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    Factory Jobs Are Booming Like It’s the 1970s

    U.S. manufacturing is experiencing a rebound, with companies adding workers amid high consumer demand for products.WASHINGTON — Ever since American manufacturing entered a long stretch of automation and outsourcing in the late 1970s, every recession has led to the loss of factory jobs that never returned. But the recovery from the pandemic recession has been different: American manufacturers have now added enough jobs to regain all that they shed — and then some.The resurgence has not been driven by companies bringing back factory jobs that had moved overseas, nor by the brawny industrial sectors and regions often evoked by President Biden, former President Donald J. Trump and other champions of manufacturing.Instead, the engines in this recovery include pharmaceutical plants, craft breweries and ice-cream makers. The newly created jobs are more likely to be located in the Mountain West and the Southeast than in the classic industrial strongholds of the Great Lakes.American manufacturers cut roughly 1.36 million jobs from February to April of 2020, as Covid-19 shut down much of the economy. As of August this year, manufacturers had added back about 1.43 million jobs, a net gain of 67,000 workers above prepandemic levels.Data suggest that the rebound is largely a product of the unique circumstances of the pandemic recession and recovery. Covid-19 crimped global supply chains, making domestic manufacturing more attractive to some companies. Federal stimulus spending helped to power a shift in Americans’ buying habits away from services like travel and restaurants and toward goods like cars and sofas, helping domestic factory production — and with it, job growth — to bounce back much faster than it did in the previous two recessions.Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said that the recovery of manufacturing jobs was a result of the unique nature of the recession, which was induced by the pandemic, and the robust federal response, including legislation like the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan of 2021.“We had a huge shift away from services and into goods that spurred production and manufacturing and very rapid recovery in the U.S. economy,” Ms. Yellen told reporters during a trip to Detroit this month. The support for local economies and small businesses included in Mr. Biden’s rescue plan, she said, “has been tremendously helpful in restoring the health of the job market and given the shifting in spending patterns, I think that’s been to the benefit of manufacturing.”American manufacturers, like many industries, have struggled to find raw materials, component parts and skilled workers. And yet, they have continued to create jobs at a rate that has surprised even some longtime promoters of American factory employment.“We have 67,000 more workers today than we had in February 2020,” said Chad Moutray, the chief economist for the National Association of Manufacturers. “I didn’t think we would get there, to be honest with you.”In recessions over the last half century, factories have typically laid off a greater share of workers than other employers in the economy, and they have been slower to add jobs back in recoveries. Often, companies have used those economic inflection points to accelerate their pace of outsourcing jobs to foreign countries, where wages are significantly lower, and to invest in technology that replaces human workers.The State of Jobs in the United StatesEconomists have been surprised by recent strength in the labor market, as the Federal Reserve tries to engineer a slowdown and tame inflation.August Jobs Report: Job growth slowed in August but stayed solid, suggesting that the labor market recovery remains resilient, even as companies pull back on hiring.Job Market Trends: The labor market appears hot, but the supply of labor has fallen short, holding back the economy. Here is why.Gig Workers: Labor activists hoped President Biden would tackle gig worker issues aggressively. But a year and a half into his presidency, little has been done at the federal level.Black Employment: Black workers saw wages and employment rates go up in the wake of the pandemic. But as the Federal Reserve tries to tame inflation, those gains could be eroded.This time was different. Factory layoffs roughly matched those in the services sector in the depth of the pandemic recession. Economists attribute that break in the trend to many U.S. manufacturers being deemed “essential” during pandemic lockdowns, and the ensuing surge in demand for their products by Americans.Manufacturing jobs quickly rebounded in the spring of 2020, then began to climb at a much faster pace than has been typical for factory job creation in recent decades. Since June 2020, under both Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden, factories have added more than 30,000 jobs a month.Sectors that hemorrhaged employment in recent recessions have fared much better in this recovery. Furniture makers, who eliminated a third of their jobs in the 2008 financial crisis and its aftermath, have nearly returned to their prepandemic employment levels. So have textile mills, paper products companies and computer equipment makers.Manufacturers say the numbers could be even stronger, if not for their continued difficulties attracting and hiring skilled workers amid 3.7 percent unemployment.Fernando Torres, vice president of operations for Greene Tweed, a Pennsylvania-based manufacturer of materials and components used by the aerospace and semiconductor industries, said his company has had to become more flexible to attract new workers and offer more attractive salaries and benefits. He has been looking for employees with different backgrounds that the company can train to develop the skills to fill open jobs, and said that it has been hard to retain staff because competitors are aggressively trying to lure them away.But Mr. Torres said that Greene Tweed, which employs just fewer than 2,000 workers, did not plan to give up, considering the demand for his company’s products.“We are looking for lots of employees,” Mr. Torres said. “We are not looking at slowing down.”Chuck Wetherington, president of BTE Technologies, a manufacturer of medical devices based in Maryland, said that he was trying to expand his work force of around 40 by 10 percent. A lack of workers, he said, has become a bigger problem than supply chain disruptions.“Our backlog continues to grow,” Mr. Wetherington said at a National Association of Manufacturers briefing. “I just can’t find the employees.”Mr. Biden has pushed a variety of legislative initiatives to boost domestic manufacturing, including direct spending on infrastructure, tax credits and other subsidies for companies like battery makers and semiconductor factories, and new federal procurement requirements that benefit manufacturers located in the United States. Biden administration officials say those policies could play a decisive role in further encouraging factory job growth in the coming months and years, in hopes of continuing the expansion and possibly pushing factory employment back to pre-2008 levels.Other factors could help hasten more American manufacturing. Delayed deliveries, sky-high shipping prices and other supply chain issues during the pandemic have encouraged some chief executives to think about moving production closer to home. The average price to ship a 40-foot container internationally has fallen sharply in recent months, but it is still three times higher than it was before the pandemic, according to tracking by the freight booking platform Freightos.A container ship at the Port of Los Angeles. As Covid-19 crimped global supply chains, domestic manufacturing became more attractive to some companies.Stella Kalinina for The New York TimesBusinesses are also beginning to question the wisdom of producing so many goods in China, amid rising tensions between Washington and Beijing over trade and technology. The Chinese government’s insistence on a zero-Covid policy, despite the severe disruptions it has caused for the economy, has especially shaken many executives’ confidence in their ability to operate in China. Mr. Biden has also maintained many tariffs on Chinese imports imposed by Mr. Trump.“The pandemic response by China has definitely prompted more than a rethink on where to put new money. I think we are actually beginning to see action,” said Mary Lovely, a professor of economics at Syracuse University and a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. How much of that investment came to the United States was unclear. “I don’t think anyone really knows,” she added.Ed Gresser, the vice president of trade and global markets at the Progressive Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank, said that the United States had seen a noticeable uptick in new manufacturing establishments since 2019, especially in the pharmaceutical sector, which might be a response to the pandemic. Food and beverage establishments have also continued to grow.But while growth in the U.S. manufacturing sector was strong last year, so were imports of manufactured goods, Mr. Gresser said. That suggests, he said, that the growth of manufacturing probably reflects strong consumer demand in the United States through the pandemic, rather than a shift to production in the United States.While attitudes toward doing business in China have quickly soured, patterns of production have been slower to change. A survey of 117 leading companies released in August by the U.S. China Business Council found that business optimism had reached record lows, but U.S. corporations remained overwhelmingly profitable in China, which is still home to the world’s most expansive ecosystem of factories and a lucrative consumer market.Eight percent of the surveyed companies reported moving segments of their supply chain out of China to the United States in the past year, while another 16 percent had moved some operations to other countries. But 78 percent of the companies said they had not shifted any business away from China.The Biden administration is hopeful that new policies — including a manufacturing competitiveness law and a climate law the president signed this summer — will encourage more companies to leave China for the United States, particularly cutting-edge industries like clean energy and advanced computing.Brian Deese, the director of the National Economic Council, said in an interview that the laws were already changing the calculus for investment and job creation in the United States. In recent weeks, White House officials have promoted factory announcements from automakers, battery companies and others, directly linked to the climate bill.“One of the most striking things that we are seeing now,” Mr. Deese said, “is the number of companies — U.S. companies and global companies — that are committing to build and expand their manufacturing footprint in the United States, and doing so based on their view that not only did the pandemic highlight the need for more resilience in their supply chains, but that the United States is creating a policy environment that makes long term investment here in the United States more attractive.” More

