“subsidized firms must provide “high-quality childcare for plant workers.” They can even divert some of the subsidies to build child care centers and hire providers—activities that do little to increase the supply of microchips. Companies will also be required to do all sorts of financial disclosures and share part of any unanticipated profits with the government. Preference for funding will be given to companies that promise not to buy back stock. The New York Times cleverly named this approach the “Chips and Strings.”
These strings will significantly undermine chip manufacturing by increasing production costs. For instance, when the administration says high-quality child care, it really means more expensive child care because of requirements that caregivers be college-educated and such. Building those child care and chip factories will be subjected to Buy American and environmental requirements, Davis-Bacon pay requirements, and minority and women material sourcing requirements, along with pressure to be more open to the demands of labor unions.”
“Since 2010, a U.S. taxpayer purchasing an electric car could claim a nonrefundable tax credit of up to $7,500. However, only 200,000 credits could be claimed per automaker. Tesla, General Motors, and Toyota have all reached the limit.
The IRA removes the manufacturer cap and introduces a new credit of up to $4,000 toward a used EV, which could help anybody who can’t or doesn’t want to buy brand new. But the law also established several prerequisites that a vehicle must meet to qualify.
Since August, vehicles have been subject to a “final assembly” requirement, which says the car’s final assembly must have occurred in North America. That single restriction is complicated, as you can see from the Department of Energy’s list of eligible vehicles. The agency recommends that shoppers research cars by Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to determine eligibility. Those requirements carry over into 2023.
Starting January 1, individuals earning over $150,000 per year or households earning over $300,000 will no longer qualify for the EV tax credit. Electric cars that retail for more than $55,000, and electric trucks and SUVs over $80,000, are also not eligible. According to Kelley Blue Book, the average price for an EV is over $65,000.
Under the IRA, the credit also depends on the materials used to assemble a vehicle’s batteries. Certain minerals—chiefly lithium, cobalt, manganese, nickel, and graphite—are essential to constructing the lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles. Starting in 2023, qualifying for half of the $7,500 credit requires that 40 percent of the minerals used to assemble an E.V.’s battery be sourced from the U.S. or a country with which it has a free-trade agreement. To qualify for the other half, 50 percent of the battery’s parts must be sourced domestically or from a free-trade partner. Each of these percentages will increase over subsequent years.
In December, the Treasury Department suspended the mineral requirement until March, when it can issue final rules. But notably, the law requires that starting in 2024, no battery parts can be sourced from a “foreign entity of concern,” such as Russia or China. The same requirement applies to minerals the following year.”
“The E.V. tax credit is a convoluted mess. Because of the Treasury delay, most automakers will likely be able to offer half of the credit for two months. Then for the rest of the year, only certain models will qualify, forcing customers to check each individual car or truck to see. Finally, next year, fewer and fewer vehicles will qualify at all, as the U.S. is unable to source necessary materials from politically-favored places. Perplexingly, Treasury announced in late December that leases would be exempt from all sourcing and assembly requirements and eligible for the full $7,500 credit.”
“If Congress isn’t willing to end energy subsidies entirely, it could still make energy technologies more competitive by simplifying all 44 energy tax provisions. For instance, it could offer tax credits to companies based on what their emissions are, without requiring that they use any specific technologies to hit those targets. Unlike targeted subsidies, such performance-based provisions have historically led to less greenhouse emissions.”
“the mayor urged residents to take advantage of the city’s newly expanded Home Purchase Assistance Program (HPAP). Starting October 1, the program will provide residents with up to $202,000 in interest-free loans to help cover the costs of a first-time home purchase, plus an additional $4,000 to help cover closing costs.
The decades-old program previously provided home purchasers with $80,000 in interest-free loans. The increase is justified, officials argue, by today’s hot housing market.
“We knew we had to do something to make the program more viable for potential home buyers,” Deputy Mayor John Falcicchio told The Washington Post last week. “We wanted our residents to be the most prepared as they go into this hot housing market.”
D.C. is certainly an expensive place to buy a home.
The real estate listing company Zillow says the typical D.C. home is worth $707,747—roughly twice the typical home cost nationally. Prices have increased 9 percent so far this year, according to the Case-Shiller home price index. That’s slightly more than the national increase in prices but far less than the 20-plus percent increases in such cities as Atlanta and Tampa.
These interest-free loans will probably increase those prices further. Indeed, the value of that subsidy is more likely to be captured by home sellers than by homebuyers.
The whole purpose of down payment assistance is to get more people to buy homes. That’s another way of saying that it is increasing the demand for home purchases. Economics 101 tells you that increasing demand, all else being equal, will increase prices. Homebuyers with more money can be less price-sensitive, and home sellers can be choosier about purchasers. All that encourages those sellers to increase prices.”
