18 August 2022

A Mid-Term Election Forecast

It is still early in the mid-term Congressional election calendar, and 538 has data and survey driven election forecasts for the midterm Congressional elections. 

The Senate race predictions are favorable to Democrats who currently hold the 50-50 Senate with the support of a Democratic Vice President ruling with them in tie votes, compared to a "normal" midterm election where the party of the President usually loses ground, in substantial part because Republicans have fields some weak candidates in competitive races. The most likely outcomes are a continued 50-50 split or 51-49 seat Democratic majority in the Senate.

But, the current forecast is that the Democrats are more likely than not to lose their 221-214 majority (218 seats are needed for a majority, so Democrats can lose 3 seats and retain their majority) in the U.S. House of Representatives. The most likely result would be about a 229-206 seat Republican majority, flipping about 15 seats "currently held" by Democrats (although since the maps are post-redistricting maps with some states losing seats and other states gaining them, the "currently held" language shouldn't be taken literally).

Democrats have been improving their predicted outcome since the U.S. Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade, but it isn't clear whether those gains will last long enough and be strong enough to tip the balance in November.

538 also has Governor's race forecasts (Kansas is the only toss-up race):

A New D.C. Think Tank Advancing Technological Progress And High-Skilled Immigration

As the Republican party grows to be Trumpist, the smart and principled people who were in that orbit of the old GOP coalition, from libertarians, to big business advocates, to neoconservatives, to neoliberals, are heading in new directions. Meanwhile the mass migration of affluent college educated people into the Democratic coalition has also shaped the factions within it which are asserting themselves. 

A new think tank in D.C. is representative of this trend.

I’m a fan of all kinds of immigration — I think they all strengthen our country. But I pay special attention to high-skilled immigration, for a number of reasons — because it’s strategically important, because it gives our economy an especially big boost, and because convincing skilled immigrants to come is not always easy.

In the last year or so, the Institute for Progress — a new think tank in D.C. championing policies to speed up technological progress — has been pushing hard to increase skilled immigration. So I asked IFP cofounder Alec Stapp and Senior Immigration Fellow Jeremy Neufeld to write a guest post laying out the case for focusing on skilled immigration, and what specific steps they’re looking at.
From the preface of a guest post at the Noapinion blog of Noah Smith entitled "The case for high-skilled immigration reform (and how to make it happen)."

The substance of the article is notable too, and I excerpt some highlights from it below.

The foundation sees encouraging "brain drain" from elsewhere as critical to American prosperity.
Immigration is America’s superpower. According to research by William Kerr at Harvard, between 2000 and 2010, America received more migrating inventors than every other country combined.

However, for decades, our broken immigration system has stacked obstacles in front of immigrants, succeeding in spite of itself thanks to the overwhelming desire of global talent to move here. But this pattern of migration that has served the U.S. so well is starting to change. Facing ever-growing wait times for green cards in the United States, talented immigrants are increasingly looking abroad for opportunities. According to a survey released last year by Boston Consulting Group, for the first time Canada has replaced the U.S. as the most desirable location for migrants moving for work. . . .

For a given level of immigration, scientists, engineers, inventors, and entrepreneurs deliver the largest benefits. Despite making up just 14% of the population, immigrants are responsible for 30% of U.S. patents and 38% of U.S. Nobel Prizes in science. A team of Stanford economists recently estimated that nearly three quarters of all U.S. innovation since 1976 can be attributed to high-skilled immigration. . . .  Recent analysis by the National Foundation for American Policy found that 55% of billion-dollar startups in the U.S. were started by immigrants. Somewhat ironically, the U.S. is actually the home of the most valuable company cofounded by someone born in “South Africa (Tesla), Russia (Alphabet), Ireland (Stripe), Taiwan (Nvidia), Kenya (Cognizant), Lebanon (Moderna), or Bulgaria (Robinhood),” as Byrne Hobart recently pointed out. . . .

One recent paper looked at competitors in the International Math Olympiad competition and followed them throughout their careers. This study found that “migrants to the U.S. are up to six times more productive than migrants to other countries — even after accounting for talent during one’s teenage years.” Further, immigrants help bring technologies from the frontier to developing countries.

