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    Yellen Embarks on Economic Victory Tour as Midterm Elections Approach

    DEARBORN, Mich. — Emerging from months of inflation and recession fears, the Biden administration is pivoting to recast its stewardship of the U.S. economy as a singular achievement. In their pitch to voters, two months before midterm elections determine whether Democrats will maintain full control of Washington, Biden officials are pointing to a postpandemic resurgence of factories and “forgotten” cities.The case was reinforced on Thursday by Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen, who laid out the trajectory of President Biden’s economic agenda on the floor of Ford Motor’s electric vehicle factory in Dearborn. Mich. Surrounded by F-150 Lightning trucks, Ms. Yellen described an economy where new infrastructure investments would soon make it easier to produce and move goods around the country, bringing prosperity to places that have been left behind.“We know that a disproportionate share of economic opportunity has been concentrated in major coastal cities,” Ms. Yellen said in a speech. “Investments from the Biden economic plan have already begun shifting this dynamic.”Her comments addressed a U.S. economy that is at a crossroads. Some metrics suggest that a run of the highest inflation in four decades has peaked, but recession fears still loom as the Federal Reserve continues to raise interest rates to contain rising prices. The price of gasoline has been easing in recent weeks, but a European Union embargo on Russian oil that is expected to take effect in December could send prices soaring again, rattling the global economy. Lockdowns in China in response to virus outbreaks continue to weigh on the world’s second-largest economy.In her speech on Thursday, Ms. Yellen said the legislation that Mr. Biden signed this year to promote infrastructure investment, expand the domestic semiconductor industry and support the transition to electric vehicles represented what she called “modern supply-side economics.” Rather than relying on tax cuts and deregulation to spur economic growth, as Republicans espouse, Ms. Yellen contends that investments that make it easier to produce products in the United States will lead to a more broad-based and stable economic expansion. She argued that an expansion of clean energy initiatives was also a matter of national security.“It will put us well on our way toward a future where we depend on the wind, sun and other clean sources for our energy,” Ms. Yellen said as Ford’s electric pickup trucks were assembled around her. “We will rid ourselves from our current dependence on fossil fuels and the whims of autocrats like Putin,” she said, referring to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.The remarks were the first of several that top Biden administration officials and the president himself are planning to make this month as midterm election campaigns around the country enter their final stretch. After months of being on the defensive in the face of criticism from Republicans who say Democrats fueled inflation by overstimulating the economy, the Biden administration is fully embracing the fruits of initiatives such as the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan of 2021, which disbursed $350 billion to states and cities.At the factory, Ms. Yellen met with some of Ford’s top engineers and executives. During her trip to Michigan, she also made stops in Detroit at an East African restaurant, an apparel manufacturer and a coffee shop that received federal stimulus funds. She dined with Detroit’s mayor, Mike Duggan, and Michigan’s lieutenant governor, Garlin Gilchrist.Detroit was awarded $827 million through the relief package and has been spending the money on projects to clean up blighted neighborhoods, expand broadband access and upgrade parks and recreation venues.Although Ms. Yellen is helping to lead what Treasury officials described as a victory lap, some of her top priorities have yet to be addressed..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.The so-called Inflation Reduction Act, which Congress passed last month, did not contain provisions to put the United States in compliance with the global tax agreement that Ms. Yellen brokered last year, which aimed to eliminate corporate tax havens, leaving the deal in limbo. On Thursday, she said she would continue to “advocate for additional reforms of our tax code and the global tax system.”Despite Ms. Yellen’s belief that some of the tariffs that the Trump administration imposed on Chinese imports were not strategic and should be removed, Mr. Biden has yet to roll them back. In her speech, Ms. Yellen accused China of unfairly using its market advantages as leverage against other countries but said maintaining “mutually beneficial trade” was important.Ms. Yellen also made no mention in her speech of Mr. Biden’s recent decision to cancel student loan debt for millions of Americans. She believed the policy, which budget analysts estimate could cost the federal government $300 billion, could fuel inflation.Treasury Department officials said Detroit, the center of the American automobile industry, exemplified how many elements of the Biden administration’s economic agenda are coming together to benefit a place that epitomized the economic carnage of the 2008 financial crisis. Legislation that Democrats passed this year is meant to create new incentives for the purchase of electric vehicles, improve access to microchips that are critical for car manufacturing and smooth out supply chains that have been disrupted during the pandemic.