Career Training Takes An Old Turn

Apprenticing, the way Ben Franklin and Paul Revere learned their trades, is making a comeback in the U.S. after many decades of being confined mostly to union halls in the construction trades. Interest in a more structured way to prepare young people for a career is growing, as 6 million unfilled jobs illustrate the gap between required job skills and educational preparation for those jobs.

College is not “one-size, fits all,” if it ever was. Only 23% who enter a two-year college program graduate, and only 60% of those entering a four-year school graduate within six years. While there are many good technical education programs at community colleges and private training schools, there has been a need for more structure and stronger employer involvement. Continue reading “Career Training Takes An Old Turn”

Trump Decision on Jerusalem Stokes Anger Throughout Middle East (Corrected)

Here’s a good rule of thumb for forecasting the Middle East: Things will get worse before they get even worse. And in this part of the world, things always seem to be getting worse. Not surprising when the region’s other great maxim is: “The enemy of my enemy can still be my enemy.”

Virtually every recent U.S. president has ignored this lesson at his peril: Bill Clinton saw his efforts to secure peace between the Israelis and Palestinians succeed, then fail miserably. George W. Bush got bogged down in a long, costly and politically divisive war in Iraq. Barack Obama discovered, among other things, that killing Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks, did not spell the end of Islamic terrorism as a threat to the United States.

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Palace Intrigue at the State Department: Trump Contemplates Plan to Force Out Secretary of State

Reports that President Trump may force out Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and replace him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo have rocked Washington, D.C., once again underscoring the ongoing turmoil within the administration.

To some extent, this isn’t a surprise. Washington pundits have been writing Tillerson’s political obituary ever since reports emerged this summer that the secretary of state privately called Trump a “moron.”

Continue reading “Palace Intrigue at the State Department: Trump Contemplates Plan to Force Out Secretary of State”

Don’t Panic About North Korea’s Latest Missile Launch. (But Still Worry)

North Korea ended two months of relative calm with a bang this week, launching its most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile yet in defiance of U.S.-led efforts to halt Pyongyang’s nuclear progress.

The missile reportedly traveled more than 2,800 miles into space – ten times higher than the International Space Station – flying for more than 50 minutes before splashing down in the Sea of Japan. Experts say it is another major leap forward in North Korea’s nuclear capabilities, potentially putting the entire U.S. mainland in range, including Washington, D.C.

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GOP Optimism Grows For Tax Bill

There is growing likelihood on Capitol Hill that the Senate will pass its version of the Republican tax reform package this week, as party leaders offer changes in a scramble to win over a half-dozen holdouts.

It’s still difficult to predict the outcome with certainty, as ongoing horse trading is changing the dynamics of the tax reform landscape by the hour. But the belief among Senate Republicans that they’ll get the necessary votes for passage is much stronger than it was yesterday. Continue reading “GOP Optimism Grows For Tax Bill”

Internet Regulation Food Fight Far from Finished

In a big win for internet providers, federal telecom regulators are ditching utility-style internet rules. As we predicted in July, the five-member Federal Communications Commission will ditch the net neutrality rules that went into effect in 2015. They will split along party lines, with the Republican majority voting to do away with the 2015 framework at the FCC’s upcoming December meeting.

The Obama-era rules, implemented when Democrats had a 3-2 majority on the commission, barred web providers from blocking or throttling lawful content. They also banned so-called fast lanes—special agreements between web providers and content makers to speed up their data. Continue reading “Internet Regulation Food Fight Far from Finished”

Justice Dept. Trumps Blockbuster AT&T, Time-Warner Deal on Antitrust Grounds

The Justice Department moved this week to block AT&T’s proposed merger with Time Warner Cable. Now, the courts must decide the fate of the blockbuster deal that, if approved, would give America’s largest telecom company control over a media empire that includes CNN, HBO and other cable staples.

Will the merger go through? Flip a coin. This isn’t how antitrust cases of this kind normally proceed. The Justice Department regularly blocks transactions it deems “anti-competitive,” among them AT&T’s 2011 bid to acquire rival T-Mobile. But so-called “vertical mergers,” which involve firms operating at two different levels of an industry, have a better record of success.

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Consumer Watchdog Down But Not Out

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is set to lose some of its potency. Although Republicans—who have opposed the agency since its inception—will succeed in extracting some of its teeth, the GOP won’t be able to totally defang it.

Now that CFPB Director Richard Cordray is stepping down at the end of the month, President Trump, a critic of the consumer watchdog, is free to nominate a more business-friendly replacement. The administration also will work with congressional Republicans, many of whom want to dismantle the agency, to revamp its structure and refocus its mission. Continue reading “Consumer Watchdog Down But Not Out”

Where Do Oil Prices Go Next?

The oil market has been nothing if not volatile this autumn. At the beginning of September, the price of benchmark West Texas Intermediate hovered near $47 per barrel after spending most of the summer trading in the mid-$40s. Then suddenly, in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, WTI went on a tear, shooting up to $57 per barrel by early November: A tidy 21% gain at a time when oil demand tends to be low.

Had crude finally begun a sustained rebound after several years of depressed prices? Many oil bulls seemed to think so. Or at least, many did until earlier this week, when WTI dropped sharply after the International Energy Agency issued a prediction that global oil demand will grow more slowly next year than previously expected. Are oil prices just taking a breather before the next leg up? Or did this week’s drop mark the end of the autumn rally? Continue reading “Where Do Oil Prices Go Next?”

Sizing Up The GOP Tax Plans

Congressional Republicans’ push to overhaul the tax code is centered around two basic principles: Providing corporations with a big tax cut while helping average Americans. But like almost every major issue lawmakers tackle, competing House and Senate bills aimed at achieving these goals aren’t as simple or clear-cut as their authors want the public to believe.

Independent analyses of the tax plans undercut the GOP’s rosy predictions for how much middle-income earners would benefit (especially the House version). Although Senate Republicans’ measure is akin to the one House Republicans are preparing to approve this week, they take significantly divergent paths. If both bills pass intact, Republicans will have to broker a compromise among themselves to advance final legislation to President Trump’s desk. Such an endeavor would be messy and contentious, with success far from guaranteed. Continue reading “Sizing Up The GOP Tax Plans”