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    Inflation Report Dampens Biden’s Claims of Economic Progress

    The president is trying once again to accentuate the positives in the recovery from recession, but stubbornly high prices are complicating the message.The Consumer Price Index report for August showed inflation had not cooled as the administration had hoped and Americans had lost buying power over the last year as prices rose faster than wages.Sarah Silbiger for The New York TimesWASHINGTON — President Biden gathered with top Democrats at the White House on Tuesday to celebrate their inflation fight at an inopportune moment, as a sobering new report showed just how far the economy still has to go to bring soaring consumer prices under control.The Consumer Price Index report for August contained a large dose of unwelcome news for the president, who has sought to defuse Republican attacks over rising prices in the run-up to November’s midterm elections. It showed that inflation had not cooled as White House economists and other forecasters had hoped, and that workers had lost buying power over the last year as prices increased faster than wages.Another report, from the Census Bureau, showed that the typical American household saw its inflation-adjusted income fall slightly in 2021 from 2020. Perhaps more troubling for a president who has promised to close the gap between the very wealthy and the middle class, it showed that income inequality increased last year for the first time in a decade.Those developments challenged Mr. Biden’s renewed efforts to reframe the economy as a winning issue for him and his party before the midterms — though the president seemed unfazed.Mr. Biden welcomed thousands of supporters to the White House lawn to toast a new law that he says will help reduce the cost of electricity, prescription drugs and other staples of American life.The event was essentially a rally for the so-called Inflation Reduction Act, which raised taxes on large corporations, targeted nearly $400 billion in spending and tax incentives to reduce the fossil fuel emissions driving climate change, and took steps to reduce prescription drug costs for seniors on Medicare and premium costs for Americans who buy health insurance through the Affordable Care Act.Mr. Biden called the law “the single most important legislation passed in the Congress to combat inflation and one of the most significant laws in our nation’s history.”“There’s an extraordinary story being written in America today by this administration,” Mr. Biden said, adding, “This bill cut costs for families, helped reduce inflation at the kitchen table.”On Wednesday, Mr. Biden will head to the Detroit auto show, where he will champion his policies to bolster manufacturing and low-emission sources of energy.But the country’s economic reality remains more muddled than Mr. Biden’s rosy message, as the inflation report underscored. Food prices are continuing to spike, straining lower-income families in particular. The global economy is slowing sharply, and threats remain to the American recovery if European sanctions force millions of barrels of Russian oil off the global market in the months to come.The State of the 2022 Midterm ElectionsWith the primaries winding down, both parties are starting to shift their focus to the general election on Nov. 8.Polling Warnings: Democratic Senate candidates are polling well in the same places where surveys overestimated President Biden in 2020 and Hillary Clinton in 2016.Democrats’ Dilemma: The party’s candidates have been trying to signal their independence from the White House, while not distancing themselves from President Biden’s base or agenda.Intraparty G.O.P. Fight: Ahead of New Hampshire’s primary, mainstream Republicans have been vying to stop a Trump-style 2020 election denier running for Senate.Abortion Ballot Measures: First came Kansas. Now, Michigan voters will decide whether abortion will remain legal in their state. Democrats are hoping referendums like these will drive voter turnout.A possible railroad strike could disrupt domestic supply chains. The White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, told reporters on Tuesday that the president had called union and company leaders on Monday in an attempt to broker an agreement to avert the strike.Most important — and perhaps most damaging for Mr. Biden and Democrats — Americans’ wages have struggled to keep pace with fast-rising prices, an uncomfortable truth for a president who promised to make real wage gains a centerpiece of his economic program. Inflation-adjusted average hourly earnings ticked up across the economy in August, the Labor Department said on Tuesday, but they remain down nearly 3 percent from a year ago.Republicans were quick to criticize Mr. Biden after the report on Tuesday. “Every day, Americans endure Biden’s economic crisis,” said Representative Blaine Luetkemeyer of Missouri, the top Republican on the Small Business Committee. “The Democrats’ inflation continues to drive up costs and leads more and more small businesses and families questioning their future.”