“There will be greater certainty in our increasingly technology-dependent economy,” Ms. Yellen said.But the transition to a postpandemic economy has had its share of turbulence.Ford said last month that it was cutting 3,000 jobs as part of an effort to reduce costs and become more competitive amid the industry’s evolution to electric vehicles. The company also cut nearly 300 workers in April.“People in Michigan can be pretty nervous about the transition to electric vehicles because they actually require by some estimation a lot less labor to assemble because there are fewer parts,” said Gabriel Ehrlich, an economist at the University of Michigan. “There are questions about what does that mean for these jobs.”Republicans in Congress continue to assail the Biden administration’s management of the economy.“Inflation continues to sit at a 40-year high, eating away at paychecks and sending costs through the roof,” Representative Tim Walberg, a Michigan Republican, said on Twitter on Thursday. “While in Michigan today, Secretary Yellen should apologize for being so wrong about the inflation-fueling impact of the Biden administration’s runaway spending.”Ms. Yellen will be followed to Michigan next week by Mr. Biden, who will attend Detroit’s annual auto show.The business community in Detroit, noting the magnetism of Michigan’s swing-state status, welcomed the attention.“We’re about as purple as it gets right now,” Sandy K. Baruah, the chief executive of the Detroit Regional Chamber, a business group.Noting the importance of the automobile industry to America’s economy, Mr. Baruah added: “When you think about blue-collar jobs and the transitioning nature of blue-collar jobs, especially in the manufacturing space, Michigan has the perfect optics.” More

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    Biden Administration Releases Plan for $50 Billion Investment in Chips

    The Commerce Department issued guidelines for companies angling to receive federal funding aimed at bolstering the domestic semiconductor industry.WASHINGTON — The Department of Commerce on Tuesday unveiled its plan for dispensing $50 billion aimed at building up the domestic semiconductor industry and countering China, in what is expected to be the biggest U.S. government effort in decades to shape a strategic industry.About $28 billion of the so-called CHIPS for America Fund is expected to go toward grants and loans to help build facilities for making, assembling and packaging some of the world’s more advanced chips.Another $10 billion will be devoted to expanding manufacturing for older generations of technology used in cars and communications technology, as well as specialty technologies and other industry suppliers, while $11 billion will go toward research and development initiatives related to the industry.The department is aiming to begin soliciting applications for the funding from companies no later than February, and it could begin disbursing money by next spring, Gina Raimondo, the secretary of commerce, said in an interview.The fund, which was approved by Congress in July, was created to encourage U.S. production of strategically important semiconductors and spur research and development into the next generation of chip technologies. The Biden administration says the investments will lessen dependence on a foreign supply chain that has become an urgent threat to the country’s national security.“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, a once-in-a-generation opportunity, to secure our national security and revitalize American manufacturing and revitalize American innovation and research and development,” Ms. Raimondo said. “So, although we’re working with urgency, we have to get it right, and that’s why we are laying out the strategy now.”Trade experts have called the fund the most significant investment in industrial policy that the United States has made in at least 50 years.It will come at a pivotal moment for the semiconductor industry.Tensions between the United States and China are rising over Taiwan, the self-governing island that is the source of more than two-thirds of the most advanced semiconductors. Shortages of semiconductors have also helped to fuel inflation globally, by increasing delivery times and prices for electronics, appliances and cars.Semiconductors are crucial components in mobile phones, pacemakers and coffee makers, and they are also the key to advanced technologies like quantum computing, artificial intelligence and unmanned drones.With midterm elections fast approaching, the Biden administration is under pressure to demonstrate that it can use this funding wisely and lure manufacturing investments back to the United States. The Commerce Department is responsible for choosing which companies receive the money and monitoring their investments.In its strategy paper, the Commerce Department said that the United States remained the global leader in chip design, but that it had lost its leading edge in producing the world’s most advanced semiconductors. In the last few years, China has accounted for a substantial portion of newly built manufacturing, the paper said.The high cost of building the kind of complex facilities that manufacture semiconductors, called fabs, has pushed companies to separate their facilities for designing chips from those that manufacture them. Many leading companies, like Qualcomm, Nvidia and Apple, design chips in the United States, but they contract out their fabrication to foundries based in Asia, particularly in Taiwan. The system creates a risky source of dependence for