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After years of chasing Senate control, Republicans now are under pressure to deliver economic relief to voters who rewarded them with full power on Capitol Hill.
Voters punished President Obama and Democrats at the polls Tuesday, sour over the economy and seeing minimal growth in their paychecks, despite consistent gains in both the job market and the economy at-large.
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As the midterms showed us, America doesnt agree on a lot, but it can agree on weed: A growing number of states are done with prohibition and ready to legalize, or at least decriminalize, marijuana for recreational and/or medical uses. Theyre backed by publications and individuals from every point on the political spectrum, including the staidly conservative Economist and, of course, organizations like the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).
Setting aside the myriad reasons presented for legalization like confronting racist marijuana policy, ending moral panic over drugs, lowering crime rates, and ending drug-related pollution theres one clear case for legalization, and it boils down to this: Its the economy, stupid.
Legalizing marijuana on a federal level would provide economic benefits for the United States in the billions, precisely at a time when the federal economy needs a major boost. Its not just the feds, however, who would benefit; legalization would provide top-down economic improvements in local communities, state coffers, and more. In addition to bringing in funds, it would save regional and state governments substantial sums in currently wasted law enforcement dollars.
For a country obsessed with free market capitalism and government spending, the United States has been slow to act on repealing marijuana prohibition, thanks to the tangled associations between marijuana and morality. In a nation where substances like tobacco and alcohol remain legal, highly regulated, and highly profitable, its surprising to see marijuana still tarred in stigma especially when Clinton, Bush, and Obama have all admitted to having a toke (whether they inhaled or not).
On Tuesday, Washington DC approved legalization (this pends Congressional approval), joined by Oregon and Alaska. Florida narrowly defeated another legalization measure, hampered only by the majority needed to make a constitutional amendment. Washington and Colorado had already fully legalized the drug, and numerous other states either have medical use or decriminalization statutes on the books. (Californias 215 is probably the most famous, as the state was and remains an early leader in marijuana policy reform.)
In a 1970 essay for the New York Times, Gore Vidal spoke to a previous era of prohibition in US history, cautioning the reader to avoid repeating the lessons of the past. Vidal wrote, No one in Washington today recalls what happened during the years alcohol was forbidden to the people by a Congress that thought it had a divine mission to stamp out Demon Rum and so launched the greatest crime wave in the countrys history, caused thousands of deaths from bad alcohol, and created a general (and persisting) contempt for the laws of the United States.
Forty-four years later, the editorial board of the same publication was calling for full legalization. It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol, the editors wrote, going on to debunk many of the social arguments against legalization and making a compelling case for ending prohibition. One factor the editorial didnt address in detail, however, was the economic reasoning for allowing marijuana to be sold freely in the US
The most obvious economic aspect of the case for legalization lies in tax revenues. Average annual trade in marijuana is estimated at $113 billion, which represents nearly $45 billion in taxes slipping through our fingers, according to Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron. Without being able to regulate and monitor the sale of marijuana, tax authorities miss out on municipal, state, and federal taxes that could fund a broad assortment of initiatives including, of course, assistance programs for drug users, a measure supported in lieu of incarceration by over two thirds of Americans.
Given the large volume of marijuana trafficked in the US annually, these gains could be quite significant. While some argue that legalization will cause prices to drop, this could be offset by a predicted increase in consumption (though some argue against this claim). This offset may not be viewed positively by all, but one of the cornerstones of freedom, after all, is the freedom to make personal decisions about what you put in your body and when. With legalization, those who choose to consume marijuana and byproducts like edible and tincture of cannabis would at least be assured regulated, safe products.
Taking marijuana out of the black market and into the public light also provides clear savings for the government on top of net tax gains. The drug war costs the US government a tremendous amount annually, and while this failing initiative covers a range of Schedule I drugs (including not just marijuana but cocaine, heroin, and meth), spending would certainly decline without marijuana in the picture. Instead of wasting $1 trillion on direct law enforcement initiatives yearly to investigate suspected growers, traffickers, and dealers, the government could focus on more pressing initiatives.
Legalization would also cut prison spending rather dramatically. An estimated one in four people are in prison solely because of non-violent drug offenses, including possession, sales, and repeat offenses related to marijuana. Notably, marijuana-related arrests make up a significant percentage of law enforcement actions involving drugs. The vast majority of these individuals are black and Latino, reflecting racial imbalances in the justice system people of color are more likely to be profiled, more likely to be caught, and less likely to be able to bring an adequate defense to court. This combination of factors leads to gross overrepresentation of members of these communities in prisons and jails across the nation.