.css-1v2n82w{max-width:600px;width:calc(100% – 40px);margin-top:20px;margin-bottom:25px;height:auto;margin-left:auto;margin-right:auto;font-family:nyt-franklin;color:var(–color-content-secondary,#363636);}@media only screen and (max-width:480px){.css-1v2n82w{margin-left:20px;margin-right:20px;}}@media only screen and (min-width:1024px){.css-1v2n82w{width:600px;}}.css-161d8zr{width:40px;margin-bottom:18px;text-align:left;margin-left:0;color:var(–color-content-primary,#121212);border:1px solid var(–color-content-primary,#121212);}@media only screen and (max-width:480px){.css-161d8zr{width:30px;margin-bottom:15px;}}.css-tjtq43{line-height:25px;}@media only screen and (max-width:480px){.css-tjtq43{line-height:24px;}}.css-x1k33h{font-family:nyt-cheltenham;font-size:19px;font-weight:700;line-height:25px;}.css-ok2gjs{font-size:17px;font-weight:300;line-height:25px;}.css-ok2gjs a{font-weight:500;color:var(–color-content-secondary,#363636);}.css-1c013uz{margin-top:18px;margin-bottom:22px;}@media only screen and (max-width:480px){.css-1c013uz{font-size:14px;margin-top:15px;margin-bottom:20px;}}.css-1c013uz a{color:var(–color-signal-editorial,#326891);-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;font-weight:500;font-size:16px;}@media only screen and (max-width:480px){.css-1c013uz a{font-size:13px;}}.css-1c013uz a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}How Times reporters cover politics. We rely on our journalists to be independent observers. So while Times staff members may vote, they are not allowed to endorse or campaign for candidates or political causes. This includes participating in marches or rallies in support of a movement or giving money to, or raising money for, any political candidate or election cause.Learn more about our process.Mr. Biden and his aides have celebrated falling gasoline prices on a daily basis throughout the summer. Those decreasing prices have helped inflation moderate from its high point this year, though not enough to offset rising rent, food and other costs last month.Even as he acknowledges the pain of rapid price increases across the economy, Mr. Biden has claimed progress in the fight against inflation, including with the signing last month of the energy, health care and tax bill that Democrats called the Inflation Reduction Act. On Tuesday morning, he sought to put a positive shine on the August data, saying in a statement issued by the White House that it was a sign of “more progress” in bringing down inflation.At his celebration on Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Biden barely mentioned the word “inflation.” Instead, he talked about reducing medical and energy costs — and, to a much larger extent, about the law’s efforts to combat climate change.Near the end of the speech, he gave a strident defense of his administration’s economic record, including strong job creation, record small-business formation and a rebound of the manufacturing sector.“And guess what?” Mr. Biden said. “For all the criticism I got and the help you gave me for gas prices bringing — they’re down more than $1.30 a gallon since the start of the summer. We’re making progress. We’re getting other prices down as well. We have more to do. But we’re getting there.”Recent weeks have brought signs of hope for administration officials, among both consumers and companies. The National Federation of Independent Business reported on Tuesday that its Small Business Optimism Index rose in August as inflation anxiety eased, continuing a rebound from its depths this year. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported on Monday that consumer inflation expectations were also falling.Officials inside the administration and at the Federal Reserve say strong job growth and consumer spending this summer have put to rest fears that the country slipped into recession in the first half of the year.“What is most notable about where we are right now is the resilience of the labor market recovery, the resilience of American consumers and households, and that we are beginning to see some signs that prices may be moderating,” Brian Deese, the director of Mr. Biden’s National Economic Council, said in an interview this week.“There’s more work to do,” Mr. Deese said. “But I think that is a signal that the economic decisions that this president has made are bearing fruit.”But polls continue to show that inflation is hurting Mr. Biden and his party at a pivotal moment, as Democrats seek to retain control of the House and the Senate. High prices loom as the top issue for voters in national opinion polls, and Americans say they trust Republicans more to handle inflation and the economy overall than Democrats.On Tuesday, stock markets recorded their largest daily loss in two years, driven by investor fears of stubborn inflation pushing the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates higher and faster than many expected.Economists on Wall Street and in policy circles are debating whether the U.S. economy can achieve a so-called soft landing, with economic and job growth slowing in order to bring inflation down — but not slowing so much as to push millions of Americans out of work. Some, like the former Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers, have warned that the unemployment rate will need to rise significantly to bring price growth down to historical levels.Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, whose analyses of Mr. Biden’s policy proposals are often promoted by the White House, said on Twitter on Tuesday that “job and wage growth must sharply slow” to reduce price increases in the service sector. “This is on the Fed, which must hike rates to get job and wage growth down without pushing the economy under.”Tuesday’s inflation report, he added, “suggests that while still doable, it won’t be easy.” More

