read more
By David Brodwin
Posted on: May 21, 2015
As the military philosopher Carl von Clausewitz noted, the objective of war is not simply to win the battle; it is to utterly destroy the enemy's ability to fight.The political battle over the Trans-Pacific Partnership – a trade pact now being negotiated – shows the power of Clausewitz's dictum, but only one side of the battle perceives the situation correctly. The supporters of the trade agreement get it. The other side – the Democratic senators who initially broke with President Barack Obama this week – see the treaty in narrow tactical terms. They fail to grasp the broader, strategic... read more
By Sarah Severn
Posted on: May 19, 2015
In October 2014, 100 companies joined together and launched the Washington Climate Declaration, a state level version of the national Climate Declaration created by CERES. Since launching, that number has increased to 185 signatories, including several business associations including ASBC, who believe that taking action on climate just makes good business sense.Collectively, we are known as Washington Business for Climate Action. Our leadership team is made up of business people from across Washington State and our mission is to engage Washington businesses by providing opportunities for... read more
By David Brodwin
Posted on: May 13, 2015
Sendhil Mullainathan, a behavioral economist at Harvard, studies how scarcity affects people’s intelligence, will-power and decision-making. He wants to change your mind about poverty and inequality by studying what makes people poor, why people have a hard time escaping poverty and what programs can help get people out of poverty.Liberals and conservatives see poverty in starkly different terms. Conservatives see poverty mostly as a problem of individual behavior: People become poor because they make bad decisions. They lack the will-power to stay in school, or to get to work on time, or to... read more
By David Brodwin
Posted on: May 5, 2015
One of the most basic ideas in economics is that when you charge more for something, people generally use less of it. So when we find ourselves short of something essential – say, water – it makes sense to let prices rise enough to encourage conservation.Many communities in dry parts of the country use a system called tiered pricing to encourage residents and businesses to save water. Under tiered pricing, the first few gallons of water are relatively cheap; the next few gallons cost more and so on. Homeowners who use water responsibly can keep themselves within the lowest, cheapest tier on... read more
By David Brodwin
Posted on: April 28, 2015
The phrase “sharing economy” sounds warm and friendly. Open. Compassionate. It promises a welcome break from the all-too-familiar economy of exploitation.But lofty sentiments aside, the sharing economy is much more mundane. It offers is a new set of business practices (and cloud-based software) that lets you wring out extra value from an under-utilized asset. The sharing is a euphemism. Airbnb lets you share (i.e. rent out) your apartment. Uber lets you share (i.e. rent out) your services as a driver for hire. And so on.It sounds egalitarian and empowering when the asset in question is a car... read more
By Richard Eidlin David Levine
Posted on: April 27, 2015
It’s gospel among American politicians and business leaders: innovation is key to the success of individual companies and entire industries. And yet, many of these same people contend that to optimize innovation, government needs to stay out of the way.  We disagree and believe there are many opportunities for business and government to work together. Government has played a pivotal role in spurring innovation throughout American history. Think of the national train system in the 1880s, in which federal authorities mediated among a small group of monopolies to establish a standard gauge for... read more