November 18 Trump reverse e-cig ban for fear of losing votes
Trump, fearing flavored vape ban could cost him votes, reverses ban; USDA plans new round of trade-aid payouts to farmers; Huawei set for another 90-day US ban reprieve; Anti-robocall bill likely as House, Senate reach compromise; WTO forecasts weak trade flows through end of year; Central banks should monitor job-market churn as a stronger predictor of labor conditions.
November 10 Regulating Consumers’ Rights to Repair Products: The Debate Between Convenience and Intellectual Property Rights
Convenience has become a top priority of many consumers in the 21st century. The onset of new systems that allow people to obtain their necessities (and desires) quicker and easier than ever has individuals increasingly calculating their time as an opportunity cost. This phenomenon extends to the field of consumer products, and has given rise to the “right to repair” movement. This movement refers to ongoing debates in the tech policy/regulation community around whether a consumer should possess the inherent and official right to repair the products they purchase without fear of voiding the product’s warranty. There are opposing sides and perspectives on this matter, both of which will be explored throughout this piece.
November 4 Lack of Competition in Voting Machine Market Hurts Voters
The voting machine company ES&S controls around 50% of the market and they have a reputation of keeping competitors at bay through litigation. When their machines falter, as in the Georgia race for lieutenant governor, it is the voters who lose. The lack of competition in the market leaves local polling officials little choice and when competitors do try to enter the market, ES&S takes them to court over alleged patent violations and other legal tactics. ProPublica cites “The Business of Voting ,” PPI’s industry analysis report on the election technology industry in their explanation of the added prohibitive cost of voting machine certification.
November 1 Testimony for the House Judiciary Committee Hearing, “Antitrust and Economic Opportunity: Competition in Labor Markets”
On Tuesday, October 29th, Professor Ioana Marinescu testified before the House Judiciary Committee. Professor Ioana Marinescu is an expert on issues of antitrust in the labor market, her research is summarized in the Wharton PPI issue brief, “The Other Side of a Merger: Labor Market Power, Wage Suppression, and Finding Recourse in Antitrust Law .” In her testimony, she highlighted four points. Employers can suppress wages due to limited competition in the labor market; the majority (60%) of US labor markets are highly concentrated; higher labor market concentration tends to lower wages; and antitrust enforcement in labor markets should be strengthened. Watch Professor Marinescu’s testimony beginning at 1:23:00 in the linked video.
I’m really interested in the relationship between the private sector and the government. Since the hedge funds can make it harder for the SEC to conduct investigations by requiring them to be on site and look at everything on paper, and the SEC can choose how wide-ranging their investigation will be, it’s important for both sides to maintain a positive working relationship, and negotiate for their mutual benefit.
For Alana Levin (W’21), gaining experience in the public sector has been an integral part of her business education. She spent this past summer in the Office of Inspections and Compliance at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, learning about how government interacts with and regulates the financial services industry. At the SEC, Alana got the chance to work on investigations of how banks are using big data to build more sophisticated economic models. She enjoyed seeing how the SEC was responding to technological changes that allow banks to include more data in their analysis. One of Alana’s favorite aspects of the investigations was learning about how the SEC and the banks it regulates deal with one another. “I’m really interested in the relationship between the private sector and the government. Since the hedge funds can make it harder for the SEC to conduct investigations by requiring them to be on site and look at everything on paper, and the SEC can choose how wide-ranging their investigation will be, it’s important for both sides to maintain a positive working relationship, and negotiate for their mutual benefit.” As part of her work at the SEC, Alana co-wrote a memo about trends in big data use by hedge funds for circulation throughout the agency, building on the work of a previous Penn intern. Working there also came with perks: through the SEC, Alana got the opportunity to do a behind-the-scenes tour of the Supreme Court.
Alana had begun to explore the connections between business and public policy the previous summer, by working as a research assistant to Professor Ryan Brutger. Alana’s RA work involved examining a database of over 300 international negotiations and categorizing them by subject area and outcome, among other factors, so that Professor Brutger could understand which negotiation methods are most effective. She got this opportunity through the Penn Undergraduate Research Mentorship program (PURM), a program that connects freshmen and sophomore students with research projects on campus, with a strong focus on mentorship. It gave Alana “an entrée into research and professional experience, and the best part is the emphasis on professional development and the balance between providing a work opportunity and a chance to learn and grow as a professional.”
Alana also has enjoyed being part of the Public Policy Research Scholars program, especially the opportunities she gets to meet and discuss public policy with a variety of practitioners. For Alana, having dinner with former CFPB Director Richard Cordray last year was a highlight. “It was really cool to hear about his experience transitioning in and out of the public sector. While working at the SEC this summer, an organization with a similar mission to the CFPB, having a better understanding of how the government seeks to regulate business was very valuable.” She would encourage all students interested in public policy to apply to the scholars program: “It’s a wonderful community, and it provides a structured opportunity to delve deeper into public policy.”
Since her freshman year, Alana has been a member of the Wharton Global Research and Consulting club, first as a researcher working to help non-profits and NGOs to help them solve problems, including helping the World Bank to identify how the private sector can better respond to public health emergencies. Each year, Alana has gotten more involved, working as Research Project leader, then Director of Research and now as the President of the club. Alana is now working to expand the club to other schools and continue to build the strong sense of community and social engagement that initially drew her to the club freshman year. This summer, Alana is excited to build on the skills she’s learned through the club with an internship at Boston Consulting Group.
October 28 The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act’s Incorporation “Incentive”
Many observers have asserted that the reduced corporate tax rate instituted by the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) has transformed entity choice for business owners, incentivizing owners of businesses structured as sole proprietorships or passthrough entities to incorporate their businesses and to use these new corporations as pocketbook investment vehicles to invest in and hold portfolio investments, substantially reducing wealthy individuals’ tax obligations and Treasury’s tax collections. This brief offers a different view, and discusses why predictions of widespread conversions to the corporate form at a substantial cost to the fiscal position of the U.S. are overstated. The brief explores the various purported tax advantages to incorporating, both when business owners are looking to invest substantial profits in portfolio assets, as well as when retained earnings are reinvested in the business and produce ordinary income.