Cutting down on the number of men imprisoned for drug-related offenses also has indirect economic benefits, by keeping men in their own communities, an issue that was recognized as early as 1988. Systemic poverty can be directly linked to fractured communities, such as those that have been torn apart by the drug war. Allowing men to remain with their families, economically participate in their communities, and contribute to society boosts not only their own economic chances and those of their families, but the community as a whole. Opening the prison doors would be a good start to solving the thorny problem of entrenched poverty among communities of color in the United States and its worth noting that poor communities are themselves an economic drain, requiring more government support and a stronger safety net because they are unable to support themselves.
On a more local economic level, legalization will create a ripple effect through tangentially related industries. With the legalization of a crop that requires cultivation, farmers, farmworkers, fertilizer firms, and other manufacturers of agricultural products all stand to benefit and thanks to the widespread adoption of indoor growing in the marijuana industry, sales of supplies specific to that method of cultivation should also soar. Additionally, given the large power demands associated with indoor growing, its possible that the likely boom in marijuana cultivation could also stimulate the alternative energy industry especially as consumers pushed for organic and ethically produced marijuana.
Furthermore, more open cultivation means a reduction in illegal farming, fertilizer pollution, and related problems, which is intrinsically better for the environment, while also saving environmental agencies money along the way. Without the need to send evaluation and cleanup crews for grow operations, such agencies can allocate their funds more productively.
Likewise, trucking, rail, and other transit firms stand to benefit, as the drug has to transported after processing, even if just regionally. Parent firms, drivers, and manufacturers of handling equipment would all be feeling the expansive new marijuana economy, and reinvesting the proceedings into expanding operations. For labor unions, this could indirectly provide an opportunity to reopen negotiations over pay, working hours, and benefits, which would stimulate further localized economic growth.
Packaging, retail, and processing industries also stand to benefit from legalization, as do testing labs and certification facilities. In a nation where the drug is legalized but regulated, samples need to be routinely tested and certified, which requires experienced drug scientists to monitor the quality and integrity of the drug supply. This holds double for processed marijuana products like tinctures and marijuana food products, which would need to be evaluated by both the FDA and the FTC the latter would be interested in truth in advertising and labeling claims. That translates to job growth in a variety of high-skilled sectors.
Tourism, too, could benefit from legalization; the US need look only to Amsterdam for an example. While the Dutch city is a popular tourist destination for a broad assortment of reasons, one is the nations liberalized marijuana policy, which allows visitors to sample an array of marijuana products in the cities coffeehouses and cafes. While the streets of San Francisco and Berkeley already ring skunky with the scent of marijuana at some times of the year, full legalization would lead to more open usage of the drug, along with an uptick in tourist rates to regions well-known for their crop and the quality of their marijuana products, such as the Bay Area.
For those who argue that free-market capitalism is the most rational approach to economic balance, marijuana legalization would certainly be an ideal test case. The obvious economic benefits so outweigh the social concerns that one can only conclude the issue is one of morals and nothing else is the United States ready to drop the pretense of moral panic over marijuana when alcohol, tobacco, and other substances are already legally available?
From our friends at The Daily Dot, by SE Smith.
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Europe is trapped by its own budgetary policy and it seems not to be able to get out of the crisis, with high unemployment rates and debt, Xavier Timbeau, Director of the French economic observatory OFCEs analysis and forecast department, told RT.
Xavier Timbeau says in a report on the EU economic situation that the eurozone crisis may hinder the world's economy. Some countries might fall into deflation, while even strong economies such as German face limited growth.
RT: Presenting your economic predictions last month you said that the state of the eurozone is a problem for the global economy. What impact could the EUs financial troubles have?
Xavier Timbeau: It is a problem for the world economy because growth in the EU is very low and that would have consequences for the rest of the world. It would cause some trouble to the emerging countries because of the lack of demand from the eurozone. It is going to be the same for the US which is currently trying to recover from the crisis, or even Great Britain. But the main threat that the European economy [presents to] the world is the risk of deflation, and the fact that Europe seems not to be able to get out of the crisis and the high level of unemployment, and thus neither to reduce significantly its public debt nor its private debt - that is going to cause trouble to the world economy. That brings the threat of a [prolonged] and slow decrease in prices that will be similar to the deflation in Japan but on a larger scale and with a risk of what Larry Summers is calling "secular stagnation."
