Original Reporting

Original Reporting | By Mike Alberti | Taxes
Rep. Jan Schakowsky recently proposed a new bill, the Fairness in Taxation Act, that would reduce the deficit by creating five additional marginal income tax rates for earners of more than $1 million a year. If enacted this year, the proposed bill would raise an estimated $78 billion — $17 billion more than the $61 billion that House Republicans have insisted on cutting from this year's budget — and would do so without cutting funding for popular programs. The proposal is part of Schakowsky’s attempt to change the focus of the deficit conversation from cutting programs to preserving them. More
Original Reporting | By Greg Marx | Education
In the wake of a high-profile Harvard report, vocational education — or as it is now generally known, career and technical education — is back on the policy agenda. But much of the debate about “the new vo-tech” assumes that American students can’t be prepared to start careers at the age of 18. What’s behind the idea that post-secondary education is essential for today’s workplace? And what might a model that didn’t depend on it look like? More
Original Reporting | By Mike Alberti | State government, Urban Policy
For several decades, economists and good-government advocates (as well as some state officials) have pointed to New Jersey’s fragmented system of 566 municipal governments (in addition to separate school districts and county governments) as a key source of the state’s fiscal problems and high property taxes. In 2007, the state finally created a consolidation commission — modeled in part after the successful federal defense base closure commission — in order to change the status quo. But, ironically, New Jersey’s commission has had its work stalled through defunding imposed by consolidation-supporting Gov. Chris Christie. More
Original Reporting | By Craig Gurian | Environment
Multiple agencies unable or unwilling to describe minimum level of airborne contamination that would generate concern about medium- and long-term health effects. One of the unanswered questions: How many “becquerels of Cesium-137 per cubic meter of air” would be “of concern” for the public? More
Original Reporting | By James Lardner | Banking
The Durbin amendment was meant to prod the banks into rethinking their debit-card practices, but they’re hoping they won’t have to. A group of Senators has now set out to block an imminent reduction in the debit-card swipe fees that banks — along with Visa and MasterCard — collect from merchants. More
Original Reporting | By Craig Gurian | Environment
One might imagine that U.S. government agencies are well-versed in the physics of how, when, over what period of time, and with what consequences, radioactive particles may rise to the altitude of the jet stream, there to be transported from Japanese air space across the Pacific Ocean until some subset of those particles were circulating in the jet stream over the United States. One might also imagine that a basic level of national security vigilance would mean that these agencies had definitive plans in place to coordinate with one another, apply established standards of radiological safety to the context of air travel in and through that jet stream, and update the public accordingly. At least in respect to the second set of imaginings, it appears that one would be wrong. More
Original Reporting | By Mike Alberti | Budget deficit, Economy, Taxes
Some New Jersey towns and cities will hold referendums next month to put a difficult question directly to local voters: raise property taxes above a recently-enacted, state-mandated two percent cap...or continue to cut services to make ends meet. While Gov. Chris Christie has placed the blame for rising costs and taxes squarely on the municipalities, some local officials point out that it is state policy that forces them to rely on property taxes in the first place, and effectively ties their hands in regard to alternative potential sources of revenue. More
Original Reporting | By Mike Alberti | Health care, Medicine
Increasing U.S. dependence on foreign doctors to address the physician shortage strikes some as a cheap and easy solution. But while concerns about the quality of those doctors might be addressed, others point out that the U.S. already relies heavily on foreign doctors, and question the ethics of that policy. And there is another issue: will a "temporary" solution have the potential to harden into a permanent arrangement? More