the chips industry, the White House says.The department said the funding aimed to help offset the higher costs of building and operating facilities in the United States compared with other countries, and to encourage companies to build the larger type of fabs in the United States that are now more common in Asia. Domestic and foreign companies can apply for the funds, as long as they invest in projects in the United States.To receive the money, companies will need to demonstrate the long-term economic viability of their project, as well as “spillover benefits” for the communities they operate in, like investments in infrastructure and work force development, or their ability to attract suppliers and customers, the department said.Projects that involve economically disadvantaged individuals and businesses owned by minorities, veterans or women, or that are based in rural areas, will be prioritized, the department said. So will projects that help make the supply chain more secure by, for example, providing another production location for advanced chips that are manufactured in Taiwan. Companies are encouraged to demonstrate that they can obtain other sources of funding, including private capital and state and local investment.The Commerce Department is setting up two new offices housed under the National Institute of Standards and Technology to set up the programs.One of the department’s biggest challenges will be ensuring that the government funds add to, rather than displace, money that chip making companies were already planning to invest. Companies including GlobalFoundries, Micron, Qualcomm and Intel have announced plans to make major investments in U.S. facilities that may qualify for government funding.The chips bill specifies that companies that accept funding cannot make new, high-tech investments in China or other “countries of concern” for at least a decade, unless they are producing lower-tech “legacy chips” destined to serve only the local market.The Commerce Department said it would review and audit companies that receive the funding, and claw back funds from any company that violates the rules. The guidelines also forbid recipients from engaging in stock buybacks, so that taxpayer money doesn’t end up being used to reward a company’s investors.“We’re going to run a serious, competitive, transparent process,” Ms. Raimondo said. “We are negotiating for every nickel of taxpayer money.”In addition to the new prohibitions on investing in chip manufacturing facilities in China, officials in the Biden administration have agreed that the White House should take executive action to scrutinize outbound investment in other industries as well, Ms. Raimondo said.But she added that the administration was still working through the details of how to put such a policy in place.Earlier versions of the chips bill also proposed setting up a broader system to review investments that U.S. companies make abroad to prevent certain strategic technologies from being shared with U.S. adversaries. That provision, which would have applied to cutting-edge technologies beyond the chips sector, was stripped out of the bill, but officials in the Biden administration have been considering an executive order that would establish a similar review process.The United States has a review system for investments that foreign companies make in the United States, but not vice versa.The Biden administration has also taken steps to restrict the types of advanced semiconductors and equipment that can be exported out of the United States.In statements last week, Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices, both based in Silicon Valley, said they had been notified by the U.S. government that exports to China and Russia of certain high-end chips they produce for use in supercomputers and artificial intelligence were now restricted. These chips help power the kind of supercomputers that can be used in weapons development and intelligence gathering, including large-scale surveillance. Ms. Raimondo declined to discuss the export controls in detail but said the department was “constantly evaluating” its efforts, including how best to work with allies to deny China the equipment, software and tooling the country uses to enhance its semiconductor industry. More

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    In California’s Housing Fight, It’s Newsom vs. NIMBY

    Laws to encourage more development and denser housing don’t do much good if no one enforces them. As the state political calculus shifts, Gavin Newsom is trying to change that.By any objective measure, nothing that happens in Woodside, Calif., is going to make much difference to a state whose housing crisis is characterized by some of the nation’s highest rents and home prices and has more than 100,000 people living on its streets. The town, a wealthy enclave of the Silicon Valley, is less than 12 square miles and contains about 5,000 of California’s 40 million residents.But earlier this year, when Woodside’s government made a curious announcement that the town was being designated a sanctuary for mountain lions — a move that, as it happened, would also protect a hamlet of multimillion-dollar homes from a new law allowing duplexes across the state — the response was an object lesson in how California politics have shifted as housing has become voters’ primary concern.The Department of Housing and Community Development, California’s main housing agency, said it was investigating the mountain lion plan. The state attorney general followed with a letter (and a news release announcing the letter) that said the