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    Strike Threat on Freight Railroads Is New Supply Chain Worry

    Administration officials are pushing for a settlement to head off a walkout by tens of thousands of workers on Friday.Biden administration officials are racing to prevent a strike by tens of thousands of freight railroad workers that could further disrupt an already strained supply chain and cause billions of dollars in economic damage.The industry failed to reach a contract agreement with two unions representing much of the work force, and a federally mandated 30-day “cooling off” period ends on Friday, opening a door to strikes and lockouts. Some freight companies have started to limit services, and Amtrak, which carries many travelers on lines operated by freight railroads, said it would cancel some passenger service starting on Tuesday.Labor Secretary Martin J. Walsh pressured both sides over the weekend to reach an agreement, and administration officials have held dozens of calls with the industry and the unions, according to the Labor Department.“All parties need to stay at the table, bargain in good faith to resolve outstanding issues and come to an agreement,” the department said in a statement. “The fact that we are already seeing some impacts of contingency planning by railways again demonstrates that a shutdown of our freight rail system is an unacceptable outcome for our economy and the American people, and all parties must work to avoid that.”The deadlock puts President Biden in a complicated position. His administration has taken pains to restore and fortify the supply chain, which was deeply disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. It has also worked hard to protect and endorse union rights.“A strike doesn’t help anybody,” Mr. Walsh said in an interview late last month. “A strike doesn’t help the workers. A strike doesn’t help the general public. A strike certainly doesn’t help the supply chain.”In July, Mr. Biden established an emergency board to help mediate the dispute between the industry, which includes six of the largest freight rail carriers, and about a dozen unions. Last month, that board recommended a resolution with a cumulative raise of 24 percent from 2020 through 2024, including an immediate 14 percent wage increase covering the first three years.Most of the unions agreed to the proposal, pending a vote of their membership. But two major unions are holding out for improvements to working conditions, which they say have steadily worsened in recent years as rail carriers have cut staffing.The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and the SMART Transportation Division, which represent engineers and conductors, say workers must often stay on call for several days at a time, working 12-hour shifts with little notice, and are penalized for calling in sick.“Our unions remain at the bargaining table and have given the rail carriers a proposal that we would be willing to submit to our members for ratification, but it is the rail carriers that refuse to reach an acceptable agreement,” they said in a joint statement. “In fact, it was abundantly clear from our negotiations over the past few days that the railroads show no intentions of reaching an agreement with our unions.”Inflation F.A.Q.Card 1 of 5What is inflation? More

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    This Remote Mine Could Foretell the Future of America’s Electric Car Industry