“In a normal market, you’d expect price increases to induce a supply effect. More demand encourages suppliers to enter a market, which helps moderate price increases.
But don’t expect to see much of that in D.C.’s housing market. For starters, the city has only so many vacant or redevelopable plots of land where new housing could go. Redeveloping existing housing into more units is constrained by the city’s zoning laws and historic preservation rules. Meanwhile, rising inflation and persistent supply-chain issues have caused new home construction to plummet, as high material costs make builders less willing to take on new projects.”
“The policies overall aim to push American consumers and industry away from reliance on fossil fuels. The biggest share of the funding goes to tax credits and rebates for a host of renewable technologies — solar panels, wind turbines, heat pumps, energy efficiency, and electric vehicles. It includes incentives for companies to manufacture more of that technology in the United States. The law will also put funding into energy efficiency at industrial sites that can help lower the sector’s hefty carbon footprint, while dedicating some funds to forest and coastal restoration.
The IRA also breaks new ground on other problematic areas of the climate crisis. It sets the first methane fee that penalizes fossil fuel companies for excess emissions of the especially powerful climate pollutant. Another substantial part of the funding helps disadvantaged communities with monitoring and cleaning up pollution, and builds their resilience to climate impacts.
Beyond cutting climate pollution, the clean energy investments could also make a dent in inflation. According to Robbie Orvis, senior director at Energy Innovation, rising energy prices have driven roughly a third of the 9 percent rise in the overall Consumer Price Index this past year. By helping Americans become less reliant on fossil fuels, the spending helps ease the global oil crunch and cut consumer bills.”
“The agreement also includes a 15 percent minimum tax on corporations with profits over $1 billion. Senate Democrats note that while the current corporate tax rate is 21 percent, dozens of major companies, including AT&T, Amazon, and ExxonMobil, pay much less than that. Originally, the provision was expected to raise $313 billion, though new carveouts were added to win Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s (D-AZ) vote, which give manufacturers and private equity firms more leeway when it comes to the new minimum tax rate. Those changes are likely to reduce the revenue this measure will bring in.
There is also a 1 percent excise tax on corporations’ stock buybacks, which are currently not subject to any taxes at all. That excise tax is estimated to raise roughly $73 billion in revenue.”
“”In 2000, Germany launched a deliberately targeted program to decarbonize its primary energy supply, a plan more ambitious than anything seen anywhere else,” Vaclav Smil wrote in 2020 for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ IEEE Spectrum. “The policy, called the Energiewende, is rooted in Germany’s naturalistic and romantic tradition, reflected in the rise of the Green Party and, more recently, in public opposition to nuclear electricity generation.”
The problem, as Smil noted, is that government-favored and subsidized solar and wind are intermittent. Wind doesn’t generate electricity when the air is still, and solar is of little use at night and on cloudy days. That means old-school generating capacity has to be maintained in parallel to the new systems.
“It costs Germany a great deal to maintain such an excess of installed power,” Smil added. “The average cost of electricity for German households has doubled since 2000. By 2019, households had to pay 34 U.S. cents per kilowatt-hour, compared to 22 cents per kilowatt-hour in France and 13 cents in the United States.”
The German news magazine Der Spiegel came to a similar conclusion in 2019.
“The state has redistributed gigantic sums of money, with the [Renewable Energy Sources Act] directing more than 25 billion euros each year to the operators of renewable energy facilities,” the authors observed. “But without the subsidies, operating wind turbines and solar parks will hardly be worth it anymore. As is so often the case with such subsidies: They trigger an artificial boom that burns fast and leaves nothing but scorched earth in their wake.”
Making the matter worse is the extent to which Europe has sourced its fossil fuels from Russia. That’s a dependency partly based on easy accessibility by land to Russia’s resources. It’s also an artifact of economic diplomacy from the Cold War era intended to build trade ties to reduce the risk of conflict. But what was supposed to give the West leverage over the old Soviet Union has instead handed modern Russia enormous clout.
Comparatively clean nuclear energy might have made the difference, but the 2011 Fukushima disaster spooked Germans more, perhaps, than people anywhere else, and the country resolved to abandon nuclear power, leaving it dependent on unreliable solar and wind and, especially, imported fossil fuels. Only now, with Russia throttling the supply of natural gas to 20 percent of capacity, is the governing coalition considering extending the life of the last two nuclear power plants past the end of the year.”
“According to Sen. Mitt Romney (R–Utah), America’s current welfare policies have two major flaws: They penalize recipients who get married by reducing the benefits they’re eligible for, and they don’t do enough to help couples afford to have more kids.
“There’s a growing gap between the number of children people say they want to have and the number they actually decide to have,” he said during an event yesterday at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in Washington, D.C. “Just to be clear here, I don’t think the goal of policy should be to try to create incentives to have people have more children than they want, but instead should find a way to bridge the gap between what people would like to add to their family and what they’re able to afford.”