proposed sanctuary was illegal, and accused the town of “deliberately attempting to shut off the supply of new housing opportunities.”Along the way legislators, housing advocates and even the Sacramento-based Mountain Lion Foundation pilloried the move. Woodside reversed course after the Department of Fish and Wildlife advised city officials that it was impossible for the entire town to be considered a cougar habitat. Shortly after, the city announced it was taking applications for duplexes.Woodside, Calif., tried to declare itself a mountain lion habitat, a move that would have barred duplex housing in the town. The state pushed back.Jim Wilson/The New York TimesFor the past six years, through boom, bust and pandemic, California’s Legislature has ended each session with a blitz of new laws that aim to make housing more plentiful and affordable. Statewide rent control. Moves to encourage backyard units. A dismantling of single-family zoning rules. The barrage continued in this year’s session, concluded on Wednesday, when lawmakers passed a pair of measures that aim to turn retail centers, office buildings and parking lots into potentially millions of future housing units — moves that caused many political observers to reconsider what is politically possible.The laws received a decent amount of fanfare at each signing, signaling a turn in state policy and priorities. Until recently though, no one put much effort into enforcing them.That has started to change as Gov. Gavin Newsom has, for reasons practical and political, shifted toward an increasingly aggressive effort to enforce laws already on the books. This ranges from small-scale stings, like the state housing agency’s sending letters to local governments telling them that they are out of compliance with state housing regulations, to much larger efforts, like a first-of-its-kind investigation into San Francisco’s notoriously complex development process.In some cases, the governor’s office is working with the attorney general to initiate lawsuits against localities that they believe are breaking the law. Rob Bonta, the California attorney general, who along with Mr. Newsom is running for re-election this year, said he expected this to only get more intense.“We are just getting started,” he said in an interview.The policy is simple: Laws that are good enough to sign should be good enough to enforce. But there are political calculations as well, and they begin with a harsh reality. No matter how much legislation the state passes, its housing crisis is so deep and multifaceted that it will be nearly impossible to show real progress in any given political cycle, and probably not for decades.Read More on the Newsom AdministrationGasoline Cars: California is moving ahead with a ban on the sale of new internal-combustion vehicles in the state by 2035, as part of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s big climate plan,Injection-Site Bill: The governor vetoed a bill for supervised drug-injection sites in California, saying the state was not ready to put the idea into practice.Abortion: With the end of Roe v. Wade, Mr. Newsom vowed to “fight like hell” for abortion rights. His state is also looking to enshrine those rights in its constitution.Contentious Bills: The governor must decide whether to sign into law or veto several proposals that have drawn intense lobbying from both sides. Here is a closer look at some bills under consideration.That is a hard sell to voters who would like quick victories. Lacking a slam dunk to point to in campaign ads, Mr. Newsom and others have been applying the law, loudly. Take, for instance, the recent interview in which the governor told The San Francisco Chronicle that “NIMBYism is destroying the state” (referring to the “not in my backyard” attitude that impedes new housing). Or the mad rush to condemn Woodside. Or the Housing Strike Force that Mr. Bonta announced in November.“Over the last 50 or 60 years, cities have not made the right decisions collectively on housing,” said Jason Elliott, a senior counselor to Mr. Newsom who oversees housing policy. “That has left us in a place where the state has no choice but to enforce the law.”The notoriously complex development process in San Francisco is the focus of a state investigation.Jim Wilson/The New York TimesCalifornia has long been described as a look at the nation’s future, and in the case of housing, the good and bad, this frame has held true since the end of World War II. Today, as the rising cost of housing has ballooned into a national problem, state legislatures across the country have mirrored California by passing a host of new laws that aim to speed new development and allow denser forms of housing.The Biden administration is hoping to encourage these efforts with a “Housing Supply Action Plan,” which, among other things, would use grant funding as a carrot for local governments that liberalize their housing laws.Those reforms won’t amount to much if cities never follow them, however. And while that might sound obvious, passing laws that nobody follows has historically been where state housing policy began and ended. That’s because, in California and elsewhere, most of the power about where and how to build has traditionally been left to local governments, on the theory that land use is better handled by people closest to the problem.