    Hiding a thousand feet below the earth’s surface in this patch of northern Minnesota wetlands are ancient mineral deposits that some view as critical to fueling America’s clean energy future.Tim Gruber for The New York TimesA company called Talon Metals is drilling here around the clock, extracting samples of rock rich with nickel in a bid to become the country’s sole source of a material used to power zero-emission vehicles.But some locals are fighting the mine, for fear it could pollute their environment. The pushback hints at how difficult it may be to build an all-American supply chain that powers the country’s transition to electric vehicles.This Remote Mine Could Foretell the Future of America’s Electric Car IndustryTAMARACK, Minn. — In this isolated town of about 100 people, dozens of employees are at work for Talon Metals, drawing long cylinders of rock from deep in the earth and analyzing their contents. They liken their work to a game of Battleship — each hole drilled allows them to better map out where a massive and long-hidden mineral deposit is lurking below.The company is proposing to build an underground mine near Tamarack that would produce nickel, a highly sought-after mineral that is used to power electric vehicles. It would be a profitable venture for Talon, which has a contract to supply nickel for Tesla’s car batteries, and a step forward in the country’s race to develop domestic supply chains to feed the growing demand for electric vehicles.But mines that extract metal from sulfide ore, as this one would, have a poor environmental record in the United States, and an even more checkered footprint globally. While some in the area argue the mine could bring good jobs to a sparsely populated region, others are deeply fearful that it could spoil local lakes and streams that feed into the Mississippi River. There is also concern that it could endanger the livelihoods and culture of Ojibwe tribes whose members live just over a mile from Talon’s land and have gathered wild rice here for generations.Talon says it will invest heavily to design the world’s greenest and most responsible mine yet, one that they say “Joe Biden can love.” But some people in the community remain skeptical, including about the company’s promises to respect Indigenous rights, like the tribes’ authority over lands where their members hunt and gather food. Part of that mistrust stems from the fact that Talon’s minority partner, Rio Tinto, provoked outrage in 2020 by blowing up a 46,000-year-old system of Aboriginal caves in Australia in a search for iron ore.Kelly Applegate, the commissioner of natural resources for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, said he was “very concerned” about how the mine might damage the environment. “This again is an assault on Native culture, a disturbance of our way of being, another trauma that could potentially happen to our people,” he said.He described it as a “huge environmental justice issue” to mine local resources for electric cars that the tribe’s members would be unable to afford. Except for some wealthy homeowners who spend their summers around the lakes, the area is one of the poorest parts of Minnesota. Native Americans in Minnesota experience poverty at higher rates than any other racial or ethnic group in the state. Locals say the only Tesla for miles is Talon’s company car.“Talon and Rio Tinto will come and go — greatly enriched by their mining operation. But we, and the remnants of the Tamarack mine, will be here forever,” Mr. Applegate said.The project, which lies 50 miles west of Lake Superior, highlights some of the challenges that are emerging as the Biden administration tries to transition America to electric vehicles. The administration has said it wants to make the supply chains for batteries more resilient by sourcing minerals inside North America. But that desire could bring its own potential for environmental damage and infringement of the rights of Indigenous Americans. Much of the nation’s supply of battery materials is near tribal land.The world urgently needs to switch to cleaner cars to limit the global damage from climate change, many climate activists say. Last week, California approved a plan to ban the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035.But current supply chains for electric vehicle batteries — and the batteries that would be needed for the electric grid that would charge that fleet of vehicles — rely on some adversarial and heavily polluting foreign nations. Much of the nickel that goes into car batteries is produced by strip mines that have decimated rainforests in Indonesia and the Philippines, releasing vast amounts of carbon dioxide before being refined in Chinese factories powered by coal.Read More on Electric VehiclesBanning Gasoline Cars: California is leading the way in the push to electrify the nation’s car fleet with a plan to ban sales of new internal-combustion vehicles by 2035, but the rule will face several challenges.Inflation Reduction Act: The law extends tax incentives in an effort to steer more U.S. consumers toward electric cars. But new rules complicate the qualification process.Plug-In Hybrids: After falling behind all-electric cars, U.S. sales of plug-in hybrids have been surging. The high cost of electric cars and gasoline have given them an opening.Car Crashes: Tesla and other automakers capture data from their vehicles to operate their products. Experts say the collected information could also improve road safety.Another source of nickel is a massive mining operation north of the Arctic Circle in Norilsk, Russia, which has produced so much sulfur dioxide that a plume of the toxic gas is big enough to be seen from space. Other minerals used in electric vehicle batteries, such as lithium and cobalt, appear to have been mined or refined with the use of child or forced labor.With global demand for electric vehicles projected to grow sixfold by 2030, the dirty origins of this otherwise promising green industry have become a looming crisis. The Democrats’ new tax and climate bill devotes nearly $400 billion to clean energy initiatives over the next decade, including electric vehicle tax credits and financing for companies that manufacture clean cars in the United States.New domestic high-tech mines and factories could make this supply chain more secure, and potentially less damaging to the global environment. But