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Policy Issues


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  • Image previewNovember 25Uncertainty in Q4 Output As Personal Consumption Falls, New Home Sales Surge And Unemployment Approaches New Low

    Personal incomes in U.S. rise 0.4% in October while personal consumption measures fall and personal spendings indicators rise during the month, contributing to uncertainty in predicting Q4 output; New home sales surge 10.7% in October and supply of single-family houses reaches its highest level since 2010, diminishing concerns that weakened supply is driving potential buyers out of the market; unemployment claims decline by 12,000 approaching the 42 year low; durable goods orders jump 3.0% in October, doubling market expectation.  

  • Image previewNovember 24U.S. GDP Advances Faster Than Expected, Housing Market Growth Affects Young Buyers

    US economy expands at faster pace than expected in third quarter as GDP advances at a 2.1% adjusted rate; Consumer Confidence in U.S. economy plunges to lowest value in over a year this November; Home price growth accelerated in September, shedding positive light on the housing market though some economists worry younger home buyers may be kept out. 

  • Image previewNovember 24Primer for the Paris Climate Change Talks

    In less than a week, the Paris Climate Change talks, more formally known as the Conference of the Parties (COP), will officially begin.  The talks, which are scheduled to occur between November 30 and December 11 have been billed by many as a potential turning point in the international approach to climate change.  In the following article, Wonk Tank’s Energy and Environmental Policy Team offers a primer to frame the talks historically and in the context of the issues and plans of some of the major players in the talks.

  • Image previewNovember 22Governments Do Not Know How To Save The Amazon

    Faculty Affiliate Arthur Van Benthem and colleagues argue that more evidence-based policy making is needed in the battle against deforestation. Direct regulation such as imposing fines or taxes on forest clearing may be effective, but without evidence it is extremely difficult to measure the success of such policies. How can governments know how much forest they are truly saving? 

    “Saving the Amazon’s rainforest requires swift action, but state intervention that is not rigorously backed up by evidence may do much more harm than good.”

  • Image previewNovember 13The Potential Effect of Offering Lump Sums in the Social Security Program

    New research reframes the debate about Social Security solvency and moves away from questions of who should bear the greater burden of fixing the system by offering a lump sum payment model as a way to encourage people to delay claiming their Social Security benefits. Under one of the lump sum alternatives presented in this brief, survey participants indicated a willingness to delay claiming Social Security by up to eight months, on average, compared to the status quo, and to continue working for four of them. Delayed claiming would mean additional months or years of Social Security payroll tax contributions, which could modestly improve the program’s solvency.

  • Christian A Butts

    I want to be able to understand the issues that America faces and how I can apply what I am learning to make a positive impact.

    Wharton undergraduate Christian Butts knew he was interested in politics since he was in elementary school. Growing up, he participated in various youth leadership conferences in Washington D.C. and Boston, watched the presidential debates with his parents in 7th grade, and joined academic clubs to expand his knowledge of U.S. and international politics.

    Now in his second year at Wharton, Christian is pursuing a B.S. in Economics with a concentration in Business Economics & Public Policy (BEPP). Christian will also be one of Penn Wharton PPI’s inaugural class of Public Policy Research Scholars (PPRS), an interdisciplinary certificate program for students with a background in economics, who want to explore the impact of U.S. public policy on the domestic economy.

    “When the details were released about the [PPRS] program… [I thought] it aligned very well with how I envisioned my academic time at Penn playing out,” said Christian. “I want to be able to understand the issues that America faces and how I can apply what I am learning to make a positive impact.”

    In his efforts to gain understanding and experience in public policy, Christian has also spent the past two summers working in legislative offices. Last summer he had the rewarding experience of working in U.S. Senator Cory Booker’s office in New Jersey. According to Christian, the staff made it clear that the legislature’s primary role is to serve its people. His experience working in Senator Booker’s office offered him a greater appreciation for government and a deeper understanding of its complexities. “There was never a moment when I felt that the staff was not going above and beyond to understand and tackle the problems at hand,” remarked Christian.

    When asked about his aspirations for the future, Christian acknowledged that he had a strong interest in going to law school. Whether that happened right after college or after a few years of work experience and career exploration, however, remained up in the air. Nevertheless, he agreed that public policy would definitely play some part in his future career goals.

    “I want to leave my post-Penn career up to where my passions take me over the next few years,” said Christian. “But public policy is so pervasive in everyday life that it has its place in almost any career path. Whether it is a large or small part of what I see myself doing [in the future] is yet to be determined.”

    While public policy and politics have been avid interests of him since he was a young boy, Christian also has a deep love for music. He sang in choirs throughout elementary, middle and high school. At Penn, he is a member of the all-male a cappella group The Penchants. “It’s really encouraging to see the way that music can break through so many cultural barriers and help things to work in harmony,” said Christian towards the end of the interview. “I’m sorry I ended on such a corny note…but I try not to B♭.”


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