“The role the state was playing is that they would mostly advise cities on what to do and make recommendations,” said Ben Metcalf, who is managing director of the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at the University of California, Berkeley. He ran California’s Department of Housing and Community Development from 2016 to 2019.The problem is that homeowners and renters from a wide range of income levels are frequently antagonistic to having anything, and especially anything dense, built in their neighborhoods. And local elected officials are beholden to them. The result is that even though California has had various housing laws on its books for decades, cities regard them as pliable, and the state, in deference to local control, has rarely challenged them.“For decades there has been a pattern where cities flagrantly ignore state housing law and the state responds by halfheartedly saying, ‘Can you pretty please follow the law?’” said Laura Foote, executive director of YIMBY Action, a San Francisco Bay Area-based nonprofit that supports building more housing around the country. “Then the cities ignore them, and the state says, ‘OK, we’ll get you next time.’”Laura Foote, the executive director of YIMBY Action.Andrew Burton for The New York TimesUntil 2017, when a suite of new laws expanded the Department of Housing and Community Development’s authority, it wasn’t even clear if it had the power to penalize cities that weren’t following state housing dictates. Mr. Newsom’s administration has since used $4 million to create a housing Accountability and Enforcement unit to investigate cities and implement the laws, while legislators have usurped local authorities by forcing them to plan for more and denser housing, hemmed their options for stopping it, and created measures to strip them of land use power when they don’t comply.“It gives us something to ensure that these programs aren’t just writing,” said David Zisser, who heads the housing department’s new enforcement unit.As affordable housing problems spread, California’s enforcement kick could be an indication of an increasingly pitched battle between cities and states over housing. It also gives a clue into how Mr. Newsom might defend himself from political attacks over California’s housing and homelessness problems, something that is all but guaranteed to happen if he seeks higher office. (A Newsom run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2024 is currently the stuff of political parlor games, and despite the chatter, the governor and everyone in his camp dismiss such ambitions.)In the interview, Mr. Elliott, the housing adviser, noted that the advantage the governor has in enforcing tough housing measures is that he draws votes from around the state instead of locally. The administration can play the heavy in a local dispute without having to worry about alienating its entire voting base.“It’s very logical, politically, for an individual city council person or an individual member of a board of supervisors to be against an individual project,” he said. “I think the job of the state is to change the political calculus so ‘yes’ becomes the default instead of ‘no.’”There is already some indication that years of state housing bills, combined with rising voter frustrations, have started to create such a shift. When the state housing department opened its investigation into San Francisco in August, London Breed, the city’s mayor, welcomed it with a tweet.“When I ran in 2018, it was a vulnerability to be an unapologetically pro-housing candidate,” said Buffy Wicks, a Democratic Assembly member from Oakland who wrote one of the two main housing bills passed by the Legislature this week. “Now it is absolutely an asset. I get up on the floor of the Assembly and I say, 10 times a week, ‘We have to build more housing in our communities, all of our communities need more housing, we need low-income, middle-income, market rate.’ You couldn’t do that in a comfortable way four years ago.”Cities seem to have absorbed the new reality of a state on closer watch. Last year, after the Legislature passed the duplex law, dozens of cities responded by adopting a slew of new ordinances that don’t explicitly prohibit the units but, through a series of tiny rules, tried to discourage anyone from actually building them.Woodside’s Mountain Lion proposal got the most attention but was far from the only one.When Temple City, in Los Angeles’s San Gabriel Valley, adopted rules for how it would carry out the duplex law — rules that required new units to have a large outdoor courtyard, the highest level of energy efficiency, and restricted future tenants from parking on site or obtaining permits to park on the street overnight — the City Council was clear what the aim was.“What we are trying to do here is to mitigate the impact of what we believe is a ridiculous state law,” said Councilman Tom Chavez, just before the Council unanimously passed the measure.By April, the Department of Housing and Community Development had warned Temple City that its new ordinance was likely in violation of at least five state housing laws. In an email, Bryan Cook, the city manager, said it was working with the state and would consider changing the ordinance after its work with the state was done. More

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    California Senate Passes Bill to Regulate Fast-Food Industry

