As gas prices continue rising across the United States, it is becoming more clear that – particularly for lower-income Americans – the meager benefits of President Donald Trump’s tax cuts will be swallowed by increases at the pump.
Whether or to what extent Trump’s policies are to blame is open for debate, but the reality is that heading into this year’s midterm elections, one of the Republican party’s biggest talking points could be losing what little power it might have had in the beginning.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics compiles data looking at how much households spend on gas. On average in 2016, consumers spent the equivalent of a bit over 3 percent of their household incomes on gas. That wasn’t uniformly the case; wealthier consumers spent a lower percentage of their incomes on gas even as they bought more of it. The highest percentage spent was by middle-income Americans.
A gallon of gas currently costs about 78 cents more than the 2016 average of $2.14, and if this increase holds, the Post notes that Americans will spend on average about $700 more on gas this year.
Viewing this increased spending on gas alongside Trump’s tax cuts shows just how quickly the extra cash realized by lower- and middle-income Americans will disappear:
The Tax Policy Center calculated how much people in various income groups would be expected to see in federal tax cuts thanks to the new tax law passed last year. In many cases, the expected cuts are minor. If we compare those expected cuts to how much more a household might pay in gas costs,* using the increase from Trump’s first week in office until now, the results are remarkable.
Those in the bottom 20 percent of income-earners will pay three or four times more in higher gas prices than they’ll get back in tax cuts. Those in the next highest quintile of incomes will see a wash — getting back about as much as they pay in higher gas prices.
FDA Halts Food Inspections During Shut Down Creating Deadly Scenario
After a year plagued by deadly E. coli outbreaks linked to widely distributed romaine lettuce, 2019 is off to an anxiety-inducing start.
Gottlieb said that the agency, which oversees about 80 percent of the food supply, is continuing to surveil foreign manufacturers and imported food, as well as any domestic producers involved in a current recall or outbreak.
But the agency is skipping the 160-or-so routine food inspections it usually performs each week.
In those evaluations, FDA inspectors assess manufacturing practices at food-processing facilities, as well as check for unsanitary conditions, such as infestations, and contamination issues.
About a third of those 160 weekly inspections involve facilities that the agency considers “high risk,” Gottlieb added. High-risk facilities are those that either handle foods particularly vulnerable to safety issues, such as soft cheeses and seafood, or facilities that have a track record of food safety problems.
“We are doing what we can to mitigate any risk to consumers through the shutdown,” Gottlieb told the paper. He’s now working on a plan to call back 150 inspectors to focus on the high-risk facilities. While those workers still wouldn’t be paid until after the shutdown ends, Gottlieb said he was setting up an agency travel account to help those inspectors keep large balances off their personal credit cards.
Still, Sarah Sorscher, deputy director of regulatory affairs at nonprofit advocacy group The Center for Science in the Public Interest, called the missed inspections unacceptable. “That puts our food supply at risk,” Sorscher said. “Regular inspections, which help stop foodborne illness before people get sick, are vital.”
Each year, an estimated 48 million people are sickened by foodborne illnesses in the US, leading to 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Meat, poultry, and egg facilities not inspected by the FDA are overseen by the US Department of Agriculture, which has maintained inspections during the shutdown.
Get a Degree In Marijuana Studies
As marijuana becomes legal in more and more states, college and universities across America are figuring out ways to help prepare people for the blossoming cannabis industry. And now one school in New Jersey will finally let you study weed.
Stockton College in New Jersey recently launched a new cannabis studies minor. It is the first program of its kind in New Jersey, and one of the few colleges in the United States offering actual studies on marijuana. The program is a mix of learning the science behind growing and cultivating marijuana as well as examining the changing legal landscape of the drug. Around 30 students are currently enrolled in the minor.
Because of climate and security concerns, as well as consistency, the state’s licensed medical facilities grow their crops indoors under artificial light. Every variable can have an impact on the final product — from the intensity of light to the soil to the humidity and temperature and more.
It’s no surprise that New Jersey would be one of the first states to jump on this trend. Last year the state elected Democrat Phil Murphy, a pro-marijuana legalization candidate, as governor, and multiple state legislators say that a vote on recreational cannabis is coming in the very near future.
The university hopes the new minor will help prepare students to enter the cannabis industry which will hopefully become legal in the state in the near future.
“All of our graduates are going to be qualified to be analysts in a lab setting,” Brandon Canfield, the associate professor of analytical chemistry who started the program, tells CNBC Make It. That could lead to a position that pays $70,000 right out of school, he adds.
There are a couple specific tracks offered within the major. One has a bio-analytical focus. Those students could go on to graduate programs, says Canfield, and they will be strong job candidates because they will have completed an independent study.
The other track is for aspiring entrepreneurs. For those students, it’s not clear what the future might hold. To offer an example of what they could do, Canfield suggests they might open a growing operation with a lab in-house.
Study has been limited in the United States, where marijuana remains listed as a Schedule I drug, the designation for the most dangerous controlled substances.
Some people are arguing that the minor will encourage students to use marijuana. But if it’s an industry that’s going to be create a lot of jobs in the near future, why wouldn’t you want people prepared to get those positions?
Cannabis Stocks High On Sessions’ Removal
Cannabis stocks made major gains after Sessions’ resignation. Canopy Growth and Aurora Cannabis stocks both rose by eight percent, ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF increased six percent and the most impressive gain was by Tilray that went up a substantial 30 percent within the first day.
Obviously, Sessions resigning as Attorney General was a major factor, considering his desire to crack down on the legal cannabis industry. But obviously the success of the recreational ballot initiative in Michigan and the medical marijuana initiatives in Missouri and Utah also contributed to these stock increases. And Democrats took control of the House of Representatives, another move expected to yield positive results for the cannabis industry.
Of course, it’s sort of weird that all of these companies saw their stocks increased because even though they are traded on the U.S. stock exchange, they’re all Canadian-based companies. So presumably, these latest developments won’t really increase their own bottom-lines or profits unless they decide to begin U.S. based operations.
Aurora Cannabis (ACB) said this week it had grabbed nearly a third of online recreational sales in Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, offering an early look at which big pot producers are emerging as leaders in a nascent business still marred by shortages.
But as Canada’s stores try to keep their shelves stocked amid a wave of recreational demand, Aurora warned the shortages would likely continue. Management said that even as they try to crank production higher, there wasn’t much they could to immediately address the thinly-stocked shelves at dispensaries.