skeptics say those facilities may still pose a risk to the air, soil and water that surrounds them, and spark a fierce debate about which communities might bear those costs.The project is near lakes and streams that feed into the Mississippi River, and where Ojibwe tribes have gathered wild rice for generations.The potential risks to plants and wildlife come from the sulfide ores; the ores, in which materials like copper and nickel are lodged, can leach out sulfuric acid and heavy metals. More than a dozen former copper mines in the United States are now Superfund sites, contaminated locations where taxpayers can end up on the hook for cleanup.In January, the Biden administration canceled leases for another copper-nickel mine near a Minnesota wilderness area, saying the Trump administration had improperly renewed them.Talon Metals insists that it will have no such problems. “We can produce the battery materials that are necessary for the energy transition and also protect the environment,” said Todd Malan, the company’s chief external affairs officer and head of climate strategy. “It’s not a choice.”The company is using high-tech equipment to map underground flows of water in the area and create a 3-D model of the ore, so it can mine “surgically” while leaving other parts of the earth undisturbed, Mr. Malan said. Talon is also promising to use technology that will safely store the mine’s toxic byproducts and do its mining far underground, in deep bedrock where groundwater doesn’t typically penetrate.Talon has teamed up with the United Steelworkers union on work force development. And Rio Tinto has won a $2.2 million Department of Energy grant to explore capturing carbon near the site, which may allow the mine to market its products as zero emission.“We can produce the battery materials that are necessary for the energy transition and also protect the environment,” said Todd Malan, the chief external affairs officer and head of climate strategy at Talon.In a statement, Talon said it was committed to “meaningful consultations with tribal sovereign governments and tribal people” and producing a mine plan that addressed their concerns, as well as working with tribal governments interested in economic benefit sharing.The company has held several informational meetings with tribal staff and members, but some tribal members say they still need far more details from Talon about its plans.If the mine comes online in 2026 as scheduled, it will be positioned to feed a hungry market. The United States currently has one operating nickel mine, in Michigan, but its resources will be exhausted by 2026.In Washington, a bipartisan consensus is growing that the country should reduce its reliance on risky overseas minerals. To limit global warming to the levels that advanced countries have agreed on, the International Energy Agency estimates, the world will need roughly 20 times as much nickel and cobalt by 2040 as it had in 2020 and 40 times as much lithium.Recycling could play a bigger role in supplying these materials by the end of the decade, and some new car batteries do not use any nickel. Yet nickel is still highly sought after for electric trucks and higher-end cars, because it increases a vehicle’s range.The infrastructure law passed last year devoted $7 billion to developing the domestic supply chain for critical minerals. The climate and tax law also sets ambitious thresholds for ensuring that electric vehicles that receive tax incentives are partly U.S.-made.Elisabeth Kachinske logged core samples containing nickel at Talon’s offices in Tamarack, Minn.Talon’s proposed mine could help Tesla meet those thresholds. Tesla gets its nickel from China, Australia, New Caledonia and Canada, and its chief executive, Elon Musk, has begged miners to produce more.Some environmental and left-leaning groups that have long been skeptical of domestic mining are adjusting those positions, arguing that resources are needed for the energy transition.Collin O’Mara, the chief executive of the National Wildlife Federation, said that there was a growing need for battery materials that were mined responsibly, and that Talon was promising to use state-of-the-art techniques to minimize the mine’s footprint.But he acknowledged that for local residents it would still take a leap of faith in new technologies and Talon’s ability to apply them. “There still isn’t an example of an existing mine that has had no impacts,” he said.The economic potential — and the environmental risks — may go far beyond a single mine. The entire region is home to deposits of nickel, copper and cobalt, which were formed 1.1 billion years ago from a volcano that spewed out miles of liquid magma.Talon has leased 31,000 acres of land in the area, covering an 11-mile geological feature deep under the swamp. The company has zealously drilled and examined the underground resources along one of those 11 miles, and discovered several other potential satellite deposits.Elizabeth Skinaway, a member of the Sandy Lake Band of Minnesota Chippewa, is especially concerned about damage to the wild rice, which she has gathered in lakes near the proposed mine for 43 years.In August, the company announced that it had also acquired land in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to explore for more nickel.Talon will start Minnesota’s environmental review process within a few months, and the company says it anticipates a straightforward review. But legal challenges for proposed mines can regularly stretch to a decade or more, and some living near the project say they will do what they can to fight the mine.Elizabeth Skinaway and her sister, Jean Skinaway-Lawrence, members of the Sandy Lake Band of Minnesota Chippewa, are especially concerned about damage to the wild rice, which Ms. Skinaway has been gathering in lakes several miles from the proposed mine for 43 years.Ms. Skinaway acknowledges the need to combat climate change, which also threatens the rice. But she sees little justice in using the same kind of profit-driven, extractive industry that she said had long plundered native lands and damaged the global environment.“The wild rice, the gift from the creator, that’s going to be gone, from the sulfide that’s going to leach into the river and the lakes,” she said. “It’s just a really scary thought.”“We were here first,” said her sister. “We should be heard.”The Talon drill site near Tamarack. More

