You Decide: Can opportunity zones boost local economies?

I make about 80 presentations across the state each year on a variety of economic topics. It’s one of the most enjoyable parts of my job at N.C. State University, by allowing me to become acquainted with many people and groups in almost every region of our beautiful state.

Recently I spoke to a group in Raleigh I had never before encountered. They were investors and economic development experts from across both the state and nation. They had gathered to hear about a new concept called “opportunity zones.”

Texas Libertarian Ron Paul: We don’t need Trump’s border wall to stop illegal immigration

President Donald Trump doesn’t need a wall to stop undocumented immigration along the U.S. southern border, three-time presidential candidate and well-known Libertarian Ron Paul told CNBC on Tuesday.

Instead, the Trump administration should remove incentives for coming to America, said Paul, who also served 12 terms as a U.S. congressman from Texas, a state that shares 1,254 miles of a common border with Mexico.

In previous negotiations with Trump, Democrats had agreed to some border wall funding as part of an ultimately scuttled deal to protect the so-called Dreamers, people who were illegally brought to the U.S. as children.


Trump Should Demand a Better Tax Cut, Not a Bigger Wall

The conventional wisdom among President Donald Trump’s circle seems to be that he has no choice but to stick to his guns on the border wall: His base would regard anything less as a betrayal. Senator Lindsey Graham has gone so far as to say that, if Republicans fail to support Trump’s demand, it will be “the end of his presidency and the end of our party.”

But unless Trump can motivate suburban Republican voters, he has no clear path to re-election anyway. And the way to excite those voters is to focus on an issue they care about: taxes.


VCU poll shows narrow public support for the state’s deal with Amazon

A new Virginia Commonwealth University poll shows narrow public support for Virginia’s incentive package to land half of Amazon’s East Coast headquarters, which would create 25,000 high-paying jobs in exchange for $550 million in cash payments for the project in Arlington County’s Crystal City area.

The poll, released Thursday by the VCU Center for Public Policy at the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, found support for the Amazon incentive package from a 49-percent plurality of more than 800 people surveyed across the state, while 41 percent said the state is paying too much for the high-profile economic development project.

Richmond Times-Dispatch

After a Natural Disaster, Is It Better to Rebuild or Retreat?

NEW ORLEANS — Should communities hit over and over again by natural disasters — like hurricanes, fires, earthquakes and tornadoes — keep rebuilding? Or should they retreat from areas that are especially disaster prone?

It’s a question that will become only more urgent as climate change continues to fuel extreme weather. And it is especially resonant here in New Orleans, which has suffered untold extreme weather events in its 300-year history. The most damaging, of course, was 13 years ago, when the winds and rains of Hurricane Katrina breached the city’s flawed hurricane defenses.

The New York Times

Boosts to local minimum wages are no excuse for federal inaction

Millions of working people got a raise on Jan. 1 as the minimum wage went up in 19 states and nearly two dozen cities.

Some workers’ wages increased by a few cents an hour — the result of automatic annual adjustments in their state’s minimum wage — while other workers saw increases of as much as $2 an hour, as victories in legislatures and at the ballot box came into effect.

The Hill

Critics Say Trump Is Giving Oil Industry a Bye in Shutdown

The partial U.S. government shutdown has docked fishing boats in Alaska, delayed public meetings on a proposed wind farm off the Massachusetts coast and blocked pharmaceutical companies from seeking approval for new drugs.

But the Trump administration is working overtime to make sure the shutdown doesn’t halt oil drilling too — in ways critics say may flout federal law.

“One of the principles of government is that you serve everybody equally,” but that’s not what’s happening here, said Matt Lee-Ashley, a former deputy chief of staff at the Interior Department. “The oil industry is still getting business as usual and everybody else is getting shut out, so it’s fundamentally not fair and it may be illegal too.”

To be sure, some government work on energy projects is at a standstill now. For instance, the shutdown appears to have halted environmental reviews of Dominion Energy Inc.’s $7 billion Atlantic Coast pipeline and TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline. Interior Department permits to conduct seismic surveys to help find oil in the Atlantic Ocean also have been held up by the impasse.

Three Reasons Trump’s Trade War Will Become a Pain for the U.S. Economy

President Donald Trump’s trade war with China is about to start causing some real pain for the U.S. economy, according to Bank of America Corp. analysts.

While the tariff fight has so far made a bigger dent on China’s growth and the large-scale impact on the U.S. seems to be muted, that’s likely to change in the coming months, economists Ethan Harris and Aditya Bhave said in a report Friday. They gave three reasons:


What will it take to end the shutdown? Watch these three things.

For the third week in a row, the government remains partly shut down, and President Trump insists that he won’t sign the bills that would open the government unless Congress funds his campaign pledge to build a border wall, which he had said Mexico would pay for. Congressional Democrats refused to include such funding when they passed a homeland security spending bill last week.

The government is only partly closed, because in the fall Congress passed and the president signed five of the dozen spending bills required each year to fund federal programs. The House passed the seven remaining bills last week. But until the Senate passes and the president signs those measures into law, the government will remain partly shut down. That leaves 800,000 government employees, including court personnel, air traffic controllers, national park rangers and Internal Revenue Service staff members, working without pay or furloughed at home. And once the government reopens, the law guarantees back pay only for employees required to work during the shutdown — although lawmakers in the past have paid furloughed workers as well.

The Washington Post

The ‘free market’ has done little to eliminate America’s lack of quality jobs — it’s time for a real industrial policy

We are living in a time of prescriptions for America’s economic woes that carry little meaning. Forget what you hear on TV: Unfettered free trade, tariffs, de facto “open borders” immigration (a consequence of a political dysfunction that precludes genuine immigration reform), and market fundamentalism have done little to eliminate the paucity of quality employment opportunities. A good New Year’s resolution therefore would be constructing new policies that solve this problem in a viable, long-lasting way, even if it means discarding increasingly outdated shibboleths.

Much of the story of the U.S. and other Western democracies over the past 40 years has been the loss of highly skilled, well-paying jobs, displaced in many instances by the proliferation of low-wage and low-productivity jobs in health care, food service, or becoming a “gig” driver for Uber. The effects have been confirmed in a recent study by McKinsey, which showed that income growth has stagnated or fallen for the majority of households in the advanced economies over the past few decades. The only way to fix this is with direct government spending into the economy. That involvement must be via spending on badly needed public goods, such as infrastructure and publicly funded education.