    If signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, the measure would create a state council to establish minimum pay and safety conditions on an industrywide basis.The California State Senate passed a bill on Monday that could transform the way the service sector is regulated by creating a council to set wages and improve working conditions for fast-food workers.The measure, known as A.B. 257, passed by a vote of 21 to 12. The State Assembly had already approved a version of the measure, and it now requires the approval of Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has not indicated whether he will sign it. The bill was vehemently opposed by the fast-food industry.The bill could herald an important step toward sectoral bargaining, in which workers and employers negotiate compensation and working conditions on an industrywide basis, as opposed to enterprise bargaining, in which workers negotiate with individual companies at individual locations.“In my view, it’s one of the most significant pieces of state employment legislation that’s passed in a long time,” said Kate Andrias, a labor law expert at Columbia University. “It gives workers a formal seat at the table with employers to set standards across the industry that’s not limited to setting minimum wages.”While sectoral bargaining is common in Europe, it is rare in the United States, though certain industries, like auto manufacturing, have arrangements that approximate it. The California bill wouldn’t bring true sectoral bargaining — which involves workers negotiating directly with employers, instead of a government entity setting broad standards — but incorporates crucial elements of the model.The bill would set up a 10-member council that would include worker and employer representatives and two state officials, and that would review pay and safety standards across the restaurant industry.The council could issue health, safety and anti-discrimination regulations and set an industrywide minimum wage. The legislation caps the figure at $22 an hour next year, when the statewide minimum wage will be $15.50. The bill also requires annual cost-of-living adjustments for any new wage floor beginning in 2024.Restaurant chains with at least 100 locations nationwide would come under the council’s jurisdiction — including companies like Starbucks that own and operate their stores as well as franchisees of large companies like McDonald’s. Hundreds of thousands of workers in the state would be affected.The council would shut down after six years but could be reconvened by the Legislature.Mary Kay Henry, the president of the nearly two-million-member Service Employees International Union, which pushed for the legislation, said it was critical because of the challenges that workers have faced when trying to change policies by unionizing store by store.“The stores get closed or the franchise owner sells or the multinational pulls the lease for the real estate,” Ms. Henry said. Franchise industry officials say it is extremely rare to close a store in response to a union campaign. Starbucks recently closed several corporate-owned stores across the country where workers had unionized or were trying to unionize, citing safety concerns like crime, though the company also closed a number of nonunion stores for the same stated reasons. Industry officials argue that the bill will raise labor costs, and therefore menu prices, when inflation is already a widespread concern. A recent report by the Center for Economic Forecasting and Development at the University of California, Riverside, estimated that employers would pass along about one-third of any increase in labor compensation to consumers.“We are pulling the fire alarm in all states to wake our members up about what’s going on in California,” said Matthew Haller, the president of the International Franchise Association, an industry group that opposes the bill. “We are concerned about other states — the multiplier effect of something like this.”Ingrid Vilorio, who works at a Jack in the Box franchise near Oakland, Calif., and who pressed legislators to back the bill during several trips to Sacramento, the state capital, said she believed the measure would lead to improvements in safety — for example, through rules that require employers to quickly repair or replace broken equipment like grills and fryers, which can cause burns.Ms. Vilorio said she also hoped the council would crack down on problems like sexual harassment, wage theft and denial of paid sick leave. She said she and her co-workers went on strike last year to demand masks, hand sanitizer and the Covid-19 sick pay they were entitled to receive. Jack in the Box did not respond to a request for comment.Mr. Haller said state agencies were already authorized to crack down on employers who violate laws governing the payment of wages, safety, discrimination and harassment.“The state has the existing tools at its disposal,” Mr. Haller said. “They should be more fully funded rather than put a punitive target on a subsection of a sector.”Mr. Haller and other opponents have cited a critique by the state’s Department of Finance arguing that the bill “could lead to a fragmented regulatory and legal environment for employers” and “exacerbate existing delays” in enforcement by increasing the burden on agencies that oversee existing rules. The bill does not provide additional funding for enforcement agencies.David Weil, who under President Barack Obama oversaw the agency that enforces the federal minimum wage, said that, while funding is critical for labor regulators, the new council could benefit a broad swath of workers even without additional funding. For example, he said, raising the minimum wage for fast-food workers could increase wages for workers in other sectors, like retail, that compete with fast-food restaurants for labor.But Dr. Weil agreed that creating new standards in the fast-food industry could end up drawing resources away from the enforcement of labor and employment laws in other industries where workers may be equally vulnerable.Opponents managed to secure a number of concessions in the State Senate, such as preventing the council from creating sick-leave or paid-time-off benefits, or rules that restrict scheduling.The Senate also eliminated a so-called joint liability provision, which would have allowed regulators to hold parent companies like McDonald’s liable for violations by franchise owners. 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 Signs Climate, Health Bill Into Law as Other Economic Goals Remain