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    Biden’s Student Loan Plan Sets Off Fierce Debate Among Economists

    Liberals and more moderate Democrats are arguing over the impact on inflation, the federal budget deficit and high earners.WASHINGTON — President Biden’s plan to forgive some student debt has sharply divided liberal economists and pitted the White House economic team against both independent analysts and veterans of past Democratic administrations.The areas of disagreement include how much the package of debt relief and other changes to student loans will cost taxpayers and whether the plan is “paid for” in budgetary terms. The plan’s impact on inflation, which is rising at a rapid clip, and the degree to which it will help those most in need are also matters of contention.The plan, announced last week, includes forgiving up to $10,000 in loans for individuals earning $125,000 or less and an additional $10,000 for borrowers from low-income backgrounds who received Pell Grants in college. Mr. Biden also proposed changes to loan repayment plans going forward that will reduce monthly costs and eliminate interest accumulation for potentially millions of lower-earning borrowers who maintain payments.White House officials have offered partial estimates of who will benefit most from those moves, and how much they might reduce federal revenue. The officials have made a case for why the package will not add to inflation. And they have claimed it will be “paid for,” though not in any way that budget experts agree fits that term.Conservative economists have attacked the plan, claiming it would stoke higher inflation and burden taxpayers with hundreds of billions of dollars in new debt. Some liberal economists have defended it as a lifeline for graduates who have been harmed by the soaring costs of higher education.What to Know About Student Loan Debt ReliefCard 1 of 5What to Know About Student Loan Debt ReliefMany will benefit. More

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    Biden’s Big Dreams Meet the Limits of ‘Imperfect’ Tools

    The student loan plan is the latest example of Democrats practicing the art of the possible on the nation’s most pressing economic challenges and ending up with risky or patchwork solutions.WASHINGTON — President Biden’s move this week to cancel student loan debt for tens of millions of borrowers and reduce future loan payments for millions more comes with a huge catch, economists warn: It does almost nothing to limit the skyrocketing cost of college and could very well fuel even faster tuition increases in the future.That downside is a direct consequence of Mr. Biden’s decision to use executive action to erase some or all student debt for individuals earning $125,000 a year or less, after failing to push debt forgiveness through Congress. Experts warn that schools could easily game the new structure Mr. Biden has created for higher education financing, cranking up prices and encouraging students to load up on debt with the expectation that it will never need to be paid in full.It is the latest example, along with energy and health care, of Democrats in Washington seeking to address the nation’s most pressing economic challenges by practicing the art of the possible — and ending up with imperfect solutions.There are practical political limits to what Mr. Biden and his party can accomplish in Washington.Democrats have razor-thin margins in the House and Senate. Their ranks include liberals who favor wholesale overhaul of sectors like energy and education and centrists who prefer more modest changes, if any. Republicans have opposed nearly all of Mr. Biden’s attempts, along with those of President Barack Obama starting more than a decade ago, to expand the reach of government into the economy. The Supreme Court’s conservative majority has sought to curb what it sees as executive branch overreach on issues like climate change.As a result, much of the structure of key markets, like college and health insurance, remains intact. Mr. Biden has scored victories on climate, health care and now — pending possible legal challenges — student debt, often by pushing the boundaries of executive authority. Even progressives calling on him to do more agree he could not impose European-style government control over the higher education or health care systems without the help of Congress.The president has dropped entire sections of his policy agenda as he sought paths to compromise. He has been left to leverage what appears to be the most powerful tool currently available to Democrats in a polarized nation — the spending power of the federal government — as they seek to tackle the challenges of rising temperatures and impeded access to higher education and health care.Arindrajit Dube, an economist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who consulted with Mr. Biden’s aides on the student loan issue and supported his announcement this week, said in an interview that the debt cancellation plans were necessarily incomplete because Mr. Biden’s executive authority could reach only so far into the higher education system.“This is an imperfect tool,” Mr. Dube said, “that is however one that is at the president’s disposal, and he is using it.”But because the policies pursued by Mr. Biden and his party do comparatively little to affect the prices consumers pay in some parts of those markets, many experts warn, they risk raising costs to taxpayers and, in some cases, hurting some consumers they are trying to help.Mr. Biden’s plan would forgive up to $10,000 in student debt for individual borrowers earning $125,000 a year or less and households earning up to $250,000, with another $10,000 for Pell grant recipients.Cheriss May for The New York Times“You’ve done nothing that changes the structure of education” with Mr. Biden’s student loan moves, said R. Glenn Hubbard, a Columbia University economist who was the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers under President George W. Bush. “All you’re going to do is raise the price.”Mr. Hubbard said Mr. Biden’s team had made similar missteps on energy, health care, climate and more. “I understand the politics, so I’m not making a naïve comment here,” Mr. Hubbard said. “But fixing through subsidies doesn’t get you there — or it gets you such market distortions, you really ought to worry.”Mr. Biden said on Wednesday that his administration would forgive up to $10,000 in student debt for individual borrowers earning $125,000 a year or less and households earning up to $250,000, with another $10,000 in relief for people from low-income families who received Pell grants in school.What’s in the Inflation Reduction ActCard 1 of 8What’s in the Inflation Reduction ActA substantive legislation. More