And immigrants aren’t just economic contributors. Lawmakers in Washington increasingly recognize that skilled immigration can be a powerful lever against a belligerent China. Today, defense-related industries disproportionately turn to international talent to find workers with advanced STEM degrees. And there is nothing new about the idea that attracting the best and brightest can be a major strategic asset — it has been a major benefit to U.S. security from the Civil War through WWII, the Cold War, and beyond. . . .

The article then examines how to achieve this goal politically, arguing that high-skilled immigration has greater bipartisan support and gives rise to less political backlash than low-skilled immigration (much of which is extended family based in U.S. law):

In a paper analyzing U.S. election data, Anna Maria Mayda and coauthors show that high-skilled immigration does not carry a political cost (in fact it appears to be a political asset), but low-skilled immigration does. Research by Martin Ruhs shows that greater high-skilled immigration is correlated with a country being more open to immigrants.
Countries like Canada and Australia, though smaller than the U.S. in absolute size, have a much higher foreign born share of their population. They’ve been able to do this, in part, by using some version of a “point system” or other selection mechanisms that tilt immigration toward highly educated or skilled workers. In the U.S., only 36% of immigrants have a college degree, while in Canada and Australia, the shares are 65% and 63% respectively.

We can also look to the U.K. as a case study. Prior to Brexit, E.U. citizens were able to live, work, and study in the U.K. and negative public sentiment toward immigration rose with the annual rate of immigration. But after the Brexit referendum, once the public felt they were in control of their borders, negative sentiment toward immigration plummeted while immigration rates remained high, according to recent analysis by the Financial Times. And after free movement ended post-Brexit, the U.K. government expanded opportunities for high-skilled workers, launching its Global Talent visa and the High Potential Individual visa.

. . .

A majority of Americans (66%) say they would prefer to either increase the rate of immigration or keep it the same, according to Gallup. A minority — 31% — want to decrease it. But here’s the catch: Voters who oppose immigration care about the issue much more deeply than voters who support immigration. And their willingness to vote on this issue in Republican primaries is why many Republican politicians campaign on immigration restriction. Polls also show that voters “trust” Republicans more than Democrats on immigration (37% to 27% in one recent poll), which is why Democrats’ electoral chances suffer when the salience of this issue goes up in the media (e.g., when there’s video on cable news of migrants at the Southern border).

Fortunately, voters are more positive about high-skilled immigration. According to Pew, 78% of voters support high-skilled immigration, including 63% of those who said the country should allow fewer or no immigrants. . . .

The article then gets down to the brass tacks of specific ways that legislation and executive action could increase high-skilled immigration with incrementalist changes to existing immigration laws and related executive orders, as opposed to comprehensive immigration reform which has repeatedly stalled in Congress: 

The America COMPETES Act, which included a provision for a green card cap exemption for immigrants with advanced STEM degrees, passed the House of Representatives in February with nearly every Democrat voting in favor of the bill.

Republicans seem to be interested too. Senator Todd Young said earlier this year that “in terms of skills-based immigration reform, I think it’s essential to maintaining our national competitiveness.“ His comments have been echoed by other members of his caucus such as Senators Cassidy, Cornyn, Braun, and Lankford. Even Senator Chuck Grassley, a longtime immigration skeptic, has said this is an issue on which he has “changed [his] mind completely.” 
Source: CSIS

With the return of Great Power politics, policymakers understand that high-skilled immigration is how we can beat China and Russia. Less than 0.1% of China’s population is foreign born. On surveys, potential migrants do not say they want to move to China. And since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the tech talent pipeline is flowing out of Russia, not into it. . . .

There’s much for Congress to do, from allowing international students “dual intent” to make it easier for them to stay after graduation, to providing the necessary resources to USCIS to process visas efficiently and bring their system into the digital age.

The most essential action Congress should take is to lift the overly restrictive caps that are holding back green cards from highly qualified and promising talent. Employment-based green card caps are the key bottleneck for high-skilled immigration that only Congress can fix.

