Wonk Tank is a student blog written by members of the PPI Student Group. Articles cover topics on a range of issues at the intersection of business, economics, and public policy. Check back regularly for new articles.
Wonk Tank Articles
The state of American infrastructure figures prominently in current national policy discussion, prompted by poor report cards, energized political campaigns, and recent executive initiatives. Severe underfunding of needed infrastructure projects has prompted proposals from both sides of the political aisle, with public-private partnerships (P3s) featuring prominently. This article evaluates and offers perspective on different types of P3s, examining their benefits and costs and the Trump administration’s plans.
Nuclear energy has the potential to assist nations in tackling climate change and sustain a rapidly growing world population. In the first part of this series on nuclear energy, I analyzed why nuclear energy is superior to other energy sources in achieving this end but also why current market forces prevent its growth. However, even if US legislators decided to pass legislation that aggressively expanded the country’s nuclear infrastructure, there are three primary non-market challenges with current U.S. policy, or lack thereof: a hostile public, the absence of a centralized nuclear waste disposal site, and concerns with proliferation and the imperilment of U.S. national security objectives. In order to responsibly expand nuclear energy capacities and prevent proliferation to hostile states, policy-makers have an obligation to address these issues. Not doing so may bear worse consequences than wantonly enlarging the United States’ atomic sector.
In 2015, Seattle legislators signed a bill to gradually increase the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour over several years. Businesses with fewer than 500 employees will still have until January of 2024 to deal with the full ramifications of the act. However, businesses that do not provide medical benefits and employ over 500 people were forced to pay their workers $15 dollars an hour starting this past January . Since then, two major studies have been published on the effects of the act, one concluding that it has had a positive effect on economic activity and employment and the other stating that it has made the labor market far too rigid.
Today private prisons house about 126,000 federal and state inmates . Orders issued under the Obama Administration to phase out the use of private prisons are now being reversed under the Trump Administration, which has caused some debates over the efficacy of private prisons to resurface. Chiefly, this reversal has sparked controversy over the economic benefits of private prisons in America, as the most avid dissidents highlight problems with the economic argument for private prisons and even moderate objectors point to inconclusive data as a poor indicator of their advantages.
The underrepresentation of low-income students at selective institutions of higher learning may point to strong disadvantages in the college admissions process that are unique to this demographic. A combination of a lack of access to resources to solidify prerequisites for acceptance, strong barriers to apply, and unfavorable admissions review procedures, make it significantly harder for low-income students to make it through the admissions process at top universities. While elite schools with large endowments and federal grants generally do well at providing financial support to low-income students, there seems to be limited awareness of these resources. Policies to recruit and accept low-income students appear to mitigate these issues on the institutional level, while government funding towards programs such as Pell Grants increase educational accessibility from the national level.
The Environmental Policy Team writes about energy policy, environmental policy, and infrastructure policy. Our members research the economics of clean energy, disaster infrastructure, and pollution markets. Past articles have explored the implications of a water market in California and the financial differences between cap-and-trade and a carbon tax in China.
Fiscal and Regulatory Policy
The Fiscal and Regulatory Policy Team studies government spending, taxation, and regulation. The authors evaluate the design and implementation of government programs. When they identify points of failure in these programs, they propose policy changes to address them. The authors also study how to make regulations more efficient without harming markets or consumers.
Health, Education, and Social Policy
The Health, Education, and Social Policy Team focuses on policies that provide government services for underserved populations. Previous topics have included the viability of programs like SNAP and mental healthcare in rural regions. The group also analyzes regulatory policy in sectors like housing, education, and healthcare.
Innovation and Technology Policy
The Innovation and Technology Team explores the interconnection between technology and public policy. We research these relationships in the context of economic, tax, and intellectual property policy. We seek to understand how these policies promote innovation, and how technology can be applied to policy problems. Our research touches healthcare, education, R&D funding, regulation, patent law, and economic policy.
Trade and Foreign Policy
The Trade and Foreign Policy Team researches global affairs and new international trends from an American outlook. Members of the Trade and Foreign Policy Team explore issues from economic development to national security. In the context of the international system, the Trade and Foreign Policy Team studies and evaluates national and international foreign policy from economic, developmental, and security perspectives.
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