Good things are happening! The Federal Trade Commission just proposed a new rule that could help millions of workers win higher wages. A new state millionaire tax spearheaded by unions and community organizers just went into effect in Massachusetts. Also, the prospect of utilities investing in decarbonization and ditching natural gas is looking brighter than ever. Meanwhile, abortion pills have become more accessible, and public pressure has pushed the postal service to electrify its fleet.
A Tale Of Two Regulators
The Lever has said a lot about how Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg ignored pleas from state officials and thousands of customer complaints before Southwest Airlines’ mass flight cancellations ruined the holidays for millions of travelers.
Meanwhile, one top Biden administration official is showing what regulating should look like. Under the leadership of chair Lina Khan, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) just unveiled a rule that would bar companies from restricting their employees’ ability to work for rivals. Millions of workers could benefit: A 2021 report shows that noncompete laws — which affect as much 45 percent of U.S. private sector workers — are a central driver of stagnating pay for middle-income workers.
“Research shows that employers’ use of noncompetes to restrict workers’ mobility significantly suppresses workers’ wages — even for those not subject to noncompetes, or subject to noncompetes that are unenforceable under state law,” Elizabeth Wilkins, the FTC’s policy planning officer director, said in a statement.
Since being sworn into office in 2021, Khan has advocated for stronger antitrust regulation and launched challenges to mergers in the health care, energy, defense, and digital market industries.
Learn All Our Investigative Tricks
Score a copy of our Citizens’ Guide to Following the Money and Holding the Powerful Accountable, free with a paid subscription. The e-book gives you all the tools and tricks our reporting team uses to scrutinize power.
Organized And Ready To Tax The Rich
Last November, Massachusetts’ voters approved the Fair Share state constitutional amendment that introduced a new millionaire tax — a four percent surcharge on annual income over $1 million.
The new law went into effect January 1, 2023, and while only 20,000 households will be affected by the new rate, it will generate nearly $2 billion a year in new revenue, with a portion dedicated to public education and transportation.
The millionaire tax was spearheaded by Raise Up Massachusetts, a coalition of unions and community organizations that invested heavily in organizing its members to build its campaign.
With dues from coalition members, Raise Up hired 140 organizers to knock doors and raise awareness early in the campaign last summer. By the end, the campaign managed to knock on nearly one million doors — a record-breaking effort that the coalition says was central to the millionaire tax’s success.
Clean Energy Is Cheaper Than New Gas Plants
Gas-fired power plants currently deliver more electricity in the country than any other energy source. According to a Sierra Club report analyzing utilities’ actions toward clean transitions, most utilities have stuck with gas when planning investments, despite climate pledges.
However, as a result of tax credits made available by the passage of the federal Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) last year, the investment terrain could be fundamentally altered to favor decarbonized energy portfolios of solar, wind, energy storage, and flexible consumer demand.
“The math on the next right investment has changed,” said Lauren Shwisberg, author of a new analysis of the IRA by a decarbonization-focused think tank. “Decisions that are based on pre-IRA assumptions may no longer be what provides the greatest savings for customers.”
According to the analysis, if clean energy plants receive the maximum tax credits allowed — a 50 percent credit on the upfront investment — they will financially outcompete 99 percent of the gas plants to be built between now and 2035. Still, even if clean energy plants receive only a 30 percent credit, they will still beat 93 percent of gas plants.
Only paid subscribers can comment. Please subscribe or sign in to join the conversation.