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    Biden Student Loan Plan Squarely Targets Middle Class

    President Biden is offering what independent analysts suggest would be his most targeted assistance yet to middle-class workers — while trying to repair what he casts as a broken bridge to the middle class.WASHINGTON — The big winners from President Biden’s plan to forgive hundreds of billions of dollars in student loans are not rich graduates of Harvard and Yale, as many critics claim.In fact, the benefits of Mr. Biden’s proposals will largely go to the middle class. According to independent analyses, the people eligible for debt relief are disproportionately young and Black. And they are concentrated in the middle band of Americans by income, defined as households earning between $51,000 and $82,000 a year.The Education Department estimates that nearly 90 percent of affected borrowers earn $75,000 a year or less. Ivy League graduates make up less than 1 percent of federal student borrowers nationwide.Economists say the full scope of Mr. Biden’s plan, including significant changes meant to reduce the payments that millions of borrowers will make for years to come, will help middle-income earners from a wide range of schools and backgrounds.“You’ll have a lot more people who are making zero payments and will have significant loan forgiveness in the future,” said Constantine Yannelis, an economist at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. “The relief to borrowers is going to be more targeted to the people who really need it.”Yet despite the appeal of such debt relief, the program still has set off a contentious debate as economists and political figures assess the full consequences of the plan. By some estimates, it will cost as much as a half-trillion dollars over the course of a decade, imposing a future burden on American taxpayers.The plan also could encourage colleges to raise tuition even faster than they already are. Schools could try to persuade borrowers to take on as much debt as possible to cover higher tuition, with the belief that the federal government would help pay it back.Some conservative and Democratic economists also say the program could add significantly to what is already the highest inflation rate in four decades. Evidence suggests those claims are overstated, however, and American shoppers are not likely to see prices spike because of the program.The announcements Mr. Biden made, including both debt forgiveness and a restart next year of loan payments for all borrowers after a nearly three-year pause, will most likely be a wash for consumer prices, a wide range of economists say.“Debt forgiveness that lowers monthly payments is slightly inflationary in isolation,” analysts from Goldman Sachs wrote in a research note on Thursday, “but the resumption of payments is likely to more than offset this.”What to Know About Student Loan Debt ReliefCard 1 of 5What to Know About Student Loan Debt ReliefMany will benefit. More

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    Who Qualifies For Biden’s Student Loan Forgiveness Plan

    President Biden’s move means the student loan balances of millions of people could fall by as much as $20,000. This F.A.Q. explains how it will work.President Biden announced on Wednesday that the federal government would cancel up to $20,000 worth of federal student loans for millions of people. But not everyone with debt will qualify.The action includes rules that will maintain the balances of debtors who currently have high incomes. Those who do qualify will need to navigate the balky federal loan servicing system and keep a close eye on their accounts and credit reports for any mistakes.It also extends the pause on monthly student loan payments, which means that borrowers won’t have to resume payments until at least January, and provides details on a new proposal to create a more affordable income-driven repayment plan.What follows are questions you may have about the cancellation program with answers that have come from the White House, the Department of Education and student loan servicers.We will update this article in the coming days and weeks as more details become available.Who qualifies for loan cancellation?Individuals who are single and earn under $125,000 will qualify for the $10,000 in debt cancellation. If you’re married and file your taxes jointly or are a head of household, you qualify if your income is under $250,000.Eligibility will be based on your adjusted gross income. Income figures from either 2020 or 2021 can render you eligible, but 2022 income will not.If you received a Pell Grant and meet these income requirements, you could qualify for an extra $10,000 in cancellation.Loans obtained after June 30 are not eligible for relief.Which types of debt qualify?Only federal student loan debt is eligible. This includes PLUS loans, whether parents or graduate students took them out.Private loans are not eligible. Neither are many so-called F.F.E.L. loans, which stand for Federal Family Education Loan. If your F.F.E.L. loan was not eligible for the payment pause that began in 2020, it will not be eligible for the new cancellation.I didn’t finish my degree. Does that disqualify me?No.President Biden, speaking at Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University, is also giving those who received Pell Grants the possibility of qualifying for another $10,000 in loan cancellation.Doug Mills/The New York TimesWhat’s the first thing I need to do if I qualify?Start by making sure that your loan servicer knows how to find you, so that you’ll be able to receive any guidance it provides and follow any instructions that it issues. Check that your postal address, your email address and your mobile phone number are listed accurately.If you don’t know who your servicer is, consult the Department of Education’s “Who is my loan servicer?” web page for instructions.Will the $10,000 in cancellation happen automatically, or do I need to submit a tax return or do something else to prove that I qualify?It depends. If you’re already enrolled in some kind of income-driven repayment plan and have submitted your most recent tax return to certify that income, your servicer and the Education Department know how much you earn and you should not need to do anything else. Still, keep an eye out for guidance from your servicer.What to Know About Student Loan Debt ReliefCard 1 of 5What to Know About Student Loan Debt ReliefMany will benefit. More