RT: Brussels has cut growth predictions for the most economically powerful eurozone countries. What does that mean for the EU in the long-term?
XT: In the long term, and this is why it is also worrying for the future of Europe, it means that if you compare today's level of investment in Europe to the level of investment in the US, then you've got a very striking picture. Investment has been decreasing as a share of GDP since 2008 and it has never picked up since the beginning of the crisis. That means that Europe is currently not investing either [in a] public or a private [way], and in the long term that will cause a decrease in potential growth and the prospect for the European economy. That is also very worrying. The high level of unemployment is also going to provoke a decrease in human capital over the long term. A lot of people are educated but can't find a job and are going to lose human capital because they are going to have a long spell of unemployment before finally finding a job. All this is putting more and more pressure and reducing potential growth.
RT: Should we expect any change in European economic policy because of this cut growth projection? What kind of?
XT: The change that we can hope for is [the clear understanding] in Europe that it is not working and it is a problem, and Europe is not going to get out of the crisis easily and you have to put in motion the right policies to do that. More and more people are trying to find what kind of policies can be helpful for getting out of the crisis. But the main problem of Europe today is that in the European debt crisis, during that moment, in order for the European Central Bank to intervene and to save the euro a lot was asked in terms of change and regulation around the budgetary discipline in Europe. That was made by reinforcing treaties and putting more rules in Europe regarding budgetary policy. Today, as a matter of fact, Europe is trapped into its own rules for budgetary policy which are setting a framework in which it is going to be very difficult to escape and change a policy. In a sense the economic policies in Europe are already written into treaties, so it is going to be very difficult to find another way.
RT: Sanctions against Russia are among the reasons for the growth forecast slash. How damaging are they proving to be to EU finances?
XT: This is probably playing an important role for Germany, and the bad performance of the German economy is closely related to the international tensions with Russia. For the rest of Europe, I think that mostly the problem is coming from inside of Europe. Of course, the international tensions are not helping but they have complex impact on the European economy because with the Russian embargo and sanctions a decrease in oil prices has come which is going to be positive for the European economy at least in the short term. That's rather a balance for other European countries and Germany.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.
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The type of company you work for may have a lot to do with whether youre hired as a full-time employee or a contract or contingent worker.
Large, end-user companies, those with IT operating budgets of at least $20 million, are cutting back on contract workers after years of expanding their temporary workforces, according to new data by research firm Computer Economics.
But two other surveys that look at a broader group of firms see a reliance on contingency workers that is, overall, on the rise.
Computer Economics said the number of contract workers compared to regular workers declined this year to 10% at large firms, after rising in recent years. In 2012, contract workers accounted for 17% of the IT department workforces and in 2013 it was at 15%. The survey covered about 200 firms.
Theres a good explanation why it is trending down - because people are hiring, said John Longwell, Computer Economics vice president for research. He credits a stronger economy for the shift.
Small and mid-sized organizations were lagging behind, but are also beginning to hire more full-time IT staffers and reduce dependence on contractors, said Longwell.
Data from Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA), which counts both IT and non-IT hiring, says reliance on temporary workers is rising overall, and is now at 18% of the overall workforce, a similar percentage to 2013. But the trend is strongly moving up (contingency workers were at 12% in 2009) and is forecast to rise to 20% in two years.
SIA gathers its data from contingent workforce managers at companies with more than 1,000 employees. Nearly 175 firms were surveyed.
Although IT workers are included in that broader percentage, Jon Osborne, the vice president of strategic research at SIA, said that 60% of the firms surveyed said IT workers are their top use of contingent worker.
Osborne also said that IT contingent workers are paid more on an hourly basis than permanent workers. If youre very much in demand and have a skill that is really needed, youre more financially better off working on a contingent basis, said Osborne.
Osborne knows of some tech firms with about 50% of their workers on a contingent basis; that, he suspects is the logical limit of a permanent-versus-contingent mix.
IT staffing firm TEKsystems, which surveys IT hiring across industries, said its latest data from an unpublished survey shows both full-time and contingent hiring increasing in 2015. Its data shows that 40% of the firms it surveyed plan to increase their full-time IT staff next year, up from 38% this year. As for contingent workers, 36% plan to increase hiring in 2015, up from 24% this year.