A Universal EITC: Sharing the Gains from Economic Growth, Encouraging Work, and Supporting Families

A Universal EITC: Sharing the Gains from Economic Growth, Encouraging Work, and Supporting Families. Urban Institute. Leonard E. Burman. May 20, 2019

This report analyzes a straightforward mechanism to mitigate middle-class wage stagnation: a wage tax credit of 100 percent of earnings up to a maximum credit of $10,000, called a universal earned income tax credit. The child tax credit would increase from $2,000 to $2,500 and be made fully refundable. A broad-based, value-added tax of 11 percent would finance the new credit. The proposal is highly progressive and would nearly end poverty for families headed by a full-time worker. This report compares the proposal with current law, analyzes its economic effects, compares it to alternative reform options, and considers some complementary policy options. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 48 pages].

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Free Speech and the Regulation of Social Media Content

Free Speech and the Regulation of Social Media Content.  Congressional Research Service.  Valerie C. Brannon. March 27, 2019

As the Supreme Court has recognized, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have become important venues for users to exercise free speech rights protected under the First Amendment. Commentators and legislators, however, have questioned whether these social media platforms are living up to their reputation as digital public forums. Some have expressed concern that these sites are not doing enough to counter violent or false speech. At the same time, many argue that the platforms are unfairly banning and restricting access to potentially valuable speech.

[PDF format, 46 pages].

Water Infrastructure Financing: History of EPA Appropriations

Water Infrastructure Financing: History of EPA Appropriations. Congressional Research Service. Jonathan L. Ramseur, Mary Tiemann. Updated April 10, 2019

The principal federal program to aid municipal wastewater treatment plant construction is authorized in the Clean Water Act (CWA). Established as a grant program in 1972, it now capitalizes state loan programs through the clean water state revolving loan fund (CWSRF) program. Since FY1972, appropriations have totaled $98 billion.  In 1996, Congress amended the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA, P.L. 104-182) to authorize a similar state loan program for drinking water to help systems finance projects needed to comply with drinking water regulations and to protect public health. Since FY1997, appropriations for the drinking water state revolving loan fund (DWSRF) program have totaled $23 billion. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administers both SRF programs, which annually distribute funds to the states for implementation. Funding amounts are specified in the State and Tribal Assistance Grants (STAG) account of EPA annual appropriations acts. The combined appropriations for wastewater and drinking water infrastructure assistance have represented 25%-32% of total funds appropriated to EPA in recent years.

[PDF format, 43 pages].

Growing Cities That Work For All: A Capability-Based Approach To Regional Economic Competitiveness

Growing Cities That Work For All: A Capability-Based Approach To Regional Economic Competitiveness. Brookings Institution. Marcela Escobari et al. May 21, 2019.

Although today’s U.S. labor market is strong and unemployment is low, many working-age American remain marginalized. As communities across the country grapple with the challenges of an ever-evolving labor market, this report provides a framework for local leaders to grow good jobs through industrial development strategies that are based on their regions’ unique capabilities. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 52 pages].

Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act: Understanding Apportionments for States and Territories

Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act: Understanding Apportionments for States and Territories. Congressional Research Service. R. Eliot Crafton. April 5, 2019

The Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act (16 U.S.C. §§669 et seq.), enacted in 1937 and now known as the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act, provides funding for states and territories to support wildlife restoration, conservation, and hunter education and safety programs. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), within the Department of the Interior, administers Pittman-Robertson. All 50 states (but not the District of Columbia) as well as the 5 inhabited U.S. territories receive Pittman-Robertson funds. 

Funding for FWS to carry out Pittman-Robertson programs comes from excise taxes on firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment. Receipts from these excise taxes are deposited into the Federal Aid to Wildlife Restoration Fund in the Treasury, and monies from the fund are made available for FWS in the fiscal year following their collection without any further action by Congress. Between FY1939 and FY2019, FWS disbursed $18.8 billion (in 2018 dollars) for wildlife restoration and hunter education and safety activities for Pittman-Robertson programs.

[PDF format, 38 pages].

The Federal Communications Commission: Current Structure and Its Role in the Changing Telecommunications Landscape

The Federal Communications Commission: Current Structure and Its Role in the Changing Telecommunications Landscape. Congressional Research Service. Patricia Moloney Figliola. April 18, 2019.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is an independent federal agency established by the Communications Act of 1934 (1934 Act, or “Communications Act”). The agency is charged with regulating interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable. The mission of the FCC is to make available for all people of the United States, “without discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex, a rapid, efficient, Nationwide, and worldwide wire and radio communication service with adequate facilities at reasonable charges.”

The FCC operates under a public interest mandate first laid out in the 1927 Radio Act (P.L. 632, 69th Congress), but how this mandate is applied depends on how “the public interest” is interpreted. Some regulators seek to protect and benefit the public at large through regulation, while others seek to achieve the same goals through the promotion of market efficiency. Additionally, Congress granted the FCC wide latitude and flexibility to revise its interpretation of the public interest standard to reflect changing circumstances and the agency has not defined it in more concrete terms. These circumstances, paired with changes in FCC leadership, have led to significant changes over time in how the FCC regulates the broadcast and telecommunications industries. 

[PDF format, 19 pages].

News in a Digital Age: Comparing the Presentation of News Information over Time and Across Media Platforms

News in a Digital Age: Comparing the Presentation of News Information over Time and Across Media Platforms. RAND Corporation. Jennifer Kavanagh et al. May 14, 2019

This report presents a quantitative assessment of how the presentation of news has changed over the past 30 years and how it varies across platforms. Using RAND-Lex, a suite of tools that combine machine learning and text analysis, the researchers considered such linguistic characteristics as social attitude, sentiment, affect, subjectivity, and relation with authority for four comparisons: newspapers before and after 2000 (through 2017), broadcast television news before and after 2000 (through 2000), broadcast news and prime-time cable programming for the period from 2000 to 2017, and newspapers and online journalism during the 2012–2017 period. Over time, and as society moved from “old” to “new” media, news content has generally shifted from more-objective event- and context-based reporting to reporting that is more subjective, relies more heavily on argumentation and advocacy, and includes more emotional appeals. These changes were observed across platforms, appearing least significant in the evolution of print journalism and most stark in comparisons of broadcast news with prime-time cable programming and of print journalism with online journalism. The report quantifies the sizes of observed changes and provides examples of what these changes look like in context. It also includes a discussion of the implications of these trends for the changing media ecosystem and for Truth Decay—the term RAND uses to refer to the diminishing role of facts and analysis in political discourse. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 244 pages].