    The bill is the latest victory for the president on overhauling the physical economy, but he has found less support for plans to help workers.President Biden signed an expansive health, climate and tax law after more than a year of on-again, off-again negotiations with Congress.Doug Mills/The New York TimesWASHINGTON — President Biden signed into law a landmark tax, health and energy bill on Tuesday that takes significant steps toward fulfilling his goal to modernize the American economy and reduce its dependence on fossil fuels.The vast legislation will lower prescription drug costs for seniors on Medicare, extend federal subsidies for health insurance and reduce the federal deficit. It will also help electric utilities switch to lower-emission sources of energy and encourage Americans to buy electric vehicles through tax credits.What it does not do, however, is provide workers with many of the other sweeping economic changes that Mr. Biden pledged would help Americans earn more and enjoy the comforts of a middle-class life.Mr. Biden signed the bill, which Democrats call the Inflation Reduction Act, in the State Dining Room at the White House. He and his allies cast the success of the legislation as little short of a miracle, given it required more than a year of intense negotiations among congressional Democrats. In his remarks, Mr. Biden proclaimed victory as he signed a compromise bill that he called “the biggest step forward on climate ever” and “a godsend to many families” struggling with prescription drug costs.“The bill I’m about to sign is not just about today; it’s about tomorrow. It’s about delivering progress and prosperity to American families,” Mr. Biden said.Administration officials say Mr. Biden has passed far more of his economic agenda than they could have possibly hoped for, given Republican opposition to much of his agenda on taxes and spending and razor-thin Democratic majorities in the House and Senate. His wins include a $1.9 trillion economic rescue plan last year designed to get workers and businesses through the pandemic and a pair of bipartisan bills aimed at American competitiveness: a $1 trillion infrastructure bill and $280 billion in spending to spur domestic semiconductor manufacturing and counter China.But there is little dispute that Mr. Biden has been unable to persuade lawmakers to go along with one of his biggest economic goals: investing in workers, families, students and other people.Both parts of the equation — modernizing the physical backbone of the economy and empowering its workers — are crucial for Mr. Biden’s vision for how a more assertive federal government can speed economic growth and ensure its spoils are widely shared.In a warming world with increased economic competition from sometimes adversarial nations, Mr. Biden considers investment in low-emission energy sources and advanced manufacturing critical to American businesses and the nation’s economic health.Mr. Biden also sees human investment as crucial. The American economy remains dominated by service industries like restaurants and medicine. Its recovery from the pandemic recession has been stunted, in part, by breakdowns in support for some of the workers who should be powering those industries’ revival. The cost and availability of child care alone is keeping many potential workers sidelined, leading to an abundance of unfilled job openings and costing business owners money.What’s in the Inflation Reduction ActCard 1 of 8What’s in the Inflation Reduction ActA substantive legislation. More

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    Biden Signs Industrial Policy Bill Aimed at Bolstering Competition With China

    WASHINGTON — President Biden on Tuesday signed into law a sprawling $280 billion bill aimed at bolstering American chip manufacturing to address global supply chain issues and counter the rising influence of China, part of a renewed effort by the White House to galvanize its base around a recent slate of legislative victories.Standing before business leaders and lawmakers in the Rose Garden, Mr. Biden said the bill was proof that bipartisanship in Washington could produce legislation that would build up a technology sector, lure semiconductor manufacturing back to the United States and eventually create thousands of new American jobs.