Category: Explainer

net-neutrality-op-660x528-660x420What just happened?

On Monday the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), saying the agency had the legal authority to enact their Open Internet Order (i.e., net neutrality rules.)

What was this case about?

Last Spring the CTIA, the trade group that represents the wireless communication sectors, filed a lawsuit with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals challenging the FCC’s decision to “impose sweeping new net neutrality rules and reclassifying mobile broadband as a common carrier utility.” The CTIA had argued that the the FCC had “opted to resuscitate a command-and-control regulatory regime, including a process where innovators must first seek permission from the FCC before rolling out new services.” In so doing, they claim, the FCC “usurped the role of Congress and departed from a bipartisan mobile-specific framework to create a new intrusive regulatory framework.”

What is net neutrality?

Net neutrality (short for “network neutrality”) refers to both a design principle and laws that attempt to regulate and enforce that principle. The net neutrality principle is the idea that a public information network should aspire to treat all content, sites, and platforms equally. At its simplest, network neutrality is the idea that all internet traffic should be treated equally and that every website — from Google.com to Acton.org — should be treated the same when it comes to giving users the bandwidth to reach the internet-connected services they prefer.

Net neutrality laws are legislation or regulation that prevents Internet service providers (ISPs) from discriminating or charging different prices based on such criteria as user, content, site, platform, application, or type of attached equipment.

What is the basic argument in favor of net neutrality regulation?
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paydayloansWhat just happened? 

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the U.S. government’s consumer protection agency, has proposed new regulations that would affect payday lending in an attempt to end payday debt traps by requiring lenders to take steps to make sure consumers can repay their loans. 

What loans would the new regulation apply to?

The proposed regulations would cover two categories of loans. The first is loans with a term of 45 days or less. The second is loans with a term greater than 45 days, provided that they (1) have an all-in annual percentage rate greater than 36 percent; and (2) either are repaid directly from the consumer’s account or income or are secured by the consumer’s vehicle.

In other words, the regulation would cover almost all “payday lending” and “car title” loans.

What does the regulation do?
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brexitWhat is Brexit?

British, Irish, and Commonwealth citizens will vote next month on the question “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” Brexit is merely the shorthand abbreviation for “British exit,” which refers to the UK leaving the European Union.

What is the European Union?

After two World Wars devastated the continent, Europe realized that increasing ties between nations through trade might increase stability and lead to peace.

In 1958, this led to the creation of the European Economic Community (EEC), an arrangement that increased economic cooperation between six countries: Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

Over the next few decades, more countries joined (there are now 28 member state) and it morphed into a federalist-style economic-political union. The UK joined in 1973, and in 1993, the name was changed to the European Union.

The EU institutions are: the European Council, the Council of the European Union, the European Parliament, the European Commission, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the European Central Bank, and the European Court of Auditors.

Why is there a push for the UK to leave?
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venezula-crisisWhat’s going on in Venezuela?

Because of high inflation and unemployment, Venezuela has the most miserable economy in the world. The country currently has an inflation rate of 180 percent, but that’s expected to increase 1,642 percent by next year. The current unemployment rate is 17 percent, and the IMF projects it will reach nearly 21 percent next year.

The country is also crippled by shortages of goods and services. A few weeks ago Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro instituted a two-day workweek for state employees because of power shortages. (Because most of the country’s energy is produced by a hydroelectric plant, critically low water levels are blamed for the energy crisis.)

President Maduro has declared a state of emergency, threatening to seize factories and jail business owners who have stopped production. 

Shortages of basic goods like food, toilet paper, and medicine has devastated a nation where more than 70 percent of the people already live in poverty.

What caused the crisis? 
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no-signWhat just happened?

On May 18, the Obama administration announced the publication of a new Department of Labor rule updating and expanding overtime regulations.

Why did the overtime rule change?

Since the 1930s some white collar jobs (i.e., those performed in an administrative setting) have been exempt from the overtime requirement. The white collar exemption salary level was adjusted in 2004 to $455 per week or $23,660 a year. The new rule will entitle most salaried white collar workers earning less than $913 a week ($47,476 a year) to overtime pay.

The rule also updates the total annual compensation level above which most white collar workers will be ineligible for overtime. The final rule raises this level to the 90th percentile of full-time salaried workers nationally, or from the current $100,000 to $134,004 a year

The salary threshold will also automatically be updated every three years, beginning January 1, 2020. Each update will raise the standard threshold to the 40th percentile of full-time salaried workers in the lowest-wage Census region, estimated to be $51,168 in 2020.

How is overtime pay determined?
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theeconomy2In every stage of my formal schooling – from high school to college to graduate school – I took courses in economics. Yet with all that education I struggled to understand a seemingly simple question: How does the economy actually work?

Sure, I can still draw supply and demand curves or give the equation for GDP (Y = C + I + G + (X − M)). But when it comes to picturing a reasonably functional model of how it all fits together, I was at a loss. Until a few years ago when Ray Dalio came to my rescue.

Dalio is the founder of the “world’s richest and strangest hedge fund” and #48 on Forbes list of richest people in America. But more importantly (at least for our purposes), Dalio is also the creator and narrator of the 30-minute video, “How the Economic Machine Works.”

Dalio’s video is one of the best explanations of economics I’ve ever seen. I’ve watched it at least half a dozen times over the past three years and highly recommend setting aside half an hour to watch this entire video.

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littlesister-scotusWhat just happened?

The Supreme Court avoided issuing a major ruling today in a combined religious liberty case, Zubik v. Burwell. In a unanimous decision, the justices wrote that the Court “expresses no view on the merits of the cases” but were instead sending the case back down to the lower courts for opposing parties to work out a compromise.

What is this case, and what’s it about?

The case, Zubik v. Burwell, combines seven challenges to the Health and Human Services’ (HHS) contraceptive/abortifacient mandate.

To fulfill the requirements of the Affordable Healthcare Act (aka ObamaCare) the federal government passed a regulation (often called the “HHS Mandate”) that attempts to force groups into providing insurance coverage for contraceptives, sterilization, and abortifacients. Some religious groups, such as the Little Sisters of the Poor, objected on the ground that the requirement violates their religious liberty as protected by the First Amendment and the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). HHS offered an accommodation that the Little Sisters found to be insufficient.

The Supreme Court was asked to decide, as SCOTUS Blog explains, whether the government has offered nonprofit religious employers a means to comply and whether the whether HHS satisfies RFRA’s test for overriding sincerely held religious objections in circumstances where HHS itself insists that overriding the religious objection will not fulfill HHS’s regulatory objective—namely, the provision of no-cost contraceptives to the objector’s employees.

Who are Zubik and Burwell?
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