This bottleneck imposes major limitations on U.S. potential in two ways. 
First, it makes the U.S. a less attractive destination for potential immigrants, especially as compared to other countries like Canada and the UK which have taken active steps to attract talent with faster, more flexible options for permanent residency. 
Second, they force the immigrants who still want to come here through poorly designed and restrictive temporary visa programs that limit their opportunities while they wait for a green card. Many students who lose the H-1B lottery elect for more schooling they don’t really want since they are barred from employment. And many people stay at “safe” companies rather than take risks with startups. . . .

the executive branch also has significant power to improve high-skilled immigration. In January, the White House announced four initiatives to help the U.S. attract and retain STEM talent from around the world. It was an excellent first step, but large opportunities remain.

The O-1 visa for extraordinary ability is an uncapped category established by Congress, where the specific criteria for what counts as “extraordinary ability” is left to the executive. It does not require an employer-sponsor and gives recipients much more freedom to work, change jobs, or start new companies than other visas. An ambitious administration could use the discretion left by Congress to turn the O-1 into a visa program to rival the H-1B among the most talented people looking to come to the U.S. The administration should consider making it easier for startup founders to use the O-1, and broadening eligibility for people working in critical fields such as artificial intelligence.

The J visa for exchange visitors is another uncapped category ripe for additional executive reform. The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs is empowered to determine valid exchange categories. The current list could be expanded to promote intellectual exchange in both academia and the private sector. Further, the executive branch could adjust the requirement that exchange visitors return home for two years after the end of their program. This requirement doesn't apply to visitors from countries that have decided to waive it, and the U.S. benefits when such visitors decide to stay. The executive branch could retain more exchange visitors if a government body with an interest in securing STEM talent in the American workforce (such as the National Science Foundation or the Department of Defense) established objective eligibility criteria for J-1 holders to apply for an Interested Government Agency Waiver.

The H-1B is the biggest high-skilled program in the United States, and it too has significant problems that could be addressed by executive action. This year, employers filed nearly 500,000 petitions for 85,000 H-1B visas. Instead of allocating these scarce visas to the most valuable talent, USCIS runs a lottery in which world class experts have essentially the same chance of winning as entry-level IT workers. The lottery was established by USCIS, not Congress, and replacing this system has bipartisan support — the Trump administration attempted to replace it by executive order and it featured in a Biden campaign promise. While Trump’s attempt was ultimately struck down by the courts, it was for procedural reasons (it was an action taken by an unlawfully sitting DHS Secretary) and not on the merits of the proposal.

17 August 2022

Major Tax Provisions Of The Inflation Reduction Act That Just Became Law

The newly enacted Inflation Reduction Act has many tax provisions, including a lot of new environmental tax credits not discussed in detail below. Here are some of the highlights: 

The updated draft legislation of the Inflation Reduction Act would include the following major changes, effective beginning after December 31, 2022, unless otherwise noted:

Extends the limitation on pass-through business losses enacted in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) for two years through 2028.

Extends the expanded health insurance Premium Tax Credits provided in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), including allowing higher-income households to qualify for the credits and boosting the subsidy for lower-income households, through the end of 2025 
Imposes a 15 percent minimum tax on corporate book income for corporations with profits over $1 billion, effective for tax years beginning after December 31, 2022. 
Creates a 1 percent excise tax on the value of stock repurchases during the taxable year, net of new issuances of stock, effective for repurchases after December 31, 2022. Excluded from the tax are stock contributed to retirement accounts, pensions, and employee-stock ownership plans (ESOPs). 
Modifies, extends, and creates a variety of tax credits for green energy and other efforts primarily through 2031 or 2033. 
Raises the Superfund tax on crude oil and imported petroleum to 16.4 cents per barrel (indexed to inflation) and increases other taxes and fees on the fossil fuel sector. 
Expands IRS enforcement funding by about $80 billion over 10 years. 
Imposes a 95 percent excise tax penalty on drug manufacturers to lower drug prices. 
Increases the research & development tax credit amount that can be claimed against payroll taxes for small businesses by $250,000.

Via the Tax Foundation

The source is credible enough in describing the changes in the tax law, but is not credible in its assessment of the economic impact of the legislation.