Attempting to address these issues, Romney in June released the Family Security Act 2.0, a proposal to send parents monthly checks of between $250 and $700 per child, beginning midway through a pregnancy. A household would need to have earned at least $10,000 the previous year to be eligible for the full benefit, a provision meant to keep families from dropping out of the work force entirely. The program would be “paid for” by reducing or eliminating various existing income tax breaks.
It’s hard to fault efforts to resolve distortions introduced by previous federal policy, including the whoopsie-daisy of incentivizing low-income couples to remain unmarried. The idea that it’s the government’s job to help people have more kids rests on a more debatable assumption—namely, that parents should not have to shoulder the full cost of raising future members of society.
Regardless of whether you buy that “positive externalities” argument, the federal government does spend billions each year on family programs. Given that these efforts are not likely to go away (however much libertarian purists might wish otherwise), it’s worth considering whether Romney’s proposal represents at least an incremental improvement over the status quo.”
“For nearly 90 years, the Export-Import Bank of the United States has subsidized foreign purchases of goods produced by politically connected American businesses. Now it will start loaning money to U.S. companies that do little or no business overseas.
In April, the Ex-Im Bank’s board of directors voted unanimously to launch a new “Make More in America” initiative aimed at subsidizing American manufacturers instead of their foreign customers. Rather than unwinding and abolishing the Ex-Im Bank, as some fiscal conservatives have been trying to do for years, this new program is likely to further entrench the bank’s role in federal industrial policy.
“This is worse than mission creep,” says Sen. Pat Toomey (R–Pa.), the top Republican on the Senate Banking Committee and a longtime skeptic of the Ex-Im Bank. “There is no reason that taxpayers should have to back domestic financing when we live in a highly developed market economy in which promising businesses have access to capital on competitive terms.”
Toomey submitted a series of questions to Ex-Im Bank President Reta Jo Lewis about the new program. The answers he received are telling.
In response to Toomey’s request for evidence that a new domestic loan program is needed, Lewis wrote that “it is difficult” to identify a financing shortage, noting that “U.S. capital markets are deep and liquid.” Where there are “gaps,” she said, they exist among “non-investment grade or unrated borrowers.”
Applicants for the new loans, Lewis said, “will need to demonstrate that the required financing is not otherwise available from the private sector.” In other words, these loans will go to projects that private capital markets have deemed too risky to finance.
The Ex-Im Bank’s low-interest loans to overseas buyers of American goods have long benefited companies like Boeing, which can undercut foreign competition with the U.S. government’s help. But there is little evidence that the Ex-Im Bank has actually boosted American exports.
From 2014 to 2018, the bank was effectively shut down when conservatives in Congress temporarily suspended its lending authority. American exports nevertheless grew from $2.3 trillion to a then-record $2.5 trillion during that period.
Former President Donald Trump signed a bill reauthorizing the bank in 2018. President Joe Biden now plans to expand its mandate. Having failed to prove its worth in the global marketplace, the Ex-Im Bank will waste taxpayer money here at home.”
“As part of a $33 billion funding request for Ukraine, the Biden administration last week proposed sending $500 million to American farmers with a goal of boosting production of wheat, soybeans, rice and other commodities, in order to make up for some of Ukraine’s food exports that have dried up since the Russian invasion.
But some agricultural economists say they’re unsure why the administration would move to boost subsidies for crops that are already fetching high prices, our Meredith Lee reports.
“I don’t think that this sort of intervention from the government makes any sense, other than to read it in a pure political sense, that this is something they feel like they need to do,” said Joe Glauber, former chief economist at USDA during Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s previous tenure during the Obama administration.
The funding request includes food aid programs that buy U.S. commodities and send them to countries in need, including many in Africa and the Middle East that relied on Ukraine and Russia for staples like wheat and sunflower oil and are now reeling from shortages and price spikes.
By the numbers: Under the Biden administration’s proposal, $100 million would go toward providing a $10-per-acre payment to farmers who plant a soybean crop after a winter wheat crop in 2023. Another $400 million would fund a two-year increase in loan rates for U.S. producers to encourage them to grow more select food commodities, including wheat, rice and oilseeds like soybeans, sunflowers and canola.
The Agriculture Department claims the proposal would help stabilize rising U.S. food prices and provide food for foreign countries in need, by helping American farmers grow 50 percent of the wheat normally exported by Ukraine, among other things. That plan, however, would probably also require the U.S. to step up funding for federal aid programs that buy and ship U.S. commodities abroad. Otherwise, wealthier countries like China would likely buy up the extra supply on the open market.
Biden’s proposal comes despite prior statements by key White House and USDA officials that high commodity prices alone would encourage U.S. farmers to increase their crop production and help meet global demand in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The president on Thursday described the plan as “good for rural America, good for the American consumer and good for the world.””