“Fundamental change is taking place today, politically, economically and technologically,” Mr. Biden said. “Change that can either strengthen our sense of control and security, of dignity and pride in our lives and our nation, or change that weakens us.”The bipartisan compromise showed a rare consensus in a deeply divided Washington, reflecting the sense of urgency among both Republicans and Democrats for an industrial policy that could help the United States compete with China. Seventeen Republicans voted for the bill in the Senate, while 24 Republicans supported it in the House.While Republicans have long resisted intervening in global markets and Democrats have criticized pouring taxpayer funds into private companies, global supply chain shortages exacerbated by the pandemic exposed just how much the United States had come to rely on foreign countries for advanced semiconductor chips used in technologies as varied as electric vehicles and weapons sent to aid Ukraine.Read More on the Relations Between Asia and the U.S.Pelosi’s Taiwan Visit: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan has exacerbated tensions between the United States and China, which claims the self-governing island as its own. The visit could also undermine the Biden administration’s strategy of building economic and diplomatic ties in Asia to counter Beijing.Reassuring Allies: Amid China’s military exercises near Taiwan in response to Ms. Pelosi’s visit, the Biden administration says its commitment to the region has only deepened. But critics say the tensions over Taiwan show that Washington needs stronger military and economic strategies.CHIPS and Science Act: Congress passed a $280 billion bill aimed at building up America’s manufacturing and technological edge to counter China. It is the most significant U.S. government intervention in industrial policy in decades.In a sign of how Beijing’s rise drove the negotiations for the legislation, Mr. Biden explicitly mentioned China multiple times during his remarks at the bill-signing ceremony.“It’s no wonder the Chinese Communist Party actively lobbied U.S. business against this bill,” the president said, adding that the United States must lead the world in semiconductor production.The bill is focused on domestic manufacturing, research and national security, providing $52 billion in subsidies and tax credits for companies that manufacture chips in the United States. It also includes $200 billion for new manufacturing initiatives and scientific research, particularly in areas like artificial intelligence, robotics, quantum computing and other technologies.The legislation authorizes and funds the creation of 20 “regional technology hubs” that are intended to link together research universities with private industry in an effort to advance technology innovation in areas lacking such resources. And it provides funding to the Energy Department and the National Science Foundation for basic research into semiconductors and for building up work force development programs.“We will bring these jobs back to our shores and end our dependence on foreign chips,” said Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, who pumped his fists as he stepped toward the lectern. More

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    The Carried Interest Loophole Survives Another Political Battle

    The latest effort to narrow the preferential tax treatment used by private equity executives failed after Senator Kyrsten Sinema objected.WASHINGTON — Once again, carried interest carried the day.The last-minute removal by Senate Democrats of a provision in the climate and tax legislation that would narrow what is often referred to as the “carried interest loophole” represents the latest win for the private equity and hedge fund industries. For years, those businesses have successfully lobbied to kill bills that aimed to end or limit a quirk in the tax code that allows executives to pay lower tax rates than many of their salaried employees.In recent weeks, it appeared that the benefit could be scaled back, but a last-minute intervention by Senator Kyrsten Sinema, the Arizona Democrat, eliminated what would have been a $14 billion tax increase targeting private equity.Lawmakers’ inability to address a tax break that Democrats and some Republicans have called unfair underscores the influence of lobbyists for the finance industry and how difficult it can be to change the tax code.In addition to doing away with the carried interest provision, the deal Democratic leaders cut with Ms. Sinema included a 1 percent excise tax on stock buybacks and changes to a minimum corporate tax of 15 percent that favored manufacturers.On Friday, the private equity and hedge fund industries applauded the development, describing it as a win for small business.“The private equity industry directly employs over 11 million Americans, fuels thousands of small businesses and delivers the strongest returns for pensions,” said Drew Maloney, the chief executive of the American Investment Council, a lobbying group. “We encourage Congress to continue to support private capital investment in every state across our country.”Bryan Corbett, the chief executive of the Managed Funds Association, said: “We’re happy to see that there is bipartisan recognition of the role that private capital plays in growing businesses and the economy.”Carried interest is the percentage of an investment’s gains that a private equity partner or hedge fund manager takes as compensation. At most private equity firms and hedge funds, the share of profits paid to managers is about 20 percent.Under existing law, that money is taxed at a capital-gains rate of 20 percent for top earners. That’s about half the rate of the top individual income tax bracket, which is 37 percent. A tax law passed by Republicans in 2017 largely left the treatment of carried interest intact, after an intense lobbying campaign, but it did narrow the exemption by requiring executives to hold their investments for at least three years in order to enjoy preferential tax treatment.An agreement reached last week by Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, would have extended that holding period to five years from three, while changing the way the period is calculated in hopes of reducing taxpayers’ ability to take advantage of the lower 20 percent tax rate.What’s in the Democrats’ Climate and Tax BillCard 1 of 6A new proposal. More